A. S. (Angelo Solomon) Rappoport.

History of Egypt from 330 B.C. to the present time online

. (page 2 of 22)
Online LibraryA. S. (Angelo Solomon) RappoportHistory of Egypt from 330 B.C. to the present time → online text (page 2 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

features, not less interesting for the Greek mind than
that of Egypt itself, with which Hellenism found itself
face to face in the ancient land of the Pharaohs. It was
the civilisation of Judaea, between which and Greek
thought a greater fusion was effected.


From time immemorial the Hebrew race, with all its
conservative tendencies in religious matters, has been
amenable to the influence of foreign culture and civili-
sation. Egypt and Phoenicia, Babylonia and Assyria,
Hellas and Rome have exercised an immense influence
over it. It still is and always has been endeavouring to
bring into harmony the exclusiveness of its national
religion, with a desire to adopt the habits, cultm^e, lan-
guage, and manners of its neighbours; an attempt in


wMcli it may be apparently successful, for a certain
period at least, but which must always have a tragic end.
It is impossible to be conservative and progressive at
the same time, to be both national and cosmopolitan.
The attempts to reconcile religious formalism and free
reasoning have never succeeded in the history of human
thought. It soon led to the conviction that one factor
must be sacrificed, and, as soon as this was perceived,
the party of zealots was quickly at hand to preach reac-
tion. In the times of the successors of Alexander, the
Diadochse and Epigones, the Seleucidae and the Lagidse,
who had divided the vast dominion among them, Greek
influence had spread aU over Palestine. Greek towns
were founded, theatres and gymnasia established; Greek
art was admired and her philosophy studied. The Hel-
lenic movement was paramount, and the aristocratic
families did their best to further it. Even the high
priests, like Jason and Menelaos, who were supposed to
be the guardians of the national exclusive movement,
favoured Greek culture and institutions.

In the mother country, however, the germ of reaction
was always very strong. A constant opposition was
directed against the influx of foreign modes of life and
thought, which effaced and obliterated the intellectual
movement. It was different, however, in the other
coimtries of Macedonian dominion, and especially in
Egypt. Alexander the Great, who seems to have been
favourably inclined towards the Jews, settled a mrniber
of them in Alexandria. His policy was kept up by the
descendants of Lagos, that great general of Alexander,


who made himself king of the province which was en-
trusted to the care of his administration. Egypt became
the resort of many refugees from Judaea, who gradually
came under the influence of the dazzling Greek thought
and culture, so new and therefore so attractive to the
Semitic mind. Hellenism and Hebraism had known each
other for some time, for Phoenician merchants and sea-
farers had carried the seed of Oriental wisdom to the
distant west. The acquaintance, however, was a slight
one. At the court of the Ptolemies, on the threshold of
Europe and Asia, they met at last. On the shores of the
Mediterranean, on the soil where lay the traces of the
ancient Egyptian civilisation, in the silent avenues of
mysterious sphinxes, amongst hieroglyphic-covered obe-
lisks, Greek and Hebrew thought stood face to face. The
two civilisations embodied the principles of the Beautiful
and the Sublime, of Morality and ^stheticism, of relig-
ious and philosophic speculation. The result of this
meeting marks a glorious page in the annals of human
thought. Among the monuments of a great historic past,
the speculative spirit of the Bast made love to the plastic
beauty of the West, until, at last, they were imited in
happy union. Hellenic taste and sense of beauty and
Semitic speculation not only evolved side by side in
Egypt but mixed and commingled; their thoughts were
intertwined and interwoven, giving rise to a new intel-
lectual movement, a new philosophy of thought: the
Judseo-HeUenic. Alexandrian culture, during the reign
of the Ptolemies, is the offspring of a mixed marriage
between two parents belonging to two widely different


races, and, as a cross breed, is endowed with many quali-
ties. It had the seriousness of the one parent and the
delicacy of the other.

