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- An Egyptian Princess, Volume 1. - 3/11 -
journey to the Nile, for which I was preparing while correcting the proof-sheets of the third edition, and on which I can look back with special satisfaction. During my residence in Egypt, in 1872-73, a lucky accident enabled me to make many new discoveries; among them one treasure of incomparable value, the great hieratic manuscript, which bears my name. Its publication has just been completed, and it is now in the library of the Leipzig University.
The Papyrus Ebers, the second in size and the best preserved of all the ancient Egyptian manuscripts which have come into our possession, was written in the 16th century B. C., and contains on 110 pages the hermetic book upon the medicines of the ancient Egyptians, known also to the Alexandrine Greeks. The god Thoth (Hermes) is called "the guide" of physicians, and the various writings and treatises of which the work is composed are revelations from him. In this venerable scroll diagnoses are made and remedies suggested for the internal and external diseases of most portions of the human body. With the drugs prescribed are numbers, according to which they are weighed with weights and measured with hollow measures, and accompanying the prescriptions are noted the pious axioms to be repeated by the physician, while compounding and giving them to the patient. On the second line of the first page of our manuscript, it is stated that it came from Sais. A large portion of this work is devoted to the visual organs. On the twentieth line of the fifty-fifth page begins the book on the eyes, which fills eight large pages. We were formerly compelled to draw from Greek and Roman authors what we knew about the remedies used for diseases of the eye among the ancient Egyptians. The portion of the Papyrus Ebers just mentioned is now the only Egyptian source from whence we can obtain instruction concerning this important branch of ancient medicine.
All this scarcely seems to have a place in the preface of a historical romance, and yet it is worthy of mention here; for there is something almost "providential" in the fact that it was reserved for the author of "An Egyptian Princess" to bestow the gift of this manuscript upon the scientific world. Among the characters in the novel the reader will meet an oculist from Sais, who wrote a book upon the diseases of the visual organs. The fate of this valuable work exactly agrees with the course of the narrative. The papyrus scroll of the Sais oculist, which a short time ago existed only in the imagination of the author and readers of "An Egyptian Princess," is now an established fact. When I succeeded in bringing the manuscript home, I felt like the man who had dreamed of a treasure, and when he went out to ride found it in his path.
A reply to Monsieur Jules Soury's criticism of "An Egyptian Princess" in the Revue des deux Mondes, Vol. VII, January 1875, might appropriately be introduced into this preface, but would scarcely be possible without entering more deeply into the ever-disputed question, which will be answered elsewhere, whether the historical romance is ever justifiable. Yet I cannot refrain from informing Monsieur Soury here that "An Egyptian Princess" detained me from no other work. I wrote it in my sick-room, before entering upon my academic career, and while composing it, found not only comfort and pleasure, but an opportunity to give dead scientific material a living interest for myself and others.
Monsieur Soury says romance is the mortal enemy of history; but this sentence may have no more justice than the one with which I think myself justified in replying: Landscape painting is the mortal enemy of botany. The historical romance must be enjoyed like any other work of art. No one reads it to study history; but many, the author hopes, may be aroused by his work to make investigations of their own, for which the notes point out the way. Already several persons of excellent mental powers have been attracted to earnest Egyptological researches by "An Egyptian Princess." In the presence of such experiences, although Monsieur Soury's clever statements appear to contain much that is true, I need not apply his remark that "historical romances injure the cause of science" to the present volume.
Leipzig, April 19, 1875.
PREFACE TO THE FIFTH GERMAN EDITION.
Again a new edition of "An Egyptian Princess" has been required, and again I write a special preface because the printing has progressed so rapidly as unfortunately to render it impossible for me to correct some errors to which my attention was directed by the kindness of the well- known botanist, Professor Paul Ascherson of Berlin, who has travelled through Egypt and the Oases.
In Vol. I, page 7, I allow mimosas to grow among other plants in Rhodopis' garden. I have found them in all the descriptions of the Nile valley, and afterwards often enjoyed the delicious perfume of the golden yellow flowers in the gardens of Alexandria and Cairo. I now learn that this very mimosa (Acacia farnesiana) originates in tropical America, and was undoubtedly unknown in ancient Egypt. The bananas, which I mentioned in Vol. I, p. 64, among other Egyptian plants, were first introduced into the Nile valley from India by the Arabs. The botanical errors occurring in the last volume I was able to correct. Helm's admirable work on "Cultivated Plants and Domestic Animals" had taught me to notice such things. Theophrastus, a native of Asia Minor, gives the first description of a citron, and this proves that he probably saw the so- called paradise-apple, but not our citron, which I am therefore not permitted to mention among the plants cultivated in ancient Lydia. Palms and birches are both found in Asia Minor; but I permitted them to grow side by side, thereby committing an offense against the geographical possibility of vegetable existence. The birch, in this locality, flourishes in the mountainous region, the palm, according to Griesbach (Vegetation of the Earth, Vol. I, p. 319) only appears on the southern coast of the peninsula. The latter errors, as I previously mentioned, will be corrected in the new edition. I shall of course owe special thanks to any one who may call my attention to similar mistakes.
