The Treasury of Ancient Egypt - Miscellaneous Chapters on Ancient Egyptian History and Archaeology
by Arthur E. P. B. Weigall
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[Photo by N. Macnaghten.

The Treasury of Ancient Egypt

Miscellaneous Chapters on Ancient Egyptian History and Archaeology














No person who has travelled in Egypt will require to be told that it is a country in which a considerable amount of waiting and waste of time has to be endured. One makes an excursion by train to see some ruins, and, upon returning to the station, the train is found to be late, and an hour or more has to be dawdled away. Crossing the Nile in a rowing-boat the sailors contrive in one way or another to prolong the journey to a length of half an hour or more. The excursion steamer will run upon a sandbank, and will there remain fast for a part of the day.

The resident official, travelling from place to place, spends a great deal of time seated in railway stations or on the banks of the Nile, waiting for his train or his boat to arrive; and he has, therefore, a great deal of time for thinking. I often try to fill in these dreary periods by jotting down a few notes on some matter which has recently been discussed, or registering and elaborating arguments which have chanced lately to come into the thoughts. These notes are shaped and "written up" when next there is a spare hour, and a few books to refer to; and ultimately they take the form of articles or papers, some of which find their way into print.

This volume contains twelve chapters, written at various times and in various places, each dealing with some subject drawn from the great treasury of Ancient Egypt. Some of the chapters have appeared as articles in magazines. Chapters iv., v., and viii. were published in 'Blackwood's Magazine'; chapter vii. in 'Putnam's Magazine' and the 'Pall Mall Magazine'; and chapter ix. in the 'Century Magazine.' I have to thank the editors for allowing me to reprint them here. The remaining seven chapters have been written specially for this volume.

LUXOR, UPPER EGYPT, November 1910.


















* Transcriber's note: Original text incorrectly lists page number "261". **Transcriber's note: Original text incorrectly lists page number "282".


































"History no longer shall be a dull book. It shall walk incarnate in every just and wise man. You shall not tell me by languages and titles a catalogue of the volumes you have read. You shall make me feel what periods you have lived. A man shall be the Temple of Fame. He shall walk, as the poets have described that goddess, in a robe painted all over with wonderful events and experiences.... He shall be the priest of Pan, and bring with him into humble cottages the blessing of the morning stars, and all the recorded benefits of heaven and earth." EMERSON.



The archaeologist whose business it is to bring to light by pick and spade the relics of bygone ages, is often accused of devoting his energies to work which is of no material profit to mankind at the present day. Archaeology is an unapplied science, and, apart from its connection with what is called culture, the critic is inclined to judge it as a pleasant and worthless amusement. There is nothing, the critic tells us, of pertinent value to be learned from the Past which will be of use to the ordinary person of the present time; and, though the archaeologist can offer acceptable information to the painter, to the theologian, to the philologist, and indeed to most of the followers of the arts and sciences, he has nothing to give to the ordinary layman.

In some directions the imputation is unanswerable; and when the interests of modern times clash with those of the past, as, for example, in Egypt where a beneficial reservoir has destroyed the remains of early days, there can be no question that the recording of the threatened information and the minimising of the destruction, is all that the value of the archaeologist's work entitles him to ask for. The critic, however, usually overlooks some of the chief reasons that archaeology can give for even this much consideration, reasons which constitute its modern usefulness; and I therefore propose to point out to him three or four of the many claims which it may make upon the attention of the layman.

In the first place it is necessary to define the meaning of the term "Archaeology." Archaeology is the study of the facts of ancient history and ancient lore. The word is applied to the study of all ancient documents and objects which may be classed as antiquities; and the archaeologist is understood to be the man who deals with a period for which the evidence has to be excavated or otherwise discovered. The age at which an object becomes an antiquity, however, is quite undefined, though practically it may be reckoned at a hundred years; and ancient history is, after all, the tale of any period which is not modern. Thus an archaeologist does not necessarily deal solely with the remote ages.

Every chronicler of the events of the less recent times who goes to the original documents for his facts, as true historians must do during at least a part of their studies, is an archaeologist; and, conversely, every archaeologist who in the course of his work states a series of historical facts, becomes an historian. Archaeology and history are inseparable; and nothing is more detrimental to a noble science than the attitude of certain so-called archaeologists who devote their entire time to the study of a sequence of objects without proper consideration for the history which those objects reveal. Antiquities are the relics of human mental energy; and they can no more be classified without reference to the minds which produced them than geological specimens can be discussed without regard to the earth. There is only one thing worse than the attitude of the archaeologist who does not study the story of the periods with which he is dealing, or construct, if only in his thoughts, living history out of the objects discovered by him; and that is the attitude of the historian who has not familiarised himself with the actual relics left by the people of whom he writes, or has not, when possible, visited their lands. There are many "archaeologists" who do not care a snap of the fingers for history, surprising as this may appear; and there are many historians who take no interest in manners and customs. The influence of either is pernicious.

It is to be understood, therefore, that in using the word Archaeology I include History: I refer to history supplemented and aggrandised by the study of the arts, crafts, manners, and customs of the period under consideration.

As a first argument the value of archaeology in providing a precedent for important occurrences may be considered. Archaeology is the structure of ancient history, and it is the voice of history which tells us that a Cretan is always a Cretan, and a Jew always a Jew. History, then, may well take her place as a definite asset of statecraft, and the law of Precedent may be regarded as a fundamental factor in international politics. What has happened before may happen again; and it is the hand of the archaeologist that directs our attention to the affairs and circumstances of olden times, and warns us of the possibilities of their recurrence. It may be said that the statesman who has ranged in the front of his mind the proven characteristics of the people with whom he is dealing has a perquisite of the utmost importance.

Any archaeologist who, previous to the rise of Japan during the latter half of the nineteenth century, had made a close study of the history of that country and the character of its people, might well have predicted unerringly its future advance to the position of a first-class power. The amazing faculty of imitation displayed by the Japanese in old times was patent to him. He had seen them borrow part of their arts, their sciences, their crafts, their literature, their religion, and many of their customs from the Chinese; and he might have been aware that they would likewise borrow from the West, as soon as they had intercourse with it, those essentials of civilisation which would raise them to their present position in the world. To him their fearlessness, their tenacity, and their patriotism, were known; and he was so well aware of their powers of organisation, that he might have foreseen the rapid development which was to take place.

What historian who has read the ancient books of the Irish—the Book of the Dun Cow, the Book of Ballymote, the Book of Lismore, and the like—can show either surprise or dismay at the events which have occurred in Ireland in modern times? Of the hundreds of kings of Ireland whose histories are epitomised in such works as that of the old archaeologist Keating, it would be possible to count upon the fingers those who have died in peace; and the archaeologist, thus, knows better than to expect the descendants of these kings to live in harmony one with the other. National characteristics do not change unless, as in the case of the Greeks, the stock also changes.

In the Jews we have another example of the persistence of those national characteristics which history has made known to us. The Jews first appear in the dimness of the remote past as a group of nomad tribes, wandering over southern Palestine, Egypt, and the intervening deserts; and at the present day we see them still homeless, scattered over the face of the globe, the "tribe of the wandering foot and weary breast."

In no country has the archaeologist been more active than in Egypt during the last half century, and the contributions which his spade and pick have offered to history are of first-rate importance to that study as a whole. The eye may now travel down the history of the Nile Valley from prehistoric days to the present time almost without interruption; and now that the anthropologist has shown that the modern Egyptians, Mussulman and Copt, peasant and townsman, belong to one and the same race of ancient Egyptians, one may surely judge to-day's inhabitants of the country in the light of yesterday's records. In his report for the year 1906, Lord Cromer, questioning whether the modern inhabitants of the country were capable of governing their own land, tells us that we must go back to the precedent of Pharaonic days to discover if the Egyptians ever ruled themselves successfully.

In this pregnant remark Lord Cromer was using information which the archaeologist and historian had made accessible to him. Looking back over the history of the country, he was enabled, by the study of this information, to range before him the succession of foreign occupations of the Nile Valley and to assess their significance. It may be worth while to repeat the process, in order to give an example of the bearing of history upon modern polemics, though I propose to discuss this matter more fully in another chapter.

