History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Volume 2 (of 12)
by G. Maspero
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The Fayum, by its fertility and pleasant climate, justified the preference which the Pharaohs of the XIIth dynasty bestowed upon it. On emerging from the gorges of Illahun, it opens out like a vast amphitheatre of cultivation, whose slopes descend towards the north till they reach the desolate waters of the Birket-Kerun.

Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, after Major Brown.

On the right and left, the amphitheatre is isolated from the surrounding mountains by two deep ravines, filled with willows, tamarisks, mimosas, and thorny acacias. Upon the high ground, lands devoted to the culture of corn, durra, and flax, alternate with groves of palms and pomegranates, vineyards and gardens of olives, the latter being almost unknown elsewhere in Egypt.

Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Golenischeff.

The slopes are covered with cultivated fields, irregularly terraced woods, and meadows enclosed by hedges, while lofty trees, clustered in some places and thinly scattered in others, rise in billowy masses of verdure one behind the other. Shodit [Shadu] stood on a peninsula stretching out into a kind of natural reservoir, and was connected with the mainland by merely a narrow dyke; the water of the inundation flowed into this reservoir and was stored here during the autumn. Countless little rivulets escaped from it, not merely such canals and ditches as we meet with in the Nile Valley, but actual running brooks, coursing and babbling between the trees, spreading out here and there into pools of water, and in places forming little cascades like those of our own streams, but dwindling in volume as they proceeded, owing to constant drains made on them, until they were for the most part absorbed by the soil before finally reaching the lake.

Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Major Brown.

They brought down in their course part of the fertilizing earth accumulated by the inundation, and were thus instrumental in raising the level of the soil. The water of the Birkeh rose or fell according to the season of the year. It formerly occupied a much larger area than it does at present, and half of the surrounding districts was covered by it. Its northern shores, now deserted and uncultivated, then shared in the benefits of the inundation, and supplied the means of existence for a civilized population. In many places we still find the remains of villages, and walls of uncemented stone; a small temple even has escaped the general ruin, and remains almost intact in the midst of the desolation, as if to point out the furthest limit of Egyptian territory.

Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Golenischeff.

It bears no inscriptions, but the beauty of the materials of which it is composed, and the perfection of the work, lead us to attribute its construction to some prince of the XIIth dynasty. An ancient causeway runs from its entrance to what was probably at one time the original margin of the lake. The continual sinking of the level of the Birkeh has left this temple isolated on the edge of the Libyan plateau, and all life has retired from the surrounding district, and has concentrated itself on the southern shores of the lake.

Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey.

Here the banks are low and the bottom deepens almost imperceptibly. In winter the retreating waters leave exposed long patches of the shore, upon which a thin crust of snow-white salt is deposited, concealing the depths of mud and quicksands beneath. Immediately after the inundation, the lake regains in a few days the ground it had lost: it encroaches on the tamarisk bushes which fringe its banks, and the district is soon surrounded by a belt of marshy vegetation, affording cover for ducks, pelicans, wild geese, and a score of different kinds of birds which disport themselves there by the thousand. The Pharaohs, when tired of residing in cities, here found varied and refreshing scenery, an equable climate, gardens always gay with flowers, and in the thickets of the Kerun they could pursue their favourite pastimes of interminable fishing and of hunting with the boomerang.

They desired to repose after death among the scenes in which they had lived. Their tombs stretch from Heracleo-polis till they nearly meet the last pyramids of the Memphites: at Dahshur there are still two of them standing. The northern one is an immense erection of brick, placed in close proximity to the truncated pyramid, but nearer than it to the edge of the plateau, so as to overlook the valley. We might be tempted to believe that the Theban kings, in choosing a site immediately to the south of the spot where Papi II. slept in his glory, were prompted by the desire to renew the traditions of the older dynasties prior to those of the Heracleopolitans, and thus proclaim to all beholders the antiquity of their lineage. One of their residences was situated at no great distance, near Miniet Dahshur, the city of Titoui, the favourite residence of Amenemhaifc I. It was here that those royal princesses, Nofirhonit, Sonit-Sonbit, Sithathor, and Monit, his sisters, wives, and daughters, whose tombs lie opposite the northern face of the pyramid, flourished side by side with Amenemhait III.

