HISTORY OF EGYPT
From 330 B.C. to the Present Time
By S. RAPPOPORT, Doctor of Philosophy, Basel; Member of the Ecole Langues Orientales, Paris; Russian, German, French Orientalist and Philologist
Containing over Twelve Hundred Colored Plates and Illustrations
THE GROLIER SOCIETY
OSIRIS AND ISIS AND THE FOUR CHILDREN OF HORUS WITHIN A SHRINE.
Professor Maspero closes his History of Egypt with the conquest of Alexander the Great. There is a sense of dramatic fitness in this selection, for, with the coming of the Macedonians, the sceptre of authority passed for ever out of the hand of the Egyptian. For several centuries the power of the race had been declining, and foreign nations had contended for the vast treasure-house of Egypt. Alexander found the Persians virtually rulers of the land. The ancient people whose fame has come down to us through centuries untarnished had been forced to bow beneath the yoke of foreign masters, and nations of alien blood were henceforth to dominate its history.
The first Ptolemy founded a Macedonian or Greek dynasty that maintained supremacy in Egypt until the year 30 B.C. His successors were his lineal descendants, and to the very last they prided themselves on their Greek origin; but the government which they established was essentially Oriental in character. The names of Ptolemy and Cleopatra convey an Egyptian rather than a Greek significance; and the later rulers of the dynasty were true Egyptians, since their ancestors had lived in Alexandria for three full centuries.
In the year 30 B.C. Augustus Caesar conquered the last of the Ptolemies, the famous Cleopatra. Augustus made Egypt virtually his private province, and drew from it resources that were among the chief elements of his power. After Augustus, the Romans continued in control until the coming of the Saracens under Amr, in the seventh century. Various dynasties of Mohammedans, covering a period of several centuries, maintained control until the Mamluks, in 1250, overthrew the legitimate rulers, to be themselves overthrown three centuries later by the Turks under Selim I. Turkish rule was maintained until near the close of the eighteenth century, when the French, under Napoleon Bonaparte, invaded Egypt. In 1806, after the expulsion of the French by the English, the famous Mehemet Ali destroyed the last vestiges of Mamluk power, and set up a quasi-independent sovereignty which was not disturbed until toward the close of the nineteenth century. The events of the last twenty-five years, comprising a short period of joint control of Egypt by the French and English, followed by the British occupation, are fresh in the mind of the reader.
What may be termed the modern history of Egypt covers a period of more than twenty-two centuries. During this time the native Egyptian can scarcely be said to have a national history, but the land of Egypt, and the races who have become acclimated there, have passed through many interesting phases. Professor Maspero completes the history of antiquity in that dramatic scene in which the ancient Egyptian makes his last futile struggle for independence. But the Nile Valley has remained the scene of the most important events where the strongest nations of the earth contended for supremacy. It is most interesting to note that the invaders of Egypt, while impressing their military stamp upon the natives, have been mastered in a very real sense by the spell of Egypt's greatness; but the language, the key to ancient learning and civilisation, still remained a well-guarded secret. Here and there one of the Ptolemies or Greeks thought it worth his while to master the hieroglyphic writing. Occasionally a Roman of the later period may have done the same, but such an accomplishment was no doubt very unusual from the first. The subordinated Egyptians therefore had no resource but to learn the language of their conquerors, and presently it came to pass that not even the native Egyptian remembered the elusive secrets of his own written language. Egyptian, as a spoken tongue, remained, in a modified form, as Koptic, but at about the beginning of our era the classical Egyptian had become a dead language. No one any longer wrote in the hieroglyphic, hieratic, or demotic scripts; in a word, the hieroglyphic writing was forgotten. The reader of Professor Maspero's pages has had opportunity to learn how this secret was discovered in the nineteenth century. This information is further amplified in the present volumes, and we see how in our own time the native Egyptian has regained something of his former grandeur through the careful and scientific study of monuments, inscriptions, and works of art. Thus it will appear in the curious rounding out of the enigmatic story that the most ancient history of civilisation becomes also the newest and most modern human history.
It should be explained that Doctor Rappoport, in preparing these volumes, has drawn very largely upon the authorities who have previously laboured in the same field, and in particular upon the works of Creasy, Duruy, Ebers, Lavisse, Marcel, Michaud, Neibuhr, Paton, Ram-baud, Sharp, and Weil. The results of investigations by Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie and other prominent Egyptologists have been fully set forth and profusely illustrated.
EGYPT UNDER THE PTOLEMIES
ALEXANDER THE GREAT AND THE CONQUEST OF EGYPT—THE REIGNS OP THE PTOLEMIES—GRADUAL GROWTH OF ROMAN INFLUENCE—INTRIGUES OF CLEOPATRA WITH POMPEY, CAESAR, AND ANTONY
Alexander the Great in Egypt—Alexandria founded—The Greeks favour the Jews—Ptolemy Soter establishes himself in Egypt and overcomes Perdiccas—Struggles for Syria—Beginning of Egyptian coinage—Art and Scholarship—Ptolemy resigns in favour of his son Philadelphus —First treaty with Rome—Building of the Pharos—Growth of Commerce—Encouragement of Learning—The library of Alexandria—Euclid the geometer—Poets, astronomers, historians, and critics—The Septuagint—Marriage of Philadelphus to his sister Arsinoe—Ptolemy Euergetes plunders Asia—Egyptian temples enlarged—Religious tolerance—Annual tribute of the Jews—Eratosthenes the astronomer—Philosophy and Science—Culmination of Ptolemaic rule—The dynasty declines under Philopator—Syrians invade Egypt; Philopator retaliates; visits Jerusalem—The Jews persecuted—The king's follies—Riots at Alexandria—Inglorious end of Philopator—The young Ptolemy Epiphanes protected by Rome—Military revolt suppressed—Coronation of Epiphanes—The Rosetta Stone—Marriage of Epiphanes and Cleopatra, daughter of Antiochus the Cheat—A second rebellion repressed—Accession of Ptolemy Philometer under the guardianship of Cleopatra—Antiochus Epiphanes defeats Philometer—Euergetes seizes the throne and appeals to Rome—Antiochus supports Philometor against his brother Euergetes—The brothers combine against Antiochus—Fraternal rivalry—Philometer appeals to the Romans who adjust the quarrel—Philometer arbitrates in a dispute between the Jews and the Samaritans—New temples built—Egyptian asceticism—Philometer's death; Euergetes reigns alone, and divorces his queen Cleopatra—Popular tumult in Alexandria—Euergetes flees—Cleopatra in power—Euergetes regains the throne; conquers Syria and makes peace with Cleopatra—The reign of Cleopatra Cocce with Lathyrus (Ptolemy Soter II.)—Cleopatra in the ascendent—She helps the Jews, while Lathyrus helps the Samaritans—Lathyrus flees to Cyprus—Ptolemy Alexander I rules with Cleopatra—Death of Alexander and restoration of Lathyrus—Accession of Cleopatra Berenice—Ptolemy Alexander II. bequeaths Egypt to Rome, murders Berenice, and is slain by his guards—Auletes succeeds—The Romans claim Egypt—Pompey assists Auletes who is expelled by the Egyptians—Cleopatra Tryphama and Berenice placed on the throne—Grabinius and Mark Antony march into Egypt and restore Auletes—The reign of Cleopatra—Pompey made governor—The Egyptian fleet aids Pompey—Pompey is slain—Caesar besieged by the Alexandrians—He overcomes opposition, is captivated by Cleopatra and establishes her authority—The Queen's extravagance—Defeat of Antony—Death of Cleopatra—Octavianus annexes Egypt.
HELLENISM AND HEBRAEISM IN EGYPT UNDER THE PTOLEMIES
When Alexander the Great bridged the gulf dividing Occident and Orient, the Greeks had attained to a state of maturity in the development of their national art and literature. Greek culture and civilisation, passing beyond the boundaries of their national domain, crossed this bridge and spread over the Asiatic world. To perpetuate his name, the great Macedonian king founded a city, and selected for this purpose, with extraordinary prescience, a spot on the banks of the Nile, which, on account of its geographical position, was destined to become a centre, not only of international commerce and an entrepot between Asia and Europe, but also a centre of intellectual culture. The policy of Alexander to remove the barriers between the Greeks and the Asiatics, and to pave the way for the union of the races of his vast empire, was continued by the Lagidae dynasty in Egypt. With her independence and native dynasties, Egypt had also lost her political strength and unity; she retained, however, her ancient institutions, her customs, and religious system. The sway of Persian dominion had passed over her without overthrowing this huge rock of sacerdotal power which, deeply rooted with many ramifications, seemed to mock the wave of time. Out of the ruins of political independence still towered the monuments of civilisation of a mighty past which gave to this country moral independence, and prevented the obliteration of nationality. It would have mattered very little in the vast empire of Alexander if one province had a special physiognomy. It was different, however, with the Lagidae: their power was concentrated in Egypt, and they were therefore compelled to obliterate the separation existing between the conquering and the conquered races, and fuse them, if possible, into one. A great obstacle which confronted the Macedonian rulers in Egypt was the religion of the country. The interest and the policy of the Lagidae demanded the removal of this obstacle, not by force but by diplomacy. Greek gods were therefore identified with Egyptian; Phtah became Hephaestos; Thot, Hermes; Ra, Helios; Amon, Zeus; and, in consequence of a dream which commanded him to offer adoration to a foreign god, Ptolemy Soter created a new Greek god who was of Egyptian origin. Osiris at that period was the great god of Egypt; Memphis was the religious centre of the cult of Apis, the representative of Osiris, and who, when living, was called Apis-Osiris, and when dead Osiris-Apis. Cambyses had killed the god or his representative: it was a bad move. Alexander made sacrifices to him: Ptolemy Soter did more. He endeavoured to persuade the Egyptians that Osirapi or Osiris-Apis was also sacred to the Greeks, and to identify him with some Greek divinity. There was a Greek deity known as Serapis, identified with Pluton, the god of Hades. Serapis, by a clever manouvre, a coup de religion, was identified with Osiris-Apis. The lingual similarity and the fact that Osirapi was the god of the Egyptian Hades made the identification acceptable.
