The doctrine of the immortality of the soul, says Mr. Birch, is as old as the inscriptions of the twelfth dynasty, many of which contain extracts from the Ritual of the Dead. One hundred and forty-six chapters of this Ritual have been translated by Mr. Birch from the text of the Turin papyrus, the most complete in Europe. Chapters of it are found on mummy-cases, on the wraps of mummies, on the walls of tombs, and within the coffins on papyri. This Ritual is all that remains of the Hermetic Books which constituted the library of the priesthood. Two antagonist classes of deities appear in this liturgy as contending for the soul of the deceased,—Osiris and his triad, Set and his devils. The Sun-God, source of life, is also present.
An interesting chapter of the Ritual is the one hundred and twenty-fifth, called the Hall of the Two Truths. It is the process of "separating a person from his sins," not by confession and repentance, as is usual in other religions, but by denying them. Forty-two deities are said to be present to feed on the blood of the wicked. The soul addresses the Lords of Truth, and declares that it has not done evil privily, and proceeds to specifications. He says: "I have not afflicted any. I have not told falsehoods. I have not made the laboring man do more than his task. I have not been idle. I have not murdered. I have not committed fraud. I have not injured the images of the gods. I have not taken scraps of the bandages of the dead. I have not committed adultery. I have not cheated by false weights. I have not kept milk from sucklings. I have not caught the sacred birds." Then, addressing each god by name, he declares: "I have not been idle. I have not boasted. I have not stolen. I have not counterfeited, nor killed sacred beasts, nor blasphemed, nor refused to hear the truth, nor despised God in my heart." According to some texts, he declares, positively, that he has loved God, that he has given bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, garments to the naked, and an asylum to the abandoned.
Funeral ceremonies among the Egyptians were often very imposing. The cost of embalming, and the size and strength of the tomb, varied with the position of the deceased. When the seventy days of mourning had elapsed, the body in its case was ferried across the lake in front of the temple, which represented the passage of the soul over the infernal stream. Then came a dramatic representation of the trial of the soul before Osiris. The priests, in masks, represented the gods of the underworld. Typhon accuses the dead man, and demands his punishment. The intercessors plead for him. A large pair of scales is set up, and in one scale his conduct is placed in a bottle, and in the other an image of truth. These proceedings are represented on the funeral papyri. One of these, twenty-two feet in length, is in Dr. Abbott's collection of Egyptian antiquities, in New York. It is beautifully written, and illustrated with careful drawings. One represents the Hall of the Two Truths, and Osiris sitting in judgment, with the scales of judgment before him.
Many of the virtues which we are apt to suppose a monopoly of Christian culture appear as the ideal of these old Egyptians. Brugsch says a thousand voices from the tombs of Egypt declare this. One inscription in Upper Egypt says: "He loved his father, he honored his mother, he loved his brethren, and never went from his home in bad-temper. He never preferred the great man to the low one." Another says: "I was a wise man, my soul loved God. I was a brother to the great men and a father to the humble ones, and never was a mischief-maker." An inscription at Sais, on a priest who lived in the sad days of Cambyses, says: "I honored my father, I esteemed my mother, I loved my brothers. I found graves for the unburied dead. I instructed little children. I took care of orphans as though they were my own children. For great misfortunes were on Egypt in my time, and on this city of Sais."
Some of these declarations, in their "self-pleasing pride" of virtue, remind one of the noble justification of himself by the Patriarch Job. Here is one of them, from the tombs of Ben-Hassan, over a Nomad Prince:—
"What I have done I will say. My goodness and my kindness were ample. I never oppressed the fatherless nor the widow. I did not treat cruelly the fishermen, the shepherds, or the poor laborers. There was nowhere in my time hunger or want. For I cultivated all my fields, far and near, in order that their inhabitants might have food. I never preferred the great and powerful to the humble and poor, but did equal justice to all."
A king's tomb at Thebes gives us in few words the religious creed of a Pharaoh:—
"I lived in truth, and fed my soul with justice. What I did to men was done in peace, and how I loved God, God and my heart well know. I have given bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, and a shelter to the stranger. I honored the gods with sacrifices, and the dead with offerings."
A rock at Lycopolis pleads for an ancient ruler thus: "I never took the child from its mother's bosom, nor the poor man from the side of his wife." Hundreds of stones in Egypt announce as the best gifts which the gods can bestow on their favorites, "the respect of men, and the love of women." Religion, therefore, in Egypt, connected itself with morality and the duties of daily life. But kings and conquerors were not above the laws of their religion. They were obliged to recognize their power and triumphs as not their own work, but that of the great gods of their country. Thus, on a monumental stele discovered at Karnak by M. Mariette, and translated by De Rouge, is an inscription recording the triumphs of Thothmes III., of the eighteenth dynasty (about B.C. 1600), which sounds like the song of Miriam or the Hymn of Deborah. We give some stanzas in which the god Amun addresses Thothmes:—
"I am come: to thee have I given to strike down Syrian princes; Under thy feet they lie throughout the breadth of their country, Like to the Lord of Light, I made them see thy glory, Blinding their eyes with light, O earthly image of Amun!
"I am come: to thee have I given to strike down Asian peoples; Captive now thou hast led the proud Assyrian chieftains; Decked in royal robes, I made them see thy glory; In glittering arms and fighting, high in thy lofty chariot.
"I am come: to thee have I given to strike down western nations; Cyprus and the Ases have both heard thy name with terror; Like a strong-horned bull I made them see thy glory; Strong with piercing horns, so that none can stand before him.
"I am come: to thee have I given to strike down Lybian archers; All the isles of the Greeks submit to the force of thy spirit; Like a regal lion, I made them see thy glory; Couched by the corpse he has made, down in the rocky valley.
"I am come: to thee have I given to strike down the ends of the ocean. In the grasp of thy hand is the circling zone of the waters; Like the soaring eagle, I have made them see thy glory, Whose far-seeing eye there is none can hope to escape from."
A similar strain of religious poetry is in the Papyrus of Sallier, in the British Museum. This is an epic by an Egyptian poet named Pentaour, celebrating the campaigns of Ramses II., the Sesostris of the Greeks, of the nineteenth dynasty. This great king had been called into Syria to put down a formidable revolt of the Kheta (the Hittites of the Old Testament). The poem seems to have been a famous one, for it had the honor of being carved in full on the walls at Karnak, a kind of immortality which no other epic poet has ever attained. It particularly describes an incident in the war, when, by a stratagem of the enemy, King Ramses found himself separated from the main body of his army and attacked by the enemy in full force. Pentaour describes him in this situation as calling on Amun, God of Thebes, for help, recounting the sacrifices he had offered to him, and asking whether he would let him die in this extremity by the ignoble hands of these Syrian tribes. "Have I not erected to thee great temples? Have I not sacrificed to thee thirty thousand oxen? I have brought from Elephantina obelisks to set up to thy name. I invoke thee, O my father, Amun. I am in the midst of a throng of unknown tribes, and alone. But Amun is better to me than thousands of archers and millions of horsemen. Amun will prevail over the enemy." And, after defeating his foes, in his song of triumph, the king says, "Amun-Ra has been at my right and my left in the battles; his mind has inspired my own, and has prepared the downfall of my enemies. Amun-Ra, my father, has brought the whole world to my feet."
Thus universal and thus profound was the religious sentiment among the Egyptians.
Sec. 3. Theology of Egypt. Sources of our Knowledge concerning it.
As regards the theology of the Egyptians and their system of ideas, we meet with difficulty from the law of secrecy which was their habit of mind. The Egyptian priesthood enveloped with mystery every opinion, just as they swathed the mummies, fold above fold, in preparing them for the tomb. The names and number of their gods we learn from the monuments. Their legends concerning them come to us through Plutarch, Herodotus, Diodorus, and other Greek writers. Their doctrine of a future life and future judgment is apparent in their ceremonies, the pictures on the tombs, and the papyrus Book of the Dead. But what these gods mean, what are their offices, how they stand related to each other and to mankind, what is the ethical bearing of the religion, it is not so easy to learn.
Nevertheless, we may find a clew to a knowledge of this system, if in no other way, at least by ascertaining its central, ruling idea, and pursuing this into its details. The moment that we take this course, light will begin to dawn upon us. But before going further, let us briefly inquire into the sources of our knowledge of Egyptian mythology.
The first and most important place is occupied by the monuments, which contain the names and tablets of the gods of the three orders. Then come the sacred books of the Egyptians, known to us by Clemens Alexandrinus. From him we learn that the Egyptians in his time had forty-two sacred books in five classes. The first class, containing songs or hymns in praise of the gods, were very old, dating perhaps from the time of Menes. The other books treated of morals, astronomy, hieroglyphics, geography, ceremonies, the deities, the education of priests, and medicine. Of these sacred Hermaic books, one is still extant, and perhaps it is as interesting as any of them. We have two copies of it, both on papyrus, one found by the French at Thebes, the other by Champollion in Turin. And Lepsius considers this last papyrus to be wholly of the date of the eighteenth or nineteenth dynasty, consequently fifteen hundred or sixteen hundred years before Christ, and the only example of an Egyptian book transmitted from the times of the Pharaohs. Bunsen believes it to belong to the fourth class of Hermaic books, containing Ordinances as to the First Fruits, Sacrifices, Hymns, and Prayers. In this book the deceased is the person who officiates. His soul journeying on gives utterance to prayers, confessions, invocations. The first fifteen chapters, which make a connected whole, are headed, "Here begins the Sections of the Glorification in the Light of Osiris." It is illustrated by a picture of a procession, in which the deceased soul follows his own corpse as chief mourner, offering prayers to the Sun-God. Another part of the book is headed, "The Book of Deliverance, in the Hall of twofold Justice," and contains the divine judgments on the deceased. Forty-two gods occupy the judgment-seat. Osiris, their president, bears on his breast the small tablet of chief judge, containing a figure of Justice. Before him are seen the scales of divine judgment. In one is placed the statue of Justice, and in the other the heart of the deceased, who stands in person by the balance containing his heart, while Anubis watches the other scale. Horus examines the plummet indicating which way the beam inclines. Thoth, the Justifier the Lord of the Divine Word, records the sentence.