There, as of old in their harem, they slept side by side, and, in spite of robbers, their mummies have preserved the ornaments with which they were adorned, on the eve of burial, by the pious act of their lords. The art of the ancient jewellers, which we have hitherto known only from pictures on the walls of tombs or on the boards of coffins, is here exhibited in all its cunning. The ornaments comprise a wealth of gold gorgets, necklaces of agate beads or of enamelled lotus-flowers, cornelian, amethyst, and onyx scarabs. Pectorals of pierced gold-work, inlaid with flakes of vitreous paste or precious stones, bear the cartouches of Usirtasen III. and of Amenemhait II., and every one of these gems of art reveals a perfection of taste and a skilfulness of handling which are perfectly wonderful.

Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch- Bey.

Their delicacy, and their freshness in spite of their antiquity, make it hard for us to realize that fifty centuries have elapsed since they were made. We are tempted to imagine that the royal ladies to whom they belonged must still be waiting within earshot, ready to reply to our summons as soon as we deign to call them; we may even anticipate the joy they will evince when these sumptuous ornaments are restored to them, and we need to glance at the worm-eaten coffins which contain their stiff and disfigured mummies to recall our imagination to the stern reality of fact. Two other pyramids, but in this case of stone, still exist further south, to the left of the village of Lisht: their casing, torn off by the fellahin, has entirely disappeared, and from a distance they appear to be merely two mounds which break the desert horizon line, rather than two buildings raised by the hand of man.

Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Golenischeff.

The sepulchral chambers, excavated at a great depth in the sand, are now filled with water which has infiltrated through the soil, and they have not as yet been sufficiently emptied to permit of an entrance being effected: one of them contained the body of Usirtasen I.; does Amenemhait I. or Amenemhait II. repose in the other? We know, at all events, that Usirtasen II. built for himself the pyramid of Illahun, and Amenemhait III. that of Hawara. "Hotpu," the tomb of Usirtasen II., stood upon a rocky hill at a distance of some two thousand feet from the cultivated lands. To the east of it lay a temple, and close to the temple a town, Hait-Usirtasen-Hotpu—"the Castle of the Repose of Usirtasen"—which was inhabited by the workmen employed in building the pyramid, who resided there with their families. The remains of the temple consist of scarcely anything more than the enclosing wall, whose sides were originally faced with fine white limestone covered with hieroglyphs and sculptured scenes. It adjoined the wall of the town, and the neighbouring quarters are almost intact: the streets were straight, and crossed each other at right angles, while the houses on each side were so regularly built that a single policeman could keep his eye on each thoroughfare from one end to the other. The structures were of rough material hastily put together, and among the debris are to be found portions of older buildings, stehe, and fragments of statues. The town began to dwindle after the Pharaoh had taken possession of his sepulchre; it was abandoned during the XIIIth dynasty, and its ruins were entombed in the sand which the wind heaped over them. The city which Amenemhait III. had connected with his tomb maintained, on the contrary, a long existence in the course of the centuries. The king's last resting-place consisted of a large sarcophagus of quartzose sandstone, while his favourite consort, Nofriuphtah, reposed beside him in a smaller coffin. The sepulchral chapel was very large, and its arrangements were of a somewhat complicated character. It consisted of a considerable number of chambers, some tolerably large, and others of moderate dimensions, while all of them were difficult of access and plunged in perpetual darkness: this was the Egyptian Labyrinth, to which the Greeks, by a misconception, have given a world-wide renown. Amenemhait III. or his architects had no intention of building such a childish structure as that in which classical tradition so fervently believed. He had richly endowed the attendant priests, and bestowed upon the cult of his double considerable revenues, and the chambers above mentioned were so many storehouses for the safekeeping of the treasure and provisions for the dead, and the arrangement of them was not more singular than that of ordinary storage depots. As his cult persisted for a long period, the temple was maintained in good condition during a considerable time: it had not, perhaps, been abandoned when the Greeks first visited it.*

* The identity of the ruins at Hawara with the remains of the Labyrinth, admitted by Jomard-Caristie and by Lepsius, disputed by Vassali, has been definitely proved by Petrie, who found remains of the buildings erected by Amenemhait III. under the ruins of a village and some Graeco-Roman tombs.