Leipzig, March 5, 1877
PREFACE TO THE NINTH GERMAN EDITION.
I have nothing to add to the ninth edition of "An Egyptian Princess" except that it has been thoroughly revised. My sincere thanks are due to Dr. August Steitz of Frankfort on the Main, who has travelled through Egypt and Asia Minor, for a series of admirable notes, which he kindly placed at my disposal. He will find that they have not remained unused.
Leipzig, November 13, 1879. GEORG EBERS
AN EGYPTIAN PRINCESS.
By Georg Ebers
The Nile had overflowed its bed. The luxuriant corn-fields and blooming gardens on its shores were lost beneath a boundless waste of waters; and only the gigantic temples and palaces of its cities, (protected from the force of the water by dikes), and the tops of the tall palm-trees and acacias could be seen above its surface. The branches of the sycamores and plane-trees drooped and floated on the waves, but the boughs of the tall silver poplars strained upward, as if anxious to avoid the watery world beneath. The full-moon had risen; her soft light fell on the Libyan range of mountains vanishing on the western horizon, and in the north the shimmer of the Mediterranean could faintly be discerned. Blue and white lotus-flowers floated on the clear water, bats of all kinds darted softly through the still air, heavy with the scent of acacia- blossom and jasmine; the wild pigeons and other birds were at roost in the tops of the trees, while the pelicans, storks and cranes squatted in groups on the shore under the shelter of the papyrus-reeds and Nile- beans. The pelicans and storks remained motionless, their long bills hidden beneath their wings, but the cranes were startled by the mere beat of an oar, stretching their necks, and peering anxiously into the distance, if they heard but the song of the boatmen. The air was perfectly motionless, and the unbroken reflection of the moon, lying like a silver shield on the surface of the water, proved that, wildly as the Nile leaps over the cataracts, and rushes past the gigantic temples of Upper Egypt, yet on approaching the sea by different arms, he can abandon his impetuous course, and flow along in sober tranquillity.
On this moonlight night in the year 528 B. C. a bark was crossing the almost currentless Canopic mouth of the Nile. On the raised deck at the stern of this boat an Egyptian was sitting to guide the long pole-rudder, and the half-naked boatmen within were singing as they rowed. In the open cabin, which was something like a wooden summer-house, sat two men, reclining on low cushions. They were evidently not Egyptians; their Greek descent could be perceived even by the moonlight. The elder was an unusually tall and powerful man of more than sixty; thick grey curls, showing very little attempt at arrangement, hung down over his short, firm throat; he wore a simple, homely cloak, and kept his eyes gloomily fixed on the water. His companion, on the contrary, a man perhaps twenty years younger, of a slender and delicate build, was seldom still. Sometimes he gazed into the heavens, sometimes made a remark to the steersman, disposed his beautiful purple chlanis in fresh folds, or busied himself in the arrangement of his scented brown curls, or his carefully curled beard.
[The chlanis was a light summer-mantle, worn especially by the more elegant Athenians, and generally made of expensive materials. The simpler cloak, the himation, was worn by the Doric Greeks, and principally by the Spartans.]
The boat had left Naukratis, at that time the only Hellenic port in Egypt, about half an hour before.
[This town, which will form the scene of a part of our tale, lies in the northwest of the Nile Delta, in the Saitic Nomos or district, on the left bank of the Canopic mouth of the river. According to Strabo and Eusebius it was founded by Milesians, and Bunsen reckons 749 B. C. It seems that in the earliest times Greek ships were only allowed to enter this mouth of the Nile in case of necessity. The entire intercourse of the Egyptians with the hated strangers was, at that time, restricted to the little island of Pharos lying opposite to the town of Thonis.]
During their journey, the grey-haired, moody man had not spoken one word, and the other had left him to his meditations. But now, as the boat neared the shore, the restless traveller, rising from his couch, called to his companion: "We are just at our destination, Aristomachus! That pleasant house to the left yonder, in the garden of palms which you can
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