Sec. 4. Central Idea of Egyptian Theology and Religion. Animal Worship.
We now proceed to ask what is the IDEA of Egyptian mythology and theology?
We have seen that the idea of the religion of India was Spirit; the One, the Infinite, the Eternal; a pure spiritual Pantheism, from which the elements of time and space are quite excluded. The religion of Egypt stands at the opposite pole of thought as its antagonist. Instead of Spirit, it accepts Body; instead of Unity, Variety; instead of Substance, Form. It is the physical reaction from Brahmanism. Instead of the worship of abstract Deity, it gives us the most concrete divinity, wholly incarnated in space and time. Instead of abstract contemplation, it gives us ceremonial worship. Instead of the absorption of man into God, it gives us transmigration through all bodily forms. It so completely incarnates God, as to make every type of animal existence divine; hence the worship of animals. It makes body so sacred, that the human body must not be allowed to perish. As the Brahman, contemplating eternity, forgot time, and had no history, so on the other hand the Egyptian priest, to whom every moment of time is sacred, records everything and turns every event into history; and as it enshrines the past time historically on monuments, so it takes hold of future time prophetically through oracles.
The chief peculiarity about the religion of Egypt, and that which has always caused the greatest astonishment to foreigners, was the worship of animals. Herodotus says (Book II. Sec. 65), "That all animals in Egypt, wild and tame, are accounted sacred, and that if any one kills these animals wilfully he is put to death." He is, however, mistaken in asserting that all animals are sacred; for many were not so, though the majority were. Wilkinson gives a list of the animals of Egypt to the number of over one hundred, more than half of which were sacred, and the others not. As hunting and fishing were favorite sports of the Egyptians, it is apparent that there must have been animals whom it was lawful to kill. Nevertheless, it is certain that animal worship is a striking peculiarity of the Egyptian system. Cows were sacred to Isis, and Isis was represented in the form of a cow. The gods often wore the heads of animals; and Kneph, or Amun, with the ram's head, is one of the highest of the gods, known among the Greeks as Jupiter Ammon. The worship of Apis, the sacred bull of Memphis, the representative of Osiris, was very important among the Egyptian ceremonies. Plutarch says that he was a fair and beautiful image of the soul of Osiris. He was a bull with black hair, a white spot on his forehead, and some other special marks. He was kept at Memphis in a splendid temple. His festival lasted seven days, when a great concourse of people assembled. When he died his body was embalmed and buried with great pomp, and the priests went in search of another Apis, who, when discovered by the marks, was carried to Memphis, carefully fed and exercised, and consulted as an oracle. The burial-place of the Apis bulls was, a few years ago, discovered near Memphis. It consists of an arched gallery hewn in the rock, two thousand feet long and twenty feet in height and breadth. On each side is a series of recesses, each containing a large sarcophagus of granite, fifteen by eight feet, in which the body of a sacred bull was deposited. In 1852 thirty of these had been already found. Before this tomb is a paved road with lions ranged on each side, and before this a temple with a vestibule.
In different parts of Egypt different animals were held sacred. The animal sacred in one place was not so regarded in another district. These sacred animals were embalmed by the priests and buried, and the mummies of dogs, wolves, birds, and crocodiles are found by thousands in the tombs. The origin and motive of this worship is differently explained. It is certain that animals were not worshipped in the same way as the great gods, but were held sacred and treated with reverence as containing a divine element. So, in the East, an insane person is accounted sacred, but is not worshipped. So the Roman Catholics distinguish between Dulia and Latria, between the worship of gods and reverence of saints. So, too, Protestants consider the Bible a holy book and the Sabbath a holy day, but without worshipping them. It is only just to make a similar distinction on behalf of the Egyptians. The motives usually assigned for this worship—motives of utility—seem no adequate explanation. "The Egyptians," says Wilkinson, "may have deified some animals to insure their preservation, some to prevent their unwholesome meat being used as food." But no religion was ever established in this way. Man does not worship from utilitarian considerations, but from an instinct of reverence. It is possible, indeed, that such a reverential instinct may have been awakened towards certain animals, by seeing their vast importance arising from their special instincts and faculties. The cow and the ox, the dog, the ibis, and the cat, may thus have appeared to the Egyptians, from their indispensable utility, to be endowed with supernatural gifts. But this feeling itself must have had its root in a yet deeper tendency of the Egyptian mind. They reverenced the mysterious manifestation of God in all outward nature. No one can look at an animal, before custom blinds our sense of strangeness, without a feeling of wonder at the law of instinct, and the special, distinct peculiarity which belongs to it. Every variety of animals is a manifestation of a divine thought, and yet a thought hinted rather than expressed. Each must mean something, must symbolize something. But what does it mean? what does it symbolize? Continually we seem just on the point of penetrating the secret; we almost touch the explanation, but are baffled. A dog, a cat, a snake, a crocodile, a spider,—what does each mean? why were they made? why this infinite variety of form, color, faculty, character? Animals thus in their unconscious being, as expressions of God's thoughts, are mysteries, and divine mysteries.
Now every part of the religion of Egypt shows how much they were attracted toward variety, toward nature, toward the outward manifestations of the Divine Spirit. These tendencies reached their utmost point in their reverence for animal life. The shallow Romans, who reverenced only themselves, and the Greeks, who worshipped nothing but human nature more or less idealized, laughed at this Egyptian worship of animals and plants. "O sacred nation! whose gods grow in gardens!" says Juvenal. But it certainly shows a deeper wisdom to see something divine in nature, and to find God in nature, than to call it common and unclean. And there is more of truth in the Egyptian reverence for animal individuality, than in the unfeeling indifference to the welfare of these poor relations which Christians often display. When Jesus said that "not a sparrow falls to the ground without your Father," he showed all these creatures to be under the protection of their Maker. It may be foolish to worship animals, but it is still more foolish to despise them.
That the belief in transmigration is the explanation of animal worship is the opinion of Bunsen. The human soul and animal soul, according to this view, are essentially the same,—therefore the animal was considered as sacred as man. Still, we do not worship man. Animal worship, then, must have had a still deeper root in the sense of awe before the mystery of organized life.
Sec. 5. Sources of Egyptian Theology. Age of the Empire and Affinities of the Race.
But whence came this tendency in the human mind? Did it inhere in the race, or was it the growth of external circumstances? Something, perhaps, may be granted to each of these causes. The narrow belt of fertile land in Egypt, fed by the overflowing Nile, quickened by the tropical sun, teeming with inexhaustible powers of life, continually called the mind anew to the active, creative powers of nature. And yet it may be suspected that the law of movement by means of antagonism and reaction may have had its influence also here. The opinion is now almost universal, that the impulse of Egyptian civilization proceeded from Asia. This is the conclusion of Bunsen at the end of his first volume. "The cradle of the mythology and language of Egypt," says he, "is Asia. This result is arrived at by the various ethnological proofs of language which finds Sanskrit words and forms in Egypt, and of comparative anatomy, which shows the oldest Egyptian skulls to have belonged to Caucasian races." If, then, Egyptian civilization proceeded from Central Asia, Egyptian mythology and religion probably came as a quite natural reaction from the extreme spiritualism of the Hindoos. The question which remains is, whether they arrived at their nature-worship directly or indirectly; whether, beginning with Fetichism, they ascended to their higher conceptions of the immortal gods; or, beginning with spiritual existence, they traced it downward into its material manifestations; whether, in short, their system was one of evolution or emanation. For every ancient theogony, cosmogony, or ontogony is of one kind or the other. According to the systems of India and of Platonism, the generation of beings is by the method of emanation. Creation is a falling away, or an emanation from the absolute. But the systems of Greek and Scandinavian mythology are of the opposite sort. In these, spirit is evolved from matter; matter up to spirit works. They begin with the lowest form of being,—night, chaos, a mundane egg,—and evolve the higher gods therefrom.
It is probable that we find in Egypt a double tendency. One is the Asiatic spiritualism, the other the African naturalism. The union of the ideal and the real, of thought and passion, of the aspirations of the soul and the fire of a passionate nature, of abstract meditation and concrete life, had for its result the mysterious theology and philosophy which, twenty centuries after its burial under the desert sands, still rouses our curiosity to penetrate the secret of this Sphinx of the Nile.
We have seen in a former section that the institutions of Egypt, based on a theocratic monarchy, reach back into a dim and doubtful antiquity. Monuments, extending through thirty-five centuries, attest an age preceding all written history. These monuments, so far as deciphered by modern Egyptologists, have confirmed the accuracy of the lists of kings which have come to us from Manetho. We have no monument anterior to the fourth dynasty, but at that epoch we find the theocracy fully organized. The general accuracy of Manetho's list has been demonstrated by the latest discoveries of M. Mariette, and has rendered doubtful the idea of any of the dynasties being contemporaneous.
The main chronological points, however, are by no means as yet fixed. Thus, the beginning of the first dynasty is placed by Boeckh at B.C. 5702, by Lepsius B.C. 3892, by Bunsen B.C. 3623, by Brugsch B.C. 4455, by Lauth B.C. 4157, by Duncker 3233. The period of the builders of the great Pyramids is fixed by Bunsen at B.C. 3229, by Lepsius at B.C. 3124, by Brugsch at B.C. 3686, by Lauth at B.C. 3450, and by Boeckh at B.C. 4933.
The Egyptian priests told Herodotus that there were three hundred and thirty-one kings, from Menes to Moeris, whose names they read out of a book. After him came eleven others, of whom Sethos was the last. From Osiris to Amasis they counted fifteen thousand years, though Herodotus did not believe this statement. If the three hundred and forty-two kings really existed, it would make Menes come B.C. 9150,—at an average of twenty-five years' reign to each king. Diodorus saw in Egypt a list of four hundred and seventy-nine kings. But he says in another place that Menes lived about four thousand seven hundred years before his time. Manetho tells us that from Menes there were thirty dynasties, who reigned five thousand three hundred and sixty-six years. But he gives a list of four hundred and seventy-two kings in these dynasties, to the time of Cambyses. The contradictions are so great, and the modes of reconciling Manetho, Herodotus, Diodorus, Eratosthenes, and the monuments are so inadequate, that we must regard the whole question of the duration of the monarchy as unsettled. But from the time when the calendar must have been fixed, from the skill displayed in the Pyramids, and other reasons independent of any chronology, Duncker considers the reign of Menes as old as B.C. 3500.