The Ptolemies encouraged the movement towards fu-
sion. The result was that the Jews in Egypt, not being
hampered by reactionary endeavours from the side of
conservative parties, and with an adaptability peculiar
to their race, soon acquired the language of the people
in whose midst they dwelt. They conversed and wrote in
Greek; they moulded and shaped their own thoughts
into Glreek form; they clothed the Semitic mode of think-
ing in Hellenic garb. The immediate result was the trans-
lation of the Pentateuch into Greek. Vanity, of which
no individual or race is free, had embellished this literary
production, which has acquired a high degree of impor-
tance alike among Jews and Christians, with many
legends. This translation, known as the Septuaginta
(LXX), was followed by independent histories relating
to Biblical events. One of the best known authors is the
chronographer Demetrius, who lived in the second half
of the third century, and whose work Flavins Josephus
is supposed to have utilised. Not to speak of the Greek
authors in Judaea and Sjrria, we may mention Artapanos,
who, following the fashion of the day, wrote history in
the form of a romance, and showed traces of an apolo-
getic character. He endeavoured to attribute all that
was great in Egyptian civilisation to Moses. This was
due to the fact that Manetho, the Egyptian historian, and
others following his example, had spread fables and ven-
omous tales about the ancient sojourn and exodus of the


Hebrews and their leader. To counterbalance these ac-
cusations, fables bad to be interwoven into history, and
history became romance. Moses was thus identified with
Hermes, and made out to be the father of Egyptian wis-
dom. But, if the close acquaintanceship of Hebraism
and Hellenism began with a mere flirtation, encouraged
by the rulers of the land and kept up by the Jews, who
wished to gain the favour of the conquering race and
to show themselves and their history in as favourable
a light as possible, it soon ended in a serious attachment.
The Hebrews made themselves acquainted with Hellenic
life and thought. They studied Homer and Hesiod, Em-
pedocles and Parmenides, Plato and Aristotle, and they
were startled by the discovery that in Greek thought
there were many elements, moral and religious, familiar
to them: this enhanced the attraction. The narrowness
and exclusiveness to which strict nationality always
gives rise, engendering contempt and hatred for every-
thing foreign— which made even the Greeks, with all
their intellectual culture, draw a line of 'demarcation
between Greek and barbarian— gave way to a spirit of
cosmopolitan breadth of view which has only very rarely
been equalled in history. Hellenic and Hebrew forms
of thought were brought into friendly union, and gave
birth to ideas and aspirations of which humanity may
always be proud. Greek aesthetic judgment and Semitic
mysticism, different phases of thought in themselves,
were welded into one. The religious conceptions of
Moses and the Prophets were expressed in the language
of the philosophical schools; an attempt was made to


bring into harmony the dogmas of supernatural revela-
tion and the fruits of human speculative thought. Such
an attempt is a great undertaking, for, if sincerely and
relentlessly pursued, it must end in breaking down the
barriers of separation, in the establishment of a common
truth, and in the sacrifice of cherished ideals and con-
victions which prove to be wrong. If carried to its log-
ical conclusion, such a cosmopolitan broad-mindedness,
such a cross-fertilisation of intellectual products, must
give rise to the ennobling idea that there is only one
truth, and that the external forms are only fleeting waves
upon the vast ocean of human ideals. The attempt was
made in Alexandria by the Judseo-HeUenic philosophers.
Unfortunately, however, the Hebrews, with aU their
adaptability, have not yet carried this attempt to its
logical conclusion. The spirit of reaction has ever and
anon been ready to crush in its infancy the endeavour of
truth and sincerity, of broad-mindedness and tolerance.
When placed before the question to be or not to be, to
be logical or iUogical, it has chosen the latter, and
striven after the impossible: the reconciliation of what
cannot be reconciled without alterations, rejections, and
selections. The happy marriage of Hellenism and He-
braism in Egypt had a tragic end. The union was dis-
solved, not, however, without having produced its issue:
the Alexandrian culture, which was carried to Rome
by Philo Judseus, and thus influenced later European
thought and humanity at large.




Alexander the Great. — Cleomenes. — B. C. 332-323

THE way for the
Grecian con-
quest of Egypt had
been preparing for
many years. Ever
since the memora-
ble march of Xeno-
phon, who led, in
the face of un-
known difficulties,
ten t housand
Greeks across Asia
Minor, the Greek
statesman had sus-
pected that the Hellenic soldier was capable
of undreamed possibilities.