The other sovereigns of the XIIth dynasty must have been interred not far from the tombs of Amenemhait III. and Usirtasen II.: they also had their pyramids, of which we may one day discover the site. The outline of these was almost the same as that of the Memphite pyramids, but the interior arrangements were different. As at Illahun and Dahshur, the mass of the work consisted of crude bricks of large size, between which fine sand was introduced to bind them solidly together, and the whole was covered with a facing of polished limestone. The passages and chambers are not arranged on the simple plan which we meet with in the pyramids of earlier date. Experience had taught the Pharaohs that neither granite walls nor the multiplication of barriers could preserve their mummies from profanation: no sooner was vigilance relaxed, either in the time of civil war or under a feeble administration, than robbers appeared on the scene, and boring passages through the masonry with the ingenuity of moles, they at length, after indefatigable patience, succeeded in reaching the sepulchral vault and despoiling the mummy of its valuables.

Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Emil Brugsch-Bey, taken in 1884.

With a view to further protection, the builders multiplied blind passages and chambers without apparent exit, but in which a portion of the ceiling was movable, and gave access to other equally mysterious rooms and corridors. Shafts sunk in the corners of the chambers and again carefully closed put the sacrilegious intruder on a false scent, for, after causing him a great loss of time and labour, they only led down to the solid rock. At the present day the water of the Nile fills the central chamber of the Hawara pyramid and covers the sarcophagus; it is possible that this was foreseen, and that the builders counted on the infiltration as an additional obstacle to depredations from without.*

* Indeed, it should be noted that in the Graeco-Roman period the presence of water in a certain number of the pyramids was a matter of common knowledge, and so frequently was it met with, that it was even supposed to exist in a pyramid into which water had never penetrated, viz. that of Kheops. Herodotus relates that, according to the testimony of the interpreters who acted as his guides, the waters of the Nile were carried to the sepulchral cavern of the Pharaoh by a subterranean channel, and shut it in on all sides, like an island.

The hardness of the cement, which fastens the lid of the stone coffin to the lower part, protects the body from damp, and the Pharaoh, lying beneath several feet of water, still defies the greed of the robber or the zeal of the archaeologist.

The absolute power of the kings kept their feudal vassals in check: far from being suppressed, however, the seignorial families continued not only to exist, but to enjoy continued prosperity. Everywhere, at Elephantine, Koptos, Thinis, in Aphroditopolis, and in most of the cities of the Said and of the Delta, there were ruling princes who were descended from the old feudal lords or even from Pharaohs of the Memphite period, and who were of equal, if not superior rank, to the members of the reigning family. The princes of Siut no longer en-joyed an authority equal to that exercised by their ancestors under the Heracleopolitan dynasties, but they still possessed considerable influence. One of them, Hapizaufi I., excavated for himself, in the reign of Usirtasen I., nor far from the burying-place of Khiti and Tefabi, that beautiful tomb, which, though partially destroyed by Coptic monks or Arabs, still attracts visitors and excites their astonishment.

