Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- An Egyptian Princess, Volume 2. - 2/9 -
you would have felt too that you were a friend of the gods, for was it not in your house that the immortals gave that noble old man at last, after his long years of misfortune, the greatest joy that can fall to the lot of any human being? and did they not take from you one friend only in order to replace him in the same moment, by another and a better? Come, I will hear no contradiction. Now for my request.
"You know that people sometimes call me an Athenian, sometimes a Halikarnassian. Now, as the Ionian, AEolian and Dorian mercenaries have never been on good terms with the Karians, my almost triple descent (if I may call it so) has proved very useful to me as commander of both these divisions. Well qualified as Aristomachus may be for the command, yet in this one point Amasis will miss me; for I found it an easy matter to settle the differences among the troops and keep them at peace, while he, as a Spartan, will find it very difficult to keep right with the Karian soldiers.
"This double nationality of mine arises from the fact that my father married a Halikarnassian wife out of a noble Dorian family, and, at the time of my birth, was staying with her in Halikarnassus, having come thither in order to take possession of her parental inheritance. So, though I was taken back to Athens before I was three months old, I must still be called a Karian, as a man's native land is decided by his birthplace.
"In Athens, as a young nobleman, belonging to that most aristocratic and ancient family, the Philaidae, I was reared and educated in all the pride of an Attic noble. Pisistratus, brave and clever, and though of equal, yet by no means of higher birth, than ourselves, for there exists no family more aristocratic than my father's, gained possession of the supreme authority. Twice, the nobles, by uniting all their strength, succeeded in overthrowing him, and when, the third time, assisted by Lygdamis of Naxos, the Argives and Eretrians, he attempted to return, we opposed him again. We had encamped by the temple of Minerva at Pallene, and were engaged in sacrificing to the goddess, early, before our first meal, when we were suddenly surprised by the clever tyrant, who gained an easy, bloodless victory over our unarmed troops. As half of the entire army opposed to the tyrant was under my command, I determined rather to die than yield, fought with my whole strength, implored the soldiers to remain steadfast, resisted without yielding a point, but fell at last with a spear in my shoulder.
"The Pisistratidae became lords of Athens. I fled to Halikarnassus, my second home, accompanied by my wife and children. There, my name being known through some daring military exploits, and, through my having once conquered in the Pythian games, I was appointed to a command in the mercenary troops of the King of Egypt; accompanied the expedition to Cyprus, shared with Aristomachus the renown of having conquered the birthplace of Aphrodite for Amasis, and finally was named commander-in- chief of all the mercenaries in Egypt.
"Last summer my wife died; our children, a boy of eleven and a girl of ten years, remained with an aunt in Halikarnassus. But she too has followed to the inexorable Hades, and so, only a few days ago I sent for the little ones here. They cannot, however, possibly reach Naukratis in less than three weeks, and yet they will already have set out on their journey before a letter to countermand my first order could reach them.
"I must leave Egypt in fourteen days, and cannot therefore receive them myself.
"My own intentions are to go to the Thracian Chersonese, where my uncle, as you know, has been called to fill a high office among the Dolonki. The children shall follow me thither; my faithful old slave Korax will remain in Naukratis on purpose to bring them to me.
"Now, if you will show to me that you are in deed and truth my friend, will you receive the little ones and take care of them till the next ship sails for Thrace? But above all, will you carefully conceal them from the eyes of the crown-prince's spies? You know that Psamtik hates me mortally, and he could easily revenge himself on the father through the children. I ask you for this great favor, first, because I know your kindness by experience; and secondly, because your house has been made secure by the king's letter of guarantee, and they will therefore be safe here from the inquiries of the police; notwithstanding that, by the laws of this most formal country, all strangers, children not excepted, must give up their names to the officer of the district.
"You can now judge of the depth of my esteem, Rhodopis; I am committing into your hands all that makes life precious to me; for even my native land has ceased to be dear while she submits so ignominiously to her tyrants. Will you then restore tranquillity to an anxious father's heart, will you--?"
"I will, Phanes, I will!" cried the aged woman in undisguised delight. "You are not asking me for any thing, you are presenting me with a gift. Oh, how I look forward already to their arrival! And how glad Sappho will be, when the little creatures come and enliven her solitude! But this I can assure you, Phanes, I shall not let my little guests depart with the first Thracian ship. You can surely afford to be separated from them one short half-year longer, and I promise you they shall receive the best lessons, and be guided to all that is good and beautiful."