When the young Alexander, succeeding his father
Philip on the throne of Macedonia, got himself appointed
general by the chief of the Greek states, and marched
against Darius Codomanus, King of Persia, at the head
of the allied armies, it was not difficult to foresee the
result. The Greeks had learned the weakness of the Per-
sians by having been so often hired to fight for them.
For a century past, every Persian army had had a body
of ten or twenty thousand Greeks in the van, and with-
out this guard the Persians were like a flock of sheep
without the shepherd's dog. Those Cjomitries which had
trusted to Greek mercenaries to defend them could
hardly help falling when the Greek states united for
their conquest.

Alexander defeated the Persians under Darius in a
great and memorable battle near the town of Issus at
the foot of the Taurus, at the pass which divides Syria
from Asia Minor, and then, instead of marching upon
Persia, he turned aside to the easier conquest of 'Egypt.
On his way there he spent seven months in the siege of
the wealthy city of Tyre, and he there punished with
death every man capable of carrying arms, and made
slaves of the rest. He was then stopped for some time
before the little town of Gaza, where Batis, the brave
governor, had the courage to close the gates against the
Greek army. His angry fretfulness at being checked
by so small a force was only equalled by his cruelty when
he had overcome it; he tied Batis by the heels to his
chariot, and dragged him round the walls of the city, as
Achilles had dragged the body of Hector.


On the seventh day after leaving Gaza he reached Pe-
lusium, the most easterly town in Egypt, after a march
of one hundred and seventy miles along the coast of the
Mediterranean, through a parched, glaring desert which
forms the natural boundary of the coimtry; while the
fleet kept close to the shore to carry the stores for the
army, as no fresh water is to be met with on the line of
march. The Egyptians did not even try to hide their
joy at his approach; they were bending very lui willingly
imder the heavy and hated yoke of Persia. The Persians
had long been looked upon as their natural enemies, and
in the pride of their success had added insults to the other
evils of being governed by the satrap of a conqueror.
They had not even gained the respect of the conquered
by their warlike courage, for Egypt had in a great part
been conquered and held by Greek mercenaries.

The Persian forces had been mostly withdrawn from
the country by Sabaces, the satrap of Egypt, to be led
against Alexander in Asia Minor, and had formed part
of the army of Darius when he was beaten near the town
of Issus on the coast of Cilicia. The garrisons were not
strong enough to guard the towns left in their charge;
the Greek fleet easUy overpowered the Egyptian fleet in
the harbour of Pelusium, and the town opened its gates
to Alexander. Here he left a garrison, and, ordering his
fleet to meet him at Memphis, he marched along the riv-
er's bank to Heliopolis. All the towns, on his approach,
opened their gates to him. Mazakes, who had been left
without an army, as satrap of Egypt, when Sabaces led
the troops into Asia Minor, and who had heard of the


death of Sabaces, and that Alexander was master of Phoe-
nicia, Syria, and the north of Arabia, had no choice but
to yield. The Macedonian army crossed the Nile near
Heliopolis, and then entered Memphis.

Memphis had long been the chief city of all Egypt,
even when not the seat of government. In earlier ages,
when the warlike virtues of the Thebans had made Egypt
the greatest kingdom in the world, Memphis and the low-
land corn-fields of the Delta paid tribute to Thebes; but,
with the improvements in navigation, the cities on the
coast rose in importance ; the navigation of the Red Sea,
though always dangerous, became less dreaded, and
Thebes lost the toll on the carrying trade of the Nile.
Wealth alone, however, would not have given the sov-
ereignty to Lower Egypt, had not the Greek mercenaries
been at hand to fight for those who would pay them. The
kings of Sais had guarded their thrones with Greek
shields ; and it was on the rash but praiseworthy attempt
of Amasis to lessen the power of these mercenaries that
they joined Cambyses, and Egypt became a Persian prov-
ince. In the struggles of the Egyptians to throw off the
Persian yoke, we see little more than the Athenians and
Spartans carrying on their old quarrels on the coasts and
plains of the Delta; and the Athenians, who counted
their losses by ships, not by men, said that in their vic-
tories and defeats together Egypt had cost them two
hundred triremes. Hence, when Alexander, by his suc-
cesses in Greece, had put a stop to the feuds at home,
the mercenaries of both parties flocked to his conquering
standard, and he found himself on the throne of Upper




and Lower Egypt without any struggle being made
against him by the Egyptians. The Greek part of the
population, who had been living in Egypt as foreigners,
now found themselves masters. Egypt became at once a
Greek kingdom, as though the blood and language of
the people were changed at the conqueror's bidding.

Alexander's character as a triumphant general gains
little from this easy conquest of an unwarlike country,
and the overthrow of a crumbling monarchy. But as the
founder of a new Macedonian state, and for reuniting
the scattered elements of society in Lower Egypt after
the Persian conquest, in the only form in which a gov-
ernment could be made to stand, he deserves to be placed

among the least mischievous of
conquerors. We trace his march,
not by the ruin, misery, and anar-
chy which usually follow in the rear
of an army, but by the building
of new cities, the more certain ad-
ministration of justice, the revival
of trade, and the growth of learn-
ing. On reaching Memphis, his
first care was to -prove to the Egyp-
tians that he was come to re-estab-
lish their ancient monarchy. He
went in state to the temple of Apis,
and sacrificed to the sacred bull,
as the native kings had done at their coronations; and
gained the good-will of the crowd by games and music,
performed by skilful Greeks for their amusement.



But thougli the temple of Phtah at Memphis, in
which the state ceremonies were performed, had risen in
beauty and importance by the repeated additions of the
later kings, who had fixed the seat of government in
Lower Egypt, yet the Sun, or Amon-Ra, or Kneph-Ra,
the god of Thebes, or Jupiter- Ammon, as he was called
by the Greeks, was the god under whose spreading wings
Egypt had seen its proudest days. Every Egyptian king
had called himself " the son of the Sun; " those who had
reigned at Thebes had boasted that they were " beloved
by Amon-Ra; " and when Alexander ordered the ancient
titles to be used towards himself, he wished to lay his
offerings in the temple of this god, and to be acknowl-
edged by the priests as his son. As a reader of Homer,
and the pupil of Aristotle, he must have wished to see
the wonders of " Egyptian Thebes," the proper place
for this ceremony; and it could only have been because,
as a general, he had not time for a march of five hundred
miles, that he chose the nearer and less known temple of
Kneph-Ra, in the oasis of Ammon, one hundred and
eighty miles from the coast.

Accordingly, he floated down the river from Memphis
to the sea, taking with him the light-armed troops and
the royal band of knights-companions. When he reached
Canopus, he sailed westward along the coast, and landed
at Rhacotis, a small village on the spot where Alexandria
now stands. Here he made no stay; but, as he passed
through it, he must have seen at a glance, for he was
never there a second time, that the place was formed by
nature to be a great harbour, and tha^t with a little help


from art it would be the port of all Egypt. The mouths
of the Nile were too shallow for the ever increasing size
of the merchant vessels which were then being built; and
the engineers found the deeper water which was wanted,
between the village of Rhacotis and the little island of
Pharos. It was all that he had seen and admired at Tyre,
but it was on a larger scale and with deeper water. It
was the very spot that he was in search of; in every way
suitable for the Greek colony which he proposed to found
as the best means of keeping Egypt in obedience. Even
before the time of Homer, the island of Pharos had
given shelter to the Greek traders on that coast. He
gave his orders to Dinocrates the architect to improve
the harbour, and to lay down the plan of his new city;
and the success of the undertaking proved the wisdom
both of the statesman and of the builder, for the city
of Alexandria subsequently became the most famous of
all the commercial and intellectual centres of antiquity.

From Rhacotis Alexander marched along the coast to
Parjetonium, a distance of about two hundred miles
through the desert; and there, or on his way there, he
was met by the ambassadors from Gyrene, who were sent
with gifts to beg for peace, and to ask him to honour
their city with a visit. Alexander graciously received
the gifts of the Cyrenseans, and promised them his friend-
ship, but could not spare time to visit their city; and,
without stopping, he turned southward to the oasis.

