Richard Lepsius.

Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai online

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iecidar learning, what we should call the eccact sciences,
which were indeed indispensable to the priests, but in them-
selves bore no theological character. These also were again
divided into two divisions ; of which the first, consisting of
ten books, belonged to the hierogrammatist^, and not alone
embraced the wide field of hieroglyphics, i. e. writing and

' See respecting this, Letronne. Translation of the 17th Book of
Strabo. (Ge'ographie de Strabon. t. i. Paris, 1819. p. 390.) Com-
pare the passage in Herodot. ii. 123, where, though not by name, he
accuses Pythagoras and Pherecydes of having ascribed to themselves
irhat tliey had borrowed from the Egyptians. The same was related
by some of Eudoxus. Diog. Laert. viii. 89.

' Strum, vi. p. 260, ed. Sylb. See also Bunsen JEgyptens Sielle in
der Weltgesch., Bd. i. p. 34, &c. {EgupCs Place in llnivasal History,
book i. p. 9.) H

3 Aelian. Hist. var. xiv. 34, says, that the Egyptians in ancient times
had priests as their judges.

* Clem. Strom, i. p. 131. ^ [Sacred Scribe.]

2 c2


drawing; but also all that fell witMu the department of
the measurement of space and of geometry, commencing
with the more general, cosmograpliy, universal geography,
the cliorograpliy of Egypt, and the course of the Nile ;
then, also consequent upon that, the topograpliy of the
temple- sites ; and lastly, the most local arrangements of
the furniture of the temple, as it were, or naograpliy. The
remaining four books, the ast7'oIogical, more properly called
by us the astronomical, were committed to a particular class
of scholars — the horoscopi, or time seers. This portion of
their science, so peculiarly important to the Egyptians, and
therefore kept distinct from the rest, entered into everything
that it was necessary to be acquainted with for the calcula-
tion of time, both in detail and on a large scale, therefore
more especially with the heavenly chronometers, the stars,
and indeed, above all, the position of the fixed stars (and the
constellations) ; then the arrangement of the planets (and
their revolutions), the conjunctions and phases of the sun
and moon ; lastly, the rising of the stars. The practical
purpose was indicated by the symbols of the horoscopes, the
horologium, and the palm-branch of the years and periods.

After the strict sciences, there followed the two books of
the Chanter. He represented the only art — at least, the
only one which was recognised as such, by its separate posi-
tion — that of onusic. Architecture and the art of drawing
were practised, and even with a feeling for art, but they had
not emancipated themselves as independent arts, from the
rule and line condition of the hierogrammatist. Even music,
which was apprehended, and came into the world for the
first time through the Greeks, was not considered by the
Egyptians as an independent art, in our sense of the word,
neither could it be regarded a science like drawing, as if it
were equally an efflux of the horoscopical chronology, to which
it was externally attached. It was on that account necessary
to keep them apart. We must, therefore, look upon the
chanter only as a precentor — a practical leader of the reli-


gious and festive songs. His two books contained hymns
to the gods, and (encomiastic-poetical) observations upon
the royal life, but only as the subject-matter of the religious
chorus. It cannot be known how far real music was here
brought into consideration ; but certainly the wSos had
nothing to do with the theological purport of his hymns —
information concerning this must be derived from the
prophets and the Stolist.

The contents of the last six books were medicinal, and
treated of the structure of tlie body, of diseases, the organs,
curatives, for the eyes especially, and of female cases. They
are assigned by Clemens, probably from a misunderstanding,
to the FastopTiori, i. e. the watchers of the temples^.

This survey of the forty-two ancient sacred books deserves
here especially, our full consideration, because it brings
clearly to light an intelligent, thoughtful, general view of