Like true Greek princes, the Ptolemies had broad views and were very tolerant. Keeping the Greek religion themselves, they were favourably disposed towards the creeds of other nationalities under their dominion. Thanks to this broad-mindedness and tolerance which had become traditional in the Lagidas family, and which has only rarely been imitated—to the detriment of civilisation—in the history of European dynasties, Oriental and Hellenic culture could flourish side by side. This benign government attracted many scholars, scientists, poets, and philosophers. Alexandria became the intellectual metropolis of the world; and it might truly be said to have been the Paris of antiquity. At the courts of the Ptolemies, the Medicis of Egypt, the greatest men of the age lived and taught. Demetrius Phalerius, one of the most learned and cultured men of an age of learning and knowledge, when driven from his luxurious palace at Athens, found hospitality at the court of Ptolemy Soter. The foundation of the famous Museion and library of Alexandria was most probably due to his influence. He advised the first Ptolemy to found a building where poets, scholars, and philosophers would have facilities for study, research, and speculation. The Museion was similar in some respects to the Academy of Plato. It was an edifice where scholars lived and worked together. Mental qualification was the only requirement for admission. Nationality and creed were no obstacles to those whose learning rendered them worthy of becoming members of this ideal academy and of being received among the immortals of antiquity. The Museion was in no sense a university, but an academy for the cultivation of the higher branches of learning. It might be compared in some respects to the College de France, or regarded as a development of the system under which scholars had already lived and worked together in the Ramesseum under Ramses II. The generosity of the Lagidas provided amply for this new centre of learning and study. Free from worldly cares, the scholars could leisurely gather information and hand down to posterity the fruits of their researches. From all parts of the world men flocked to this centre of fashionable learning, the birthplace of modern science. All that was brilliant and cultured, all the coryphees in the domain of intellect, were attracted by that splendid court.
In the shade of the Museion a brilliant assembly—Ptolemy, Euclid, Hipparchus, Apollonius, and Eratosthenes—made great discoveries and added materially to the sum of human knowledge. Here Euclid wrote his immortal "Elements;" and Herophilos, the father of surgery, added valuable information to the knowledge of anatomy. The art and process of embalming, in such vogue among the Egyptians, naturally fostered the advance of this science. Whilst Alexandria in abstract speculation could not rival Greece, yet it became the home of the pioneers of positive science, who left a great and priceless legacy to modern civilisation. The importance of this event (the foundation of the Museion), says Draper, in his Intellectual Development of Europe, though hitherto little understood, admits of no exaggeration so far as the intellectual progress of Europe is concerned. The Museum made an impression upon the intellectual career of Europe so powerful and enduring that we still enjoy its results. If the purely literary productions of that age have sometimes been looked upon with contempt, European intellectual culture is still greatly indebted to Alexandria, and especially for the patronage she accorded to the works of Aristotle. Whilst the speculative mind was in later centuries allured by the supernatural, and the discussion of the criterion of truth and the principles of morality ended in the mystic doctrines of Neo-Platonism, the practical tendencies of the great Alexandrine scholars were instrumental in laying the foundations of science. To the Museion were attached the libraries: one in the Museion itself, and another in the quarter Rhacotis in the temple of Serapis, which contained about 700,000 volumes. New books were continually acquired. The librarians had orders to pay any sum for the original of the works of great masters. The Ptolemies were not only patrons of learning but were themselves highly educated. Ptolemy Soter was an historian of no mean talent, and his son Philadelphus, as a pupil of the poet Philetas and the philosopher Strabo, was a man of great learning. Ptolemy III. was a mathematician, and Ptolemy Philopator, who had erected and dedicated a temple to Homer, was the writer of a tragedy. The efforts of the Ptolemies to bring the two nationalities, Hellenic and Egyptian, nearer to each other, to mould and weld them into one if possible, to mix and mingle the two civilisations and thus strengthen their own power, was greatly aided by the national character of the Greeks and the political position of the Egyptians.
The Greeks found in Egypt a national culture and especially a religious system. The pliant Hellenic genius could not remain insensible to that ancient and marvellous civilisation with its sphinxes and hieroglyphics, its pyramids and temples, its learning and thought, so strangely perplexing and interesting to the Greek mind. Not only the magnificence of Egyptian art, the majesty of her temples and palaces, but the wisdom of her social and political institutions impressed the conquerors. They made themselves acquainted with the institutions of the country; they studied its history and took an interest in its religion and mythology. Similarly, the conquered Egyptians, who had preferred the Macedonian ruler to their Persian oppressors, exhibited a natural desire to learn the languages and habits of their rulers, to make themselves acquainted with their knowledge and phases of thought, and art and science. The interest of the Greeks was strengthened by this, and the Egyptians were made to see their history in its proper light. To this endeavour we owe the history of Manetho. But, in spite of the policy of the Ptolemies, the impressionable nature of the Hellenic character and the interest of the Egyptians,—in spite of all that tended to a fusion of Hellenism and Orientalism, it never came to a proper amalgamation. The contradiction between the free-thought philosophy of Greece, which was fast outgrowing its polytheism and Olympian worship, and the deeply rooted sacerdotal system of the Pharaonian institutions, was too great and too flagrant. Thus there never was an Egypto-Hellenic phase of thought. But there was another civilisation of great antiquity, possessing peculiar features, not less interesting for the Greek mind than that of Egypt itself, with which Hellenism found itself face to face in the ancient land of the Pharaohs. It was the civilisation of Judaea, between which and Greek thought a greater fusion was effected.
From time immemorial the Hebrew race, with all its conservative tendencies in religious matters, has been amenable to the influence of foreign culture and civilian. Egypt and Phoenicia, Babylonia and Assyria, Hellas and Rome have exercised an immense influence over it. It still is and always has been endeavouring to bring into harmony the exclusiveness of its national religion, with a desire to adopt the habits culture, language, and manners of its neighbours; an attempt in which it may be apparently successful, for a certain period at least, but which must always have a tragic end. It is impossible to be conservative and progressive at the same time, to be both national and cosmopolitan. The attempts to reconcile religious formalism and free reasoning have never succeeded in the history of human thought. It soon led to the conviction that one factor must be sacrificed, and, as soon as this was perceived, the party of zealots was quickly at hand to preach reaction. In the times of the successors of Alexander, the Diadochae and Epigones, the Seleucidae and the Lagidae, who had divided the vast dominion among them, Greek influence had spread all over Palestine. Greek towns were founded, theatres and gymnasia established; Greek art was admired and her philosophy studied. The Hellenic movement was paramount, and the aristocratic families did their best to further it. Even the high priests, like Jason and Menelaos, who were supposed to be the guardians of the national exclusive movement, favoured Greek culture and institutions.
In the mother country, however, the germ of reaction was always very strong. A constant opposition was directed against the influx of foreign modes of life and thought, which effaced and obliterated the intellectual movement. It was different, however, in the other countries of Macedonian dominion, and especially in Egypt. Alexander the Great, who seems to have been favourably inclined towards the Jews, settled a number of them in Alexandria. His policy was kept up by the descendants of Lagos, that great general of Alexander, who made himself king of the province which was entrusted to the care of his administration. Egypt became the resort of many refugees from Judaea, who gradually came under the influence of the dazzling Greek thought and culture, so new and therefore so attractive to the Semitic mind. Hellenism and Hebraism had known each other for some time, for Phoenician merchants and seafarers had carried the seed of Oriental wisdom to the distant west. The acquaintance, however, was a slight one. At the court of the Ptolemies, on the threshold of Europe and Asia, they met at last. On the shores of the Mediterranean, on the soil where lay the traces of the ancient Egyptian civilisation, in the silent avenues of mysterious sphinxes, amongst hieroglyphic-covered obelisks, Greek and Hebrew thought stood face to face. The two civilisations embodied the principles of the Beautiful and the Sublime, of Morality and AEstheticism, of religious and philosophic speculation. The result of this meeting marks a glorious page in the annals of human thought. Among the monuments of a great historic past, the speculative spirit of the East made love to the plastic beauty of the West, until, at last, they were united in happy union. Hellenic taste and sense of beauty and Semitic speculation not only evolved side by side in Egypt but mixed and commingled; their thoughts were intertwined and interwoven, giving rise to a new intellectual movement, a new philosophy of thought: the Judaeo-Hellenic. Alexandrian culture, during the reign of the Ptolemies, is the offspring of a mixed marriage between two parents belonging to two widely different races, and, as a cross breed, is endowed with many qualities. It had the seriousness of the one parent and the delicacy of the other.