Previous to the British occupation the country was ruled, as it is now, by a noble dynasty of Albanian princes, whose founder was set upon the throne by the aid of Turkish and Albanian troops. From the beginning of the sixteenth century until that time Egypt had been ruled by the Ottoman Government, the Turk having replaced the Circassian and other foreign "Mamlukes" who had held the country by the aid of foreign troops since the middle of the thirteenth century. For a hundred years previous to the Mamluke rule Egypt had been in the hands of the Syrian and Arabian dynasty founded by Saladdin. The Fatimides, a North African dynasty, governed the country before the advent of Saladdin, this family having entered Egypt under their general, Jauhar, who was of Greek origin. In the ninth century Ahmed ibn Tulun, a Turk, governed the land with the aid of a foreign garrison, his rule being succeeded by the Ikhshidi dynasty of foreigners. Ahmed had captured Egypt from the Byzantines who had held it since the days of the Roman occupation. Previous to the Romans the Ptolemies, a Greek family, had governed the Nile Valley with the help of foreign troops. The Ptolemies had followed close upon the Greek occupation, the Greeks having replaced the Persians as rulers of Egypt. The Persian occupation had been preceded by an Egyptian dynasty which had been kept on the throne by Greek and other foreign garrisons. Previous to this there had been a Persian occupation, which had followed a short period of native rule under foreign influence. We then come back to the Assyrian conquest which had followed the Ethiopian rule. Libyan kings had held the country before the Ethiopian conquest. The XXIst and XXth Dynasties preceded the Libyans, and here, in a disgraceful period of corrupt government, a series of so-called native kings are met with. Foreigners, however, swarmed in the country at the time, foreign troops were constantly used, and the Pharaohs themselves were of semi-foreign origin. One now comes back to the early XIXth and XVIIIth Dynasties which, although largely tinged with foreign blood, may be said to have been Egyptian families. Before the rise of the XVIIIth Dynasty the country was in foreign hands for the long period which had followed the fall of the XIIth Dynasty, the classical period of Egyptian history (about the twentieth century B.C.), when there were no rivals to be feared. Thus the Egyptians may be said to have been subject to foreign occupation for nearly four thousand years, with the exception of the strong native rule of the XVIIIth Dynasty, the semi-native rule of the three succeeding dynasties, and a few brief periods of chaotic government in later times; and this is the information which the archaeologist has to give to the statesman and politician. It is a story of continual conquest, of foreign occupations following one upon another, of revolts and massacres, of rapid retributions and punishments. It is the story of a nation which, however ably it may govern itself in the future, has only once in four thousand years successfully done so in the past.

[Photo by E. Brugsch Pasha.

Such information is of far-reaching value to the politician, and to those interested, as every Englishman should be, in Imperial politics. A nation cannot alter by one jot or tittle its fundamental characteristics; and only those who have studied those characteristics in the pages of history are competent to foresee the future. A certain Englishman once asked the Khedive Ismail whether there was any news that day about Egyptian affairs. "That is so like all you English," replied his Highness. "You are always expecting something new to happen in Egypt day by day. To-day is here the same as yesterday, and to-morrow will be the same as to-day; and so it has been, and so it will be, for thousands of years."[1] Neither Egypt nor any other nation will ever change; and to this it is the archaeologist who will bear witness with his stern law of Precedent.

[Footnote 1: E. Dicey. 'The Story of the Khedivate,' p. 528.]

I will reserve the enlarging of this subject for the next chapter: for the present we may consider, as a second argument, the efficacy of the past as a tonic to the present, and its ability to restore the vitality of any age that is weakened.

In ancient Egypt at the beginning of the XXVIth Dynasty (B.C. 663) the country was at a very low ebb. Devastated by conquests, its people humiliated, its government impoverished, a general collapse of the nation was imminent. At this critical period the Egyptians turned their minds to the glorious days of old. They remodelled their arts and crafts upon those of the classical periods, introduced again the obsolete offices and titles of those early times, and organised the government upon the old lines. This movement saved the country, and averted its collapse for a few more centuries. It renewed the pride of workmanship in a decadent people; and on all sides we see a revival which was the direct result of an archaeological experiment.

The importance of archaeology as a reviver of artistic and industrial culture will be realised at once if the essential part it played in the great Italian Renaissance is called to mind. Previous to the age of Cimabue and Giotto in Florence, Italian refinement had passed steadily down the path of deterioration. Graeco-Roman art, which still at a high level in the early centuries of the Christian era, entirely lost its originality during Byzantine times, and the dark ages settled down upon Italy in almost every walk of life. The Venetians, for example, were satisfied with comparatively the poorest works of art imported from Constantinople or Mount Athos: and in Florence so great was the poverty of genius that when Cimabue in the thirteenth century painted that famous Madonna which to our eyes appears to be of the crudest workmanship, the little advance made by it in the direction of naturalness was received by the city with acclamations, the very street down which it was carried being called the "Happy Street" in honour of the event. Giotto carried on his master's teachings, and a few years later the Florentines had advanced to the standard of Fra Angelico, who was immediately followed by the two Lippis and Botticelli. Leonardo da Vinci, artist, architect, and engineer, was almost contemporaneous with Botticelli, being born not much more than a hundred years after the death of Giotto. With him art reached a level which it has never surpassed, old traditions and old canons were revived, and in every direction culture proceeded again to those heights from which it had fallen.

The reader will not need to be reminded that this great renaissance was the direct result of the study of the remains of the ancient arts of Greece and Rome. Botticelli and his contemporaries were, in a sense, archaeologists, for their work was inspired by the relics of ancient days.

Now, though at first sight it seems incredible that such an age of barbarism as that of the later Byzantine period should return, it is indeed quite possible that a relatively uncultured age should come upon us in the future; and there is every likelihood of certain communities passing over to the ranks of the absolute Philistines. Socialism run mad would have no more time to give to the intellect than it had during the French Revolution. Any form of violent social upheaval means catalepsy of the arts and crafts, and a trampling under foot of old traditions. The invasions and revolts which are met with at the close of ancient Egyptian history brought the culture of that country to the lowest ebb of vitality. The fall of Greece put an absolute stop to the artistic life of that nation. The invasions of Italy by the inhabitants of less refined countries caused a set-back in civilisation for which almost the whole of Europe suffered. Certain of the French arts and crafts have never recovered from the effects of the Revolution.

A national convulsion of one kind or another is to be expected by every country; and history tells us that such a convulsion is generally followed by an age of industrial and artistic coma, which is brought to an end not so much by the introduction of foreign ideas as by a renascence of the early traditions of the nation. It thus behoves every man to interest himself in the continuity of these traditions, and to see that they are so impressed upon the mind that they shall survive all upheavals, or with ease be re-established.

There is no better tonic for a people who have weakened, and whose arts, crafts, and industries have deteriorated than a return to the conditions which obtained at a past age of national prosperity; and there are few more repaying tasks in the long-run than that of reviving an interest in the best periods of artistic or industrial activity. This can only be effected by the study of the past, that is to say by archaeology.

It is to be remembered, of course, that the sentimental interest in antique objects which, in recent years, has given a huge value to all ancient things, regardless of their intrinsic worth, is a dangerous attitude, unless it is backed by the most expert knowledge; for instead of directing the attention only to the best work of the best periods, it results in the diminishing of the output of modern original work and the setting of little of worth in its place. A person of a certain fashionable set will now boast that there is no object in his room less than two hundred years old: his only boast, however, should be that the room contains nothing which is not of intrinsic beauty, interest, or good workmanship. The old chairs from the kitchen are dragged into the drawing-room—because they are old; miniatures unmeritoriously painted by unknown artists for obscure clients are nailed in conspicuous places—because they are old; hideous plates and dishes, originally made by ignorant workmen for impoverished peasants, are enclosed in glass cases—because they are old; iron-bound chests, which had been cheaply made to suit the purses of farmers, are rescued from the cottages of their descendants and sold for fabulous sums—because they are old.

A person who fills a drawing-room with chairs, tables, and ornaments, dating from the reign of Queen Anne, cannot say that he does so because he wishes it to look like a room of that date; for if this were his desire, he would have to furnish it with objects which appeared to be newly made, since in the days of Queen Anne the first quality noticeable in them would have been their newness. In fact, to produce the desired effect everything in the room, with very few exceptions, would have to be a replica. To sit in this room full of antiques in a frock-coat would be as bad a breach of good taste as the placing of a Victorian chandelier in an Elizabethan banqueting-hall. To furnish the room with genuine antiquities because they are old and therefore interesting would be to carry the museum spirit into daily life with its attending responsibilities, and would involve all manner of incongruities and inconsistencies; while to furnish in this manner because antiques were valuable would be merely vulgar. There are, thus, only three justifications that I can see for the action of the man who surrounds himself with antiquities: he must do so because they are examples of workmanship, because they are beautiful, or because they are endeared to him by family usage. These, of course, are full and complete justifications; and the value of his attitude should be felt in the impetus which it gives to conscientious modern work. There are periods in history at which certain arts, crafts, or industries reached an extremely high level of excellence; and nothing can be more valuable to modern workmen than familiarity with these periods. Well-made replicas have a value that is overlooked only by the inartistic. Nor must it be forgotten that modern objects of modern design will one day become antiquities; and it should be our desire to assist in the making of the period of our lifetime an age to which future generations will look back for guidance and teaching. Every man can, in this manner, be of use to a nation, if only by learning to reject poor work wherever he comes upon it—work which he feels would not stand against the criticism of Time; and thus it may be said that archaeology, which directs him to the best works of the ancients, and sets him a standard and criterion, should be an essential part of his education.