The history of Egypt is divided into three periods, that of the old, the middle, and the new monarchy. The first extends from the foundation of the united kingdom by Menes to the conquest of the country by the Hyksos. The second is from this conquest by the Hyksos till their expulsion. The third, from the re-establishment of the monarchy by Amosis to its final conquest by Persia. The old monarchy contained twelve dynasties; the Hyksos or middle monarchy, five; the new monarchy, thirteen: in all, thirty.
The Hyksos, or Shepherd Kings, were at first supposed to be the Hebrews: but this hypothesis adapted itself to none of the facts. A recent treatise by M. Chabas shows that the Hyksos were an Asiatic people, occupying the country to the northeast of Egypt. After conquering Lower Egypt, Apapi was king of the Hyksos and Tekenen-Ra ruled over the native Egyptians of the South. A papyrus, as interpreted by M. Chabas, narrates that King Apapi worshipped only the god Sutech (Set), and refused to allow the Egyptian gods to be adored. This added to the war of races a war of religion, which resulted in the final expulsion of the Shepherds, about B.C. 1700. The Hyksos are designated on the monuments and in the papyri as the "Scourge" or "Plague," equivalent in Hebrew to the Tzir'ah, commonly translated "hornet," but evidently the same as the Hebrew tzavaath, "plague," and the Arabic tzeria, "scourge," or "plague."
According to the learned Egyptologist, Dr. Brugsch, the Hebrew slaves in Egypt are referred to in a papyrus in the British Museum of the date of Ramses II. (B.C. 1400), in a description by a scribe named Pinebsa of the new city of Ramses. He tells how the slaves throng around him to present petitions against their overseers. Another papyrus reads (Lesley, "Man's Origin and Destiny"): "The people have erected twelve buildings. They made their tale of bricks daily, till they were finished." The first corroboration of the biblical narrative which the Egyptian monuments afford, and the first synchronism between Jewish and Egyptian history, appear in the reign of Ramses II., about B.C. 1400, in the nineteenth dynasty.
It appears from the monuments and from the historians that somewhere about B.C. 2000, or earlier, this great movement of warlike nomadic tribes occurred, which resulted in the conquest of Lower Egypt by the pastoral people known as Hyksos. It was perhaps a movement of Semitic races, the Bedouins of the desert, like that which nearly three thousand years after united them as warriors of Islam to overflow North Africa, Syria, Persia, and Spain. They oppressed Egypt for five hundred years (Brugsch), and appear on the monuments under the name of Amu (the herdsmen) or of Aadu (the hated ones). Their kings resided at Tanis (in Egyptian Avaris), in the Delta. That their conquests had a religious motive, and were made, like that of Mohammed, in the interest of monotheism, seems possible. At all events, we find one of them, Apapi, erecting a temple to Sutech (the Semitic Baal), and refusing to allow the worship of other deities.
The majority of Egyptologists believe that the Hebrews entered Egypt while these Hyksos kings, men of the same Semitic family and monotheistic tendencies, were ruling in Lower Egypt. The bare subterranean temple discovered by M. Mariette, with the well near it filled with broken statues of the Egyptian gods, is an indication of those tendencies. The "other king, who knew not Joseph," was a king of the eighteenth dynasty, who conquered the Hyksos and drove them out of Egypt. Apparently the course of events was like that which many centuries later occurred in Spain. In both cases, the original rulers of the land, driven to the mountains, gradually reconquered their country step by step. The result of this reconquest of the country would also be in Egypt, as it was in Spain, that the Semitic remnants left in the land would be subject to a severe and oppressive rule. The Jews in Egypt, like the Moors in Spain, were victims of a cruel bondage. Then began the most splendid period of Egyptian history, during the seventeenth, sixteenth, fifteenth, and fourteenth centuries before Christ. The Egyptian armies overran Syria, Asia Minor, and Armenia as far as the Tigris.
Ramses II., the most powerful monarch of this epoch, is probably the king whose history is given by Herodotus and other Greek writers under the name of Sesostris. M. de Rouge believes himself able to establish this identity. He found in the Museum at Vienna a stone covered with inscriptions, and dedicated by a person whose name is given as Ramses Mei-Amoun, exactly in the hieroglyphics of the great king. But this person's name is also written elsewhere on the stone Ses, and a third time as Ses Mei-amoun, showing that Ses was a common abbreviation of Ramses. It is also written Sesu, or Sesesu, which is very like the form in which Diodorus writes Sesostris, namely, Sesoosis. Now Ramses II., whose reign falls about B.C. 1400, erected a chain of fortresses to defend the northeastern border of Egypt against the Syrian nomads. One of these fortresses was named from the King Ramses, and another Pachtum. The papyri contain accounts of these cities. One papyrus, in the British Museum, is a description by a scribe named Pinebsa, of the aspect of the city Ramses, and of the petitions of the laborers for relief against their overseers. These laborers are called Apuru, Hebrews. In a papyrus of the Leyden Museum, an officer reports to his superior thus: "May my lord be pleased. I have distributed food to the soldiers and to the Hebrews, dragging stones for the great city Ramses Meia-moum. I gave them food monthly." This corresponds with the passage (Exodus i. 11): "They built for Pharaoh treasure-cities, Pithom and Raamses."
The birth of Moses fell under the reign of Ramses II. The Exodus was under that of his successor, Menepthes. This king had fallen on evil times; his power was much inferior to that of his great predecessor; and he even condescended to propitiate the anti-Egyptian element, by worshipping its gods. He has left his inscription on the monuments with the title, "Worshipper of Sutech-Baal in Tanis." The name of Moses is Egyptian, and signifies "the child."
"Joseph," says Brugsch, "was never at the court of an Egyptian Pharaoh, but found his place with the Semitic monarchs, who reigned at Avaris-Tanis in the Delta, and whose power extended from this point as far as Memphis and Heliopolis." The "king who knew not Joseph" was evidently the restored Egyptian dynasty of Thebes. These monarchs would be naturally averse to all the Palestinian inhabitants of the land. And the monuments of their reigns represent the labors of subject people, under task-masters, cutting, carrying, and laying stones for the walls of cities.
To what race do the Egyptians belong? The only historic document which takes us back so far as this is the list of nations in the tenth chapter of Genesis. We cannot, indeed, determine the time when it was written. But Bunsen, Ebers, and other ethnologists are satisfied that the author of this chapter had a knowledge of the subject derived either from the Phoenicians or the Egyptians. Ewald places his epoch with that of the early Jewish kings. According to this table the Egyptians were descended from Ham, the son of Noah, and were consequently of the same original stock with the Japhetic and Semitic nations. They were not negroes, though their skin was black, or at least dark. According to Herodotus they came from the heart of Africa; according to Genesis (chap. x.) from Asia. Which is the correct view?
The Egyptians themselves recognized no relationship with the negroes, who only appear on the monuments as captives or slaves.
History, therefore, helps us little in this question of race. How is it with Comparative Philology and Comparative Anatomy?
The Coptic language is an idiom of the old Egyptian tongue, which seems to belong to no known linguistic group. It is related to other African languages only through the lexicon, and similarly with the Indo-European. Some traces of grammatic likeness to the Semitic may be found in it; yet the view of Bunsen and Schwartz, that in very ancient times it arose from the union of Semitic and Indo-European languages, remains only a hypothesis. Merx (in Schenkel's Bibel-Lexicon) says this view "rests upon a wish formed in the interest of the Philosophy of History; and the belief of a connection between these tongues is not justified by any scientific study of philology. No such ethnological affinity can be granted,—a proof of which is that all facts in its favor are derived from common roots, none from common grammar." Benfey, however, assumed two great branches of Semitic nationalities, one flowing into Africa, the other into Western Asia. Ebers gives some striking resemblances between Egyptian and Chaldaic words, and says he possesses more than three hundred examples of this kind; and in Bunsen's fifth volume are comparative tables which give as their result that a third part of the old Egyptian words in Coptic literature are Semitic, and a tenth part Indo-European. If these statements are confirmed, they may indicate some close early relations between these races.
The anatomy of the mummies seems to show a wide departure from negro characteristics. The skull, chin, forehead, bony system, facial angle, hair, limbs, are all different. The chief resemblances are in the flat nose, and form of the backbone. Scientific ethnologists have therefore usually decided that the old Egyptians were an Asiatic people who had become partially amalgamated with the surrounding African tribes. Max Duncker comes to this conclusion, and says that the Berber languages are the existing representatives of the old Egyptian. This is certainly true as concerns the Copts, whose very name is almost identical with the word "Gupti," the old name from which the Greeks formed the term AEgypti. Alfred Maury (Revue d. D. Mondes, September, 1867) says that, "according to all appearances, Egypt was peopled from Asia by that Hamitic race which comprised the tribes of Palestine, Arabia, and Ethiopia. Its ancient civilization was, consequently, the sister of that which built Babylon and Nineveh. In the valley of the Nile, as in those of the Euphrates and the Tigris, religion gave the motive to civilization, and in all the three nations there was a priesthood in close alliance with an absolute monarchy." M. de Rouge is of the same opinion. In his examination of the monuments of the oldest dynasties, he finds the name given to the Egyptians by themselves to be merely "the Men" (Rut),—a word which by the usual interchange of R with L, and of T with D, is identical with the Hebrew Lud (plural Ludim), whom the Book of Genesis declares to have been a son of Misraim. This term was applied by the Israelites to all the races on the southeast shore of the Mediterranean. It is, therefore, believed by M. de Rouge that the Egyptians were of the same family with these Asiatic tribes on the shores of Syria. Here, then, as in so many other cases, a new civilization may have come from the union of two different races,—one Asiatic, the other African. Asia furnished the brain, Africa the fire, and from the immense vital force of the latter and the intellectual vigor of the former sprang that wonderful civilization which illuminated the world during at least five thousand years.