The Ptolemies encouraged the movement towards fusion. The result was that the Jews in Egypt, not being hampered by reactionary endeavours from the side of conservative parties, and with an adaptability peculiar to their race, soon acquired the language of the people in whose midst they dwelt. They conversed and wrote in Greek; they moulded and shaped their own thoughts into Greek form; they clothed the Semitic mode of thinking in Hellenic garb. The immediate result was the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek. Vanity, of which no individual or race is free, had embellished this literary production, which has acquired a high degree of importance alike among Jews and Christians, with many legends. This translation, known as the Septuaginta (LXX), was followed by independent histories relating to Biblical events. One of the best known authors is the chronographer Demetrius, who lived in the second half of the third century, and whose work Flavius Josephus is supposed to have utilised. Not to speak of the Greek authors in Judaea and Syria, we may mention Artapanos, who, following the fashion of the day, wrote history in the form of a romance, and showed traces of an apologetic character. He endeavoured to attribute all that was great in Egyptian civilisation to Moses. This was due to the fact that Manetho, the Egyptian historian, and others following his example, had spread fables and venomous tales about the ancient sojourn and exodus of the Hebrews and their leader. To counterbalance these accusations, fables had to be interwoven into history, and history became romance. Moses was thus identified with Hermes, and made out to be the father of Egyptian wisdom. But, if the close acquaintanceship of Hebraism and Hellenism began with a mere flirtation, encouraged by the rulers of the land and kept up by the Jews, who wished to gain the favour of the conquering race and to show themselves and their history in as favourable a light as possible, it soon ended in a serious attachment. The Hebrews made themselves acquainted with Hellenic life and thought. They studied Homer and Hesiod, Empedocles and Parmenides, Plato and Aristotle, and they were startled by the discovery that in Greek thought there were many elements, moral and religious, familiar to them: this enhanced the attraction. The narrowness and exclusiveness to which strict nationality always gives rise, engendering contempt and hatred for everything foreign—which made even the Greeks, with all their intellectual culture, draw a line of demarcation between Greek and barbarian—gave way to a spirit of cosmopolitan breadth of view which has only very rarely been equalled in history. Hellenic and Hebrew forms of thought were brought into friendly union, and gave birth to ideas and aspirations of which humanity may always be proud. Greek aesthetic judgment and Semitic mysticism, different phases of thought in themselves, were welded into one. The religious conceptions of Moses and the Prophets were expressed in the language of the philosophical schools; an attempt was made to bring into harmony the dogmas of supernatural revelation and the fruits of human speculative thought. Such an attempt is a great undertaking, for, if sincerely and relentlessly pursued, it must end in breaking down the barriers of separation, in the establishment of a common truth, and in the sacrifice of cherished ideals and convictions which prove to be wrong. If carried to its logical conclusion, such a cosmopolitan broad-mindedness, such a cross-fertilisation of intellectual products, must give rise to the ennobling idea that there is only one truth, and that the external forms are only fleeting waves upon the vast ocean of human ideals. The attempt was made in Alexandria by the Judaeo-Hellenic philosophers. Unfortunately, however, the Hebrews, with all their adaptability, have not yet carried this attempt to its logical conclusion. The spirit of reaction has ever and anon been ready to crush in its infancy the endeavour of truth and sincerity, of broad-mindedness and tolerance. When placed before the question to be or not to be, to be logical or illogical, it has chosen the latter, and striven after the impossible: the reconciliation of what cannot be reconciled without alterations, rejections, and selections. The happy marriage of Hellenism and Hebraism in Egypt had a tragic end. The union was dissolved, not, however, without having produced its issue: the Alexandrian culture, which was carried to Rome by Philo Judaeus, and thus influenced later European thought and humanity at large.
CHAPTER I—EGYPT CONQUERED BY THE GREEKS
Alexander the Great.—Cleomenes.—B.C. 332-323
The way for the Grecian conquest of Egypt had been preparing for many years. Ever since the memorable march of Xenophon, who led, in the face of unknown difficulties, ten thousand Greeks across Asia Minor, the Greek statesman had suspected that the Hellenic soldier was capable of undreamed possibilities.
When the young Alexander, succeeding his father Philip on the throne of Macedonia, got himself appointed general by the chief of the Greek states, and marched against Darius Codomanus, King of Persia, at the head of the allied armies, it was not difficult to foresee the result. The Greeks had learned the weakness of the Persians by having been so often hired to fight for them. For a century past, every Persian army had had a body of ten or twenty thousand Greeks in the van, and without this guard the Persians were like a flock of sheep without the shepherd's dog. Those countries which had trusted to Greek mercenaries to defend them could hardly help falling when the Greek states united for their conquest.
Alexander defeated the Persians under Darius in a great and memorable battle near the town of Issus at the foot of the Taurus, at the pass which divides Syria from Asia Minor, and then, instead of marching upon Persia, he turned aside to the easier conquest of Egypt. On his way there he spent seven months in the siege of the wealthy city of Tyre, and he there punished with death every man capable of carrying arms, and made slaves of the rest. He was then stopped for some time before the little town of Gaza, where Batis, the brave governor, had the courage to close the gates against the Greek army. His angry fretfulness at being checked by so small a force was only equalled by his cruelty when he had overcome it; he tied Batis by the heels to his chariot, and dragged him round the walls of the city, as Achilles had dragged the body of Hector.
On the seventh day after leaving Gaza he reached Pelusium, the most easterly town in Egypt, after a march of one hundred and seventy miles along the coast of the Mediterranean, through a parched, glaring desert which forms the natural boundary of the country; while the fleet kept close to the shore to carry the stores for the army, as no fresh water is to be met with on the line of march. The Egyptians did not even try to hide their joy at his approach; they were bending very unwillingly under the heavy and hated yoke of Persia. The Persians had long been looked upon as their natural enemies, and in the pride of their success had added insults to the other evils of being governed by the satrap of a conqueror. They had not even gained the respect of the conquered by their warlike courage, for Egypt had in a great part been conquered and held by Greek mercenaries.
The Persian forces had been mostly withdrawn from the country by Sabaces, the satrap of Egypt, to be led against Alexander in Asia Minor, and had formed part of the army of Darius when he was beaten near the town of Issus on the coast of Cilicia. The garrisons were not strong enough to guard the towns left in their charge; the Greek fleet easily overpowered the Egyptian fleet in the harbour of Pelusium, and the town opened its gates to Alexander. Here he left a garrison, and, ordering his fleet to meet him at Memphis, he marched along the river's bank to Heliopolis. All the towns, on his approach, opened their gates to him. Mazakes, who had been left without an army, as satrap of Egypt, when Sabaces led the troops into Asia Minor, and who had heard of the death of Sabaces, and that Alexander was master of Phoenicia, Syria, and the north of Arabia, had no choice but to yield. The Macedonian army crossed the Nile near Heliopolis, and then entered Memphis.
Memphis had long been the chief city of all Egypt, even when not the seat of government. In earlier ages, when the warlike virtues of the Thebans had made Egypt the greatest kingdom in the world, Memphis and the lowland corn-fields of the Delta paid tribute to Thebes; but, with the improvements in navigation, the cities on the coast rose in importance; the navigation of the Red Sea, though always dangerous, became less dreaded, and Thebes lost the toll on the carrying trade of the Nile. Wealth alone, however, would not have given the sovereignty to Lower Egypt, had not the Greek mercenaries been at hand to fight for those who would pay them. The kings of Sais had guarded their thrones with Greek shields; and it was on the rash but praiseworthy attempt of Amasis to lessen the power of these mercenaries that they joined Cambyses, and Egypt became a Persian province. In the struggles of the Egyptians to throw off the Persian yoke, we see little more than the Athenians and Spartans carrying on their old quarrels on the coasts and plains of the Delta; and the Athenians, who counted their losses by ships, not by men, said that in their victories and defeats together Egypt had cost them two hundred triremes. Hence, when Alexander, by his successes in Greece, had put a stop to the feuds at home, the mercenaries of both parties flocked to his conquering standard, and he found himself on the throne of Upper and Lower Egypt without any struggle being made against him by the Egyptians. The Greek part of the population, who had been living in Egypt as foreigners, now found themselves masters. Egypt became at once a Greek kingdom, as though the blood and language of the people were changed at the conqueror's bidding.
