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- An Egyptian Princess, Volume 3. - 2/10 -
"No, my father; but art thou not eager to learn ... ?"
"Curiosity is a woman's vice; moreover, I have long known all that thou canst tell me."
"But didst thou not charge me but yesterday to ask my father this question?"
"I did do so to prove thee, and know whether thou wert resigned to the Divine will, and wert walking in those ways wherein alone thou canst become worthy of initiation into the highest grade of knowledge. Thou hast told us faithfully all that thou hast heard, and thereby proved that thou canst obey--the first virtue of a priest."
"Thou knewest then the father of Nitetis?"
"I myself pronounced the prayer over king Hophra's tomb."
"But who imparted the secret to thee?"
"The eternal stars, my son, and my skill in reading them."
"And do these stars never deceive?"
"Never him that truly understands them."
Psamtik turned pale. His father's dream and his own fearful horoscope passed like awful visions through his mind. The priest detected at once the change in his features and said gently: "Thou deem'st thyself a lost man because the heavens prognosticated evil at thy birth; but take comfort, Psamtik; I observed another sign in the heavens at that moment, which escaped the notice of the astrologers. Thy horoscope was a threatening, a very threatening one, but its omens may be averted, they may . . ."
"O tell me, father, tell me how!"
"They must turn to good, if thou, forgetful of all else, canst live alone to the gods, paying a ready obedience to the Divine voice audible to us their priests alone in the innermost and holiest sanctuary."
"Father, I am ready to obey thy slightest word."
"The great goddess Neith, who rules in Sais, grant this, my son!" answered the priest solemnly. "But now leave me alone," he continued kindly, "lengthened devotions and the weight of years bring weariness. If possible, delay the death of Phanes, I wish to speak with him before he dies. Yet one more word. A troop of Ethiopians arrived yesterday. These men cannot speak a word of Greek, and under a faithful leader, acquainted with the Athenians and the locality, they would be the best agents for getting rid of the doomed man, as their ignorance of the language and the circumstances render treachery or gossip impossible. Before starting for Naukratis, they must know nothing of the design of their journey; the deed once accomplished, we can send them back to Kush.--[The Egyptian name for Ethiopia.] Remember, a secret can never be too carefully kept! Farewell." Psamtik had only left the room a few moments, when a young priest entered, one of the king's attendants.
"Have I listened well, father?" he enquired of the old man.
"Perfectly, my son. Nothing of that which passed between Amasis and Psamtik has escaped thine ears. May Isis preserve them long to thee!"
"Ah, father, a deaf man could have heard every word in the ante-chamber to-day, for Amasis bellowed like an ox."
"The great Neith has smitten him with the lack of prudence, yet I command thee to speak of the Pharaoh with more reverence. But now return, keep thine eyes open and inform me at once if Amasis, as is possible, should attempt to thwart the conspiracy against Phanes. Thou wilt certainly find me here. Charge the attendants to admit no one, and to say I am at my devotions in the Holy of holies. May the ineffable One protect thy footsteps!"
[Isis, the wife or sister of Osiris, is the phenomena of nature, by means of which the god is able to reveal himself to human contemplation.]
While Psamtik was making every preparation for the capture of Phanes, Croesus, accompanied by his followers, had embarked on board a royal bark, and was on his way down the Nile to spend the evening with Rhodopis.
His son Gyges and the three young Persians remained in Sais, passing the time in a manner most agreeable to them.
Amasis loaded them with civilities, allowed them, according to Egyptian custom, the society of his queen and of the twin-sisters, as they were called, taught Gyges the game of draughts, and looking on while the strong, dexterous, young heroes joined his daughters in the game of throwing balls and hoops, so popular among Egyptian maidens, enlivened their amusements with an inexhaustible flow of wit and humor.
[The Pharaohs themselves, as well as their subjects, were in the habit of playing at draughts and other similar games. Rosellini gives its Rameses playing with his daughter; see also two Egyptians playing together, Wilkinson II. 419. An especially beautiful draught-board exists in the Egyptian collection at the Louvre Museum. The Egyptians hoped to be permitted to enjoy these pleasures even in the other world.]
[Balls that have been found in the tombs are still to be seen; some, for instance, in the Museum at Leyden.]
"Really," said Bartja, as he watched Nitetis catching the slight hoop, ornamented with gay ribbons, for the hundredth time on her slender ivory rod, "really we must introduce this game at home. We Persians are so different from you Egyptians. Everything new has a special charm for us, while to you it is just as hateful. I shall describe the game to Our mother Kassandane, and she will be delighted to allow my brother's wives this new amusement."