[Photo by E. Brugsch Pasha.

The third argument which I wish to employ here to demonstrate the value of the study of archaeology and history to the layman is based upon the assumption that patriotism is a desirable ingredient in a man's character. This is a premise which assuredly will be admitted. True patriotism is essential to the maintenance of a nation. It has taken the place, among certain people, of loyalty to the sovereign; for the armies which used to go to war out of a blind loyalty to their king, now do so from a sense of patriotism which is shared by the monarch (if they happen to have the good fortune to possess one).

Patriotism is often believed to consist of a love of one's country, in an affection for the familiar villages or cities, fields or streets, of one's own dwelling-place. This is a grievous error. Patriotism should be an unqualified desire for the welfare of the race as a whole. It is not really patriotic for the Englishman to say, "I love England": it is only natural. It is not patriotic for him to say, "I don't think much of foreigners": it is only a form of narrowness of mind which, in the case of England and certain other countries, happens sometimes to be rather a useful attitude, but in the case of several nations, of which a good example is Egypt, would be detrimental to their own interests. It was not unqualified patriotism that induced the Greeks to throw off the Ottoman yoke: it was largely dislike of the Turks. It is not patriotism, that is to say undiluted concern for the nation as a whole, which leads some of the modern Egyptians to prefer an entirely native government to the Anglo-Egyptian administration now obtaining in that country: it is restlessness; and I am fortunately able to define it thus without the necessity of entering the arena of polemics by an opinion as to whether that restlessness is justified or not justified.

If patriotism were but the love of one's tribe and one's dwelling-place, then such undeveloped or fallen races as, for example, the American Indians, could lay their downfall at the door of that sentiment; since the exclusive love of the tribe prevented the small bodies from amalgamating into one great nation for the opposing of the invader. If patriotism were but the desire for government without interference, then the breaking up of the world's empires would be urged, and such federations as the United States of America would be intolerable.

Patriotism is, and must be, the desire for the progress and welfare of the whole nation, without any regard whatsoever to the conditions under which that progress takes place, and without any prejudice in favour either of self-government or of outside control. I have no hesitation in saying that the patriotic Pole is he who is in favour of Russian or German control of his country's affairs; for history has told him quite plainly that he cannot manage them himself. The Nationalist in any country runs the risk of being the poorest patriot in the land, for his continuous cry is for self-government, without any regard to the question as to whether such government will be beneficial to his nation in the long-run.

The value of history to patriotism, then, is to be assessed under two headings. In the first place, history defines the attitude which the patriot should assume. It tells him, in the clear light of experience, what is, and what is not, good for his nation, and indicates to him how much he may claim for his country. And in the second place, it gives to the patriots of those nations which have shown capacity and ability in the past a confidence in the present; it permits in them the indulgence of that enthusiasm which will carry them, sure-footed, along the path of glory.

Archaeology, as the discovery and classification of the facts of history, is the means by which we may obtain a true knowledge of what has happened in the past. It is the instrument with which we may dissect legend, and extract from myth its ingredients of fact. Cold history tells the Greek patriot, eager to enter the fray, that he must set little store by the precedent of the deeds of the Trojan war. It tells the English patriot that the "one jolly Englishman" of the old rhyme is not the easy vanquisher of the "two froggy Frenchmen and one Portugee" which tradition would have him believe. He is thus enabled to steer a middle course between arrant conceit and childish fright. History tells him the actual facts: history is to the patriot what "form" is to the racing man.

In the case of the English (Heaven be praised!) history opens up a boundless vista for the patriotic. The Englishman seldom realises how much he has to be proud of in his history, or how loudly the past cries upon him to be of good cheer. One hears much nowadays of England's peril, and it is good that the red signals of danger should sometimes be displayed. But let every Englishman remember that history can tell him of greater perils faced successfully; of mighty armies commanded by the greatest generals the world has ever known, held in check year after year, and finally crushed by England; of vast fleets scattered or destroyed by English sailors; of almost impregnable cities captured by British troops. "There is something very characteristic," writes Professor Seeley,[1] "in the indifference which we show towards the mighty phenomenon of the diffusion of our race and the expansion of our state. We seem, as it were, to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind."

[Footnote 1: 'The Expansion of England,' p. 10.]

The history of England, and later of the British Empire, constitutes a tale so amazing that he who has the welfare of the nation as a whole at heart—that is to say, the true patriot—is justified in entertaining the most optimistic thoughts for the future. He should not be indifferent to the past: he should bear it in mind all the time. Patriotism may not often be otherwise than misguided if no study of history has been made. The patriot of one nation will wish to procure for his country a freedom which history would show him to have been its very curse; and the patriot of another nation will encourage a nervousness and restraint in his people which history would tell him was unnecessary. The English patriot has a history to read which, at the present time, it is especially needful for him to consider; and, since Egyptology is my particular province, I cannot better close this argument than by reminding the modern Egyptians that their own history of four thousand years and its teaching must be considered by them when they speak of patriotism. A nation so talented as the descendants of the Pharaohs, so industrious, so smart and clever, should give a far larger part of its attention to the arts, crafts, and industries, of which Egyptian archaeology has to tell so splendid a story.

As a final argument for the value of the study of history and archaeology an aspect of the question may be placed before the reader which will perhaps be regarded as fanciful, but which, in all sincerity, I believe to be sober sense.

In this life of ours which, under modern conditions, is lived at so great a speed, there is a growing need for a periodical pause wherein the mind may adjust the relationship of the things that have been to those that are. So rapidly are our impressions received and assimilated, so individually are they shaped or classified, that, in whatever direction our brains lead us, we are speedily carried beyond that province of thought which is common to us all. A man who lives alone finds himself, in a few months, out of touch with the thought of his contemporaries; and, similarly, a man who lives in what is called an up-to-date manner soon finds himself grown unsympathetic to the sober movement of the world's slow round-about.

Now, the man who lives alone presently developes some of the recognised eccentricities of the recluse, which, on his return to society, cause him to be regarded as a maniac; and the man who lives entirely in the present cannot argue that the characteristics which he has developed are less maniacal because they are shared by his associates. Rapidly he, too, has become eccentric; and just as the solitary man must needs come into the company of his fellows if he would retain a healthy mind, so the man who lives in the present must allow himself occasional intercourse with the past if he would keep his balance.

[Photo by E. Brugsch Pasha.

Heraclitus, in a quotation preserved by Sextus Empiricus,[1] writes: "It behoves us to follow the common reason of the world; yet, though there is a common reason in the world, the majority live as though they possessed a wisdom peculiar each unto himself alone." Every one of us who considers his mentality an important part of his constitution should endeavour to give himself ample opportunities of adjusting his mind to this "common reason" which is the silver thread that runs unbroken throughout history. We should remember the yesterdays, that we may know what the pother of to-day is about; and we should foretell to-morrow not by to-day but by every day that has been.

[Footnote 1: Bywater: 'Heracliti Ephesii Reliquiae,' p. 38.]

Forgetfulness is so common a human failing. In our rapid transit through life we are so inclined to forget the past stages of the journey. All things pass by and are swallowed up in a moment of time. Experiences crowd upon us; the events of our life occur, are recorded by our busy brains, are digested, and are forgotten before the substance of which they were made has resolved into its elements. We race through the years, and our progress is headlong through the days.

Everything, as it is done with, is swept up into the basket of the past, and the busy handmaids, unless we check them, toss the contents, good and bad, on to the great rubbish heap of the world's waste. Loves, hates, gains, losses, all things upon which we do not lay fierce and strong hands, are gathered into nothingness, and, with a few exceptions, are utterly forgotten.