Sec. 6. The Three Orders of Gods.
The Egyptian theology, or doctrine of the gods, was of two kinds,—esoteric and exoteric, that is, an interior theology for the initiated, and an exterior theology for the uninitiated. The exterior theology, which was for the whole people, consisted of the mythological accounts of Isis and Osiris, the judgments of the dead, the transmigration of the soul, and all matters connected with the ceremonial worship of the gods. But the interior, hidden theology is supposed to have related to the unity and spirituality of the Deity.
Herodotus informs us that the gods of the Egyptians were in three orders; and Bunsen believes that he has succeeded in restoring them from the monuments. There are eight gods of the first order, twelve gods of the second order, and seven gods of the third order. The gods of the third order are those of the popular worship, but those of the first seem to be of a higher and more spiritual class. The third class of gods were representative of the elements of nature, the sun, fire, water, earth, air. But the gods of the first order were the gods of the priesthood, understood by them alone, and expressing ideas which they shrank from communicating to the people. The spiritual and ideal part of their religion the priests kept to themselves as something which the people were incapable of understanding. The first eight gods seem to have been a representation of a process of divine development or emanation, and constituted a transition from the absolute spiritualism of the Hindoos to the religion of nature and humanity in the West. The Hindoo gods were emanations of spirit: the gods of Greece are idealizations of Nature. But the Egyptian gods represent spirit passing into matter and form.
Accordingly, if we examine in detail the gods of the first order, who are eight, we find them to possess the general principle of self-revelation, and to constitute, taken together, a process of divine development. These eight, according to Bunsen, are Amn, or Ammon; Khem, or Chemmis; Mut, the Mother Goddess; Num, or Kneph; Seti, or Sate; Phtah, the Artist God; Net, or Neith, the Goddess of Sais; and Ra, the Sun, the God of Heliopolis. But according to Wilkinson they stand in a little different order: 1. Neph, or Kneph; 2. Amun, or Ammon; 3. Pthah; 4. Khem; 5. Sate; 6. Maut, or Mut; 7. Pasht, or Diana; and 8. Neith, or Minerva, in which list Pasht, the Goddess of Bubastis, is promoted out of the second order and takes the place of Ra, the Sun, who is degraded.
Supposing these lists to be substantially correct, we have, as the root of the series, Ammon, the Concealed God, or Absolute Spirit. His titles indicate this dignity. The Greeks recognized him as corresponding to their Zeus. He is styled King of the Gods, the Ruler, the Lord of Heaven, the Lord of the Thrones, the Horus or God of the Two Egypts. Thebes was his city. According to Manetho, his name means concealment; and the root "Amn" also means to veil or conceal. His original name was Amn; thus it stands in the rings of the twelfth dynasty. But after the eighteenth dynasty it is Amn-Ra, meaning the Sun. "Incontestably," says Bunsen, "he stands in Egypt as the head of the great cosmogonic development."
Next comes Kneph, or God as Spirit,—the Spirit of God, often confounded with Amn, also called Cnubis and Num. Both Plutarch and Diodorus tell us that his name signifies Spirit, the Num having an evident relation with the Greek [Greek: pneuma], and the Coptic word "Nef," meaning also to blow. So too the Arabic "Nef" means breath, the Hebrew "Nuf," to flow, and the Greek [Greek: pneo], to breathe. At Esneh he is called the Breath of those in the Firmament; at Elephantina, Lord of the Inundations. He wears the ram's head with double horns (by mistake of the Greeks attributed to Ammon), and his worship was universal in Ethiopia. The sheep are sacred to him, of which there were large flocks in the Thebaid, kept for their wool. And the serpent or asp, a sign of kingly dominion,—hence called basilisk,—is sacred to Kneph. As Creator, he appears under the figure of a potter with a wheel. In Philae he is so represented, forming on his wheel a figure of Osiris, with the inscription, "Num, who forms on his wheel the Divine Limbs of Osiris." He is also called the Sculptor of all men, also the god who made the sun and moon to revolve. Porphyry says that Pthah sprang from an egg which came from the mouth of Kneph, in which he is supported by high monumental authority.
The result of this seems to be that Kneph represents the absolute Being as Spirit, the Spirit of God moving on the face of the waters,—a moving spirit pervading the formless chaos of matter.
Perhaps the next god in the series is Pthah, by the Greeks called Hephaestus, or Vulcan, representing formation, creation by the truth, stability; called in the inscriptions, Lord of Truth, Lord of the Beautiful Face, Father of the Beginnings, moving the Egg of the Sun and Moon. With Horapollo and Plutarch, we may consider the Scarabeus, or Beetle, which is his sign, as an emblem of the world and its creation. An inscription calls him Creator of all things in the world. Iamblicus says, "The God who creates with truth is Pthah." He was also connected with the sun, as having thirty fingers,—the number of days in a month. He is represented sometimes as a deformed dwarf.
The next god in the series is Khem, the Greek Pan,—the principle of generation, sometimes holding the ploughshare.
Then come the feminine principles corresponding with these three latter gods. Amun has naturally no companion. Mut, the mother, is the consort of Khem the father. Seti,—the Ray or Arrow,—a female figure, with the horns of a cow, is the companion of Kneph. And Neith, or Net, the goddess of Sais, belongs to Pthah. The Greek Minerva Athene is thought to be derived from Neith by an inversion of the letters,—the Greeks writing from left to right and the Egyptians from right to left. Her name means, "I came from myself." Clemens says that her great shrine at Sais has an open roof with the inscription, "I am all that was and is and is to be, and no mortal has lifted my garment, and the fruit I bore is Helios." This would seem to identify her with Nature.
For the eighth god of the first order we may take either Helios or Ra or Phra, the Sun-God; from whence came the name of the Pharaohs, or we may take Pasht, Bubastis, the equivalent of the Greek Diana. On some accounts it would seem that Ra was the true termination of this cycle. We should then have, proceeding from the hidden abyss of pure Spirit, first a breathing forth, or spirit in motion; then creation, by the word of truth; then generation, giving life and growth; and then the female qualities of production, wisdom, and light, completed by the Sun-God, last of the series. Amn, or Ammon, the Concealed God, is the root, then the creative power in Kneph, then the generative power in Khem, the Demiurgic power in Ptah, the feminine creative principle of Nature in Neith, the productive principle in Mut, or perhaps the nourishing principle, and then the living stimulus of growth, which carries all forward in Ra.
But we must now remember that two races meet in Egypt,—an Asiatic race, which brings the ideas of the East; and an Ethiopian, inhabitants of the land, who were already there. The first race brought the spiritual ideas which were embodied in the higher order of gods. The Africans were filled with the instinct of nature-worship. These two tendencies were to be reconciled in the religion of Egypt. The first order of gods was for the initiated, and taught them the unity, spirituality, and creative power of God. The third order—the circle of Isis and Osiris—were for the people, and were representative of the forms and forces of outward nature. Between the two come the second series,—a transition from the one to the other,—children of the higher gods, parents of the lower,—neither so abstract as the one nor so concrete as the other,—representing neither purely divine qualities on the one side, nor merely natural forces on the other, but rather the faculties and powers of man. Most of this series were therefore adopted by the Greeks, whose religion was one essentially based on human nature, and whose gods were all, or nearly all, the ideal representations of human qualities. Hence they found in Khunsu, child of Ammon, their Hercules, God of Strength; in Thoth, child of Kneph, they found Hermes, God of Knowledge; in Pecht, child of Pthah, they found their Artemis, or Diana, the Goddess of Birth, protector of women; in Athor, or Hathor, they found their Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. Seb was Chronos, or Time; and Nutpe was Rhea, wife of Chronos.
The third order of gods are the children of the second series, and are manifestations of the Divine in the outward universe. But though standing lowest in the scale, they were the most popular gods of the Pantheon; had more individuality and personal character than the others; were more universally worshipped throughout Egypt, and that from the oldest times. "The Osiris deities," says Herodotus, "are the only gods worshipped throughout Egypt." "They stand on the oldest monuments, are the centre of all Egyptian worship, and are perhaps the oldest original objects of reverence," says Bunsen. How can this be if they belong to a lower order of Deities, and what is the explanation of it? There is another historical fact also to be explained. Down to the time of Ramses, thirteen hundred years before Christ, Typhon, or Seth, the God of Destruction, was the chief of this third order, and the most venerated of all the gods. After that time a revolution occurred in the worship, which overthrew Seth, and his name was chiselled out of the monuments, and the name of Amun inserted in its place. This was the only change which occurred in the Egyptian religion, so far as we know, from its commencement until the time of the Caesars. An explanation of both these facts may be given, founded on the supposed amalgamation in Egypt of two races with their religions. Supposing that the gods of the higher orders represented the religious ideas of a Semitic or Aryan race entering Egypt from Asia, and that the Osiris group were the gods of the African nature-worship, which they found prevailing on their arrival, it is quite natural that the priests should in their classification place their own gods highest, while they should have allowed the external worship to go on as formerly, at least for a time. But, after a time, as the tone of thought became more elevated, they may have succeeded in substituting for the God of Terror and Destruction a higher conception in the popular worship.
The myth of Isis and Osiris, preserved for us by Plutarch, gives the most light in relation to this order of deities.
Seb and Nutpe, or Nut, called by the Greeks Chronos and Rhea, were the parents of this group. Seb is therefore Time, and Nut is Motion or perhaps Space. The Sun pronounced a curse on them, namely, that she should not be delivered, on any day of the year. This perhaps implies the difficulty of the thought of Creation. But Hermes, or Wisdom, who loved Rhea, won, at dice, of the Moon, five days, the seventieth part of all her illuminations, which he added to the three hundred and sixty days, or twelve months. Here we have a hint of a correction of the calendar, the necessity of which awakened a feeling of irregularity in the processes of nature, admitting thereby the notion of change and a new creation. These five days were the birthdays of the gods. On the first Osiris is born, and a voice was heard saying, "The Lord of all things is now born." On the second day, Arueris-Apollo, or the elder Horus; on the third, Typhon, who broke through a hole in his mother's side; on the fourth, Isis; and on the fifth, Nepthys-Venus, or Victory. Osiris and Arueris are children of the Sun, Isis of Hermes, Typhon and Nepthys of Saturn.