"Yes, do, do!" exclaimed the fair Tachot blushing deeply. "Then Nitetis can play too, and fancy herself back again at home and among those she loves; and Bartja," she added in a low voice, "whenever you watch the hoops flying, you too must remember this hour."
"I shall never forget it," answered he with a smile, and then, turning to his future sister-in-law, he called out cheerfully, "Be of good courage, Nitetis, you will be happier than you fancy with us. We Asiatics know how to honor beauty; and prove it by taking many wives."
Nitetis sighed, and the queen Ladice exclaimed, "On the contrary, that very fact proves that you understand but poorly how to appreciate woman's nature! You can have no idea, Bartja, what a woman feels on finding that her husband--the man who to her is more than life itself, and to whom she would gladly and without reserve give up all that she treasures as most sacred--looks down on her with the same kind of admiration that he bestows on a pretty toy, a noble steed, or a well-wrought wine-bowl. But it is yet a thousand-fold more painful to feel that the love which every woman has a right to possess for herself alone, must be shared with a hundred others!"
"There speaks the jealous wife!" exclaimed Amasis. "Would you not fancy that I had often given her occasion to doubt my faithfulness?"
"No, no, my husband," answered Ladice, "in this point the Egyptian men surpass other nations, that they remain content with that which they have once loved; indeed I venture to assert that an Egyptian wife is the happiest of women.
[According to Diodorus (I. 27) the queen of Egypt held a higher position than the king himself. The monuments and lists of names certainly prove that women could rule with sovereign power. The husband of the heiress to the throne became king. They had their own revenues (Diodorus I. 52) and when a princess, after death, was admitted among the goddesses, she received her own priestesses. (Edict of Canopus.) During the reigns of the Ptolemies many coins were stamped with the queen's image and cities were named for them. We notice also that sons, in speaking of their descent, more frequently reckon it from the mother's than the father's side, that a married woman is constantly alluded to as the "mistress" or "lady" of the house, that according to many a Greek Papyrus they had entire disposal of all their property, no matter in what it consisted, in short that the weaker sex seems to have enjoyed equal influence with the stronger.]
Even the Greeks, who in so many things may serve as patterns to us, do not know how to appreciate woman rightly. Most of the young Greek girls pass their sad childhood in close rooms, kept to the wheel and the loom by their mothers and those who have charge of them, and when marriageable, are transferred to the quiet house of a husband they do not know, and whose work in life and in the state allows him but seldom to visit his wife's apartments. Only when the most intimate friends and nearest relations are with her husband, does she venture to appear in their midst, and then shyly and timidly, hoping to hear a little of what is going on in the great world outside. Ah, indeed! we women thirst for knowledge too, and there are certain branches of learning at least, which it cannot be right to withhold from those who are to be the mothers and educators of the next generation. What can an Attic mother, without knowledge, without experience, give to her daughters? Naught but her own ignorance. And so it is, that a Hellene, seldom satisfied with the society of his lawful, but, mentally, inferior wife, turns for satisfaction to those courtesans, who, from their constant intercourse with men, have acquired knowledge, and well understand how to adorn it with the flowers of feminine grace, and to season it with the salt of a woman's more refined and delicate wit. In Egypt it is different. A young girl is allowed to associate freely with the most enlightened men. Youths and maidens meet constantly on festive occasions, learn to know and love one another. The wife is not the slave, but the friend of her husband; the one supplies the deficiencies of the other. In weighty questions the stronger decides, but the lesser cares of life are left to her who is the greater in small things. The daughters grow up under careful guidance, for the mother is neither ignorant nor inexperienced. To be virtuous and diligent in her affairs becomes easy to a woman, for she sees that it increases his happiness whose dearest possession she boasts of being, and who belongs to her alone. The women only do that which pleases us! but the Egyptian men understand the art of making us pleased with that which is really good, and with that alone. On the shores of the Nile, Phocylides of Miletus and Hipponax of Ephesus would never have dared to sing their libels on women, nor could the fable of Pandora have been possibly invented here!"
[Simonides of Amorgos, an Iambic poet, who delighted in writing satirical verses on women. He divides them into different classes, which he compares to unclean animals, and considers that the only woman worthy of a husband and able to make him happy must be like the bee. The well-known fable of Pandora owes its origin to
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