The lords of Shashotpu in the south, and those of Hermopolis in the north, had acquired to some extent the ascendency which their neighbours of Siut had lost. The Hermopolitan princes dated at least from the time of the VIth dynasty, and they had passed safely through the troublous times which followed the death of Papi II. A branch of their family possessed the nome of the Hare, while another governed that of the Gazelle. The lords of the nome of the Hare espoused the Theban cause, and were reckoned among the most faithful vassals of the sovereigns of the south: one of them, Thothotpu, caused a statue of himself, worthy of a Pharaoh, to be erected in his loyal town of Hermopolis, and their burying-places at el-Bersheh bear witness to their power no less than to their taste in art. During the troubles which put an end to the XIth dynasty, a certain Khnumhotpu, who was connected in some unknown manner with the lords of the nome of the Gazelle, entered the Theban service and accompanied Amenemhait I. on his campaigns into Nubia. He obtained, as a reward of faithfulness, Monait-Khufui and the district of Khuit-Horu,—"the Horizon of Horus,"—on the east bank of the Nile. On becoming possessed of the western bank also, he entrusted the government of the district which he was giving up to his eldest son, Nakhiti I.; but, the latter having died without heirs, Usirtasen I. granted to Biqit, the sister of Nakhiti, the rank and prerogative of a reigning princess. Biqit married Nuhri, one of the princes of Hermopolis, and brought with her as her dowry the fiefdom of the Gazelle, thus doubling the possessions of her husband's house. Khnumhotpu II., the eldest of the children born of this union, was, while still young, appointed Governor of Monait-Khufui, and this title appears to have become an appanage of his heir-apparent, just as the title of "Prince of Kaushu" was, from the XIXth dynasty onwards, the special designation of the heir to the throne. The marriage of Khnumhotpu II. with the youthful Khiti, the heiress of the nome of the Jackal, rendered him master of one of the most fertile provinces of Middle Egypt. The power of this family was further augmented under Nakhiti II., son of Khnumhotpu II. and Khiti: Nakhiti, prince of the nome of the Jackal in right of his mother, and lord of that of the Gazelle after the death of his father, received from Usirtasen II. the administration of fifteen southern nomes, from Aphroditopolis to Thebes. This is all we know of his history, but it is probable that his descendants retained the same power and position for several generations. The career of these dignitaries depended greatly on the Pharaohs with whom they were contemporary: they accompanied the royal troops on their campaigns, and with the spoil which they collected on such occasions they built temples or erected tombs for themselves. The tombs of the princes of the nome of the Gazelle are disposed along the right bank of the Nile, and the most ancient are exactly opposite Minieh. It is at Zawyet el-Meiyetin and at Kom-el-Ahmar, nearly facing Hibonu, their capital, that we find the burying-places of those who lived under the VIth dynasty. The custom of taking the dead across the Nile had existed for centuries, from the time when the Egyptians first cut their tombs in the eastern range; it still continues to the present day, and part of the population of Minieh are now buried, year after year, in the places which their remote ancestors had chosen as the site of their "eternal houses." The cemetery lies peacefully in the centre of the sandy plain at the foot of the hills; a grove of palms, like a curtain drawn along the river-side, partially conceals it; a Coptic convent and a few Mahommedan hermits attract around them the tombs of their respective followers, Christian or Mussulman. The rock-hewn tombs of the XIIth dynasty succeed each other in one long irregular line along the cliffs of Beni-Hasan, and the traveller on the Nile sees their entrances continuously coming into sight and disappearing as he goes up or descends the river. These tombs are entered by a square aperture, varying in height and width according to the size of the chapel. Two only, those of Amoni-Amenemhait and of Khnum-hotpu II., have a columned facade, of which all the members—pillars, bases, entablatures—have been cut in the solid rock: the polygonal shafts of the facade look like a bad imitation of ancient Doric. Inclined planes or nights of steps, like those at Elephantine, formerly led from the plain up to the terrace. Only a few traces of these exist at the present day, and the visitor has to climb the sandy slope as best he can: wherever he enters, the walls present to his view inscriptions of immense extent, as well as civil, sepulchral, military, and historical scenes. These are not incised like those of the Memphite mastabas, but are painted in fresco on the stone itself. The technical skill here exhibited is not a whit behind that of the older periods, and the general conception of the subjects has not altered since the time of the pyramid-building kings. The object is always the same, namely, to ensure wealth to the double in the other world, and to enable him to preserve the same rank among the departed as he enjoyed among the living: hence sowing, reaping, cattle-rearing, the exercise of different trades, the preparation and bringing of offerings, are all represented with the same minuteness as formerly. But a new element has been added to the ancient themes.

Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Insinger.

We know, and the experience of the past is continually reiterating the lesson, that the most careful precautions and the most conscientious observation of customs were not sufficient to perpetuate the worship of ancestors. The day was bound to come when not only the descendants of Khnumhotpu, but a crowd of curious or indifferent strangers, would visit his tomb: he desired that they should know his genealogy, his private and public virtues, his famous deeds, his court titles and dignities, the extent of his wealth; and in order that no detail should be omitted, he relates all that he did, or he gives the representation of it upon the wall. In a long account of two hundred and twenty-two lines, he gives a resume of his family history, introducing extracts from his archives, to show the favours received by his ancestors from the hands of their sovereigns. Amoni and Khiti, who were, it appears, the warriors of their race, have everywhere recounted the episodes of their military career, the movements of their troops, their hand-to-hand fights, and the fortresses to which they laid siege. These scions of the house of the Gazelle and of the Hare, who shared with Pharaoh himself the possession of the soil of Egypt, were no mere princely ciphers: they had a tenacious spirit, a warlike disposition, an insatiable desire for enlarging their borders, together with sufficient ability to realize their aims by court intrigues or advantageous marriage alliances. We can easily picture from their history what Egyptian feudalism really was, what were its component elements, what were the resources it had at its disposal, and we may well be astonished when we consider the power and tact which the Pharaohs must have displayed in keeping such vassals in check during two centuries.