And we, too, will soon have passed, and our little brains which have forgotten so much will be forgotten. We shall be throttled out of the world and pressed by the clumsy hands of Death into the mould of that same rubbish-hill of oblivion, unless there be a stronger hand to save us. We shall be cast aside, and left behind by the hurrying crowd, unless there be those who will see to it that our soul, like that of John Brown, goes marching along. There is only one human force stronger than death, and that force is History, By it the dead are made to live again: history is the salvation of the mortal man as religion is the salvation of his immortal life.

Sometimes, then, in our race from day to day it is necessary to stop the headlong progress of experience, and, for an hour, to look back upon the past. Often, before we remember to direct our mind to it, that past is already blurred, and dim. The picture is out of focus, and turning from it in sorrow instantly the flight of our time begins again. This should not be. "There is," says Emerson, "a relationship between the hours of our life and the centuries of time." Let us give history and archaeology its due attention; for thus not only shall we be rendering a service to all the dead, not only shall we be giving a reason and a usefulness to their lives, but we shall also lend to our own thought a balance which in no otherwise can be obtained, we shall adjust ourselves to the true movement of the world, and, above all, we shall learn how best to serve that nation to which it is our inestimable privilege to belong.



"History," says Sir J. Seeley, "lies before science as a mass of materials out of which a political doctrine can be deduced.... Politics are vulgar when they are not liberalised by history, and history fades into mere literature when it loses sight of its relation to practical politics.... Politics and history are only different aspects of the same study."[1]

[Footnote 1: 'The Expansion of England.']

These words, spoken by a great historian, form the keynote of a book which has run into nearly twenty editions; and they may therefore be regarded as having some weight. Yet what historian of old Egyptian affairs concerns himself with the present welfare and future prospects of the country, or how many statesmen in Egypt give close attention to a study of the past? To the former the Egypt of modern times offers no scope for his erudition, and gives him no opportunity of making "discoveries," which is all he cares about. To the latter, Egyptology appears to be but a pleasant amusement, the main value of which is the finding of pretty scarabs suitable for the necklaces of one's lady friends. Neither the one nor the other would for a moment admit that Egyptology and Egyptian politics "are only different aspects of the same study." And yet there can be no doubt that they are.

It will be argued that the historian of ancient Egypt deals with a period so extremely remote that it can have no bearing upon the conditions of modern times, when the inhabitants of Egypt have altered their language, religion, and customs, and the Mediterranean has ceased to be the active centre of the civilised world. But it is to be remembered that the study of Egyptology carries one down to the Muhammedan invasion without much straining of the term, and merges then into the study of the Arabic period at so many points that no real termination can be given to the science; while the fact of the remoteness of its beginnings but serves to give it a greater value, since the vista before the eyes is wider.

It is my object in this chapter to show that the ancient history of Egypt has a real bearing on certain aspects of the polemics of the country. I need not again touch upon the matters which were referred to on page 8 in order to demonstrate this fact. I will take but one subject—namely, that of Egypt's foreign relations and her wars in other lands. It will be best, for this purpose, to show first of all that the ancient and modern Egyptians are one and the same people; and, secondly, that the political conditions, broadly speaking, are much the same now as they have been throughout history.

Professor Elliot Smith, F.R.S., has shown clearly enough, from the study of bones of all ages, that the ancient and modern inhabitants of the Nile Valley are precisely the same people anthropologically; and this fact at once sets the matter upon an unique footing: for, with the possible exception of China, there is no nation in the world which can be proved thus to have retained its type for so long a period. This one fact makes any parallel with Greece or Rome impossible. The modern Greeks have not much in common, anthropologically, with the ancient Greeks, for the blood has become very mixed; the Italians are not the same as the old Romans; the English are the result of a comparatively recent conglomeration of types. But in Egypt the subjects of archaic Pharaohs, it seems certain, were exactly similar to those of the modern Khedives, and new blood has never been introduced into the nation to an appreciable extent, not even by the Arabs. Thus, if there is any importance in the bearing of history upon politics, we have in Egypt a better chance of appreciating it than we have in the case of any other country.

It is true that the language has altered, but this is not a matter of first-rate importance. A Jew is not less typical because he speaks German, French, or English; and the cracking of skulls in Ireland is introduced as easily in English as it was in Erse. The old language of the Egyptian hieroglyphs actually is not yet quite dead; for, in its Coptic form, it is still spoken by many Christian Egyptians, who will salute their friends in that tongue, or bid them good-morning or good-night. Ancient Egyptian in this form is read in the Coptic churches; and God is called upon by that same name which was given to Amon and his colleagues. Many old Egyptian words have crept into the Arabic language, and are now in common use in the country; while often the old words are confused with Arabic words of similar sound. Thus, at Abydos, the archaic fortress is now called the Shunet es Zebib, which in Arabic would have the inexplicable meaning "the store-house of raisins"; but in the old Egyptian language its name, of similar sound, meant "the fortress of the Ibis-jars," several of these sacred birds having been buried there in jars, after the place had been disused as a military stronghold. A large number of Egyptian towns still bear their hieroglyphical names: Aswan, (Kom) Ombo, Edfu, Esneh, Keft, Kus, Keneh, Dendereh, for example. The real origin of these being now forgotten, some of them have been given false Arabic derivations, and stories have been invented to account for the peculiar significance of the words thus introduced. The word Silsileh in Arabic means "a chain," and a place in Upper Egypt which bears that name is now said to be so called because a certain king here stretched a chain across the river to interrupt the shipping; but in reality the name is derived from a mispronounced hieroglyphical word meaning "a boundary." Similarly the town of Damanhur in Lower Egypt is said to be the place at which a great massacre took place, for in Arabic the name may be interpreted as meaning "rivers of blood," whereas actually the name in Ancient Egyptian means simply "the Town of Horus." The archaeological traveller in Egypt meets with instances of the continued use of the language of the Pharaohs at every turn; and there are few things that make the science of Egyptology more alive, or remove it further from the dusty atmosphere of the museum, than this hearing of the old words actually spoken by the modern inhabitants of the land.

The religion of Ancient Egypt, like those of Greece and Rome, was killed by Christianity, which largely gave place, at a later date, to Muhammedanism; and yet, in the hearts of the people there are still an extraordinary number of the old pagan beliefs. I will mention a few instances, taking them at random from my memory.

In, ancient days the ithiphallic god Min was the patron of the crops, who watched over the growth of the grain. In modern times a degenerate figure of this god Min, made of whitewashed wood and mud, may be seen standing, like a scarecrow, in the fields throughout Egypt. When the sailors cross the Nile they may often be heard singing Ya Amuni, Ya Amuni, "O Amon, O Amon," as though calling upon that forgotten god for assistance. At Aswan those who are about to travel far still go up to pray at the site of the travellers' shrine, which was dedicated to the gods of the cataracts. At Thebes the women climb a certain hill to make their supplications at the now lost sanctuary of Meretsegert, the serpent-goddess of olden times. A snake, the relic of the household goddess, is often kept as a kind of pet in the houses of the peasants. Barren women still go to the ruined temples of the forsaken gods in the hope that there is virtue in the stones; and I myself have given permission to disappointed husbands to take their childless wives to these places, where they have kissed the stones and embraced the figures of the gods. The hair of the jackal is burnt in the presence of dying people, even of the upper classes, unknowingly to avert the jackal-god Anubis, the Lord of Death. A scarab representing the god of creation is sometimes placed in the bath of a young married woman to give virtue to the water. A decoration in white paint over the doorways of certain houses in the south is a relic of the religious custom of placing a bucranium there to avert evil. Certain temple-watchmen still call upon the spirits resident in the sanctuaries to depart before they will enter the building. At Karnak a statue of the goddess Sekhmet is regarded with holy awe; and the goddess who once was said to have massacred mankind is even now thought to delight in slaughter. The golden barque of Amon-Ra, which once floated upon the sacred lake of Karnak, is said to be seen sometimes by the natives at the present time, who have not yet forgotten its former existence. In the processional festival of Abu'l Haggag, the patron saint of Luxor, whose mosque and tomb stand upon the ruins of the Temple of Amon, a boat is dragged over the ground in unwitting remembrance of the dragging of the boat of Amon in the processions of that god. Similarly in the Mouled el Nebi procession at Luxor, boats placed upon carts are drawn through the streets, just as one may see them in the ancient paintings and reliefs. The patron gods of Kom Ombo, Horur and Sebek, yet remain in the memories of the peasants of the neighbourhood as the two brothers who lived in the temple in the days of old. A robber entering a tomb will smash the eyes of the figures of the gods and deceased persons represented therein, that they may not observe his actions, just as did his ancestors four thousand years ago. At Gurneh a farmer recently broke the arms of an ancient statue, which lay half-buried near his fields, because he believed that they had damaged his crops. In the south of Egypt a pot of water is placed upon the graves of the dead, that their ghost, or ka, as it would have been called in old times, may not suffer from thirst; and the living will sometimes call upon the name of the dead, standing at night in the cemeteries.

The ancient magic of Egypt is still widely practised, and many of the formulae used in modern times are familiar to the Egyptologist. The Egyptian, indeed, lives in a world much influenced by magic and thickly populated by spirits, demons, and djins. Educated men holding Government appointments, and dressing in the smartest European manner, will describe their miraculous adventures and their meetings with djins. An Egyptian gentleman holding an important administrative post, told me the other day how his cousin was wont to change himself into a cat at night time, and to prowl about the town. When a boy, his father noticed this peculiarity, and on one occasion chased and beat the cat, with the result that the boy's body next morning was found to be covered with stripes and bruises. The uncle of my informant once read such strong language (magically) in a certain book that it began to tremble violently, and finally made a dash for it out of the window. This same personage was once sitting beneath a palm-tree with a certain magician (who, I fear, was also a conjurer), when, happening to remark on the clusters of dates twenty feet or so above his head, his friend stretched his arms upwards and his hands were immediately filled with the fruit. At another time this magician left his overcoat by mistake in a railway carriage, and only remembered it when the train was a mere speck upon the horizon; but, on the utterance of certain words, the coat immediately flew through the air back to him.

I mention these particular instances because they were told to me by educated persons; but amongst the peasants even more incredible stories are gravely accepted. The Omdeh, or headman, of the village of Chaghb, not far from Luxor, submitted an official complaint to the police a short time ago against an afrit or devil which was doing much mischief to him and his neighbours, snatching up oil-lamps and pouring the oil over the terrified villagers, throwing stones at passers-by, and so forth. Spirits of the dead in like manner haunt the living, and often do them mischief. At Luxor, lately, the ghost of a well-known robber persecuted his widow to such an extent that she finally went mad. A remarkable parallel to this case, dating from Pharaonic days, may be mentioned. It is the letter of a haunted widower to his dead wife, in which he asks her why she persecutes him, since he was always kind to her during her life, nursed her through illnesses, and never grieved her heart.[1]

[Footnote 1: Maspero: 'Etudes egyptologiques,' i. 145.]

These instances might be multiplied, but those which I have quoted will serve to show that the old gods are still alive, and that the famous magic of the Egyptians is not yet a thing of the past. Let us now turn to the affairs of everyday life.

An archaeological traveller in Egypt cannot fail to observe the similarity between old and modern customs as he rides through the villages and across the fields. The houses, when not built upon the European plan, are surprisingly like those of ancient days. The old cornice still survives, and the rows of dried palm stems, from which its form was originally derived, are still to be seen on the walls of gardens and courtyards. The huts or shelters of dried corn-stalks, so often erected in the fields, are precisely the same as those used in prehistoric days; and the archaic bunches of corn-stalks smeared with mud, which gave their form to later stone columns, are set up to this day, though their stone posterity are now in ruins. Looking through the doorway of one of these ancient houses, the traveller, perhaps, sees a woman grinding corn or kneading bread in exactly the same manner as her ancestress did in the days of the Pharaohs. Only the other day a native asked to be allowed to purchase from us some of the ancient millstones lying in one of the Theban temples, in order to re-use them on his farm. The traveller will notice, in some shady corner, the village barber shaving the heads and faces of his patrons, just as he is seen in the Theban tomb-paintings of thousands of years ago; and the small boys who scamper across the road will have just the same tufts of hair left for decoration on their shaven heads as had the boys of ancient Thebes and Memphis. In another house, where a death has occurred, the mourning women, waving the same blue cloth which was the token of mourning in ancient days, will toss their arms about in gestures familiar to every student of ancient scenes. Presently the funeral will issue forth, and the men will sing that solemn yet cheery tune which never fails to call to mind the far-famed Maneros—that song which Herodotus describes as a plaintive funeral dirge, and which Plutarch asserts was suited at the same time to festive occasions. In some other house a marriage will be taking place, and the singers and pipers will, in like manner, recall the scenes upon the monuments. The former have a favourite gesture—the placing of the hand behind the ear as they sing—which is frequently shown in ancient representations of such festive scenes. The dancing girls, too, are here to be seen, their eyes and cheeks heavily painted, as were those of their ancestresses; and in their hands are the same tambourines as are carried by their class in Pharaonic paintings and reliefs. The same date-wine which intoxicated the worshippers of the Egyptian Bacchus goes the round of this village company, and the same food stuff, the same small, flat loaves of bread, are eaten.

Passing out into the fields the traveller observes the ground raked into the small squares for irrigation which the prehistoric farmer made; and the plough is shaped as it always was. The shadoof, or water-hoist, is patiently worked as it has been for thousands of years; while the cylindrical hoist employed in Lower Egypt was invented and introduced in Ptolemaic times. Threshing and winnowing proceed in the manner represented on the monuments, and the methods of sowing and reaping have not changed. Along the embanked roads, men, cattle, and donkeys file past against the sky-line, recalling the straight rows of such figures depicted so often upon the monuments. Overhead there flies the vulture goddess Nekheb, and the hawk Horus hovers near by. Across the road ahead slinks the jackal, Anubis; under one's feet crawls Khepera, the scarab; and there, under the sacred tree, sleeps the horned ram of Amon. In all directions the hieroglyphs of the ancient Egyptians pass to and fro, as though some old temple-inscription had come to life. The letter m, the owl, goes hooting past. The letter a, the eagle, circles overhead; the sign ur, the wagtail, flits at the roadside, chirping at the sign rekh, the peewit. Along the road comes the sign ab, the frolicking calf; and near it is ka, the bull; while behind them walks the sign fa, a man carrying a basket on his head. In all directions are the figures from which the ancients made their hieroglyphical script; and thus that wonderful old writing at once ceases to be mysterious, a thing of long ago, and one realises how natural a product of the country it was.

[Photo by E. Bird.

In a word, ancient and modern Egyptians are fundamentally similar. Nor is there any great difference to be observed between the country's relations with foreign powers in ancient days and those of the last hundred years. As has been seen in the last chapter, Egypt was usually occupied by a foreign power, or ruled by a foreign dynasty, just as at the present day; and a foreign army was retained in the country during most of the later periods of ancient history. There were always numerous foreigners settled in Egypt, and in Ptolemaic and Roman times Alexandria and Memphis swarmed with them. The great powers of the civilised world were always watching Egypt as they do now, not always in a friendly attitude to that one of themselves which occupied the country; and the chief power with which Egypt was concerned in the time of the Ramesside Pharaohs inhabited Asia Minor and perhaps Turkey, just as in the middle ages and the last century. Then, as in modern times, Egypt had much of her attention held by the Sudan, and constant expeditions had to be made into the regions above the cataracts. Thus it cannot be argued that ancient history offers no precedent for modern affairs because all things have now changed. Things have changed extremely little, broadly speaking; and general lines of conduct have the same significance at the present time as they had in the past.

I wish now to give an outline of Egypt's relationship to her most important neighbour, Syria, in order that the bearing of history upon modern political matters may be demonstrated; for it would seem that the records of the past make clear a tendency which is now somewhat overlooked. I employ this subject simply as an example.

From the earliest historical times the Egyptians have endeavoured to hold Syria and Palestine as a vassal state. One of the first Pharaohs with whom we meet in Egyptian history, King Zeser of Dynasty III., is known to have sent a fleet to the Lebanon in order to procure cedar wood, and there is some evidence to show that he held sway over this country. For how many centuries previous to his reign the Pharaohs had overrun Syria we cannot now say, but there is no reason to suppose that Zeser initiated the aggressive policy of Egypt in Asia. Sahura, a Pharaoh of Dynasty V., attacked the Phoenician coast with his fleet, and returned to the Nile Valley with a number of Syrian captives. Pepi I. of the succeeding dynasty also attacked the coast-cities, and Pepi II. had considerable intercourse with Asia. Amenemhat I., of Dynasty XII., fought in Syria, and appears to have brought it once more under Egyptian sway. Senusert I. seems to have controlled the country to some extent, for Egyptians lived there in some numbers. Senusert III. won a great victory over the Asiatics in Syria; and a stela and statue belonging to Egyptian officials have been found at Gezer, between Jerusalem and the sea. After each of the above-mentioned wars it is to be presumed that the Egyptians held Syria for some years, though little is now known of the events of these far-off times.

During the Hyksos dynasties in Egypt there lived a Pharaoh named Khyan who was of Semitic extraction; and there is some reason to suppose that he ruled from Baghdad to the Sudan, he and his fathers having created a great Egyptian Empire by the aid of foreign troops. Egypt's connection with Asia during the Hyksos rule is not clearly defined, but the very fact that these foreign kings were anxious to call themselves "Pharaohs" shows that Egypt dominated in the east end of the Mediterranean. The Hyksos kings of Egypt very probably held Syria in fee, being possessed of both countries, but preferring to hold their court in Egypt.

We now come to the great Dynasty XVIII., and we learn more fully of the Egyptian invasions of Syria. Ahmosis I. drove the Hyksos out of the Delta and pursued them through Judah. His successor, Amenhotep I., appears to have seized all the country as far as the Euphrates; and Thutmosis I., his son, was able to boast that he ruled even unto that river. Thutmosis III., Egypt's greatest Pharaoh, led invasion after invasion into Syria, so that his name for generations was a terror to the inhabitants. From the Euphrates to the fourth cataract of the Nile the countries acknowledged him king, and the mighty Egyptian fleet patrolled the seas. This Pharaoh fought no less than seventeen campaigns in Asia, and he left to his son the most powerful throne in the world. Amenhotep II. maintained this empire and quelled the revolts of the Asiatics with a strong hand. Thutmosis IV., his son, conducted two expeditions into Syria; and the next king, Amenhotep III., was acknowledged throughout that country.

That extraordinary dreamer, Akhnaton, the succeeding Pharaoh, allowed the empire to pass from him owing to his religious objections to war; but, after his death, Tutankhamen once more led the Egyptian armies into Asia. Horemheb also made a bid for Syria; and Seti I. recovered Palestine. Rameses II., his son, penetrated to North Syria; but, having come into contact with the new power of the Hittites, he was unable to hold the country. The new Pharaoh, Merenptah, seized Canaan and laid waste the land of Israel. A few years later, Rameses III. led his fleet and his army to the Syrian coast and defeated the Asiatics in a great sea-battle. He failed to hold the country, however, and after his death Egypt remained impotent for two centuries. Then, under Sheshonk I., of Dynasty XXII., a new attempt was made, and Jerusalem was captured. Takeloth II., of the same dynasty, sent thither an Egyptian army to help in the overthrow of Shalmaneser II.

From this time onwards the power of Egypt had so much declined that the invasions into Syria of necessity became more rare. Shabaka of Dynasty XXV. concerned himself deeply with Asiatic politics, and attempted to bring about a state of affairs which would have given him the opportunity of seizing the country. Pharaoh Necho, of the succeeding dynasty, invaded Palestine and advanced towards the Euphrates. He recovered for Egypt her Syrian province, but it was speedily lost again. Apries, a few years later, captured the Phoenician coast and invaded Palestine; but the country did not remain for long under Egyptian rule. It is not necessary to record all the Syrian wars of the Dynasty of the Ptolemies. Egypt and Asia were now closely connected, and at several periods during this phase of Egyptian history the Asiatic province came under the control of the Pharaohs. The wars of Ptolemy I. in Syria were conducted on a large scale. In the reign of Ptolemy III. there were three campaigns, and I cannot refrain from quoting a contemporary record of the King's powers if only for the splendour of its wording:—

"The great King Ptolemy ... having inherited from his father the royalty of Egypt and Libya and Syria and Phoenicia and Cyprus and Lycia and Caria and the Cyclades, set out on a campaign into Asia with infantry and cavalry forces, a naval armament and elephants, both Troglodyte and Ethiopic.... But having become master of all the country within the Euphrates, and of Cilicia and Pamphylia and Ionia and the Hellespont and Thrace, and of all the military forces and elephants in these countries, and having made the monarchs in all these places his subjects, he crossed the Euphrates, and having brought under him Mesopotamia and Babylonia and Susiana and Persis and Media, and all the rest as far as Bactriana ... he sent forces through the canals——" (Here the text breaks off.)

Later in this dynasty Ptolemy VII. was crowned King of Syria, but the kingdom did not remain long in his power. Then came the Romans, and for many years Syria and Egypt were sister provinces of one empire.

There is no necessity to record the close connection between the two countries in Arabic times. For a large part of that era Egypt and Syria formed part of the same empire; and we constantly find Egyptians fighting in Asia. Now, under Edh Dhahir Bebars of the Baharide Mameluke Dynasty, we see them helping to subject Syria and Armenia; now, under El-Mansur Kalaun, Damascus is captured; and now En Nasir Muhammed is found reigning from Tunis to Baghdad. In the Circassian Mameluke Dynasty we see El Muayyad crushing a revolt in Syria, and El Ashraf Bursbey capturing King John of Cyprus and keeping his hand on Syria. And so the tale continues, until, as a final picture, we see Ibrahim Pasha leading the Egyptians into Asia and crushing the Turks at Iconium.

Such is the long list of the wars waged by Egypt in Syria. Are we to suppose that these continuous incursions into Asia have suddenly come to an end? Are we to imagine that because there has been a respite for a hundred years the precedent of six thousand years has now to be disregarded? By the recent reconquest of the Sudan it has been shown that the old political necessities still exist for Egypt in the south, impelling her to be mistress of the upper reaches of the Nile. Is there now no longer any chance of her expanding in other directions should her hands become free?

The reader may answer with the argument that in early days England made invasion after invasion into France, yet ceased after a while to do so. But this is no parallel. England was impelled to war with France because the English monarchs believed themselves to be, by inheritance, kings of a large part of France; and when they ceased to believe this they ceased to make war. The Pharaohs of Egypt never considered themselves to be kings of Syria, and never used any title suggesting an inherited sovereignty. They merely held Syria as a buffer state, and claimed no more than an overlordship there. Now Syria is still a buffer state, and the root of the trouble, therefore, still exists. Though I must disclaim all knowledge of modern politics, I am quite sure that it is no meaningless phrase to say that England will most carefully hold this tendency in check prevent an incursion into Syria; but, with a strong controlling hand relaxed, it would require more than human strength to eradicate an Egyptian tendency—nay, a habit, of six thousand years' standing. Try as she might, Egypt, as far as an historian can see, would not be able to prevent herself passing ultimately into Syria again. How or when this would take place an Egyptologist cannot see, for he is accustomed to deal in long periods of time, and to consider the centuries as others might the decades. It might not come for a hundred years or more: it might come suddenly quite by accident.

In 1907 there was a brief moment when Egypt appeared to be, quite unknowingly, on the verge of an attempted reconquest of her lost province. There was a misunderstanding with Turkey regarding the delineation of the Syrio-Sinaitic frontier; and, immediately, the Egyptian Government took strong action and insisted that the question should be settled. Had there been bloodshed the seat of hostilities would have been Syria; and supposing that Egypt had been victorious, she would have pushed the opposing forces over the North Syrian frontier into Asia Minor, and when peace was declared she would have found herself dictating terms from a point of vantage three hundred miles north of Jerusalem. Can it be supposed that she would then have desired to abandon the reconquered territory?

However, matters were settled satisfactorily with the Porte, and the Egyptian Government, which had never realised this trend of events, and had absolutely no designs upon Syria, gave no further consideration to Asiatic affairs. In the eyes of the modern onlookers the whole matter had developed from a series of chances; but in the view of the historian the moment of its occurrence was the only chance about it, the fact of its occurrence being inevitable according to the time-proven rules of history. The phrase "England in Egypt" has been given such prominence of late that a far more important phrase, "Egypt in Asia," has been overlooked. Yet, whereas the former is a catch-word of barely thirty years' standing, the latter has been familiar at the east end of the Mediterranean for forty momentous centuries at the lowest computation, and rings in the ears of the Egyptologist all through the ages. I need thus no justification for recalling it in these pages.

Now let us glance at Egypt's north-western frontier. Behind the deserts which spread to the west of the Delta lies the oasis of Siwa; and from here there is a continuous line of communication with Tripoli and Tunis. Thus, during the present winter (1910-11), the outbreak of cholera at Tripoli has necessitated the despatch of quarantine officials to the oasis in order to prevent the spread of the disease into Egypt. Now, of late years we have heard much talk regarding the Senussi fraternity, a Muhammedan sect which is said to be prepared to declare a holy war and to descend upon Egypt. In 1909 the Egyptian Mamur of Siwa was murdered, and it was freely stated that this act of violence was the beginning of the trouble. I have no idea as to the real extent of the danger, nor do I know whether this bogie of the west, which is beginning to cause such anxiety in Egypt in certain classes, is but a creation of the imagination; but it will be interesting to notice the frequent occurrence of hostilities in this direction, since the history of Egypt's gateways is surely a study meet for her guardians.

When the curtain first rises upon archaic times, we find those far-off Pharaohs struggling with the Libyans who had penetrated into the Delta from Tripoli and elsewhere. In early dynastic history they are the chief enemies of the Egyptians, and great armies have to be levied to drive them back through Siwa to their homes. Again in Dynasty XII., Amenemhat I. had to despatch his son to drive these people out of Egypt; and at the beginning of Dynasty XVIII., Amenhotep I. was obliged once more to give them battle. Seti I. of Dynasty XIX. made war upon them, and repulsed their invasion into Egypt. Rameses II. had to face an alliance of Libyans, Lycians, and others, in the western Delta. His son Merenptah waged a most desperate war with them in order to defend Egypt against their incursions, a war which has been described as the most perilous in Egyptian history; and it was only after a battle in which nine thousand of the enemy were slain that the war came to an end. Rameses III., however, was again confronted with these persistent invaders, and only succeeded in checking them temporarily. Presently the tables were turned, and Dynasty XXII., which reigned so gloriously in Egypt, was Libyan in origin. No attempt was made thenceforth for many years to check the peaceful entrance of Libyans into Egypt, and soon that nation held a large part of the Delta. Occasional mention is made of troubles upon the north-west frontier, but little more is heard of any serious invasions. In Arabic times disturbances are not infrequent, and certain sovereigns, as for example, El Mansur Kalaun, were obliged to invade the enemy's country, thus extending Egypt's power as far as Tunis.

There is one lesson which may be learnt from the above facts—namely, that this frontier is somewhat exposed, and that incursions from North Africa by way of Siwa are historic possibilities. If the Senussi invasion of Egypt is ever attempted it will not, at any rate, be without precedent.

When England entered Egypt in 1882 she found a nation without external interests, a country too impoverished and weak to think of aught else but its own sad condition. The reviving of this much-bled, anaemic people, and the reorganisation of the Government, occupied the whole attention of the Anglo-Egyptian officials, and placed Egypt before their eyes in only this one aspect. Egypt appeared to be but the Nile Valley and the Delta; and, in truth, that was, and still is, quite as much as the hard-worked officials could well administer. The one task of the regeneration of Egypt was all absorbing, and the country came to be regarded as a little land wherein a concise, clearly-defined, and compact problem could be worked out.

[Photo by E. Brugsch Pasha.

Now, while this was most certainly the correct manner in which to face the question, and while Egypt has benefited enormously by this singleness of purpose in her officials, it was, historically, a false attitude. Egypt is not a little country: Egypt is a crippled Empire. Throughout her history she has been the powerful rival of the people of Asia Minor. At one time she was mistress of the Sudan, Somaliland, Palestine, Syria, Libya, and Cyprus; and the Sicilians, Sardinians, Cretans, and even Greeks, stood in fear of the Pharaoh. In Arabic times she held Tunis and Tripoli, and even in the last century she was the foremost Power at the east end of the Mediterranean. Napoleon when he came to Egypt realised this very thoroughly, and openly aimed to make her once more a mighty empire. But in 1882 such fine dreams were not to be considered: there was too much work to be done in the Nile Valley itself. The Egyptian Empire was forgotten, and Egypt was regarded as permanently a little country. The conditions which we found here we took to be permanent conditions. They were not. We arrived when the country was in a most unnatural state as regards its foreign relations; and we were obliged to regard that state as chronic. This, though wise, was absolutely incorrect. Egypt in the past never has been for more than a short period a single country; and all history goes to show that she will not always be single in the future.

With the temporary loss of the Syrian province Egypt's need for a navy ceased to exist; and the fact that she is really a naval power has now passed from men's memory. Yet it was not much more than a century ago that Muhammed Ali fought a great naval battle with the Turks, and utterly defeated them. In ancient history the Egyptian navy was the terror of the Mediterranean, and her ships policed the east coast of Africa. In prehistoric times the Nile boats were built, it would seem, upon a seafaring plan: a fact that has led some scholars to suppose that the land was entered and colonised from across the waters. We talk of Englishmen as being born to the sea, as having a natural and inherited tendency towards "business upon great waters"; and yet the English navy dates from the days of Queen Elizabeth. It is true that the Plantagenet wars with France checked what was perhaps already a nautical bias, and that had it not been for the Norman conquest, England, perchance would have become a sea power at an earlier date. But at best the tendency is only a thousand years old. In Egypt it is seven or eight thousand years old at the lowest computation. It makes one smile to think of Egypt as a naval power. It is the business of the historian to refrain from smiling, and to remark only that, absurd as it may sound, Egypt's future is largely upon the water as her past has been. It must be remembered that she was fighting great battles in huge warships three or four hundred feet in length at a time when Britons were paddling about in canoes.

One of the ships built by the Pharaoh Ptolemy Philopator was four hundred and twenty feet long, and had several banks of oars. It was rowed by four thousand sailors, while four hundred others managed the sails. Three thousand soldiers were also carried upon its decks. The royal dahabiyeh which this Pharaoh used upon the Nile was three hundred and thirty feet long, and was fitted with state rooms and private rooms of considerable size. Another vessel contained, besides the ordinary cabins, large bath-rooms, a library, and an astronomical observatory. It had eight towers, in which there were machines capable of hurling stones weighing three hundred pounds or more, and arrows eighteen feet in length. These huge vessels were built some two centuries before Caesar landed in Britain.[1]

[Footnote 1: Athenaeus, v. 8.]

In conclusion, then, it must be repeated that the present Nile-centred policy in Egypt, though infinitely best for the country at this juncture, is an artificial one, unnatural to the nation except as a passing phase; and what may be called the Imperial policy is absolutely certain to take its place in time, although the Anglo-Egyptian Government, so long as it exists, will do all in its power to check it. History tells us over and over again that Syria is the natural dependant of Egypt, fought for or bargained for with the neighbouring countries to the north; that the Sudan is likewise a natural vassal which from time to time revolts and has to be reconquered; and that Egypt's most exposed frontier lies on the north-west. In conquering the Sudan at the end of the nineteenth century the Egyptians were but fulfilling their destiny: it was a mere accident that their arms were directed against a Mahdi. In discussing seriously the situation in the western oases, they are working upon the precise rules laid down by history. And if their attention is not turned in the far future to Syria, they will be defying rules even more precise, and, in the opinion of those who have the whole course of Egyptian history spread before them, will but be kicking against the pricks. Here surely we have an example of the value of the study of a nation's history, which is not more nor less than a study of its political tendencies.

Speaking of the relationship of history to politics, Sir J. Seeley wrote: "I tell you that when you study English history, you study not the past of England only but her future. It is the welfare of your country, it is your whole interest as citizens, that is in question when you study history." These words hold good when we deal with Egyptian history, and it is our business to learn the political lessons which the Egyptologist can teach us, rather than to listen to his dissertations upon scarabs and blue glaze. Like the astronomers of old, the Egyptologist studies, as it were, the stars, and reads the future in them; but it is not the fashion for kings to wait upon his pronouncements any more! Indeed he reckons in such very long periods of time, and makes startling statements about events which probably will not occur for very many years to come, that the statesman, intent upon his task, has some reason to declare that the study of past ages does not assist him to deal with urgent affairs. Nevertheless, in all seriousness, the Egyptologist's study is to be considered as but another aspect of statecraft, and he fails in his labours if he does not make this his point of view.

In his arrogant manner the Egyptologist will remark that modern politics are of too fleeting a nature to interest him. In answer, I would tell him that if he sits studying his papyri and his mummies without regard for the fact that he is dealing with a nation still alive, still contributing its strength to spin the wheel of the world around, then are his labours worthless and his brains misused. I would tell him that if his work is paid for, then is he a robber if he gives no return in information which will be of practical service to Egypt in some way or another. The Egyptian Government spends enormous sums each year upon the preservation of the magnificent relics of bygone ages—relics for which, I regret to say, the Egyptians themselves care extremely little. Is this money spent, then, to amuse the tourist in the land, or simply to fulfil obligations to ethical susceptibilities? No; there is but one justification for this very necessary expenditure of public money—namely, that these relics are regarded, so to speak, as the school-books of the nation, which range over a series of subjects from pottery-making to politics, from stone-cutting to statecraft. The future of Egypt may be read upon the walls of her ancient temples and tombs. Let the Egyptologist never forget, in the interest and excitement of his discoveries, what is the real object of his work.



