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- An Egyptian Princess, Volume 1. - 1/11 -


[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]

AN EGYPTIAN PRINCESS, Part 1.

By Georg Ebers

Volume 1.

THE HISTORICAL ROMANCES OF GEORG EBERS

Translated from the German by Eleanor Grove

PREFACE TO THE SECOND GERMAN EDITION

Aut prodesse volunt ant delectare poetae, Aut simul et jucunda et idonea dicere vitae. Horat. De arte poetica v. 333.

It is now four years since this book first appeared before the public, and I feel it my duty not to let a second edition go forth into the world without a few words of accompaniment. It hardly seems necessary to assure my readers that I have endeavored to earn for the following pages the title of a "corrected edition." An author is the father of his book, and what father could see his child preparing to set out on a new and dangerous road, even if it were not for the first time, without endeavoring to supply him with every good that it lay in his power to bestow, and to free him from every fault or infirmity on which the world could look unfavorably? The assurance therefore that I have repeatedly bestowed the greatest possible care on the correction of my Egyptian Princess seems to me superfluous, but at the same time I think it advisable to mention briefly where and in what manner I have found it necessary to make these emendations. The notes have been revised, altered, and enriched with all those results of antiquarian research (more especially in reference to the language and monuments of ancient Egypt) which have come to our knowledge since the year 1864, and which my limited space allowed me to lay before a general public. On the alteration of the text itself I entered with caution, almost with timidity; for during four years of constant effort as academical tutor, investigator and writer in those severe regions of study which exclude the free exercise of imagination, the poetical side of a man's nature may forfeit much to the critical; and thus, by attempting to remodel my tale entirely, I might have incurred the danger of removing it from the more genial sphere of literary work to which it properly belongs. I have therefore contented myself with a careful revision of the style, the omission of lengthy passages which might have diminished the interest of the story to general readers, the insertion of a few characteristic or explanatory additions, and the alteration of the proper names. These last I have written not in their Greek, but in their Latin forms, having been assured by more than one fair reader that the names Ibykus and Cyrus would have been greeted by them as old acquaintances, whereas the "Ibykos" and "Kyros" of the first edition looked so strange and learned, as to be quite discouraging. Where however the German k has the same worth as the Roman c I have adopted it in preference. With respect to the Egyptian names and those with which we have become acquainted through the cuneiform inscriptions, I have chosen the forms most adapted to our German modes of speech, and in the present edition have placed those few explanations which seemed to me indispensable to the right understanding of the text, at the foot of the page, instead of among the less easily accessible notes at the end.

The fact that displeasure has been excited among men of letters by this attempt to clothe the hardly-earned results of severer studies in an imaginative form is even clearer to me now than when I first sent this book before the public. In some points I agree with this judgment, but that the act is kindly received, when a scholar does not scorn to render the results of his investigations accessible to the largest number of the educated class, in the form most generally interesting to them, is proved by the rapid sale of the first large edition of this work. I know at least of no better means than those I have chosen, by which to instruct and suggest thought to an extended circle of readers. Those who read learned books evince in so doing a taste for such studies; but it may easily chance that the following pages, though taken up only for amusement, may excite a desire for more information, and even gain a disciple for the study of ancient history.

Considering our scanty knowledge of the domestic life of the Greeks and Persians before the Persian war--of Egyptian manners we know more--even the most severe scholar could scarcely dispense with the assistance of his imagination, when attempting to describe private life among the civilized nations of the sixth century before Christ. He would however escape all danger of those anachronisms to which the author of such a work as I have undertaken must be hopelessly liable. With attention and industry, errors of an external character may be avoided, but if I had chosen to hold myself free from all consideration of the times in which I and my readers have come into the world, and the modes of thought at present existing among us, and had attempted to depict nothing but the purely ancient characteristics of the men and their times, I should have become unintelligible to many of my readers, uninteresting to all, and have entirely failed in my original object. My characters will therefore look like Persians, Egyptians, &c., but in their language, even more than in their actions, the German narrator will be perceptible, not always superior to the sentimentality of his day, but a native of the world in the nineteenth century after the appearance of that heavenly Master, whose teaching left so deep an impression on human thought and feeling.

The Persians and Greeks, being by descent related to ourselves, present fewer difficulties in this respect than the Egyptians, whose dwelling- place on the fruitful islands won by the Nile from the Desert, completely isolated them from the rest of the world.