At Memphis Alexander received the ambassadors that
came from Greece to wish him joy of his success; he
reviewed his troops, and gave out his plans for the


government of the kingdom. He threw bridges of boats
over the Nile at the ford below Memphis, and also over
the several branches of the river. He divided the coimtry
into two nomarchies or judgeships, and to fill these two
offices of nomarchs or chief judges, the highest civil
offices in the kingdom, he chose Doloaspis and Petisis,
two Egyptians. Their duty was to watch over the due
administration of justice, one in Upper and the other in
Lower Egypt, and perhaps to hear appeals from the lower

He left the garrisons in the command of his own
Greek generals; Pantaleon commanded the counts, or
knights-companions, who garrisoned Memphis, and Pole-
mon was governor of Pelusium. These were the chief
fortresses in the kingdom: Memphis overlooked the
Delta, the navigation of the river, and the pass to Upper
Egypt; Pelusium was the harbour for the ships of war,
and the frontier town on the only side on which Egypt
could be attacked. The other cities were given to other
governors; Licidas commanded the mercenaries, Peu-
cestes and Balacrus the other troops, Eugnostus was
secretary, while ^schylus and Ephippus were left as
overlookers, or perhaps, in the language of modem gov-
ernments, as civil commissioners. ApoUonius was made
prefect of Libya, of which district Parsetonium was the
capital, and Cleomenes prefect of Arabia at Heroopohs,
in guard of 'that frontier. Orders were given to all these
generals that justice was to be administered by the Egyp-
tian nomarchs according to the common law or ancient
customs of the land. Petisis, however, either never


entered upon his office or soon quitted it, and Doloaspis
was left nomarch of all Egypt.

Alexander sent into the Thebaid a body of seven thou-
sand Samaritans, whose quarrels with the Jews made
them wish to leave their own country. He gave them
lands to cultivate on the banks of the Nile which had
gone out of cultivation with the gradual decline of Upper
Egypt; and he employed them to guard the province
against invasion or rebellion. He did not stay in Egypt
longer than was necessary to give these orders, but
hastened towards the Euphrates to meet Darius. In his
absence Egypt remained quiet and happy. Peucestes
soon followed him to Babylon with some of the troops
that had been left in Egypt; and Cleomenes, the gov-
ernor of Heroopolis, was then made collector of the taxes
and prefect of Egypt. Cleomenes was a bad man; he
disobeyed the orders sent from Alexander on the Indus,
and he seems to have forgotten the mild feelings which
guided his master; yet, upon the whole, after the galling
yoke of the Persians, the Egyptians must have felt grate-
ful for the blessings of justice and good government.

At one time, when passing through the Thebaid in
his barge on the Nile, Cleomenes was wrecked, and one
of his children bitten by a crocodile. On this plea, he
called together the priests, probably of Crocodilopolis,
where this animal was held sacred, and told them that
he intended to revenge himself upon the crocodiles by
having them all caught and kUled; and he was only
bought off from carrying his threat into execution by the
priests giving him all the treasure that they could get


together. Alexander had left orders that the great
market should be moved from Canopus to his new city
of Alexandria, as soon as it should be ready to receive
it. As the buUding went forward, the priests and rich
traders of Canopus, in alarm at losing the advantages
of their port, gave Cleomenes a large sum of money for
leave to keep their market open. This sum he took, and,
when the building at Alexandria was finished, he again
came to Canopus, and because the traders would not or
could not raise a second and larger sum, he carried Alex-
ander's orders into execution, and closed the market of
their city.

But instances such as these, of a public officer making
use of dishonest means to increase the amount of the
revenue which it was his duty to collect, might unfor-
tunately be found even in countries which were for the
most part enjoying the blessings of wise laws and good
government; and it is not probable that, while Alexander
was with the army in Persia, the acts of fraud and wrong
should have been fewer in his own kingdom of Mace-
donia. The dishonesty of Cleomenes was indeed equally
shown toward the Macedonians, by his wish to cheat
the troops out of part of their pay. The pay of the sol-
diers was due on the first day of each month, but on that
day he took care to be out of the way, and the soldiers
were paid a few days later; and by doing the same on
each following month, he at length changed the pay-day
to the last day of the month, and cheated the army out
of a whole month's pay.

Another act for which Cleomenes was blamed was not



SO certainly wrong. One summer, wlien the harvest had
been less plentiful than usual, he forbade the export of
grain, which was a large part of the trade of Egypt,
thereby lowering the price to the poor so far as they
could afford to purchase such costly food, but injuring
the landowners. On this, the heads of the provinces sent
to him in alarm, to say that they should not be able to
get in the usual amount of tribute ; he therefore allowed


the export as usual, but raised the duty; and he was
reproached for receiving a larger revenue while the land-

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryA. S. (Angelo Solomon) RappoportHistory of Egypt from 330 B.C. to the present time → online text (page 2 of 22)