Amenemhait I. had abandoned Thebes as a residence in favour of Heracleopolis and Memphis, and had made it over to some personage who probably belonged to the royal household. The nome of Uisit had relapsed into the condition of a simple fief, and if we are as yet unable to establish the series of the princes who there succeeded each other contemporaneously with the Pharaohs, we at least know that all those whose names have come down to us played an important part in the history of their times. Montunsisu, whose stele was engraved in the XXIVth year of Amenemhait I., and who died in the joint reign of this Pharaoh and his son Usirtasen I., had taken his share in most of the wars conducted against neighbouring peoples,—the Anitiu of Nubia, the Monitu of Sinai, and the "Lords of the Sands:" he had dismantled their cities and razed their fortresses. The principality retained no doubt the same boundaries which it had acquired under the first Antufs, but Thebes itself grew daily larger, and gained in importance in proportion as its frontiers extended southward. It had become, after the conquests of Usirtasen III., the very centre of the Egyptian world—a centre from which the power of the Pharaoh could equally well extend in a northerly direction towards the Sinaitic Peninsula and Libya, or towards the Red Sea and the "humiliated Kush" in the south. The influence of its lords increased accordingly: under Amenemhait III. and Amenemhait IV. they were perhaps the most powerful of the great vassals, and when the crown slipped from the grasp of the XIIth dynasty, it fell into the hands of one of these feudatories. It is not known how the transition was brought about which transferred the sovereignty from the elder to the younger branch of the family of Amenemhait I. When Amenemhait IV. died, his nearest heir was a woman, his sister Sovkunofriuri: she retained the supreme authority for not quite four years,* and then resigned her position to a certain Sovkhotpu.**

* She reigned exactly three years, ten months, and eighteen days, according to the fragments of the "Royal Canon of Turin" (Lepsius, Auswahl der wichtigten Urkunden, pl. v. col. vii. 1. 2).

** Sovkhotpu Khutouiri, according to the present published versions of the Turin Papyrus, an identification which led Lieblein (Recherches sur la Chronologie Egyptienne, pp. 102, 103) and Wiedemann to reject the generally accepted assumption that this first king of the XIIIth dynasty was Sovkhotpu Sakhemkhutouiri. Still, the way in which the monuments of Sovkhotpu Sakhemkhutouiri and his papyri are intermingled with the monuments of Amenemhait III. at Semneh and in the Fayum, show that it is difficult to separate him from this monarch. Moreover, an examination of the original Turin Papyrus shows that there is a tear before the word Khutouiri on the first cartouche, no indication of which appears in the facsimile, but which has, none the less, slightly damaged the initial solar disk and removed almost the whole of one sign. We are, therefore, inclined to believe that Sakhemkhutouiri was written instead of Khutouiri, and that, therefore, all the authorities are in the right, from their different points of view, and that the founder of the XIIIth dynasty was a Sakhemkhutouiri I., while the Savkhotpu Sakhemkhutouiri, who occupies the fifteenth place in the dynasty, was a Sakhemkhutouiri II.

Drawn by Boudier, from a chromolithograph in Lepsius, Denkm., i. pl. 61. The first tomb on the left, of which the portico is shown, is that of Khnumhotpu II.

Was there a revolution in the palace, or a popular rising, or a civil war? Did the queen become the wife of the new sovereign, and thus bring about the change without a struggle? Sovkhotpu was probably lord of Uisit, and the dynasty which he founded is given by the native historians as of Theban origin. His accession entailed no change in the Egyptian constitution; it merely consolidated the Theban supremacy, and gave it a recognized position. Thebes became henceforth the head of the entire country: doubtless the kings did not at once forsake Heracleopolis and the Fayum, but they made merely passing visits to these royal residences at considerable intervals, and after a few generations even these were given up. Most of these sovereigns resided and built their Pyramids at Thebes, and the administration of the kingdom became centralized there. The actual capital of a king was determined not so much by the locality from whence he ruled, as by the place where he reposed after death. Thebes was the virtual capital of Egypt from the moment that its masters fixed on it as their burying-place.