Isis became the wife of Osiris, who went through the world taming it by means of oratory, poetry, and music. When he returned, Typhon took seventy-two men and also a queen of Ethiopia, and made an ark the size of Osiris's body, and at a feast proposed to give it to the one whom it should fit. Osiris got into it, and they fastened down the lid and soldered it and threw it into the Nile. Then Isis put on mourning and went to search for it, and directed her inquiries to little children, who were hence held by the Egyptians to have the faculty of divination. Then she found Anubis, child of Osiris, by Nepthys, wife of Typhon, who told her how the ark was entangled in a tree which grew up around it and hid it. The king had made of this tree a pillar to support his house. Isis sat down weeping; the women of the queen came to her, she stroked their hair, and fragrance passed into it. She was made nurse to the queen's child, fed him with her finger, and in the night-time, by means of a lambent flame, burned away his impurities. She then turned herself into a swallow and flew around the house, bewailing her fate. The queen watched her operations, and being alarmed cried out, and so robbed her child of immortality. Isis then begged the pillar, took it down, took out the chest, and cried so loud that the younger son of the king died of fright. She then took the ark and the elder son and set sail. The cold air of the river chilled her, and she became angry and cursed it, and so dried it up. She opened the chest, put her cheek to that of Osiris and wept bitterly. The little boy came and peeped in; she gave him a terrible look, and he died of fright. Isis then came to her son Horus, who was at nurse at Buto. Typhon, hunting by moonlight, saw the ark, with the body of Osiris, which he tore into fourteen parts and threw them about. Isis went to look for them in a boat made of papyrus, and buried each part in a separate place.
After this the soul of Osiris returned out of Hades to train up his son. Then came a battle between Horus and Typhon, in which Typhon was vanquished, but Isis allowed him to escape. There are other less important incidents in the story, among them that Isis had another son by the soul of Osiris after his death, who is the god called Harpocrates, represented as lame and with his finger on his mouth.
Plutarch declares that this story is symbolical, and mentions various explanations of the allegory. He rejects, at once, the rationalistic explanation, which turns these gods into eminent men,—sea-captains, etc. "I fear," says he, "this would be to stir things that are not to be stirred, and to declare war (as Simonides says), not only against length of time, but also against many nations and families of mankind, whom a religious reverence towards these gods holds fast bound like men astonished and amazed, and would be no other than going about to remove so great and venerable names from heaven to earth, and thereby shaking and dissolving that worship and persuasion that hath entered almost all men's constitutions from their very birth, and opening vast doors to the atheists' faction, who convert all divine matters into human." "Others," he says, "consider these beings as demons intermediate between gods and men. And Osiris afterwards became Serapis, the Pluto of the under-world."
Other explanations of the myth are given by Plutarch. First, the geographical explanation. According to this, Osiris is Water, especially the Nile. Isis is Earth, especially the land of Egypt adjoining the Nile, and overflowed by it. Horus, their son, is the Air, especially the moist, mild air of Egypt. Typhon is Fire, especially the summer heat which dries up the Nile and parches the land. His seventy-two associates are the seventy-two days of greatest heat, according to the Egyptian opinion. Nepthys, his wife, sister of Isis, is the Desert outside of Egypt, but which in a higher inundation of the Nile being sometimes overflowed, becomes productive, and has a child by Osiris, named Anubis. When Typhon shuts Osiris into the ark, it is the summer heat drying up the Nile and confining it to its channel. This ark, entangled in a tree, is where the Nile divides into many mouths at the Delta and is overhung by the wood. Isis, nursing the child of the king, the fragrance, etc., represent the earth nourishing plants and animals. The body of Osiris, torn by Typhon into fourteen parts, signifies either the division of the Nile at its mouths or the pools of water left after the drying up of the inundation.
There is so much in this account which accords with the facts, that there can be no doubt of its correctness so far as it goes. At the same time it is evidently an incomplete explanation. The story means this, but something more. Beside the geographical view, Plutarch therefore adds a scientific and an astronomical explanation, as well as others more philosophical. According to these, Osiris is in general the productive, the creative power in nature; Isis, the female property of nature, hence called by Plato the nurse; and Typhon the destructive property in nature; while Horus is the mediator between creation and destruction. And thus we have the triad of Osiris, Typhon, and Horus, essentially corresponding to the Hindoo triad, Brahma, Siva, and Vishnu, and also to the Persian triad, Ormazd, Ahriman, and Mithra. And so this myth will express the Egyptian view of the conflict of good and evil in the natural world.
But it seems very likely that it was the object of the priests to elevate this Osiris worship to a still higher meaning, making it an allegory of the struggles, sorrows, and self-recovery of the human soul. Every human soul after death took the name and symbols of Osiris, and then went into the under-world to be judged by him. Connected with this was the doctrine of transmigration, or the passage of the soul through various bodies,—a doctrine brought out of Egypt by Pythagoras. These higher doctrines were taught in the mysteries. "I know them," says Herodotus, "but must not tell them." Iamblicus professes to explain them in his work on the Mysteries. But it is not easy to say how much of his own Platonism he has mingled therewith. According to him, they taught in the mysteries that before all things was one God immovable in the solitude of unity. The One was to be venerated in silence. Then Emeph, or Neph, was god in his self-consciousness. After this in Amun, his intellect became truth, shedding light. Truth working by art is Pthah, and art producing good is Osiris.
Another remarkable fact must be at least alluded to. Bunsen says, that, according to the whole testimony of the monuments, Isis and Osiris not only have their roots in the second order, but are also themselves the first and the second order. Isis, Osiris, and Horus comprise all Egyptian mythology, with the exception of Amun and Neph. Of this fact I have seen no explanation and know of none, unless it be a sign of the purpose of the priests to unite the two systems of spiritualism and nature-worship into one, and to elevate and spiritualize the lower order of gods.
One reason for thinking that the religious system of the priests was a compromise between several different original tendencies is to be found in the local worship of special deities in various places. In Lower Egypt the highest god was Pthah, whom the Greeks identified with Vulcan; the god of fire or heat, father of the sun. He was in this region the chief god, corresponding to Ammon in Upper Egypt. Manetho says that Pthah reigned nine thousand years before the other gods,—which must mean that this was by far the oldest worship in Egypt. As Ammon is the head of a cosmogony which proceeds according to emanation from spirit down to matter, so Pthah is at the beginning of a cosmogony which ascends by a process of evolution from matter working up to spirit. For from Pthah (heat) comes light, from light proceeds life, from life arise gods, men, plants, animals, and all organic existence. The inscriptions call Pthah, "Father of the Father of the Gods," "King of both Worlds," the "God of all Beginnings," the "Former of Things." The egg is one of his symbols, as containing a germ of life. The scarabaeus, or beetle, which rolls its ball of earth, supposed to contain its egg, is dedicated to Pthah. His sacred city was Memphis, in Lower Egypt. His son, Ra, the Sun-God, had his temple at On, near by, which the Greeks called Heliopolis, or City of the Sun. The cat is sacred to Ra. As Pthah is the god of all beginnings in Lower Egypt, so Ra is the vitalizing god, the active ruler of the world, holding a sceptre in one hand and the sign of life in the other.
The goddesses of Lower Egypt were Neith at Sais, Leto, the goddess whose temple was at Buto, and Pacht at Babastis. In Upper Egypt, as we have seen, the chief deity was Amun, or Ammon, the Concealed God, and Kneph, or Knubis. With them belonged the goddess Mut (the mother) and Khonso. The two oldest gods were Mentu, the rising sun, and Atmu, the setting sun.
We therefore find traces of the same course of religious thought in Egypt as we shall afterward find in Greece. The earlier worship is of local deities, who are afterwards united in a Pantheon. As Zeus was at first worshipped in Dodona and Arcadia, Apollo in Crete and Delos, Aphrodite in Cyprus, Athene at Athens, and afterward these tribal and provincial deities were united in one company as the twelve gods of Olympus, so in Egypt the various early theologies were united in the three orders, of which Ammon was made the head. But, in both countries, each city and province persevered in the worship of its particular deity. As Athene continued to be the protector of Athens, and Aphrodite of Cyprus, so, in Egypt, Set continued to be the god of Ombos, Leto of Buto, Horus of Edfu, Khem of Coptos.
Before concluding this section, we must say a word of the practical morality connected with this theology. We have seen, above, the stress laid on works of justice and mercy. There is a papyrus in the Imperial library at Paris, which M. Chabas considers the oldest book in the world. It is an autograph manuscript written B.C. 2200, or four thousand years ago, by one who calls himself the son of a king. It contains practical philosophy like that of Solomon in his proverbs. It glorifies, like the Proverbs, wisdom. It says that "man's heart rules the man," that "the bad man's life is what the wise know to be death," that "what we say in secret is known to him who made our interior nature," that "he who made us is present with us though we are alone."
Is not the human race one, when this Egyptian four thousand years ago, talks of life as Solomon spoke one thousand years after, in Judaea; and as Benjamin Franklin spoke, three thousand years after Solomon, in America?
Sec. 7. Influence of Egypt on Judaism and Christianity.
How much of the doctrine and ritual of Egypt were imported into Judaism by Moses is a question by no means easy to settle. Of Egyptian theology proper, or the doctrine of the gods, we find no trace in the Pentateuch. Instead of the three orders of deities we have Jehovah; instead of the images and pictures of the gods, we have a rigorous prohibition of idolatry; instead of Osiris and Isis, we have a Deity above all worlds and behind all time, with no history, no adventures, no earthly life. But it is perhaps more strange not to find any trace of the doctrine of a future life in Mosaism, when this was so prominent among the Egyptians. Moses gives no account of the judgment of souls after death; he tells nothing of the long journey and multiform experiences of the next life according to the Egyptians, nothing of a future resurrection and return to the body. His severe monotheism was very different from the minute characterization of gods in the Egyptian Pantheon. The personal character of Jehovah, with its awful authority, its stern retribution and impartial justice, was quite another thing from the symbolic ideal type of the gods of Egypt. Nothing of the popular myth of Osiris, Isis, Horus, and Typhon is found in the Pentateuch, nothing of the transmigration of souls, nothing of the worship of animals; nothing of the future life and judgment to come; nothing of the embalming of bodies and ornamenting of tombs. The cherubim among the Jews may resemble the Egyptian Sphinx; the priests' dress in both are of white linen; the Urim and Thummim, symbolic jewels of the priests, are in both; a quasi-hereditary priesthood is in each; and both have a temple worship. But here the parallels cease. Moses left behind Egyptian theology, and took only some hints for his ritual from the Nile.