Alexander's character as a triumphant general gains little from this easy conquest of an unwarlike country, and the overthrow of a crumbling monarchy. But as the founder of a new Macedonian state, and for reuniting the scattered elements of society in Lower Egypt after the Persian conquest, in the only form in which a government could be made to stand, he deserves to be placed among the least mischievous of conquerors. We trace his march, not by the ruin, misery, and anarchy which usually follow in the rear of an army, but by the building of new cities, the more certain administration of justice, the revival of trade, and the growth of learning. On reaching Memphis, his first care was to prove to the Egyptians that he was come to re-establish their ancient monarchy. He went in state to the temple of Apis, and sacrificed to the sacred bull, as the native kings had done at their coronations; and gamed the good-will of the crowd by games and music, Performed by skilful Greeks for their amusement.
But though the temple of Phtah at Memphis, in which the state ceremonies were performed, had risen in beauty and importance by the repeated additions of the later kings, who had fixed the seat of government in Lower Egypt, yet the Sun, or Amon-Ra, or Kneph-Ra, the god of Thebes, or Jupiter-Amnion, as he was called by the Greeks, was the god under whose spreading wings Egypt had seen its proudest days. Every Egyptian king had called himself "the son of the Sun;" those who had reigned at Thebes had boasted that they were "beloved by Amon-Ra;" and when Alexander ordered the ancient titles to be used towards himself, he wished to lay his offerings in the temple of this god, and to be acknowledged by the priests as his son. As a reader of Homer, and the pupil of Aristotle, he must have wished to see the wonders of "Egyptian Thebes," the proper place for this ceremony; and it could only have been because, as a general, he had not time for a march of five hundred miles, that he chose the nearer and less known temple of Kneph-Ra, in the oasis of Ammon, one hundred and eighty miles from the coast.
Accordingly, he floated down the river from Memphis to the sea, taking with him the light-armed troops and the royal band of knights-companions. When he reached Canopus, he sailed westward along the coast, and landed at Rhacotis, a small village on the spot where Alexandria now stands. Here he made no stay; but, as he passed through it, he must have seen at a glance, for he was never there a second time, that the place was formed by nature to be a great harbour, and that with a little help from art it would be the port of all Egypt. The mouths of the Nile were too shallow for the ever increasing size of the merchant vessels which were then being built; and the engineers found the deeper water which was wanted, between the village of Rhacotis and the little island of pharos. It was all that he had seen and admired at Tyre, but it was on a larger scale and with deeper water. It was the very spot that he was in search of; in every way suitable for the Greek colony which he proposed to found as the best means of keeping Egypt in obedience. Even before the time of Homer, the island of Pharos had given shelter to the Greek traders on that coast. He gave his orders to Hinocrates the architect to improve the harbour, and to lay down the plan of his new city; and the success of the undertaking proved the wisdom both of the statesman and of the builder, for the city of Alexandria subsequently became the most famous of all the commercial and intellectual centres of antiquity. From Rhacotis Alexander marched along the coast to Parastonium, a distance of about two hundred miles through the desert; and there, or on his way there, he was met by the ambassadors from Cyrene, who were sent with gifts to beg for peace, and to ask him to honour their city with a visit. Alexander graciously received the gifts of the Cyrenaeans, and promised them his friendship, but could not spare time to visit their city; and, without stopping, he turned southward to the oasis.
At Memphis Alexander received the ambassadors that came from Greece to wish him joy of his success; he reviewed his troops, and gave out his plans for the government of the kingdom. He threw bridges of boats over the Nile at the ford below Memphis, and also over the several branches of the river. He divided the country into two nomarchies or judgeships, and to fill these two offices of nomarchs or chief judges, the highest civil offices in the kingdom, he chose Doloaspis and Petisis, two Egyptians. Their duty was to watch over the due administration of justice, one in Upper and the other in Lower Egypt, and perhaps to hear appeals from the lower judges.
He left the garrisons in the command of his own Greek generals; Pantaleon commanded the counts, or knights-companions, who garrisoned Memphis, and Pole-mon was governor of Pelusium. These were the chief fortresses in the kingdom: Memphis overlooked the Delta, the navigation of the river, and the pass to Upper Egypt; Pelusium was the harbour for the ships of war, and the frontier town on the only side on which Egypt could be attacked. The other cities were given to other governors; Licidas commanded the mercenaries, Peucestes and Balacrus the other troops, Eugnostus was secretary, while AEschylus and Ephippus were left as overlookers, or perhaps, in the language of modern governments, as civil commissioners. Apollonius was made prefect of Libya, of which district Paraetonium was the capital, and Cleomenes prefect of Arabia at Heroopolis, in guard of that frontier. Orders were given to all these generals that justice was to be administered by the Egyptian nomarchs according to the common law or ancient customs of the land. Petisis, however, either never entered upon his office or soon quitted it, and Doloaspis was left nomarch of all Egypt.
Alexander sent into the Thebaid a body of seven thousand Samaritans, whose quarrels with the Jews made them wish to leave their own country. He gave them lands to cultivate on the banks of the Nile which had gone out of cultivation with the gradual decline of Upper Egypt; and he employed them to guard the province against invasion or rebellion. He did not stay in Egypt longer than was necessary to give these orders, but hastened towards the Euphrates to meet Darius. In his absence Egypt remained quiet and happy. Peucestes soon followed him to Babylon with some of the troops that had been left in Egypt; and Cleomenes, the governor of Heroopolis, was then made collector of the taxes and prefect of Egypt. Cleomenes was a bad man; he disobeyed the orders sent from Alexander on the Indus, and he seems to have forgotten the mild feelings which guided his master; yet, upon the whole, after the galling yoke of the Persians, the Egyptians must have felt grateful for the blessings of justice and good government.
At one time, when passing through the Thebaid in his barge on the Nile, Cleomenes was wrecked, and one of his children bitten by a crocodile. On this plea, he called together the priests, probably of Crocodilopolis, where this animal was held sacred, and told them that he intended to revenge himself upon the crocodiles by having them all caught and killed; and he was only bought off from carrying his threat into execution by the priests giving him all the treasure that they could get together. Alexander had left orders that the great market should be moved from Canopus to his new city of Alexandria, as soon as it should be ready to receive it. As the building went forward, the priests and rich traders of Canopus, in alarm at losing the advantages of their port, gave Cleomenes a large sum of money for leave to keep their market open. This sum he took, and, when the building at Alexandria was finished, he again came to Canopus, and because the traders would not or could not raise a second and larger sum, he carried Alexander's orders into execution, and closed the market of their city.
But instances such as these, of a public officer making use of dishonest means to increase the amount of the revenue which it was his duty to collect, might unfortunately be found even in countries which were for the most part enjoying the blessings of wise laws and good government; and it is not probable that, while Alexander was with the army in Persia, the acts of fraud and wrong should have been fewer in his own kingdom of Macedonia. The dishonesty of Cleomenes was indeed equally shown toward the Macedonians, by his wish to cheat the troops out of part of their pay. The pay of the soldiers was due on the first day of each month, but on that day he took care to be out of the way, and the soldiers were paid a few days later; and by doing the same on each following month, he at length changed the pay-day to the last day of the month, and cheated the army out of a whole month's pay.
Another act for which Cleomenes was blamed was not so certainly wrong. One summer, when the harvest had been less plentiful than usual, he forbade the export of grain, which was a large part of the trade of Egypt, thereby lowering the price to the poor so far as they could afford to purchase such costly food, but injuring the landowners. On this, the heads of the provinces sent to him in alarm, to say that they should not be able to get in the usual amount of tribute; he therefore allowed the export as usual, but raised the duty; and he was reproached for receiving a larger revenue while the landowners were suffering from a smaller crop.
At Ecbatana, the capital of Media, Alexander lost his friend Hephaestion, and in grief for his death he sent to Egypt to enquire of the oracle at the temple of Kneph in the oasis of Ammon, what honours he might pay to the deceased. The messengers brought him an answer, that he might declare Hephaestion a demigod, and order that he should be worshipped. Accordingly, Alexander then sent an express command to Cleomenes that he should build a temple to his lost favourite in his new city of Alexandria, and that the lighthouse which was to be built on the island of Pharos should be named after him; and as modern insurances against risks by sea usually begin with the words "In the name of God; Amen;" so all contracts between merchants in the port of Alexandria were to be written solemnly "In the name of Hephaestion." Feeling diffident of enforcing obedience at the mouth of the Nile, while he was himself writing from the sources of the Indus, he added that if, when he came to Egypt he found his wish carried into effect, he would pardon Cleomenes for those acts of misgovernment of which he had been accused, and for any others which might then come to his ears.
