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THE

ASSISTANT OF

EDUCATION.

AUGUST, 1825.

A SKETCH OF GENERAL HISTORY.

(Continued from page 14.)

EGYPT. FROM B.C. 569, TO THE BIRTH OF CHRIST. LEAVING the history of the people of God at the eventful moment of the Messiah's appearance upon earth, we resume the thread of profane history where we left it, at the Babylonish captivity, in order to trace up the affairs of other nations to the same important era -an era which, disregarded as it was at the time, we who look back on it consider as the beginning of an altered state of things; almost, as it were, a new creation of the veteran world; and we begin to date our years anew, calling the date of this event the first

year chronology, and reckoning backwards and forwards from it, as the great central point of mortal history, to which all things tended, and from which all things have resulted.

The history of Egypt was the first we pursued after that of Israel-because it is the first great nation we hear of upon earth, the first in the commencement of its greatness, and the first to fall. We left it in the year 569 B.C. a few years after the Israelites had gone into captivity, and when Apries, its king, had been strangled by one Amasis, who succeeded him. Some authors doubt the manner of his succession, and suppose a reign between VOL, V.

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these two-however that be, Amasis is allowed to be of plebeian extraction, and to have obtained this dignity by some unfair means. Perceiving that the people payed him with reluctance the respect due to his present station, he took a golden cistern, in which his guests were used to wash their feet, and ordered it to be melted down and cast into a God. This golden idol was set up in the most frequented part of the city, and all men payed honour and devotion to it. Amasis then called an assembly of the people, and told them the God they now worshipped was made of the vessel in which they had been used to wash their feet: his own case was the same -formerly he had been a mean and ignoble person; but being now their king, he expected to be honoured and obeyed as such. It was the custom of this prince to attend closely to business in the morning, and pass his evening in drinking and carousing with his friends. Some persons remonstrating with him on this, as being beneath his dignity, he answered, that as a bow always bent will surely lose its spring and elasticity, so a man always engaged in serious affairs would grow stupid and lose his senses; wherefore he would divide his time between pleasure and business. Before his elevation to royalty, this prince is said to have supported a life of riot and luxury by thieving. Of this he was often accused, and always denying his guilt, they used to take him to the oracle of whatever place he happened to be in, to decide upon his innocence, by which he was sometimes convicted, sometimes acquitted. When he came to the throne, mindful of the transactions of his former life, and of the falseness and ignorance of those oracles that had pronounced him innocent, when he knew himself guilty, he neglected the temples of such gods and refused them his offerings; while he revered the veracity of those that had convicted him.

Amasis built a portico to the temple of Minerva at Sais, very much famed for the vastness of its size, and the magnificence of the structure; but his most wonderful achievement was the removing from Elephantis to Sais a certain house, formed of a single stone: the exterior dimensions were twenty-one cubits in front, fourteen deep, and eight high: two thousand mariners were employed three years in transporting this extraordinary edifice. It stood near the entrance of the temple at Sais, but was never carried quite in, as had been intended. Two reasons are alledged for this

either that the chief engineer, having one day sighed as if he was tired of the work, was therefore forbidden by Amasis to have any more to do with it or that in rolling the mass towards the temple, a man had been killed by it, which made it unlawful to move it farther. Added to these, Amasis erected many enormous statues, and the temple of at Memphis. Egypt is said to have been extremely happy under this prince, and to have contained not less than 20,000 flourishing and populous cities-perhaps, therefore, this must be considered as the summit of Egyptian greatness, now on the very verge of decay and ruin. To preserve order in so immense a population, Amasis enacted the law that obliged every Egyptian to appear once a year before the governor of his particular province, to report of himself by what means he lived: death was the penalty of not appearing, or of being unable to give a good account of himself when there; wherefore Amasis is styled the fifth lawgiver of Egypt. He was a great friend to the Greeks, and was visited by Solon at his court, and encouraged them to trade on his coasts, and build temples to their own deities in his cities--this may account for the many remains of Grecian architecture found in Egypt. The prince also married a Greek, and sent in consequence many presents to their cities; among which it is mentioned that he sent to Cyrene a picture of himself done from the life. This is the first mention of a picture in Egyptian story: it possibly means an image; though the period of Grecian fame in painting was fast approaching. Added to all these glories, Ama. sis was the first who conquered Cyprus.

But brilliant as profane history has reported the reign of Amasis, it closed in misfortune and dishonour. Two nations were preparing to succeed to the preeminence Egypt had hitherto held among nations--one, the Assyrian, had already reached its height-the other, the Persian, was growing to it fast and both were preparing to absorb the kingdom of Egypt in their increasing power. Added to these, Amasis made himself a dangerous enemy near his shores by the following curious and unusual means. Hearing of the success and prosperity of his friend Polycrates, king of Samos, and fearing some reverse would come on him equal to his glory, Amasis wrote to him a letter in the following terms: “ Amasis to Polycrates speaketh thus : It is with pleasure I hear of the happy state of my friend and ally. Nevertheless I fear for thy great prosperities, knowing the unstableness of fortune. For my 'part, I should rather choose that my affairs, and those also of my friends, should be sometimes prosperous, and sometimes unhappy, than have them go on with continued success. Therefore do thou now hearken to my counsel, and do as I shall bid thee, to take away from thy happiness : consider with thyself what thou possessest of greatest value to thyself; and what would the most bitterly grieve thee if lost: and when thou hast found it, cast it away from thee, that so it may never more be beheld by man. If thy happiness after this knoweth no mixture of evil, preserve thyself against the sorrow that may come upon thee, by repeating the remedy I have shown thee." Extraordinary as was this method of averting sorrow, the advice seems to have been followed--for it is further related that when Amasis heard that in pursuance of his counsel Polycrates had thrown into the sea a very valuable signet, which, being swallowed by a fish, was found and restored to him, he considered him 'as the most unhappy of men, and fearing to share the misfortunes that must surely come on him, renounced at once his alliance, his friendship, and all obligations existing between them,

lest as a friend he should have to mourn his fall. Polycrates repaid this very generous sort of friendship by sending a fleet of ships to aid Cambyses in the invasion of Egypt. Amasis did not live to witness the result: dying after a reign of forty years, his body was embalmed and deposited in a sepulchre he had built for himself in the temple of Sais: but there the invaders did not long allow his ashes, or, according to Egyptian faith, his spirit, to repose. B.C. 525.

The reign of Psammenitus, the son of Amasis, was short and calamitous—the Persian was already at the door, and Egypt was to fall for the first time, as far as yet appears, under a foreign yoke. The suddenness of this fall is very remarkable ; but it was not without resistance, and a struggle frequently renewed, but unavailing. It is said that this invasion was preceded by a fearful prodigy, portentous of approaching ill-showers of rain fell at Thebes, where it had never been known to rain before. . Cambyses approached; in the first battle the Egyptians gave ground and fled to Memphis, where the king and his army were besieged and taken, and so was the kingdom lost. On the tenth day after, the captive prince and his nobility were sent into the suburbs of the city, to perform their part in the tragedy prepared. Being seated there, the king saw his daughter in the habit of a poor slave, with a pitcher in her hand to fetch water, followed by the daughters of the greatest families in Egypt, bound on the same errand, clothed in the same miserable garb. When the fathers looked upon their children in this painful degradation, they burst into tears, and could ill contain their agony ; but Psammenitus, who fixed his eyes in silence on the ground, and kept them there immoveable. When thèse had passed, there followed the son of Psammenitus and two thousand of the noblest Egyptian youths, with bits in their mouths and halters on their necks, going to be executed. While the outcries of the parents around him were renewed, Psammenitus observed the same

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