There may perhaps be a single exception to this statement. According to Brugsch and other writers, the Papyrus buried with the mummy contained the doctrine of the Divine unity. The name of God was not given, but instead the words NUK PU NUK, "I am the I am," corresponding to the name given in Exodus iii. 14, Jahveh (in a corrupt form Jehovah). This name, Jahveh, has the same meaning with the Egyptian Nuk pu Nuk, "I am the I am." At least so say Egyptologists. If this is so, the coincidence is certainly very striking.
That some of the ritualism to which the Jews were accustomed in Egypt should have been imported into their new ceremonial, is quite in accordance with human nature. Christianity, also, has taken up many of the customs of heathenism. The rite of circumcision was probably adopted by the Jews from the Egyptians, who received it from the natives of Africa. Livingstone has found it among the tribes south of the Zambesi, and thinks this custom there cannot be traced to any Mohammedan source. Prichard believes it, in Egypt, to have been a relic of ancient African customs. It still exists in Ethiopia and Abyssinia. In Egypt it existed far earlier than the time of Abraham, as appears by ancient mummies. Wilkinson affirms it to have been "as early as the fourth dynasty, and probably earlier, long before the time of Abraham." Herodotus tells us that the custom existed from the earliest times among the Egyptians and Ethiopians, and was adopted from them by the Syrians of Palestine. Those who regard this rite as instituted by a Divine command may still believe that it already existed among the Jews, just as baptism existed among them before Jesus commanded his disciples to baptize. Both in Egypt and among the Jews it was connected with a feeling of superiority. The circumcised were distinguished from others by a higher religious position. It is difficult to trace the origin of sentiments so alien to our own ways of thought; but the hygienic explanation seems hardly adequate. It may have been a sign of the devotion of the generative power to the service of God, and have been the first step out of the untamed license of the passions, among the Africans.
It has been supposed that the figure of the Cherubim among the Jews was derived from that of the Sphinx. There were three kinds of Sphinxes in Egypt,—the andro-sphinx, with the head of a man and the body of a lion; the crio-sphinx, with the head of a ram and the body of a lion; and the hieraco-sphinx, with the head of a hawk and a lion's body. The first was a symbol of the union of wisdom and strength. The Sphinx was the solemn sentinel, placed to watch the temple and the tomb, as the Cherubim watched the gates of Paradise after the expulsion of Adam. In the Cherubim were joined portions of the figure of a man with those of the lion, the ox, and the eagle. In the Temple the Cherubim spread their wings above the ark; and Wilkinson gives a picture from the Egyptian tombs of two kneeling figures with wings spread above the scarabaeus. The Persians and the Greeks had similar symbolic figures, meant to represent the various powers of these separate creatures combined in one being; but the Hebrew figure was probably imported from Egypt.
The Egyptians had in their temples a special interior sanctuary, more holy than the rest. So the Jews had their Holy of Holies, into which only the high-priest went, separated by a veil from the other parts of the Temple. The Jews were commanded on the Day of Atonement to provide a scapegoat, to carry away the sins of the people, and the high-priest was to lay his hands on the head of the goat and confess the national sins, "putting them upon the head of the goat" (Lev. xvi. 21, 22), and it was said that "the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited." So, among the Egyptians, whenever a victim was offered, a prayer was repeated over its head, "that if any calamity were about to befall either the sacrifices or the land of Egypt, it might be averted on this head."
Such facts as these make it highly probable that Moses allowed in his ritual many ceremonies borrowed from the Egyptian worship.
That Egyptian Christianity had a great influence on the development of the system of Christian doctrine is not improbable. The religion of ancient Egypt was very tenacious and not easily effaced. Successive waves of Syrian, Persian, Greek, and Roman conquest rolled over the land, scarcely producing any change in her religion or worship. Christianity conquered Egypt, but was itself deeply tinged with the faith of the conquered. Many customs found in Christendom may be traced back to Egypt. The Egyptian at his marriage put a gold ring on his wife's finger, as a token that he intrusted her with all his property, just as in the Church of England service the bridegroom does the same, saying, "With all my worldly goods I thee endow." Clemens tells us that this custom was derived by the Christians from the Egyptians. The priests at Philae threw a piece of gold into the Nile once a year, as the Venetian Doge did into the Adriatic. The Feast of Candles at Sais is still marked in the Christian calendar as Candlemas Day. The Catholic priest shaves his head as the Egyptian priest did before him. The Episcopal minister's linen surplice for reading the Liturgy is taken from the dress of obligation, made of linen, worn by the priest in Egypt. Two thousand years before the Pope assumed to hold the keys, there was an Egyptian priest at Thebes with the title of "Keeper of the two doors of Heaven."
In the space which we have here at command we are unable to examine the question of doctrinal influences from Egypt upon orthodox Christianity. Four doctrines, however, are stated by the learned Egyptologist, Samuel Sharpe, to be common to Egyptian mythology and church orthodoxy. They are these:—
1. That the creation and government of the world is not the work of one simple and undivided Being, but of one God made up of several persons. This is the doctrine of plural unity.
2. That salvation cannot be expected from the justice or mercy of the Supreme Judge, unless an atoning sacrifice is made to him by a divine being.
3. That among the persons who compose the godhead, one, though a god, could yet suffer pain and be put to death.
4. That a god or man, or a being half god and half a man once lived on earth, born of an earthly mother but without an earthly father.
The gods of Egypt generally appear in triads, and sometimes as three gods in one. The triad of Thebes was Amun-Ra, Athor, and Chonso,—or father, mother, and son. In Nubia it was Pthah, Amun-Ra, and Horus-Ra. At Philae it was Osiris, Isis, and Horus. Other groups were Isis, Nephthys, and Horus; Isis, Nephthys, and Osiris; Osiris, Athor, and Ra. In later times Horus became the supreme being, and appears united with Ra and Osiris in one figure, holding the two sceptres of Osiris, and having the hawk's head of Horus and the sun of Ra. Eusebius says of this god that he declared himself to be Apollo, Lord, and Bacchus. A porcelain idol worn as a charm combines Pthah the Supreme God of Nature, with Horus the Son-God, and Kneph the Spirit-God. The body is that of Pthah, God of Nature, with the hawk's wings of Horus, and the ram's head of Kneph. It is curious that Isis the mother, with Horus the child in her arms, as the merciful gods who would save their worshippers from the vengeance of Osiris the stern judge, became as popular a worship in Egypt in the time of Augustus, as that of the Virgin and Child is in Italy to-day. Juvenal says that the painters of Rome almost lived by painting the goddess Isis, the Madonna of Egypt, which had been imported into Italy, and which was very popular there.
In the trial of the soul before Osiris, as represented on tablets and papyri, are seen the images of gods interceding as mediators and offering sacrifices on its behalf. There are four of these mediatorial gods, and there is a tablet in the British Museum in which the deceased is shown as placing the gods themselves on the altar as his sin-offering, and pleading their merits.
The death of Osiris, the supreme god of all Egypt, was a central fact in this mythology. He was killed by Typhon, the Egyptian Satan, and after the fragments of his body had been collected by "the sad Isis," he returned to life as king of the dead and their judge.
In connection with these facts it is deserving of notice that the doctrine of the trinity and that of the atonement began to take shape in the hands of the Christian theologians of Egypt. The Trinity and its symbols were already familiar to the Egyptian mind. Plutarch says that the Egyptians worshipped Osiris, Isis, and Horus under the form of a triangle. He adds that they considered everything perfect to have three parts, and that therefore their good god made himself threefold, while their god of evil remained single. Egypt, which had exercised so powerful an influence on the old religion of Rome, was destined also greatly to influence Christianity. Alexandria was the head-quarters of learning and profound religious speculations in the first centuries. Clemens, Origen, Dionysius, Athanasius, were eminent teachers in that school. Its doctrines were that God had revealed himself to all nations by his Logos, or Word. Christianity is its highest revelation. The common Christian lives by faith, but the more advanced believer has gnosis, or philosophic insight of Christianity as the eternal law of the soul. This doctrine soon substituted speculation in place of the simplicity of early Christianity. The influence of Alexandrian thought was increased by the high culture which prevailed there, and by the book-trade of this Egyptian city. All the oldest manuscripts of the Bible now extant were transcribed by Alexandrian penmen. The oldest versions were made in Alexandria. Finally the intense fervor of the Egyptian mind exercised its natural influence on Christianity, as it did on Judaism and Heathenism. The Oriental speculative element of Egyptian life was reinforced by the African fire; and in Christianity, as before in the old religion, we find both working together. By the side of the Alexandrian speculations on the nature of God and the Trinity appear the maniacal devotion of the monks of the Thebaid. The ardor of belief which had overcome even the tenacity of Judaism, and modified it into its two Egyptian forms of the speculations of Philo and the monastic devotion of the Therapeutae, reappeared in a like action upon Christian belief and Christian practice. How large a part of our present Christianity is due to these two influences we may not be able to say. But palpable traces of Egyptian speculation appear in the Church doctrines of the Trinity and atonement, and the material resurrection of the same particles which constitute the earthly body. And an equally evident influence from Egyptian asceticism is found in the long history of Christian monasticism, no trace of which appears in the New Testament, and no authority for which can be found in any teaching or example of Christ. The mystical theology and mystical devotion of Egypt are yet at work in the Christian Church. But beside the doctrines directly derived from Egypt, there has probably come into Christianity another and more important element from this source. The spirit of a race, a nation, a civilization, a religion is more indestructible than its forms, more pervasive than its opinions, and will exercise an interior influence long after its outward forms have disappeared. The spirit of the Egyptian religion was reverence for the divine mystery of organic life, the worship of God in creation, of unity in variety, of each in all. Through the Christian Church in Egypt, the schools of Alexandria, the monks of the Thebaid, these elements filtered into the mind of Christendom. They gave a materialistic tone to the conceptions of the early Church, concerning God, Satan, the angels and devils, Heaven, Hell, the judgment, and the resurrection. They prevented thereby the triumph of a misty Oriental spiritualism. Too gross indeed in themselves, they yet were better than the Donatism which would have turned every spiritual fact into a ghost or a shadow. The African spirit, in the fiery words of a Tertullian and an Augustine, ran into a materialism, which, opposed to the opposite extreme of idealism, saved to the Church its healthy realism.