A somatophylax in the Macedonian army was no doubt at first, as the word means, one of the officers who had to answer for the king's safety; perhaps in modern language a colonel in the body-guards or household troops; but as, in unmixed monarchies, the faithful officer who was nearest the king's person, to whose watchfulness he trusted in the hour of danger, often found himself the adviser in matters of state, so, in the time of Alexander, the title of somatophylax was given to those generals on whose wisdom the king chiefly leaned, and by whose advice he was usually guided. Among these, and foremost in Alexander's love and esteem, was Ptolemy, the son of Lagus. Philip, the father of Alexander, had given Arsinoe, one of his relations, in marriage to Lagus; and her eldest son Ptolemy, born soon after the marriage, was always thought to be the king's son, though never so acknowledged. As he grew up, he was put into the highest offices by Philip, without raising in the young Alexander's mind the distrust which might have been felt if Ptolemy could have boasted that he was the elder brother. He earned the good opinion of Alexander by his military successes in Asia, and gained his gratitude by saving his life when he was in danger among the Oxydracae, near the river Indus; and moreover, Alexander looked up to him as the historian whose literary powers and knowledge of military tactics were to hand down to the wonder of future ages those conquests which he witnessed.
Alexander's victories over Darius, and march to the river Indus, are no part of this history: it is enough to say that he died at Babylon eight years after he had entered Egypt; and his half-brother Philip Arridaeus, a weak-minded, unambitious young man, was declared by the generals assembled at Babylon to be his successor. His royal blood united more voices in the army in his favour than the warlike and statesmanlike character of any one of the rival generals. They were forced to be content with sharing the provinces between them as his lieutenants; some hoping to govern by their power over the weak mind of Arridaeus, and others secretly meaning to make themselves independent.
In this weighty matter, Ptolemy showed the wisdom and judgment which had already gained him his high character. Though his military rank and skill were equal to those of any one of Alexander's generals, and his claim by birth perhaps equal to that of Arridaeous, he was not one of those who aimed at the throne; nor did he even aim at the second place, but left to Perdiccas the regency, with the care of the king's person, in whose name that ambitious general vainly hoped to govern the whole of Alexander's conquests. But Ptolemy, more wisely measuring his strength with the several tasks, chose the province of Egypt, the province which, cut off as it was from the rest by sea and desert, was of all others the easiest to be held as an independent kingdom against the power of Perdiccas. When Egypt was given to Ptolemy by the council of generals, Cleomenes was at the same time and by the same power made second in command, and he governed Egypt for one year before Ptolemy's arrival, that being in name the first year of the reign of Philip Arridaeus, or, according to the chronologer's mode of dating, the first year after Alexander's death.
CHAPTER II—EGYPT UNDER PTOLEMY SOTER
Ptolemy governs Egypt, overcomes Perdiccas, and founds a dynasty.
Ptolemy Lagus was one of those who, at the death of Alexander, had raised their voices against giving the whole of the conquered countries to one king; he wished that they should have been shared equally among the generals as independent kingdoms. In this he was overruled, and he accepted his government as the lieutenant of the youthful Philip Arridaeus, though no doubt with the fixed purpose of making Egypt an independent kingdom. On reaching Memphis, the seat of his government, his whole thoughts were turned towards strengthening himself against Perdiccas, who hoped to be obeyed, in the name of his young and weak-minded king, by all his fellow generals.
The Greek and foreign mercenaries of which the army of Alexander was made up, and who were faithful to his memory and to his family, had little to guide them in the choice of which leader they should follow to his distant province, beside the thought of where they should be best treated; and Ptolemy's high character for wisdom, generosity, and warlike skill had gained many friends for him among the officers; they saw that the wealth of Egypt would put it in his power to reward those whose services were valuable to him; and hence crowds flocked to his standard. On reaching their provinces, the Greek soldiers, whether Spartans or Athenians, forgetting the glories of Thermopylae and Marathon, and proud of their wider conquests under the late king, always called themselves Macedonians. They pleased themselves with the thought that the whole of the conquered countries were still governed by the brother of Alexander; and no one of his generals, in his wildest thoughts of ambition, whether aiming, like Ptolemy, at founding a kingdom, or, like Perdiccas, at the government of the world, was unwise enough to throw off the title of lieutenant to Philip Arridaeus, and to forfeit the love of the Macedonian soldiers and his surest hold on their loyalty.
The first act of Ptolemy was to put to death Cleomenes, who had been made sub-governor of Egypt by the same council of generals which had made Ptolemy governor. This act may have been called for by the dishonesty and crooked dealing which Cleomenes had been guilty of in collecting taxes; but, though the whole tenor of Ptolemy's life would seem to disprove the charge, we cannot but fear that he was in part led to this deed because he looked upon Cleomenes as the friend of Perdiccas, or because he could not trust him in his plans for making himself king of Egypt.
From the very commencement of his government, Ptolemy prepared for the war which he knew must follow a declaration of his designs. Perhaps better than any other general of Alexander, he knew how to win the favour of the people under his rule. The condition of the country quickly improved under his mild administration. The growing seaport of Alexandria was a good market for a country rich in natural produce, and, above all, Egypt's marvellously good geographical position stood her in good stead in time of war. Surrounded nearly on all sides by desert land, the few inhabitants, roving Bedouins, offered no danger. The land of the Nile was accessible to an enemy in one direction only, along the coast of Syria. This even teemed with difficulties. Transports there could only be managed with the greatest ingenuity, and, in case of defeat, retreat was almost impossible. On the other hand, the Egyptian army, helped by all the advantages of a land irrigated on the canal system, and which could be flooded at will, had only to act on the defensive to be certain of victory. The country is perhaps more open to an attack from the sea, but, by a moderately well-conducted defensive movement, the enemy could be kept to the coast. Even the landing there is scarcely possible, on account of the natural difficulties at the mouth of the Nile. The one easy spot—Alexandria—was so well fortified that an invader had but little chance of success.
About the time of Alexander's death (and to some extent brought about by this event), civil war broke out in Cyrenaica, in consequence of which the followers of one party were forced out of the town of Cyrene. These joined themselves with the exiles of the town of Barca, and together sought help of foreigners. They placed themselves under the leadership of the Spartan Thibron, formerly Alexander's chancellor of the exchequer. Begged by the exiled Cyrenians to help them, he now directed his forces against Libya, fought a fierce battle, and took possession of the harbour of Apollonia, two miles distant from the town. He then besieged the town of Cyrene, and forced the Cyrenians at last to sue for peace. They were obliged to make a payment of five hundred talents and to take back the exiles. Messengers were sent by Thibron to incite the other towns in Cyrenaica to join him and to help him conquer their neighbour, Libya. Thibron's followers were allowed to plunder, and this led to quarrels, desertions, treacherous acts, and the recruiting of his army from the Peloponnesus. After varying fortunes of war, in the spring of 322 B. C., some of the Cyrenians fled to Egypt, and related to Ptolemy what had occurred in Cyrenaica, begging him to help them back to their homes. The suggestion was welcome to him, for victory would be easy over these struggling factions. He sent a strong military and naval force, under Ophelas, the Macedonian, to Cyrenaica in the summer. When these were seen approaching, those exiles who had found refuge with Thibron decided to join them. Their plan, however, was discovered, and they were put to death. The leader of the rabble in Cyrene (fearful for his own safety, now that the exiles who had fled to Egypt were returning) made overtures of peace to Thibron, and joined with him to repulse Ophelas. The latter worked with the utmost caution, sent an army under Epicides of Olynth against Tancheira, whilst he himself marched against Cyrene.
He met Thibron in a fierce fight. The latter was completely defeated and fled towards Tancheira, where he hoped to find help, but instead fell into Epicides' hands. Thibron was given over to the people of Tancheira for punishment. He was cruelly scourged, and then dragged to Apollonia, where he was crucified. Ophelas, however, was not able to conquer the Cyrenians until Ptolemy himself arrived with fresh troops, overpowered the town and joined the province to his own satrapy.
The conquest of this Greek province was a gain equally for himself and for the Greeks. He put an end to the horrible anarchy that prevailed there, and proved himself their saviour as well as their conqueror. His name was now an honoured one among all the Greeks. When it was rumoured that war was likely to break out between Ptolemy and the royal party, the Macedonians flocked to Alexandria, "every man ready to give all and to sacrifice himself in order to help his friend." A popular belief of the day was that, although Ptolemy was known as the son of Lagos, he was in reality the son of Philip, and indeed much in his manner resembled the great founder of the Macedonian power. Amongst the successors of Alexander, not one understood as well as he how to retain and increase the power which he had won. He recognised, also, from the first, the tendency of the age: the tendency to split up the kingdom into different states; and he had made this the basis of his policy. It was under him that the first state (in the new sense of the word) was founded. He was the leader of the new movement that soon generated disunity, and to this end he made a secret contract with Antipatros against the regent Perdiccas. About this time also misunderstandings between the regent and the rulers in the West began to take a serious aspect.