Uncertainty again shrouds the history of the country after Sovkhotpu I.: not that monuments are lacking or names of kings, but the records of the many Sovkhotpus and Nonrhotpus found in a dozen places in the valley, furnish as yet no authentic means of ascertaining in what order to classify them. The XIIIth dynasty contained, so it is said, sixty kings, who reigned for a period of over 453 years.*

* This is the number given in one of the lists of Manetho, in Muller-Didot, Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, vol. ii. p. 565. Lepsius's theory, according to which the shepherds overran Egypt from the end of the XIIth dynasty and tolerated the existence of two vassal dynasties, the XIIIth and XIVth, was disputed and refuted by E. de Rouge as soon as it appeared; we find the theory again in the works of some contemporary Egyptologists, but the majority of those who continued to support it have since abandoned their position.

The succession did not always take place in the direct line from father to son: several times, when interrupted by default of male heirs, it was renewed without any disturbance, thanks to the transmission of royal rights to their children by princesses, even when their husbands did not belong to the reigning family. Monthotpu, the father of Sovkhotpu III., was an ordinary priest, and his name is constantly quoted by his son; but solar blood flowed in the veins of his mother, and procured for him the crown. The father of his successor, Nofirhotpu IL, did not belong to the reigning branch, or was only distantly connected with it, but his mother Kamait was the daughter of Pharaoh, and that was sufficient to make her son of royal rank. With careful investigation, we should probably find traces of several revolutions which changed the legitimate order of succession without, however, entailing a change of dynasty. The Nofirhotpus and Sovkhotpus continued both at home and abroad the work so ably begun by the Amenemhaits and the Usirtasens.

They devoted all their efforts to beautifying the principal towns of Egypt, and caused important works to be carried on in most of them—at Karnak, in the great temple of Amon, at Luxor, at Bubastis, at Tanis, at Tell-Mokhdam, and in the sanctuary of Abydos. At the latter place, Khasoshushri Nofirhotpu restored to Khontamentit considerable possessions which the god had lost; Nozirri sent thither one of his officers to restore the edifice built by Usirtasen I.; Sovkumsauf II. dedicated his own statue in this temple, and private individuals, following the example set them by their sovereigns, vied with each other in their gifts of votive stehe. The pyramids of this period were of moderate size, and those princes who abandoned the custom of building them were content like Autuabri I. Horu with a modest tomb, close to the gigantic pyramids of their ancestors. In style the statues of this epoch show a certain inferiority when compared with the beautiful work of the XIIth dynasty: the proportions of the human figure are not so good, the modelling of the limbs is not so vigorous, the rendering of the features lacks individuality; the sculptors exhibit a tendency, which had been growing since the time of the Usirtasens, to represent all their sitters with the same smiling, commonplace type of countenance. There are, however, among the statues of kings and private individuals which have come down to us, a few examples of really fine treatment. The colossal statue of Sovkhotpu IV., which is now in the Louvre side by side with an ordinary-sized figure of the same Pharaoh, must have had a good effect when placed at the entrance to the temple at Tanis: his chest is thrown well forward, his head is erect, and we feel impressed by that noble dignity which the Memphite sculptors knew how to give to the bearing and features of the diorite Khephren enthroned at Gizeh. The sitting Mirmashau of Tanis lacks neither energy nor majesty, and the Sovkumsauf of Abydos, in spite of the roughness of its execution, decidedly holds its own among the other Pharaohs.

Drawn by Boudier, from a photograph by Ernest de Bergmann. From Dahshur, now at Gizeh; it has been published in Morgan's Dahshur.

The statuettes found in the tombs, and the smaller objects discovered in the ruins, are neither less carefully nor less successfully treated. The little scribe at Gizeh, in the attitude of walking, is a chef d'oeuvre of delicacy and grace, and might be attributed to one of the best schools of the XIIth dynasty, did not the inscriptions oblige us to relegate it to the Theban art of the XIIIth. The heavy and commonplace figure of the magnate now in the Vienna Museum is treated with a rather coarse realism, but exhibits nevertheless most skilful tooling. It is not exclusively at Thebes, or at Tanis, or in any of the other great cities of Egypt, that we meet with excellent examples of work, or that we can prove that flourishing schools of sculpture existed at this period; probably there is scarcely any small town which would not furnish us at the present day, if careful excavation were carried out, with some monument or object worthy of being placed in a museum. During the XIIIth dynasty both art and everything else in Egypt were fairly prosperous. Nothing attained a very high standard, but, on the other hand, nothing fell below a certain level of respectable mediocrity. Wealth exercised, however, an injurious influence upon artistic taste. The funerary statue, for instance, which Autuabri I. Horu ordered for himself was of ebony, and seems to have been inlaid originally with gold, whereas Kheops and Khephren were content to have theirs of alabaster and diorite.