' The Pastophori do not appear in the train of the priests, and are
expressly separated from the priests (iepety) by Porphyrius. They
"were, as their name implies, the bearers of the small sacred chapels of
the gods which formed the principal furniture of the temple. That is
probably the reason why they appear in the great processions, where
the images of tlie gods were carried about, not as priests, but as
umler-officcrs of the temple; and they are, therefore, rightly placed by
Porphyrins along with the veoxopoi, the sweepers of the temple, and
the other servants of the temple {ynovpyoi). As bearers of the
sacred shrines they were also their watchmen, and, therefore, especially
the overseers of the temple, the watchmen of the temple ; therefore
their hieroglyphical sign, according to Horapollo, i. 41, is a house
•watchman, (pvKa^ o'ikov, because the temple is guarded by him,
Sia TO iTTo TovTov (^vXciTTfordai TO tepov. But what could the temple
•watchmen have had to do with medicine ? There is nowhere even
the most distant relation indicated between the pastophori and the
physicians; indeed, their occupations appear necessarily to exclude
them. I therefore believe that there is either some fundamental error,
or a false reading, in the passage of Clemens, which cannot yet be
solved. The pastophori were the principal under-oflScers, and there-
fore were united by their rank with the chanter, the lowest class of the
priests. Was this possibly the reason why the books of medicine,
which succeeded those of the chanter in this canon, were ascribed to
them? There were many more than fortj'-two sacred books, and they
must have all been lodged among the archives of the temple, without,
however, being assigned to any particular class of priests.


the universe, straining after inward perfection and con-
scious arrangement, and also the necessity of giving this a
prominent form by literature, and of introducing it practi-
cally into life. Proceeding from the general to the indi-
vidual, from the spiritual to the external, from the theoretical
to the practical, as well in the succession of the general sec-
tions as in the arrangement of the separate books, this code
forms a defined whole, which we nowhere find repeated
among any of the nations of antiquity, not even among the
Indians. Unfortunately, the ten first and most important
books, which contained their fundamental ideas on religion,
philosophy, and law, and therefore the highest and most
spiritual department of their contemplation, are not so fully
described as the following sections, as regards the detail of
their contents ; therefore the enumeration of the separate
branches of knowledge with which the hierogrammatists,
the real scholars, and the horoscopi, next to them, occupied
themselves, and which comprehended the whole visible and
measurable world, is so much the more worthy of our notice.
At the same time we must remember that in the con-
struction of this canon there was no intention of giving the
chief features of an encyclopaedia of their sciences. Every
scientific purpose was necessarily laid aside, only the
thoroughly practical aim of a sacerdotal compendium was
contemplated, in which learning only formed part of the
education of a priest, and merely occupied a third place after
theology and the liturgical forms, and was only represeiited
so far as a direct practical use could be obtained from it.
Philosophy was therefore not at all separated from theology ;
human law was only an efflux of divine law. The know-
ledge of geometry was necessary for the surveying of the
land, the division of the produce, the building and decoration
of the temples ; the knowledge of astronomy for the calendar
of festivals, and the civil calculation of time ; singing
formed a part of the Liturgy. jS'or is proof wanting that the
knowledge and literature of Egypt far siirpassed what was
required by the hierarchy, that the thirty-six or forty-two


books were also the earliest and original centre, to wliick
later progressive improvements might everywhere attach

We frequently read in other authors about the " Sacred
Writings^'' of the Egyptians, or of their Sermetic books,
but it would be wTong to refer all these notices to the forty-
two books named by Clemens. It seems to me by no means
improbable tliat the above-mentioned precepts on the life of
the king, in Diodorus, which for Egj'pt bear a thoroughly
classical stamp on them, formed a portion of the sacred law-
books of tlie prophets, and that the laudatory song upon the
deceased king, mentioned at the end of that passage, might
have been composed in imitation of the eKXoyto-/x6s /3acrtXtKo5
^iov, in the last of the thirty-six books, and have only been
employed in the last case. But it is not to be supposed
the forty-two books themselves contained separate laudatory
songs on particular kings, although such songs, understood
in a wider sense, certainly belonged to the sacred books.

We read in the same passage of Diodorus, that wise say-
ings and actions of the most distinguished men were read
aloud to the king after the sacrifice by the hierogrammatist
from the " Sacred Books," in rav Upcov /3i/3Xtoi/. We still pos-
sess ancient pap}Ti which contain proverbs of a similar kind,
some of them even put into the mouths of certain celebrated
kings belonging to the Old Monarchy, such as Amenemha I.,
the head of the 12th Dynasty-, resembling somewhat in their
form the proverbs of Solomon. For the sake of the reader,
and the one who reads out loud, they are divided by red points
recurring at nearly stated intervals into short verses, accord-
ing to the sentences, like the Hebrew scriptures. But these
could not have belonged to the ten rolls of the hierogram-
matists, nor to the priests' canon in general.