At a great meeting in Babylon in the summer of the year 323, it was decided that the body of Alexander was to be taken with great solemnity to the Temple of Amon, and that the equipping and guidance of the funeral procession should be entrusted to Arridaeus. At the end of the year 323, the necessary preparations were finished. The gigantic funeral car that was to carry the kingly bier had been decorated with unparalleled magnificence. Without waiting for orders from the regent, Arridaeus started with the funeral procession from Babylon. Crowds from far and near filled the streets, some curious to see the magnificent sight, others eager to show this last token of respect to the dead king. It was firmly believed amongst the Macedonians that the country in which Alexander's body had its last resting-place would become happy and powerful above all countries. This prophecy was uttered by the old seer Telmissus soon after the king's death. Did Ptolemy have this belief, or did he wish to make use of it? There were probably other reasons which had caused him to enter into an understanding with Arridaeus, and to arrange with him that he was to start without orders from the regent. He was afraid that Perdiccas, in order to add to the solemnity of the procession, would himself accompany the body with the imperial army to Egypt. Ptolemy felt that his position in the lands entrusted to his care would be greatly weakened if a higher authority than himself could appear there with a military force. Arridaeus led the funeral train to Damascus, as had been arranged before with Ptolemy. It was in vain that Pole-mon (one of Perdiccas' generals), who was in the neighbourhood, went to meet him. He was able to obtain no aspect for the express order of the regent. The funeral procession passed Damascus on its way to Egypt. Ptolemy accompanied the body with his army as far as Syria. It was then taken on to Memphis to rest there until it could be sheltered by that beautiful sepulchre of the kings at Alexandria.
Arridaeus' action, in starting without permission, and the defiance of Polemon's order, were acts of open revolt against the higher authority of the kingdom. Perdiccas called all loyal followers to the council of war. Ptolemy, he said, had defied the order of the kings in his behaviour concerning the funeral procession; and he had also given shelter to the exiled satraps of Phrygia. He was prepared for war, which he hoped to bring about. It was for them (the loyal ones) to uphold the dignity of the kingdom. They must try to take him unawares, and to overcome them individually. The question was, if the Egyptians or the Macedonians ought to be first attacked. In the end, plans were carefully concerted for an attack on Egypt and the protection of Europe. In the early spring of B.C. 321, Perdiccas and his colleagues set out for Egypt with the imperial army, ordering the fleet to follow, and leaving Eumenes with skilled officers and troops in general command of Asia Minor for the purpose of guarding the Hellespont.
At the Egyptian frontier, Perdiccas summoned the army together, that the men themselves should give judgment in the case of the satrap of Egypt, in the same way as in the preceding autumn they had given judgment in the case of Antigones. He expected a decision which would enable him to finish what he had already begun. The accusations were that he had refused obedience to the kings, that he had fought against and overcome the Greeks of Cyrenaica (who had received freedom from Alexander), and that he had taken possession of the king's body, and carried it to Memphis.
According to the single account, which tells us of these proceedings, Ptolemy himself appeared to conduct his own defence before the assembled warriors. He had good reason for reckoning on the impression his confidence in them would make upon them, and on the love that he knew the Macedonians bore towards him. He knew, too, of the increasing dislike of the imperial regent. His defence was heard with growing approval, and the army's judgment was "freedom."
In spite of this the regent kept to the war. The decision of the troops alienated him still more from them. The war with Egypt was contrary to their wishes, and they murmured openly. Perdiccas sought to put down the refractory spirit with a stern military hand, but the remonstrances of his officers were in vain. He treated the first in the land in an inconsiderate and despotic manner, removed the most deserving from their command, and trusted himself alone. This same man, who had climbed the path to greatness with so much foresight, self-command, energy, and statesmanship, seemed now, the nearer he grew to the summit of his ambition, to lose all clearness of sight and moderation, which traits alone could help him to take this last and dangerous step. He had the advantage of tried troops, the elephants of Alexander, and the fleet under the command of his brother-in-law was near the mouth of the Nile; but he had overstepped the mark.
Just at this time, the news reached him from Asia Minor that Eumenes had conquered Neoptolemas, the governor of Armenia, who had taken the side of Ptolemy.
With all the more hope, Perdiccas went to meet the enemy. He reached Pelusium undisturbed. It was highly necessary that the army should cross to the Pelusaic side of the Nile, for there were several secure places there, which, if allowed to remain in the hands of the enemy, would endanger the forward movement.
There were also plentiful supplies of provisions within the Delta, whilst the way through the so-called Arabia was sparsely inhabited.
If he did not find the Egyptians there, Perdiccas would install himself within one of the fortresses on that side, and thence conduct operations against them, and, at the same time, remain in connection with his fleet, on which he could fall back in case of need. To enable the crossing to be accomplished as easily as possible, Perdiccas ordered the cleaning out of an old and filled-in canal, that led up from the Nile. The work was evidently begun without much thought, for the fact had not been considered that, at the rising of the Nile, the canal would want a much deeper bed than the present stream required. The canal had only just been opened up, when the water rose with unusual force and rapidity; the dam was completely destroyed, and many workers lost their lives. During the disturbance, many officers and men left the camp and hurried to Ptolemy. This was the beginning of the Egyptian war. The desertion of so many important men made Perdiccas think seriously. He summoned the officers of the army, spoke to them with much condescension, gave presents to some, honoured others with promotion, and begged them, for the sake of their honour and for the cause of their kings, to fight their hardest against this rebel, and with the order to hold their men in-readiness, he left them. The army was only told in the evening, at the signal for starting, where they were to march. Perdiccas feared, on account of the desertion that was taking place in his army, that his march might be discovered by the enemy. They marched with great speed through the night, and camped at last on the side of the river. At daybreak, after the troops had rested, Perdiccas gave the order to cross. First came the elephants, then the light infantry, next the storming party with ladders, and lastly, the pick of the cavalry, who, if the enemy should burst out during the storming, could easily drive them back. Perdiccas hoped, if he could only get a firm footing on that side of the river, to annihilate the Egyptian army easily with his superior force. He was right in feeling that his Macedonian troops, when face to face with the enemy, would forget their antipathy to him, and think only of their military honour. When about half the army had crossed, and just as the elephants were moving towards the fortress, the enemy were seen hurrying thither with great speed; their trumpet-calls and war-cries even were heard. They reached the fort before the Macedonians, and withdrew into the shelter of its walls. Not discouraged by this, the infantry stormed the fort. Ladders were placed against the walls, the elephants driven forward, and palisades taken from their backs to attack the ramparts.
Ptolemy, in the dress of a Macedonian soldier, stood on the wall surrounded by a few selected men. He was first in the fight. From where he stood he pierced with his lance the eyes of the leading elephant, and stabbed the Indian on its back, and he wounded many and killed numbers of the storming party. His officers and men fought with the greatest spirit; the driver of the second elephant was killed and the infantry were driven back.
Perdiccas led new troops to the attack, wishing to take the fortress at all costs. By word and deed, Ptolemy urged on his men, who fought with marvellous endurance. The dreadful battle waged the whole day; many were killed and wounded; evening came on and nothing was decided. Perdiccas ordered a retreat and returned to his camp.
In the middle of the night he again started with his army, hoping that Ptolemy would stay in the fort with his troops, and that, after a trying march of some miles up-stream, he (Perdiccas) would be able to cross the river more easily. At daybreak he found himself opposite one of the many islands of the Nile; it was large enough for the camp of a great army. In spite of the difficulties of crossing, he decided to encamp his army there. The water reached up to the soldiers' knees, and it was with the greatest difficulty that they kept their footing against the force of the current. In order to break this current, Perdiccas ordered the elephants into the river to stand up-stream to the left of the fording party; he ordered the horsemen to stand at the other end to help those across that were driven down by the current. Some had, with great difficulty, managed to get across; others were still in the stream when it was noticed that the water was becoming deeper; the heavily armed men sank, and the elephants and horses stood deeper and deeper in the water. A fearful panic seized the army. They called out that the enemy had closed in the canals up-stream, and that the gods had destined bad weather in the upper provinces, on account of which the river was swollen. Those who understood saw that the bed of the river had become deepened by the crossing of so great a cavalcade. It was impossible for the remainder to cross or for those on the island to return. They were completely cut off and were at the mercy of the enemy, who were already seen approaching. There was nothing left but to order them to get back as well as they could; lucky indeed were those who could swim, and had sufficient strength to bring them across the broad expanse of water.