Drawn by Boudier, from the sketch by Lepsius; the head was "quite mutilated and separated from the bust."

During this dynasty we hear nothing of the inhabitants of the Sinaitic Peninsula to the east, or of the Libyans to the west: it was in the south, in Ethiopia, that the Pharaohs expended all their surplus energy. The most important of them, Sovkhotpu I., had continued to register the height of the Nile on the rocks of Semneh, but after his time we are unable to say where the Nilometer was moved to, nor, indeed, who displaced it. The middle basin of the river as far as Gebel-Barkal was soon incorporated with Egypt, and the population became quickly assimilated. The colonization of the larger islands of Say and Argo took place first, as their isolation protected them from sudden attacks: certain princes of the XIIIth dynasty built temples there, and erected their statues within them, just as they would have done in any of the most peaceful districts of the Said or the Delta. Argo is still at the present day one of the largest of these Nubian islands:* it is said to be 12 miles in length, and about 2 1/2 in width towards the middle.

* The description of Argo and its ruins is borrowed from Caillaud, Voyage a Meroe, vol. ii. pp. 1-7.

It is partly wooded, and vegetation grows there with tropical luxuriance; creeping plants climb from tree to tree, and form an almost impenetrable undergrowth, which swarms with game secure from the sportsman. A score of villages are dotted about in the clearings, and are surrounded by carefully cultivated fields, in which durra predominates. An unknown Pharaoh of the XIIIth dynasty built, near to the principal village, a temple of considerable size; it covered an area, whose limits may still easily be traced, of 174 feet wide by 292 long from east to west. The main body of the building was of sandstone, probably brought from the quarries of Tombos: it has been pitilessly destroyed piecemeal by the inhabitants, and only a few insignificant fragments, on which some lines of hieroglyphs may still be deciphered, remain in situ. A small statue of black granite of good workmanship is still standing in the midst of the ruins. It represents Sovkhotpu III. sitting, with his hands resting on his knees; the head, which has been mutilated, lies beside the body.

Drawn by Boudier, from the photograph in Rouge-Banville's Album photographique de la Mission de M. de Bouge, No. 114.

The same king erected colossal statues of himself at Tanis, Bubastis, and at Thebes: he was undisputed master of the whole Nile Valley, from near the spot where the river receives its last tributary to where it empties itself into the sea. The making of Egypt was finally accomplished in his time, and if all its component parts were not as yet equally prosperous, the bond which connected them was strong enough to resist any attempt to break it, whether by civil discord within or invasions from without. The country was not free from revolutions, and if we have no authority for stating that they were the cause of the downfall of the XIIIth dynasty, the lists of Manetho at least show that after that event the centre of Egyptian power was again shifted. Thebes lost its supremacy, and the preponderating influence passed into the hands of sovereigns who were natives of the Delta. Xois, situated in the midst of the marshes, between the Phatnitic and Sebennytic branches of the Nile, was one of those very ancient cities which had played but an insignificant part in shaping the destinies of the country. By what combination of circumstances its princes succeeded in raising themselves to the throne of the Pharaohs, we know not: they numbered, so it was said, seventy-five kings, who reigned four hundred and eighty-four years, and whose mutilated names darken the pages of the Turin Papyrus. The majority of them did little more than appear upon the throne, some reigning three years, others two, others a year or scarcely more than a few months: far from being a regularly constituted line of sovereigns, they appear rather to have been a series of Pretenders, mutually jealous of and deposing one another.

The feudal lords who had been so powerful under the Usirtasens had lost none of their prestige under the Sovkhotpus: and the rivalries of usurpers of this kind, who seized the crown without being strong enough to keep it, may perhaps explain the long sequence of shadowy Pharaohs with curtailed reigns who constitute the XIVth dynasty. They did not withdraw from Nubia, of that fact we are certain: but what did they achieve in the north and north-east of the empire? The nomad tribes were showing signs of restlessness on the frontier, the peoples of the Tigris and Euphrates were already pushing the vanguards of their armies into Central Syria. While Egypt had been bringing the valley of the Nile and the eastern corner of Africa into subjection, Chaldaea had imposed both her language and her laws upon the whole of that part of Western Asia which separated her from Egypt: the time was approaching when these two great civilized powers of the ancient world would meet each other face to face and come into fierce collision.


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