The elaborate work of Bunsen on "Egypt's Place in Universal History" does not aid us much in finding the place of Egyptian religion in universal religion. It was strictly an ethnic religion, never dreaming of extending itself beyond the borders of the Nile, until long after the conquest of Egypt by the Romans. Then, indeed, Egyptian temples were welcomed by the large hospitality of Rome, and any traveller may see the ruins of the temple of Serapis at Pozzuoli, and that of Isis at Pompeii. The gods of Greece, as we have seen, took some hints from Egypt, but the Greek Olympus, with its bright forms, was very different from the mysterious sombre worship of Egypt.
The worship of variety, the recognition of the Divine in nature, the sentiment of wonder before the mystery of the world, the feeling that the Deity is in all life, in all form, in all change as well as in what is permanent and stable,—this is the best element and the most original part of the Egyptian religion. So much we can learn from it positively; and negatively, by its entire dissolution, its passing away forever, leaving no knowledge of itself behind, we can learn how empty is any system of faith which is based on concealment and mystery. All the vast range of Egyptian wisdom has gone, and disappeared from the surface of the earth, for it was only a religion of the priests, who kept the truth to themselves and did not venture to communicate it to the people. It was only priestcraft, and priestcraft, like all other craft, carries in itself the principle of death. Only truth is immortal,—open, frank, manly truth. Confucius was true; he did not know much, but he told all he knew. Buddha told all he knew. Moses told all he heard. So they and their works continue, being built on faith in men. But the vast fabric of Egyptian wisdom,—its deep theologies, its mysterious symbolism, its majestic art, its wonderful science,—remain only as its mummies remain and as its tombs remain, an enigma exciting and baffling our curiosity, but not adding to our real life.
The Gods of Greece.
Sec. 1. The Land and the Race. Sec. 2. Idea and General Character of Greek Religion. Sec. 3. The Gods of Greece before Homer. Sec. 4. The Gods of the Poets. Sec. 5. The Gods of the Artists. Sec. 6. The Gods of the Philosophers. Sec. 7. The Worship of Greece. Sec. 8. The Mysteries. Orphism. Sec. 9. Relation of Greek Religion to Christianity.
Sec. 1. The Land and the Race.
The little promontory and peninsula, famous in the history of mankind as Greece, or Hellas, projects into the Mediterranean Sea from the South of Europe. It is insignificant on the map, its area being only two thirds as large as that of the State of Maine. But never was a country better situated in order to develop a new civilization. A temperate climate, where the vine, olive, and fig ripened with wheat, barley, and flax; a rich alluvial soil, resting on limestone, and contained in a series of valleys, each surrounded by mountains; a position equally remote from excesses of heat and cold, dryness and moisture; and finally, the ever-present neighborhood of the sea,—constituted a home well fitted for the physical culture of a perfect race of men.
Comparative Geography, which has pointed out so many relations between the terrestrial conditions of nations and their moral attainments, has laid great stress on the connection between the extent of sea-coast and a country's civilization. The sea line of Europe, compared with its area, is more extensive than that of any other continent, and Europe has had a more various and complete intellectual development than elsewhere. Africa, which has the shortest sea line compared with its area, has been most tardy in mental activity. The sea is the highway of nations and the promoter of commerce; and commerce, which brings different races together, awakens the intellect by the contact of different languages, religions, arts, and manners. Material civilization, it is true, does not commence on the sea-shore, but in river intervals. The arts of life were invented in the valleys of the Indus and Ganges, of the Yellow and Blue Rivers of China, of the Euphrates and the Nile. But the Phoenician navigators in the Mediterranean brought to the shores of Greece the knowledge of the arts of Egypt, the manufactures of Tyre, and the products of India and Africa. Every part of the coast of Greece is indented with bays and harbors. The Mediterranean, large enough to separate the nations on its shores, and so permit independent and distinct evolution of character, is not so large as to divide them. Coasting vessels, running within sight of land, could easily traverse its shores. All this tempted to navigation, and so the Greeks learned to be a race of sailors. What the shore line of Europe was to that of the other continents, that the shore line of Greece was to the rest of Europe. Only long after, in the Baltic, the Northern Mediterranean, did a similar land-locked sea create a similar love of navigation among the Scandinavians.
Another feature in the physical geography of Greece must be noticed as having an effect on the psychical condition of its inhabitants. Mountains intersected every part, dividing its tribes from each other. In numerous valleys, separated by these mountain walls, each clan, left to itself, formed a special character of its own. The great chain of Pindus with its many branches, the lofty ridges of the Peloponnesus, allowed the people of Thessaly, Boeotia, Attica, Phocis, Locris, Argolis, Arcadia, Laconia, to attain those individual traits which distinguish them during all the course of Greek history.
Such physical conditions as we have described are eminently favorable to a free and full development of national character. But this word "development," so familiar to modern thought, implies not only outward circumstances to educate, but a special germ to be educated. So long as the human being is regarded as a lump of dough, to be moulded into any shape by external influences, no such term as "development" was needed. But philosophical historians now admit national character to be the result of two factors,—the original ethnic germ in the race, and the terrestrial influences which unfold it. A question, therefore, of grave moment concerns the origin of the Hellenic people. Whence are they derived? what are their affinities? and from what region did they come?
The science of Comparative Philology, one of the great triumphs of modern scholarship, has enabled us now, for the first time, to answer this question. What no Greek knew, what neither Herodotus, Plato, nor Aristotle could tell us, we are now able to state with certainty. The Greek language, both in its grammar and its vocabulary, belongs to the family of Indo-European languages, of which the Sanskrit is the elder sister. Out of eleven thousand six hundred and thirty-three Greek words, some two thousand are found to be Sanskrit, and three thousand more to belong to other branches of the Indo-European tongues. As the words common to the Greek and the Sanskrit must have been in use by both races before their separation, while living together in Central Asia, we have a clew to the degree of civilization attained by the Greeks before they arrived in Europe. Thus it appears that they brought from Asia a familiarity with oxen and cows, horses, dogs, swine, goats, geese; that they could work in metals; that they built houses, and were acquainted with the elements of agriculture, especially with farinaceous grains; they used salt; they had boats propelled by oars, but not sails; they divided the year by moons, and had a decimal notation.
The Greeks, as a race, came from Asia later than the Latin races. They belonged to that powerful Indo-European race, to which Europe owes its civilization, and whose chief branches are the Hindoos, the Persians, the Greeks, the Latins, the Kelts, the Teutonic tribes, and the Slavi. The original site of the race was, as we have seen in our chapter on Brahmanism, in Bactria; and the earliest division of this people could not have been later than three thousand or four thousand years before the Christian era. When the Hellenic branch entered Europe we have now no means of saying. It was so long anterior to Greek history that all knowledge of the time was lost, and only the faintest traditions of an Asiatic origin of their nation are to be found in Greek writers.
The Hellenic tribes, at the beginning of the seventh century before Christ, were divided into four groups,—the Achaians, AEolians, Dorians, and Ionians,—with outlying tribes more or less akin. But this Hellenic people had been preceded in Greece by another race known as Pelasgians. It is so difficult to say who these were, that Mr. Grote, in despair, pronounces them unknowable, and relinquishes the problem. Some facts concerning them may, however, be considered as established. Their existence in Greece is pronounced by Thirwall to be "the first unquestionable fact in Greek history." Homer speaks (Iliad, II. 681) of "Pelasgian Argos," and of "spear-skilled Pelasgians," "noble Pelasgians," "Pelasgians inhabiting fertile Larissa" (II. 840; X. 429). Herodotus frequently speaks of the Pelasgians. He says that the Dorians were a Hellenic nation, the Ionians were Pelasgic; he does not profess to know what language the Pelasgians used, but says that those who in his time inhabited Crestona, Placia, and other regions, spoke a barbarous language, and that the people of Attica were formerly Pelasgic. He mentions the Pelasgians as remaining to his time in Arcadia, after the Dorians had expelled them from the rest of the Peloponnesus; says that the Samothracians adopted the mysteries of the Kabiri from the Pelasgians; that the Pelasgians sacrificed victims to unknown gods at Dodona, and asked that oracle advice about what names they should give their gods. These names, taken from Egypt, the Grecians received from them. Hellas was formerly called Pelasgia. The Athenians expelled the Pelasgians from Attica (whether justly or unjustly, Herodotus does not undertake to say), where they were living under Mount Hymettus; whereupon the Pelasgians of Lemnos, in revenge, carried off a number of Athenian women, and afterward murdered them; as an expiation of which crime they were finally commanded by the oracle at Delphi to surrender that island to Miltiades and the Athenians. Herodotus repeatedly informs us that nearly the whole Ionian race were formerly called Pelasgians.
From all this it appears that the Pelasgians were the ancient occupants of nearly all Greece; that they were probably of the same stock as their Hellenic successors, but of another branch; that their language was somewhat different, and contained words of barbaric (that is Phoenician or Egyptian) origin, but not so different as to remain distinct after the conquest. From the Pelasgian names which remain, it is highly probable that this people was of the same family with the old Italians. They must have constituted the main stem of the Greek people. The Ionians of Attica, the most brilliant portion of the Greeks, were of Pelasgic origin. It may be therefore assumed, without much improbability, that while the Dorian element gave the nation its strength and vital force, the Pelasgic was the source of its intellectual activity and success in literature and art. Ottfried Muller remarks that "there is no doubt that most of the ancient religions of Greece owed their origin to this race. The Zeus and Dione of Dodona, Zeus and Here of Argos, Hephaestos and Athene of Athens, Demeter and Cora of Eleusis, Hermes and Artemis of Arcadia, together with Cadmus and the Cabiri of Thebes, cannot properly be referred to any other origin."