Many saved themselves in this way. They came without weapons, worn out and desperate, to the shore; others were drowned or eaten by crocodiles. Some were carried down-stream, and reached the shore where the enemy stood. Two thousand men were missing, many officers among them. The camp of the Egyptians was situated on the other side, and they could be seen helping the men in the water and burning logs of wood to show honour to the dead. On this side of the river there was sad silence; each man sought his comrade, or officer, and sought in vain. Food was scarce, and there was no means of overcoming this dreadful state of affairs; night came on, and curses and complaints were heard on all sides. The lives of so many brave men had been sacrificed for nothing; it was bad enough to lose the "honour of their arms," but now, through the stupidity of their leader, their lives had been lost, and to be swallowed by crocodiles was now the distinguished death of Macedonian warriors. Many of the officers went to the tent of the regent, and told him openly that he was the cause of this calamity. Outside the tent the Macedonians yelled, beside themselves with rage. About a hundred of the officers, headed by the satrap Python, refused to share further responsibility, resigned their commissions, and left the tent. The excitement grew intense. The troops, in ungovernable rage, entered the regent's tent and threw themselves upon him. Antigonus struck the first blow, others followed, and, after a desperate but short struggle, Perdiccas fell to the ground covered with wounds.
Thus died Perdiccas, in the third year of his regency. His great idea, the unity of the kingdom entrusted to his care, should have made him worthy of more success had he given himself up to this idea with more conscientiousness. Unfortunately, with growing power, he became despotic and unjust. He was not great enough to become the successor of Alexander, to be another "ruler of the world." This last step, the one which was to lead him to his long-coveted goal, led him instead to his death.
Ptolemy soon heard the news, and the next morning he crossed the river and came to the camp. He asked to be taken to the kings, presented them and some of the nobles with gifts; was kind and considerate to all, and was greeted with great joy. Then he called the troops together and spoke to them. He told the Macedonians that it was only stern necessity that caused him to take up arms against his old comrades. No man regretted more than he the untimely death of so many heroes. Perdiccas was the cause of this calamity; he had but received his just punishment. Now all enmity was to be ended. He had saved as many as he could from death in the water, and the corpses which the river had brought to the shore he had buried with all honour; and finally he told them that he had given orders for the immediate alleviation of the want which he knew was being felt in the camp. His speech was received with loud cheers. He stood there unhurt and admired before the Macedonians, who but a few hours earlier had been his bitterest foes. Now they looked upon him as their saviour; they all acknowledged him as the conqueror, and for the moment he stood in unequivocal possession of that power for which Perdiccas had worked so hard, and which he had so much abused. Who was now to be Perdiccas' successor, and to manage the kingdom in the name of the kings? With one voice the people begged Ptolemy to undertake this task. The foresight and presence of mind of the son of Lagus were not clouded by the allurement of such an offer gained by his sudden change of fortune. At this supreme moment he acted with consummate sagacity. He divined that a refusal of the proffered honour would make him in reality more powerful, although, at the moment, he would seem to be acting in an unselfish manner. He recommended to the army, as a favour which he had to bestow, those he thought worthy of his thanks; they were Python, the Median strategist, who had taken the first decisive step against Perdiccas; and Arridaeus, who, in spite of Perdiccas' orders, had taken the body of the king to Egypt. These two were nominated regents with loud cheers.
The Macedonian army, accordingly, chose Python and Arridaeus as guardians, and as rulers with unlimited power over the whole of Alexander's conquests; but, though none of the Greek generals who now held Asia Minor, Syria, Babylonia, Thrace, or Egypt dared to acknowledge it to the soldiers, yet in reality the power of the guardians was limited to the little kingdom of Macedonia. With the death of Perdiccas, and the withdrawal of his army, Phoenicia and Coele-Syria were left unguarded, and almost without a master. In order that Egypt might take an important part in the universal policy, Ptolemy felt he must possess Syria, which would open up the way for him to the countries along the Euphrates and the Tigris, and also the island of Cyprus, where he would be near the coast of Asia Minor. He could not yet think of conquering Cyprus, which had an important fleet. He felt that, if he annexed Syria, either by diplomacy or by force, the organisation of the kingdom and the territorial division of power would be changed in a tangible manner. The Egyptian satraps already possessed some measure of authority, and he could also depend upon the satrap of Syria joining him.
Perdiccas had bestowed this satrapy upon Laomedon, the Amphysolite, who had taken no part in the great fight between Perdiccas and Ptolemy. Ptolemy now informed him that he wished to possess his satrapy, but was ready to compensate him with a sum of money. Laomedon refused this offer with scorn. Thereupon, an army under Nicanor, one of the "friends" of Ptolemy, marched into Palestine. Jerusalem was the only place that held out against the Egyptian army; but Nicanor, says the historian Agathareides, seeing that on every seventh day the garrison withdrew from the walls, chose that day for the assault, and thus gained the city. Without further opposition the Egyptians marched onwards. At last he met Laomedon, took him prisoner, and brought him back to Egypt. Egyptian sentries now guarded the strongholds of the country; Egyptian ships took the towns along the coast. A great number of the Jews were transported to Alexandria; they received the rights of citizenship there.
Without altering local conditions, Syria gradually came under the sway of the Egyptian satraps. Laomedon found means of escaping from Egypt; he fled to Alcetas in Caria, who had just withdrawn himself to the mountainous regions of Pisida, thence to begin the decisive war against Antigonus.
Painted by Alexander Cabanel
In the earlier times of Egyptian history, when navigation was less easy, and when seas separated kingdoms instead of joining them, the Thebaid enjoyed, under the Koptic kings, the trading wealth which followed the stream of its great river, the longest piece of inland navigation then known; but, with the improvement in navigation and ship-building, countries began to feel their strength in the timber of their forests and the number of their harbours; and, as timber and sea-coast were equally unknown in the Thebaid, that country fell as Lower Egypt rose; the wealth which before centred in Thebes was then found in the ports of the Delta, where the barges of the Nile met the ships of the Mediterranean. What used to be Egypt was an inland kingdom, surrounded by the desert; but Egypt under Ptolemy was country on the sea-coast; and, on the conquest of Phoenicia and Coele-Syria, he was master of the forests of Lebanon and Antilibanus, and stretched his coast from Cyrene to Antioch, a distance of twelve hundred miles. The wise and mild plans which were laid down by Alexander for the government of Egypt when a province were easily followed by Ptolemy when it became his own kingdom. The Greek soldiers lived in their garrisons or in Alexandria under the Macedonian laws, while the Egyptian laws were administered by their own priests, who were upheld in all the rights of their order and in their freedom from land-tax. The temples of Phtah, of Amon-Ra, and the other gods of the country were not only kept open, but were repaired and even built at the cost of the king; the religion of the people, and not that of their rulers, was made the established religion of the state. On the death of the god Apis, the sacred bull of Memphis, the chief of the animals which were kept and fed at the cost of the several cities, and who had died of old age soon after Ptolemy came to Egypt, he spent the sum of fifty talents, or $42,500, on its funeral; and the priests, who had not forgotten that Cambyses, their former conqueror, had wounded the Apis of his day with his own sword, must have been highly pleased with this mark of his care for them. The burial-place for the bulls is an arched gallery tunnelled into the hill behind Memphis for more than two thousand feet, with a row of cells on each side of it. In every cell is a huge granite sarcophagus, within which were placed the remains of a bull that had once been the Apis of its day, which, after having for perhaps twenty years received the honours of a god, was there buried with more than kingly state. The cell was then walled up, and ornamented on the outside with various tablets in honour of the deceased animal, which were placed in these dark passages by the piety of his worshippers. The priests of Thebes were now at liberty to cut out from their monuments the names of usurping gods, and to restore those that had been before cut out. They also rebuilt the inner room, or the holy of holies, in the great temple of Karnak.
It had been overthrown by the Persians in wantonness, or in hatred of the Egyptian religion; and the priests now put upon it the name of Philip Arridaeus, for whom Ptolemy was nominally governing Egypt.
The Egyptians, who during the last two centuries had sometimes seen their temples plundered and their trade crushed by the grasping tyranny of the Persian satraps, and had at other times been almost as much hurt by their own vain struggles for freedom, now found themselves in the quiet enjoyment of good laws, with a prosperity which promised soon to equal that of the reigns of Necho or Amasis. It is true that they had not regained their independence and political liberty; that, as compared with the Greeks, they felt themselves an inferior race, and that they only enjoyed their civil rights during the pleasure of a Greek autocrat; but then it is to be remembered that the native rulers with whom Ptolemy was compared were the kings of Lower Egypt, who, like himself, were surrounded by Greek mercenaries, and who never rested their power on the broad base of national pride and love of country; and that nobody could have hoped to see a Theban king arise to bring back the days of Thutmosis and Ramses. Thebes was every day sinking in wealth and strength; and its race of hereditary soldiers, proud in the recollection of former glory, who had, after centuries of struggles, been forced to receive laws from Memphis, perhaps yielded obedience to a Greek conqueror with less pain than they did formerly to their own vassals of Lower Egypt.