It were more easy to suppose that the first book of the singer

' [Diod. i. 70, 73, 96.]

^ 1 speak here of the first section of the Papyrus of Sallier, No. 2,
which is communicated in tlie Select Papyri in the hieratic character^
from the collection of the British Museum. London. 1844. PI. x. — xii.


may have consisted of single hymns and prayers addressed to
particular divinities, such as we still possess several instances
of, e. g. to Ea, Amen Ea, Mut^, to Thoth-, to Osiris^, Atmu^,
&c., yet probably it likewise only contained the daily litanies,
which belonged to every temple service, and which were also
expressly mentioned*. I can as little agree with the opinion^
that the great Book of the Dead of the Egyptians was one of
the ten books of the Stolistes, although I consider it to be also^
a sacred book ascribed to Hermes. Even its extent forbids
the former supposition. And, moreover, it is by no means a
liturgical book, which one belonging to the Stolistes must
have been, nor a book of Eituals, as ChampoUion appears to
have regarded it, but essentially a history of the soul after
death, therefore it was placed in the tomb with the deceased.
The theological basis of this work, however, was undoubtedly
included in the hieratical books of the prophets.

Bunseu^ justly makes a distinction between the civil law-
book, and the sacred law-books of the prophets. It was
impossible that the regulations and precepts of the six law-
givers, who are mentioned by Diodorus^, could have been re-
ceived into the canon, this can only be supposed of the most
ancient portion of them — the laws of Menes, which were
ascribed to Hermes by himself, and probably were the foun-
dation both of the religious and of the civil law.

"We shall now more easily understand why still less space
was afforded in the canon of Clemens for the historical litera-

' I procured in Thebes a number of such hymns for the Eoyal
Museum at Berlin. Several of them were composed in the reign of
King Ramses IX., in the 20th Dynasty. There was a hymn to Amen-
Ra, upon a roll of eleven pages, in the Egyptian collection of JSIr.
Sams in London, 1839.

* Upon a wooden tablet covered with fine white chalk, in the British

3 In the Book of the Dead, c. 128, 134, 139, &c. [Plut. de Is. c. 52.]

*■ Porphvr. de ahst. iv. 8.

5 Bunsen, Bd. i. p. 55. {Eg.'s PI. m Un. Hist. bk. i. p. 28.)

^ See my introduction to the Todtenbtiche der j^gypter. Leipzig,
1842, p. 17.

7 Bd. i. p. 47. (E(/.'s PL in Un. Hist. bk. i. p. 20.)

» i. 94, 95.


tare. It presented neither a speculative nor a practical side
to the object which Egyptian theology had in view, and re-
garded in this light, therefore, it must appear subordinate.
But on that account it no less existed. This is proved as well
by the authors^ themselves as by the original remains, which.
we still possess. Historical facts of aU kinds, related both
by means of pictures and writings, covered the walls of the
temples in the principal towns; single battles and whole
wars were described, with their exact dates, and with all the
living details of an eye-witness, upon the stone surfaces of the
pylons and the surrounding walls. As long as these lasted,
the remembrance of those actions must have remained li\dng
and true in the mind of every cultivated Egyptian. And, in
fact, we find these representations at a late period used as a
direct authority in history.

Tacitus- recounts to us the visit of Germanicus to tlie
" great remains of ancient Thehes. And Egyptian inscrip-
tions icere stiU extant upon the enormous buildings ichich
declared the former onches. One of the most distinguished
of the priests, icho icas required to explain the language of
the country, related, that at one time 700,000 7nen, capable
of bearing arms, dwelt here, and that King Ramses loith this
army had conquered Libya, Ethiopia, the Medes and Persians,
the Bactrians, and Scythians, and that he held under his
dominions the countries of the Syrians, the Armenians, and
the neighbouring Cappadocians, and thence to the Bithynian
and the Lycian Sea ; the tribute laid upon the people ivas also
read aloud, the iceight of the silver and gold, the number of the
weapons and horses, and the presents to the temple, of ivory
and frankincense, and how much corn and other objects had
been remitted by each nation, which was not less than what
is now imposed upon the people by the might of the Barthians,
or the power of the Bomans.^^