Welcker thinks that the ethnological conceptions of Aeschylus, in his "Suppliants," are invaluable helps in the study of the Pelasgic relations to the Greeks. The poet makes Pelasgos the king of Argos, and represents him as ruling over the largest part of Greece. His subjects he calls Greeks, and they vote in public assembly by holding up their hands, so distinguishing them from the Dorians, among whom no such democracy prevailed. He protects the suppliant women against their Egyptian persecutors, who claimed them as fugitives from slavery. The character assigned by Aeschylus to this representative of the Pelasgian race is that of a just, wise, and religious king, who judged that it was best to obey God, even at the risk of displeasing man.
It is evident, therefore, that from the earliest times there were in Greece two distinct elements, either two different races or two very distinct branches of a common race. First known as Pelasgians and Hellenes, they afterwards took form as the Ionian and Dorian peoples. And it is evident also that the Greek character, so strong yet so flexible, so mighty to act and so open to receive, with its stern virtues and its tender sensibilities, was the result of the mingling of these antagonist tendencies. Two continents may have met in Greece, if to the genius of that wonderful people Asia lent her intellect and Africa her fire. It was the marriage of soul and body, of nature and spirit, of abstract speculation and passionate interest in this life. Darkness rests on the period when this national life was being created; the Greeks themselves have preserved no record of it.
That some powerful influence from Egypt was acting on Greece during this forming period, and contributing its share to the great result, there can hardly be a question. All the legends and traditions hint at such a relation, and if this were otherwise, we might be sure that it must have existed. Egypt was in all her power and splendor when Greece was being settled by the Aryans from Asia. They were only a few hundred miles apart, and the ships of Phoenicia were continually sailing to and fro between them.
The testimony of Greek writers to the early influence of Egypt on their country and its religion is very full. Creuzer says that the Greek writers differed in regard to the connection of Attic and Egyptian culture, only as to How it was, not as to Whether it was. Herodotus says distinctly and positively that most of the names of the Greek gods came from Egypt, except some whose names came from the Pelasgians. The Pelasgians themselves, he adds, gave these Egyptian names to the unnamed powers of nature whom they before ignorantly worshipped, being directed by the oracle at Dodona so to do. By "name" here, Herodotus plainly intends more than a mere appellation. He includes also something of the personality and character. Before they were impersonal beings, powers of nature; afterwards, under Egyptian influence, they became persons. He particularly insists on having heard this from the priestesses of Dodona, who also told him a story of the black pigeon from Egypt, who first directed the oracle to be established, which he interpreted, according to what he had heard in Egypt, to be a black Egyptian woman. He adds that the Greeks received, not only their oracles, but their public processions, festivals, and solemn prayers from the Egyptians. M. Maury admits the influence of Egypt on the worship and ceremonies of Greece, and thinks it added to their religion a more serious tone and a sentiment of veneration for the gods, which were eminently beneficial. He doubts the story of Herodotus concerning the derivation of gods from Egypt, giving as a sufficient proof the fact that Homer's knowledge of Egyptian geography was very imperfect. But religious influences and geographical knowledge are very different things. Because the mediaeval Christian writers had an imperfect knowledge of Palestine, it does not follow that their Christianity was not influenced in its source by Judaism. The objection to the derivation of the Greek gods from Egypt, on account of the names on the monuments being different from those of the Hellenic deities, is sufficiently answered by Creuzer, who shows that the Greeks translated the Egyptian word into an equivalent in their own language. Orphic ideas came from Egypt into Greece, through the colonies in Thrace and Samothrace. The story of the Argive colony from Egypt, with their leader Danaus, connects some Egyptian immigration with the old Pelasgic ruler of that city, the walls of which contained Pelasgic masonry. The legends concerning Cecrops, Io, and Lelex, as leading colonies from Egypt to Athens and Megara, are too doubtful to add much to our argument. The influence of Egypt on Greek religion in later times is universally admitted.
Sec. 2. Idea and General Character of Greek Religion.
The idea of Greek religion, which specially distinguishes it from all others, is the human character of its gods. The gods of Greece are men and women, idealized men and women, men and women on a larger scale, but still intensely human. The gods of India, as they appear in the Sacred Books, are vast abstractions; and as they appear in sculpture, hideous and grotesque idols. The gods of Egypt seem to pass away into mere symbols and intellectual generalizations. But the gods of Greece are persons, warm with life, radiant with beauty, having their human adventures, wars, loves. The symbolical meaning of each god disappears in his personal character.
These beings do not keep to their own particular sphere nor confine themselves to their special parts, but, like men and women, have many different interests and occupations. If we suppose a number of human beings, young and healthy and perfectly organized, to be gifted with an immortal life and miraculous endowments of strength, wisdom, and beauty, we shall have the gods of Olympus.
Greek religion differs from Brahmanism in this, that its gods are not abstract spirit, but human beings. It differs also from Buddhism, the god in which is also a man, in this, that the gods of Greece are far less moral than Buddha, but far more interesting. They are not trying to save their souls, they are by no means ascetic, they have no intention of making progress through the universe by obeying the laws of nature, but they are bent on having a good time. Fighting, feasting, and making love are their usual occupations. If they can be considered as governing the world, it is in a very loose way and on a very irregular system. They interfere with human affairs from time to time, but merely from whim or from passion. With the common relations of life they have little to do. They announce no moral law, and neither by precept nor example undertake to guide men's consciences.
The Greek religion differs from many other religions also in having no one great founder or restorer, in having no sacred books and no priestly caste. It was not established by the labors of a Zoroaster, Gautama, Confucius, or Mohammed. It has no Avesta, no Vedas, no Koran. Every religion which we have thus far considered has its sacred books, but that of Greece has none, unless we accept the works of Homer and Hesiod as its Bible. Still more remarkable is the fact of its having no priestly caste. Brahmanism and Egypt have an hereditary priesthood; and in all other religions, though the priesthood might not be hereditary, it always constituted a distinct caste. But in Greece kings and generals and common people offer sacrifices and prayers, as well as the priests. Priests obtained their office, not by inheritance, but by appointment or election; and they were often chosen for a limited time.
Another peculiarity of the Greek religion was that its gods were not manifestations of a supreme spirit, but were natural growths. They did not come down from above, but came up from below. They did not emanate, they were evolved. The Greek Pantheon is a gradual and steady development of the national mind. And it is still more remarkable that it has three distinct sources,—the poets, the artists, and the philosophers. Jupiter, or Zeus in Homer, is oftenest a man of immense strength, so strong that if he has hold of one end of a chain and all the gods hold the other, with the earth fastened to it beside, he will be able to move them all. Far more grand is the conception of Jupiter as it came from the chisel of Phidias, of which Quintilian says that it added a new religious sentiment to the religion of Greece. Then came the philosophers and gave an entirely different and higher view of the gods. Jupiter becomes with them the Supreme Being, father of gods and of men, omnipotent and omnipresent.
One striking consequence of the absence of sacred books, of a sacred priesthood, and an inspired founder of their religion, was the extreme freedom of the whole system. The religion of Hellas was hardly a restraint either to the mind or to the conscience. It allowed the Greeks to think what they would and to do what they chose. They made their gods to suit themselves, and regarded them rather as companions than as objects of reverence. The gods lived close to them on Olympus, a precipitous and snow-capped range full of vast cliffs, deep glens, and extensive forests, less than ten thousand feet in height, though covered with snow on the top even in the middle of July.
According to the Jewish religion, man was made in the image of God; but according to the Greek religion the gods were made in the image of men. Heraclitus says, "Men are mortal gods, and the gods immortal men." The Greek fancied the gods to be close to him on the summit of the mountain which he saw among the clouds, often mingling in disguise with mankind; a race of stronger and brighter Greeks, but not very much wiser or better. All their own tendencies they beheld reflected in their deities. They projected themselves upon the heavens, and saw with pleasure a race of divine Greeks in the skies above, corresponding with the Greeks below. A delicious religion; without austerity, asceticism, or terror; a religion filled with forms of beauty and nobleness, kindred to their own; with gods who were capricious indeed, but never stern, and seldom jealous or very cruel. It was a heaven so near at hand, that their own heroes had climbed into it, and become demigods. It was a heaven peopled with such a variety of noble forms, that they could choose among them the protector whom they liked best, and possibly themselves be selected as favorites by some guardian deity. The fortunate hunter, of a moonlight night, might even behold the graceful figure of Diana flashing through the woods in pursuit of game, and the happy inhabitant of Cyprus come suddenly on the fair form of Venus resting in a laurel-grove. The Dryads could be seen glancing among the trees, the Oreads heard shouting on the mountains, and the Naiads found asleep by the side of their streams. If the Greek chose, he could take his gods from the poets; if he liked it better, he could find them among the artists; or if neither of these suited him, he might go to the philosophers for his deities.
The Greek religion, therefore, did not guide or restrain, it only stimulated. The Greek, by intercourse with Greek gods, became more a Greek than ever. Every Hellenic feeling and tendency was personified and took a divine form; which divine form reacted on the tendency to develop it still further. All this contributed unquestionably to that wonderful phenomenon, Greek development. Nowhere on the earth, before or since, has the human being been educated into such a wonderful perfection, such an entire and total unfolding of itself, as in Greece. There, every human tendency and faculty of soul and body opened in symmetrical proportion. That small country, so insignificant on the map of Europe, so invisible on the map of the world, carried to perfection in a few short centuries every human art. Everything in Greece is art; because everything is finished, done perfectly well. In that garden of the world ripened the masterpieces of epic, tragic, comic, lyric, didactic poetry; the masterpieces in every school of philosophic investigation; the masterpieces of history, of oratory, of mathematics; the masterpieces of architecture, sculpture, and painting. Greece developed every form of human government, and in Greece were fought and won the great battles of the world. Before Greece, everything in human literature and art was a rude and imperfect attempt; since Greece, everything has been a rude and imperfect imitation.