Ptolemy's government was in form nearly the same in Alexandria as in the rest of Egypt, but in reality it was wholly different. His sway over the Egyptians was supported by Greek force, but over the Greeks it rested on the broad base of public opinion. Every Greek had the privilege of bearing arms, and of meeting in the gymnasium in public assembly, to explain a grievance, and petition for its redress. The citizens and the soldiers were the same body of men; they at the same time held the force, and had the spirit to use it. But they had no senate, no body of nobles, no political constitution which might save their freedom in after generations from the ambitious grasp of the sovereign, or from their own degeneracy. While claiming to be equal among themselves they were making themselves slaves; and though at present the government so entirely bore the stamp of their own will that they might fancy they enjoyed a democracy, yet history teaches us that the simple paternal form of government never fails to become sooner or later a cruel tyranny. The building of Alexandria must be held the master-stroke of policy by which Egypt was kept in obedience. Here, and afterwards in a few other cities, such as Ptolemais in the Thebaid and Parembole in Nubia, the Greeks lived without insulting or troubling the Egyptians, and by their numbers held the country like so many troops in garrison. It was a wise policy to make no greater change than necessary in the kingdom, and to leave the Egyptians under their own laws and magistrates, and in the enjoyment of their own religion; and yet it was necessary to have the country garrisoned with Greeks, whose presence in the old cities could not but be extremely galling to the Egyptians. This was done by means of these new Greek cities, where the power by which Egypt was governed was stronger by being united, and less hateful by being out of sight. Seldom or never was so great a monarchy founded with so little force and so little crime.
Ptolemy, however, did not attempt the difficult task of uniting the two races, and of treating the conquered and the conquerors as entitled to the same privileges. From the time of Necho and Psammetichus, many of the Greeks who settled in Egypt intermarried with the natives, and very much laid aside their own habits; and sometimes their offspring, after a generation or two, became wholly Egyptian. By the Greek laws the children of these mixed marriages were declared to be barbarians; not Greeks but Egyptians, and were brought up accordingly. They left the worship of Jupiter and Juno for that of Isis and Osiris, and perhaps the more readily for the greater earnestness with which the Egyptian gods were worshipped. We now trace their descendants by the form of their skulls, even into the priestly families; and of one hundred mummies covered with hieroglyphics, taken up from the catacombs near Thebes, about twenty show a European origin, while of those from the tombs near Memphis, seventy out of every hundred have lost their Koptic peculiarities. It is easy to foresee that an important change would have been wrought in the character of the people and in their political institutions, if the Greek laws had been humane and wise enough to grant to the children of mixed marriages the privileges, the education, and thereby the moral feelings of the more favoured parent; and it is not too much to suppose, if the Greek law of marriage had been altered by Ptolemy, that within three centuries above half the nation would have spoken the Greek language, and boasted of its Greek origin.
The stimulus given by Ptolemy Soter to the culture of the age has been already mentioned. The founding of the famous museum and library of Alexandria may be, perhaps, regarded as the rounding-off of his political plans for the consolidation of his kingdom. Alexandria became, in fact, not only a centre of commerce and government, but also the intellectual capital of the Greeks. But for this supreme importance of the city, it is doubtful whether the descendants of Ptolemy Lagus could have continued to rule the Valley of the Nile.
In return for the literature which Greece then gave to Egypt, she gained the knowledge of papyrus, a tall rush which grows wild near the sources of the Nile, and was then cultivated in the Egyptian marshes. Before that time books had been written on linen, wax, bark, or the leaves of trees; and public records on stone, brass, or lead: but the knowledge of papyrus was felt by all men of letters like the invention of printing in modern Europe. Books were then known by many for the first time, and very little else was afterwards used in Greece or Rome; for, when parchment was made about two centuries later, it was too costly to be used as long as papyrus was within reach. Copies were multiplied on frail strips of this plant, and it was found that mere thoughts, when worth preserving, were less liable to be destroyed by time than temples and palaces of the hardest stone.
While Egypt, under Ptolemy, was thus enjoying the advantages of its insulated position, and cultivating the arts of peace, the other provinces were being harassed by the unceasing wars of Alexander's generals, who were aiming, like Ptolemy, at raising their own power. Many changes had taken place among them in the short space of eight years which had passed since the death of Alexander. Philip Arridaeus, in whose name the provinces had been governed, had been put to death; Antigonus was master of Asia Minor, with a kingdom more powerful though not so easily guarded as Egypt; Cassander held Macedonia, and had the care of the young Alexander AEgus, who was then called the heir to the whole of his father's wide conquests, and whose life, like that of Arridaeus, was soon to end with his minority; Lysimachus was trying to form a kingdom in Thrace; and Seleucus had for a brief period held Babylonia.
Ptolemy bore no part in the wars which brought about these changes, beyond being once or twice called upon to send troops to guard his province of Cole-Syria.
But Antigonus, in his ambitious efforts to stretch his power over all the provinces, had by force or by treachery driven Seleucus out of Babylon, and forced him to seek Egypt for safety, where Ptolemy received him with the kindness and good policy which had before gained so many friends. No arguments of Seleucus were wanting to persuade Ptolemy that Antigonus was dreaming of universal conquest, and that his next attack would be upon Egypt. He therefore sent ambassadors to make treaties of alliance with Cassander and Lysimachus, who readily joined him against the common enemy.
The large fleet and army which Antigonus got together for the invasion of Egypt proved his opinion of the strength and skill of Ptolemy. All Syria, except one or two cities, laid down its arms before him on his approach. But he found that the whole of the fleet had been already removed to the ports of Egypt, and he ordered Phoenicia to furnish him with eight thousand shipbuilders and carpenters, to build galleys from the forests of Lebanon and Antilibanus, and ordered Syria to send four hundred and fifty thousand medimni, or nearly three millions of bushels of wheat, for the use of his army within the year. By these means he raised his fleet to two hundred and forty-three long galleys or ships of war.
Ptolemy was for a short time called off from the war in Syria by a rising in Cyrene. The Cyrenians, who clung to their Doric love of freedom, and were latterly smarting at its loss, had taken arms and were besieging the Egyptian, or, as they would have called themselves, the Macedonian garrison, who had shut themselves up in the citadel. He at first sent messengers to order the Cyrenians to return to their duty; but his orders were not listened to; the rebels no doubt thought themselves safe, as his armies seemed more wanted on the eastern frontier; his messengers were put to death, and the siege of the citadel pushed forward with all possible speed. On this he sent a large land force, followed by a fleet, in order to crush the revolt at a single blow; and the ringleaders were brought to Alexandria in chains. Magas, a son of Queen Berenice and stepson of Ptolemy, was then made governor of Cyrene.
When this trouble at home was put an end to, Ptolemy crossed over to Cyprus to punish the kings of the little states on that island for having joined Antigonus. For now that the fate of empires was to be settled by naval battles the friendship of Cyprus became very important to the neighbouring states. The large and safe harbours gave to this island a great value in the naval warfare between Egypt, Phoenicia, and Asia Minor. Alexander had given it as his opinion that the command of the sea went with the island of Cyprus. When he held Asia Minor he called Cyprus the key to Egypt; and with still greater reason might Ptolemy, looking from Egypt, think that island the key to Phoenicia. Accordingly he landed there with so large a force that he met with no resistance. He added Cyprus to the rest of his dominions: he banished the kings, and made Nicocreon governor of the whole island.
From Cyprus, Ptolemy landed with his army in Upper Syria, as the northern part of that country was called, while the part nearer to Palestine was called Coele-Syria. Here he took the towns of Posideion and Potami-Caron, and then marching hastily into Asia Minor he took Malms, a city of Cilicia. Having rewarded his soldiers with the booty there seized, he again embarked and returned to Alexandria. This inroad seems to have been meant to draw off the enemy from Coele-Syria; and it had the wished-for effect, for Demetrius, who commanded the forces of his father Antigonus in that quarter, marched northward to the relief of Cilicia, but he did not arrive there till Ptolemy's fleet was already under sail for its return journey to Egypt.
Ptolemy, on reaching Alexandria, set his army in motion towards Pelusium, on its way to Palestine. His forces were eighteen thousand foot and four thousand horse, part Macedonians, as the Greeks living in Egypt were always called, and part mercenaries, followed by a crowd of Egyptians, of whom some were armed for battle, and some were to take care of the baggage. He had twenty-two thousand Greeks, and was met at Gaza by the young Demetrius with an army of eleven thousand foot and twenty-three hundred horse, followed by forty-three elephants and a body of light-armed barbarians, who, like the Egyptians in the army of Ptolemy, were not counted. But the youthful courage of Demetrius was no match for the cool skill and larger army of Ptolemy; the elephants were easily stopped by iron hurdles, and the Egyptian army, after gaining a complete victory, entered Gaza, while Demetrius fled to Azotus. Ptolemy, in his victory, showed a generosity unknown in modern warfare; he not only gave leave to the conquered army to bury their dead, but sent back the whole of the royal baggage which had fallen into his hands, and also those personal friends of Demetrius who were found among the prisoners; that is to say, all those who wished to depart, as the larger part of these Greek armies were equally ready to fight on either side.