Predecessors of Cleopatra
Transcriber’s Note: The original copy of this book wasn’t very wellproofread, if at all. A large number of printing errors have beencorrected, including transposed full lines of text. In one place(noted below) at least one line was omitted completely: it wasn’tpossible to source another edition to check what the missing wordsmight have been. The spelling and hyphenation of Egyptian names areoften inconsistent.
5 Drawings by G. A. Davis
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In attempting even a brief and imperfect outlineof the history of Egyptian queens the authorhas undertaken no easy task and craves indulgencefor its modest fulfillment. The aimhas been merely to put the little that is knownin a readable and popular form, to gather frommany sources the fragments that remain, partlyhistoric, partly legendary, of a dead past. Topresent—however imperfectly—sketches of thewomen who once lived and breathed as Queensof Egypt, which has been more ably and completelydone—as the period was less remote andthe sources of information fuller, for their royalsisters of other lands.
A short article published some years ago inLippincott’s Magazine may be said to be the nucleusof the present volume, the writer’s interestin the subject having been awakened by thestudy necessary to its preparation.
We enter a house through the portico or vestibule.We form acquaintances on somewhatthe same principle. We begin perhaps with theweather, we exchange comments on trifles, wepass through an introductory stage of intercoursebefore we reach the real heart of the manor woman who, in time, becomes our dearestfriend. Skip the introduction if you will, busy[ii]reader, but metaphorically it forms the porticoor vestibule of the Egyptian House.
From the darkness which envelopes the centuriesmodern research has brought to lightmuch that was unknown or forgotten. With almostthe creative touch it has made the drybones to live again and link by link drawn outthe long chain of the years. What was once amere roll of names with a wide hiatus here andthere has grown to be a record of the words anddeeds of men of like passions with ourselves.We feel once more in touch with the past, as it isthe aim of the highest altruism to beat responsiveto the heart of the present and the by-gonefaces look forth by the side of modern man andclaim the universal brotherhood.
Well may we marvel at the faith, the patience,the ingenuity which has unraveled so much ofthe tangled skein in “The Story of the Nations.”Like Cuvier, from a single bone elaboratinga whole animal, the Egyptologist has patientlyevolved from shreds of parchment, fromfragments of pottery, from broken plinth andcapital a more or less complete whole. He haswoven a tapestry from which some of the figuresstart forth with a lifelike vigor.
Few countries claim such antiquity as Egyptand of none were the estimated dates morewidely apart. Sometimes involving periods ofhundreds and thousands of years. An accumulationof difficulties meets the student as it doesthe explorer. A cycle of time, beside whichmodern life seems like a single breath. Alanguage, at first indecipherable, and even now[iii]imperfectly read. The hasty guesses of scholarsanxious to prove some point or be in thevanguard of discovery; broken monuments,rifled tombs, and inscriptions, mutilated, erasedand altered by the monarchs of succeeding generations.Among all these difficulties lies theway. But with patience and care we are rewardedand with “imagination for a servant,”not a master, one “arrives,” as the French say(at least in a measure), at last.
The list of authorities consulted by the authorwould be too long to enumerate, but amongthem may be mentioned Rawlinson, Wilkinson,Maspero, Erman, Ebers and later Edwards,Sayce, Petrie and Mahaffy, whose interest is soabsorbing and the researches of some of whomare of such recent date. To these may be addedthe study of all available pictures and photographs,and the experiences of late travel andtravellers.
|The Black Hand||1|
Predecessors of Cleopatra.
THE BLACK LAND.
Kem, “the Black Land,” in hieroglyphic, orKemi, in the later and more familiar demotic,was so called from its dark and fruitful soil, aloam, which turned up freshly, after a recent inundationof the Nile, has, as one traveller describesit, “a brown and velvety lustre.”
Through it winds and flows the great river ofwhich Homer speaks as “Egypt’s Heaven descendedstream” and that more than any otherhas set its stamp upon the country and its inhabitants.So potent for weal or woe is it thatone scarce wonders it was worshipped as adeity, and the Arabs call it “El Bahari,” the sea.It is difficult to find the word travel in theirlanguage, with the Egyptian it is always up anddown stream. From the river he drew the fishwhich formed part of his daily food, its fructifyingwaters, spreading over the land, called forthabundant harvests, and from the mud on itsbanks he built the hut in which he lived, or manufacturedthe bricks for the construction of histomb or other more ambitious edifice. Therushes that grew beside it furnished his writingmaterial, and its muddy or turbid water, as abeverage, had for him the charm of a crystal rill.
Leigh Hunt says of the Nile:
The Nile has been said to be less like a riverthan a sinuous lake with islands and sand-barsinterspersed.
The sacred name of the Nile was “Hapi, theConcealed.” The early Egyptians believed thatits source was in fountains, bottomless and faraway, and the tears of the goddess Isis caused itsebb and flow. The explorations of comparativelymodern travellers have solved the mystery of itsbeing, and to-day we know that it springs fromgreat lakes which their discoverers named respectively,Victoria and Albert Nyanza.
Of the three great rivers, the Nile, the Mississippi,and the Amazon, the first is the longest,the second has the largest number of ramifications,and the third the greatest volume of water.
A Nilometer, a pillar standing in a pit, chroniclesthe rise of the tide, and great festivities attendedthe opening of the canals which weredug in all directions to carry its beneficentstream. A human victim was sacrificed to appeasethe river god. A young girl was eachyear dedicated to this purpose. Bound to astake, adorned with flowers, and hailed as“Aruseh, the bride of the Nile,” she stood andwatched the on-coming flood which was to shutout for her the light of day. Perhaps it was inthe terror with which the bounding pulses ofyouth must ever regard the great Destroyer.Perhaps with the heroic spirit of a martyr sheawaited her fate, glorying in it and giving herselfup a willing sacrifice, as the Hindoo womanis said occasionally to have done in the Suttee,when she cast herself on the funeral pile of herhusband.
It was a Mohammedan general who put anend to this annual tragedy and refused to permitthe usual offering. The river delayed itsrising, and the murmurs of the people waxedloud against him. In this dilemma he appealedto the Kadlif Omar, he who destroyed the Alexandrialibrary, saying that if it agreed with theKoran it was useless to preserve it, and if it differedit was pernicious. But in this matter heshowed himself larger-minded. He obliginglywrote a letter which was cast into the water andran thus: A. D. 640,