This is as strictly an historical notice from the reign of

Eamscs II., in the fourteenth century before Christ, as was

ever related to us by the Greeks from the life of Xerxes or

Alexander : for we read this statement now in the present day

' [Tatian. or. ad Grcec. c. 1.] ^ Annal. ii. 60.


upon the same walls, before wliich Grermanicus stood "with
wonderiug eyes. The Greeks and Eomans seldom derived
their knowledge from such a direct source as Germani-
cus did here, and Tacitus was quite unconscious that he was
speaking of the same King Eamses, when shortly before he
related of King Sesostris, that the bird called the Phoenix ap-
peared for the first time in his reign. AVe stni read the
name Eamses upon the monuments, as the priest read it to
Germanicus ; Sesostris was the name of Sethos I., who was
so often confused with his son Eamses, and was carried down
by a Greek mistake, siuce the time of Herodotus (ceecocic,
cecococic, COCCOCTpic).

"Who can well doubt that along with such a historical
literature engraven in stone, which to this day fills the
whole of Egypt from Alexandria to Mount Barkal, far in
Ethiopia, a corresponding historical hook literature must
have existed, of course much richer and more complete,
even though we may not be able at present to point out the
remains of it. But in fact we still possess papyrus rolls,
one of which accidentally refers to the identical warlike
deeds represented, with their annotations, upon the walls
of the Theban temple. This is one of the important docu-
ments which the British Museum purchased in the year
1839 from M. Sallier, in Aix, after Champollion had already,
in the year 1828, recognised and communicated several pas-
sages in it which related to the war of the great Eamses
against the people of Cheta^. In 1838 I found at Leghorn,
in a collection of Egyptian antiquities belonging to M.
D'Anastasi, a series of papyri very similar to this, which
mention other warlike features of that glorious period. They
appear to come originally from the same tomb as those of
Sallier, since they proceed, partly, indeed, from the same

^ Champollion, Lettres ecrites dEgypte et de Nubie, p. 21, 426.
After the death of Champollion, Salvolini made use of the privately
withheld papers of his master for a particular treatise : Campagne de
Ramses-Ie- Grand (Sesostris) contre les Schela et leurs allies. Manuscrit
hieratique appurtenant a M. Sallier a Aix. en Provence. Notice sur ce MS.
Paris, 1835, 8.


Bcribe. Other similar pieces are found in the Egyptian col-
lections at Turin, Leyden, and Berlin.

It is evident, partly from the express date of the author or
scribe, partly from the kings mentioned in the text, that
the largest proportion of them belong to the 19th Dynasty.
The most ancient date in the London papyrus is from the
ninth year of the Great Eamses II. ; the latest is from the
first year of King Set-Xecht, the third successor of tlie
former. The Turin Eoyal Annals 'also belong to this or
the next DxTiasty. Other papyri are certainly not older
than the 20th ; e. g. one of those which I obtained in Thebes
repeatedly mentions the name of Eamses IX., and is dated,
upon the reverse side, from the 13th of Pachon — the six-
teenth year, probably, of this king.

Another of these rolls contains, on the other hand, a por-
tion of a composition which belongs to the time of Tutmes
III., the conqueror of the Hyksos in the 18th D>Tiasty ; a
roll in Turin treats of the same king. We have as little
reason to doubt that the first paragraph in the Pap. Sallier,
No. 1, pi. i. — iii., which treats of two kings at the end of the
Hyksos period, was also composed in their time, or soon after
their death.

Two remarkable papyrus rolls, which I obtained in Lon-
don for the Berlin Museum, mention the first kings of the
12th D.ynasty, Amenemha I. and Sesuetesen I. Their
writing is very different from the rest of those that I am
acquainted with, and they belong to the very rare exceptions
which, in place of horizontal lines, are written in vertical
columns, after the manner of hieroglyphical writing ; so that
it would not surprise me, if by penetrating more deeply into
the contents, the result should be, that they were composed,
even this very copy, during the Old Monarchy. But the
most ancient of all* the hieratic royal namcG are found in a
papyrus in my own possession^. Here the name of Chuftj

' I am indebted for this valuable present to an English lady. Miss
Westear, who had deposited it a long time ago in the Bodleian Library^
Oxford. It contains nine sides, of which, unhappily, the first four are

396 iNTEODrcTio>-

(Cheops) is frequentlv mentioned, also King S>'efett in
the 3rd Manethonic Dynasty, and three other kings, who
probahly belong to the same Dynasty. These kings are,
indeed, all cited as dead, but since the whole of them belonged
to that ancient period, its contents could hardly be placed
much later. Among a people who were at all times sur-
rounded by so many contemporaneous monuments and his-
torical authorities, reaching as far back as their first royal
Dynasties, it must have been generally much more difficult to
supplant, or essentially to alter the existing genuine history
of ancient times by fabulous tales and poetical inventions of
later times.

In spite of the astonishing number of monuments, and in
spite of the rich literature, whose original remains are con-
firmed by the accounts we find in different authors, it would,
however, have been impossible to the Egyptians themselves,
how much more so to us, to obtain a correct and clear insight
into the course and connection of their history, if from its
commencement a chronological sense had not been so early
developed among them. Witliout chronology we should ob-
tain no history, even from the most varied literature ; the
Indians, especially, give us a striking proof of this. History
first obtains a perfect self-consciousness through chronology.
With the growmg civilisation of a people, the necessity in-
creases for a sharper division of time both in small and
large periods. From the earliest era of their history, the
Egyptians have known how to satisfy this necessity, inherent
in every higher state of civilisation.

But a chronology which is well arranged and established
must always proceed from astronomy. "VVe cannot conceive
the existence of the former, in any nation, without the latter
being to a certain degree developed. It will not, therefore,
appear superfluous if we enter here more minutely into the

very much destroyed. The remainder, also, is very hastily -written, and
is therefore difficult to deciplier. It appears to be poetical, and to be
addressed to a king, whose name unfortunately is lost ; the example
" of his ancestors," Chufu, Snefru Ser, &.c. is held up to him.


astronomical knowledge of the Eg^-ptians, before we turn our
attention to their computation of time. We shall here, also,
commence with the information we obtain from authors, and
afterwards see how far it is confirmed and completed by the

[Tiie author here proceeds to the astronomical basis of
Egyptian chronology, and the chronological knowledge pos-
sessed by the Egyptians, and concludes his Introduction with
the following words :]

Takinj^ a retrospective survey of the path we have hitherto
pursued in our discussions, I believe I have essentially ful-
filled the task we undertook at the commencement, namely,
to point out the i^ossihility of the existence of such an early
history of Egypt.

AVe have seen how, contrasted with the most ancient
Asiatic nations, the Egyptians (pre-eminently favoured by
their climatal and geographical conditions) were destined,
as it were by nature, to be a monumental nation. These
external conditions correspond with the innate bias of their
feelings, which is shown by the innumerable multitude of
their monuments, and by the extreme care they bestowed
upon their preservation. From their desire to retain the
fleeting present, may be explained the early development
of their system of writing (so rich and significant in its
organism, owing to its important origin), as well as the ex-
cessive use which was made of this writing, especially for
the monuments, beyond any other nations of antiquity, so
that it soon attained its highest destination by its applica-
tion to a many-sided book literature. "We have been able
to refer to a Theban library as early as the fourteenth cen-
tury before Christ, and have found reason for considering it
neither the most ancient, nor the only one in Egypt, It was
this very ancient literature and hereditary learning, which
a later antiquity, and more particularly the Greeks, abun-
dantly acknowledged, praised, sought out, and studied. Among
the various branches of knowledge we have surveyed, espe-
cially the sacred codes of the priests — the forty-two Hermetic


"books described by Clemens, we have however particularly
attempted, to indicate more closely from the monuments, the
early study of astronomy, because the arrival at a more fixed
chronology depends especially upon its development. We
have likewise endeavoured to point out that, under the
favourable circumstances of an Egyptian sky, and especially
since the introduction of the variable sun-calendar (calcu-
lating as it were, and forming periods for itself), astronomy
was cultivated in the most elaborate and most complete
manner, and this we have been able partly to confirm by the
monuments of the 4th and 12th Dynasties of the Old Mo-
narchy. "We have discovered a division of time, less than an
hour, to the sixty times sixtieth part of a minute, and above
an hour to the period of 36,525 years. Between these there
were the greatest variety of cycles, such as no other ancient
nation, except the Eg}^ptian, has been able to produce in
equal perfection. They were acquainted with the civil hours
of day and night, also with the twenty-four equal or equi-