To Professor Lepsius, who suggested to me that a tale confined entirely to Egypt and the Egyptians might become wearisome, I owe many thanks; and following his hint, have so arranged the materials supplied by Herodotus as to introduce my reader first into a Greek circle. Here he will feel in a measure at home, and indeed will entirely sympathize with them on one important point, viz.: in their ideas on the Beautiful and on Art. Through this Hellenic portico he reaches Egypt, from thence passes on to Persia and returns finally to the Nile. It has been my desire that the three nations should attract him equally, and I have therefore not centred the entire interest of the plot in one hero, but have endeavored to exhibit each nation in its individual character, by means of a fitting representative. The Egyptian Princess has given her name to the book, only because the weal and woe of all my other characters were decided by her fate, and she must therefore be regarded as the central point of the whole.

In describing Amasis I have followed the excellent description of Herodotus, which has been confirmed by a picture discovered on an ancient monument. Herodotus has been my guide too in the leading features of Cambyses' character; indeed as he was born only forty or fifty years after the events related, his history forms the basis of my romance.

"Father of history" though he be, I have not followed him blindly, but, especially in the development of my characters, have chosen those paths which the principles of psychology have enabled me to lay down for myself, and have never omitted consulting those hieroglyphic and cuneiform inscriptions which have been already deciphered. In most cases these confirm the statements of Herodotus.

I have caused Bartja's murder to take place after the conquest of Egypt, because I cannot agree with the usually received translation of the Behistun inscription. This reads as follows: "One named Cambujiya, son of Curu, of our family, was king here formerly and had a brother named Bartiya, of the same father and the same mother as Cambujiya. Thereupon Cambujiya killed that Bartiya." In a book intended for general readers, it would not be well to enter into a discussion as to niceties of language, but even the uninitiated will see that the word "thereupon" has no sense in this connection. In every other point the inscription agrees with Herodotus' narrative, and I believe it possible to bring it into agreement with that of Darius on this last as well; but reserve my proofs for another time and place.

It has not been ascertained from whence Herodotus has taken the name Smerdis which he gives to Bartja and Gaumata. The latter occurs again, though in a mutilated form, in Justin.

My reasons for making Phanes an Athenian will be found in Note 90. Vol. I. This coercion of an authenticated fact might have been avoided in the first edition, but could not now be altered without important changes in the entire text. The means I have adopted in my endeavor to make Nitetis as young as possible need a more serious apology; as, notwithstanding Herodotus' account of the mildness of Amasis' rule, it is improbable that King Hophra should have been alive twenty years after his fall. Even this however is not impossible, for it can be proved that his descendants were not persecuted by Amasis.

On a Stela in the Leyden Museum I have discovered that a certain Psamtik, a member of the fallen dynasty, lived till the 17th year of Amasis' reign, and died at the age of seventy-five.

Lastly let me be permitted to say a word or two in reference to Rhodopis. That she must have been a remarkable woman is evident from the passage in Herodotus quoted in Notes 10, and 14, Vol. I., and from the accounts given by many other writers. Her name, "the rosy-cheeked one," tells us that she was beautiful, and her amiability and charm of manner are expressly praised by Herodotus. How richly she was endowed with gifts and graces may be gathered too from the manner in which tradition and fairy lore have endeavored to render her name immortal. By many she is said to have built the most beautiful of the Pyramids, the Pyramid of Mycerinus or Menkera. One tale related of her and reported by Strabo and AElian probably gave rise to our oldest and most beautiful fairy tale, Cinderella; another is near akin to the Loreley legend. An eagle, according to AElian--the wind, in Strabo's tale,--bore away Rhodopis' slippers while she was bathing in the Nile, and laid them at the feet of the king, when seated on his throne of justice in the open market. The little slippers so enchanted him that he did not rest until he had discovered their owner and made her his queen.

The second legend tells us how a wonderfully beautiful naked woman could be seen sitting on the summit of one of the pyramids (ut in una ex pyramidibus); and how she drove the wanderers in the desert mad through her exceeding loveliness.

Moore borrowed this legend and introduces it in the following verse:

"Fair Rhodope, as story tells--


An Egyptian Princess, Volume 1. - 1/11

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