When a great man puts a period to his existence upon earth by dying, he is carefully buried in a tomb, and a monument is set up to his glory in the neighbouring church. He may then be said to begin his second life, his life in the memory of the chronicler and historian. After the lapse of an aeon or two the works of the historian, and perchance the tomb itself, are rediscovered; and the great man begins his third life, now as a subject of discussion and controversy amongst archaeologists in the pages of a scientific journal. It may be supposed that the spirit of the great man, not a little pleased with its second life, has an extreme distaste for his third. There is a dead atmosphere about it which sets him yawning as only his grave yawned before. The charm has been taken from his deeds; there is no longer any spring in them. He must feel towards the archaeologist much as a young man feels towards his cold-blooded parent by whom his love affair has just been found out. The public, too, if by chance it comes upon this archaeological journal, finds the discussion nothing more than a mental gymnastic, which, as the reader drops off to sleep, gives him the impression that the writer is a man of profound brain capacity, but, like the remains of the great man of olden times, as dry as dust.

There is one thing, however, which has been overlooked. This scientific journal does not contain the ultimate results of the archaeologist's researches. It contains the researches themselves. The public, so to speak, has been listening to the pianist playing his morning scales, has been watching the artist mixing his colours, has been examining the unshaped block of marble and the chisels in the sculptor's studio. It must be confessed, of course, that the archaeologist has so enjoyed his researches that often the ultimate result has been overlooked by him. In the case of Egyptian archaeology, for example, there are only two Egyptologists who have ever set themselves to write a readable history,[1] whereas the number of books which record the facts of the science is legion.

[Footnote 1: Professor J.H. Breasted and Sir Gaston Maspero.]

The archaeologist not infrequently lives, for a large part of his time, in a museum, a somewhat dismal place. He is surrounded by rotting tapestries, decaying bones, crumbling stones, and rusted or corroded objects. His indoor work has paled his cheek, and his muscles are not like iron bands. He stands, often, in the contiguity to an ancient broadsword most fitted to demonstrate the fact that he could never use it. He would probably be dismissed his curatorship were he to tell of any dreams which might run in his head—dreams of the time when those tapestries hung upon the walls of barons' banquet-halls, or when those stones rose high above the streets of Camelot.

Moreover, those who make researches independently must needs contribute their results to scientific journals, written in the jargon of the learned. I came across a now forgotten journal, a short time ago, in which an English gentleman, believing that he had made a discovery in the province of Egyptian hieroglyphs, announced it in ancient Greek. There would be no supply of such pedantic swagger were there not a demand for it.

Small wonder, then, that the archaeologist is often represented as partaking somewhat of the quality of the dust amidst which he works. It is not necessary here to discuss whether this estimate is just or not: I wish only to point out its paradoxical nature.

More than any other science, archaeology might be expected to supply its exponents with stuff that, like old wine, would fire the blood and stimulate the senses. The stirring events of the Past must often be reconstructed by the archaeologist with such precision that his prejudices are aroused, and his sympathies are so enlisted as to set him fighting with a will under this banner or under that. The noise of the hardy strife of young nations is not yet silenced for him, nor have the flags and the pennants faded from sight. He has knowledge of the state secrets of kings, and, all along the line, is an intimate spectator of the crowded pageant of history. The caravan-masters of the elder days, the admirals of the "great green sea" the captains of archers, have related their adventures to him; and he might repeat to you their stories. Indeed, he has such a tale to tell that, looking at it in this light, one might expect his listeners all to be good fighting men and noble women. It might be supposed that the archaeologist would gather around him only men who have pleasure in the road that leads over the hills, and women who have known the delight of the open. One has heard so often of the "brave days of old" that the archaeologist might well be expected to have his head stuffed with brave tales and little else.

His range, however, may be wider than this. To him, perhaps, it has been given to listen to the voice of the ancient poet, heard as a far-off whisper; to breathe in forgotten gardens the perfume of long dead flowers; to contemplate the love of women whose beauty is all perished in the dust; to hearken to the sound of the harp and the sistra, to be the possessor of the riches of historical romance. Dim armies have battled around him for the love of Helen; shadowy captains of sea-going ships have sung to him through the storm the song of the sweethearts left behind them; he has feasted with sultans, and kings' goblets have been held to his lips; he has watched Uriah the Hittite sent to the forefront of the battle.

Thus, were he to offer a story, one might now suppose that there would gather around him, not the men of muscle, but a throng of sallow listeners, as improperly expectant as were those who hearkened under the moon to the narrations of Boccaccio, or, in old Baghdad, gave ear to the tales of the thousand and one nights. One might suppose that his audience would be drawn from those classes most fondly addicted to pleasure, or most nearly representative, in their land and in their time, of the light-hearted and not unwanton races of whom he had to tell. For his story might be expected to be one wherein wine and women and song found countenance. Even were he to tell of ancient tragedies and old sorrows, he would still make his appeal, one might suppose, to gallants and their mistresses, to sporting men and women of fashion, just as, in the mournful song of Rosabelle, Sir Walter Scott is able to address himself to the "ladies gay," or Coleridge in his sad "Ballad of the Dark Ladie" to "fair maids."

Who could better arrest the attention of the coxcomb than the archaeologist who has knowledge of silks and scents now lost to the living world? To the gourmet who could more appeal than the archaeologist who has made abundant acquaintance with the forgotten dishes of the East? Who could so surely thrill the senses of the courtesan than the archaeologist who can relate that which was whispered by Anthony in the ear of Cleopatra? To the gambler who could be more enticing than the archaeologist who has seen kings play at dice for their kingdoms? The imaginative, truly, might well collect the most highly disreputable audience to listen to the tales of the archaeologist.

But no, these are not the people who are anxious to catch the pearls which drop from his mouth. Do statesmen and diplomatists, then, listen to him who can unravel for them the policies of the Past? Do business men hasten from Threadneedle Street and Wall Street to sit at his feet, that they may have instilled into them a little of the romance of ancient money? I fear not.

Come with me to some provincial town, where this day Professor Blank is to deliver one of his archaeological lectures at the Town Hall. We are met at the door by the secretary of the local archaeological society: a melancholy lady in green plush, who suffers from St Vitus's dance. Gloomily we enter the hall and silently accept the seats which are indicated to us by an unfortunate gentleman with a club-foot. In front of us an elderly female with short hair is chatting to a very plain young woman draped like a lay figure. On the right an emaciated man with a very bad cough shuffles on his chair; on the left two old grey-beards grumble to one another about the weather, a subject which leads up to the familiar "Mine catches me in the small of the back"; while behind us the inevitable curate, of whose appearance it would be trite to speak, describes to an astonished old lady the recent discovery of the pelvis of a mastodon.

The professor and the aged chairman step on to the platform; and, amidst the profoundest gloom, the latter rises to pronounce the prefatory rigmarole. "Archaeology," he says, in a voice of brass, "is a science which bars its doors to all but the most erudite; for, to the layman who has not been vouchsafed the opportunity of studying the dusty volumes of the learned, the bones of the dead will not reveal their secrets, nor will the crumbling pediments of naos and cenotaph, the obliterated tombstones, or the worm-eaten parchments, tell us their story. To-night, however, we are privileged; for Professor Blank will open the doors for us that we may gaze for a moment upon that solemn charnel-house of the Past in which he has sat for so many long hours of inductive meditation."

And the professor by his side, whose head, perhaps, was filled with the martial music of the long-lost hosts of the Lord, or before whose eyes there swayed the entrancing forms of the dancing-girls of Babylon, stares horrified from chairman to audience. He sees crabbed old men and barren old women before him, afflicted youths and fatuous maidens; and he realises at once that the golden keys which he possesses to the gates of the treasury of the jewelled Past will not open the doors of that charnel-house which they desire to be shown. The scent of the king's roses fades from his nostrils, the Egyptian music which throbbed in his ears is hushed, the glorious illumination of the Palace of a Thousand Columns is extinguished; and in the gathering gloom we leave him fumbling with a rusty key at the mildewed door of the Place of Bones.

Why is it, one asks, that archaeology is a thing so misunderstood? Can it be that both lecturer and audience have crushed down that which was in reality uppermost in their minds: that a shy search for romance has led these people to the Town Hall? Or perchance archaeology has become to them something not unlike a vice, and to listen to an archaeological lecture is their remaining chance of being naughty. It may be that, having one foot in the grave, they take pleasure in kicking the moss from the surrounding tombstones with the other; or that, being denied, for one reason or another, the jovial society of the living, like Robert Southey's "Scholar" their hopes are with the dead.

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