"On that head I have no fear," answered Phanes, with a thankful smile. "But still you must send off the two little plagues by the first ship; my anxiety as to Psamtik's revenge is only too well grounded. Take my most heartfelt thanks beforehand for all the love and kindness which you will show to my children. I too hope and believe, that the merry little creatures will be an amusement and pleasure to Sappho in her lonely life."
"And more," interrupted Rhodopis looking down; "this proof of confidence repays a thousand-fold the disgrace inflicted on me last night in a moment of intoxication.--But here comes Sappho!"
Five days after the evening we have just described at Rhodopis' house, an immense multitude was to be seen assembled at the harbor of Sais.
Egyptians of both sexes, and of every age and class were thronging to the water's edge.
Soldiers and merchants, whose various ranks in society were betokened by the length of their white garments, bordered with colored fringes, were interspersed among the crowd of half-naked, sinewy men, whose only clothing consisted of an apron, the costume of the lower classes. Naked children crowded, pushed and fought to get the best places. Mothers in short cloaks were holding their little ones up to see the sight, which by this means they entirely lost themselves; and a troop of dogs and cats were playing and fighting at the feet of these eager sight-seers, who took the greatest pains not to tread on, or in any way injure the sacred animals.
[According to various pictures on the Egyptian monuments. The mothers are from Wilkinson III. 363. Isis and Hathor, with the child Horus in her lap or at her breast, are found in a thousand representations, dating both from more modern times and in the Greek style. The latter seem to have served as a model for the earliest pictures of the Madonna holding the infant Christ.]
The police kept order among this huge crowd with long staves, on the metal heads of which the king's name was inscribed. Their care was especially needed to prevent any of the people from being pushed into the swollen Nile, an arm of which, in the season of the inundations, washes the walls of Sais.
On the broad flight of steps which led between two rows of sphinxes down to the landing-place of the royal boats, was a very different kind of assembly.
The priests of the highest rank were seated there on stone benches. Many wore long, white robes, others were clad in aprons, broad jewelled collars, and garments of panther skins. Some had fillets adorned with plumes that waved around brows, temples, and the stiff structures of false curls that floated over their shoulders; others displayed the glistening bareness of their smoothly-shaven skulls. The supreme judge was distinguished by the possession of the longest and handsomest plume in his head-dress, and a costly sapphire amulet, which, suspended by a gold chain, hung on his breast.
The highest officers of the Egyptian army wore uniforms of gay colors,97 and carried short swords in their girdles. On the right side of the steps a division of the body-guard was stationed, armed with battleaxes, daggers, bows, and large shields; on the left, were the Greek mercenaries, armed in Ionian fashion. Their new leader, our friend Aristomachus, stood with a few of his own officers apart from the Egyptians, by the colossal statues of Psamtik I., which had been erected on the space above the steps, their faces towards the river.
In front of these statues, on a silver chair, sat Psamtik, the heir to the throne: He wore a close-fitting garment of many colors, interwoven with gold, and was surrounded by the most distinguished among the king's courtiers, chamberlains, counsellors, and friends, all bearing staves with ostrich feathers and lotus-flowers.
The multitude gave vent to their impatience by shouting, singing, and quarrelling; but the priests and magnates on the steps preserved a dignified and solemn silence. Each, with his steady, unmoved gaze, his stiffly-curled false wig and beard, and his solemn, deliberate manner, resembled the two huge statues, which, the one precisely similar to the other, stood also motionless in their respective places, gazing calmly into the stream.
At last silken sails, chequered with purple and blue, appeared in sight.
The crowd shouted with delight. Cries of, "They are coming! Here they are!" "Take care, or you'll tread on that kitten," "Nurse, hold the child higher that she may see something of the sight." "You are pushing me into the water, Sebak!" "Have a care Phoenician, the boys are throwing burs into your long beard." "Now, now, you Greek fellow, don't fancy that all Egypt belongs to you, because Amasis allows you to live on the shores of the sacred river!" "Shameless set, these Greeks, down with them!" shouted a priest, and the cry was at once echoed from many mouths. "Down with the eaters of swine's flesh and despisers of the gods!"
[The Egyptians, like the Jews, were forbidden to eat swine's flesh. This prohibition is mentioned in the Ritual of the Dead, found in a grave in Abd-el-Qurnah, and also in other places. Porphyr. de Abstin. IV. The swine was considered an especially unclean animal pertaining to Typhon (Egyptian, Set) as the boar to Ares, and swineherds were an especially despised race. Animals with bristles were only sacrificed at the feasts of Osiris and Eileithyia. Herod. I. 2. 47. It is probable that Moses borrowed his prohibition of swine's flesh from the Egyptian laws with regard to unclean animals.]
Previous Page Next Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything