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- An Egyptian Princess, Volume 3. - 3/10 -
Simonides. He lived about 650 B. C. The Egyptians too, speak very severely of bad women, comparing them quite in the Simonides style to beasts of prey (hyenas, lions and panthers). We find this sentence on a vicious woman: She is a collection of every kind of meanness, and a bag full of wiles. Chabas, Papyr. magrque Harris. p. 135. Phocylides of Miletus, a rough and sarcastic, but observant man, imitated Simonides in his style of writing. But the deformed Hipponax of Ephesus, a poet crushed down by poverty, wrote far bitterer verses than Phocylides. He lived about 550 B. C. "His own ugliness (according to Bernhardy) is reflected in every one of his Choliambics." ]
"How beautifully you speak!" exclaimed Bartja. "Greek was not easy to learn, but I am very glad now that I did not give it up in despair, and really paid attention to Croesus' lessons."
Who could those men have been," asked Darius, "who dared to speak evil of women?"
"A couple of Greek poets," answered Amasis, "the boldest of men, for I confess I would rather provoke a lioness than a woman. But these Greeks do not know what fear is. I will give you a specimen of Hipponax's Poetry:
"There are but two days when a wife, Brings pleasure to her husband's life, The wedding-day, when hopes are bright, And the day he buries her out of his sight."
"Cease, cease," cried Ladice stopping her ears, that is too had. Now, Persians, you can see what manner of man Amasis is. For the sake of a joke, he will laugh at those who hold precisely the same opinion as himself. There could not be a better husband.
"Nor a worse wife," laughed Amasis. "Thou wilt make men think that I am a too obedient husband. But now farewell, my children; our young heroes must look at this our city of Sais; before parting, however, I will repeat to them what the malicious Siuionides has sung of a good wife:
"Dear to her spouse from youth to age she grows; Fills with fair girls and sturdy boys his house; Among all women womanliest seems, And heavenly grace about her mild brow gleams. A gentle wife, a noble spouse she walks, Nor ever with the gossip mongers talks. Such women sometimes Zeus to mortals gives, The glory and the solace of their lives."
"Such is my Ladice! now farewell!"
"Not yet!" cried Bartja. "Let me first speak in defence of our poor Persia and instil fresh courage into my future sister-in-law; but no! Darius, thou must speak, thine eloquence is as great as thy skill in figures and swordsmanship!"
"Thou speakst of me as if I were a gossip or a shopkeeper,"--[This nickname, which Darius afterwards earned, is more fully spoken of]-- answered the son of Hystaspes. "Be it so; I have been burning all this time to defend the customs of our country. Know then, Ladice, that if Auramazda dispose the heart of our king in his own good ways, your daughter will not be his slave, but his friend. Know also, that in Persia, though certainly only at high festivals, the king's wives have their places at the men's table, and that we pay the highest reverence to our wives and mothers. A king of Babylon once took a Persian wife; in the broad plains of the Euphrates she fell sick of longing for her native mountains; he caused a gigantic structure to be raised on arches, and the summit thereof to be covered with a depth of rich earth; caused the choicest trees and flowers to be planted there, and watered by artificial machinery. This wonder completed, he led his wife thither; from its top she could look down into the plains below, as from the heights of Rachined, and with this costly gift he presented her. Tell me, could even an Egyptian give more?"
[This stupendous erection is said to have been constructed by Nebuchadnezzar for his Persian wife Amytis. Curtius V. 5. Josephus contra Apion. I. 19. Antiquities X. II. 1. Diod. II. 10. For further particulars relative to the hanging-gardens, see later notes.]
"And did she recover?" asked Nitetis, without raising her eyes.
"She recovered health and happiness; and you too will soon feel well and happy in our country."
"And now," said Ladice with a smile, what, think you, contributed most to the young queen's recovery? the beautiful mountain or the love of the husband, who erected it for her sake?"
"Her husband's love," cried the young girls.
"But Nitetis would not disdain the mountain either," maintained Bartja, "and I shall make it my care that whenever the court is at Babylon, she has the hanging-gardens for her residence."
"But now come," exclaimed Amasis, "unless you wish to see the city in darkness. Two secretaries have been awaiting me yonder for the last two hours. Ho! Sachons! give orders to the captain of the guard to accompany our noble guests with a hundred men."
"But why? a single guide, perhaps one of the Greek officers, would be amply sufficient."
"No, my young friends, it is better so. Foreigners can never be too prudent in Egypt. Do not forget this, and especially be careful not to ridicule the sacred animals. And now farewell, my young heroes, till we meet again this evening over a merry wine-cup."
The Persians then quitted the palace, accompanied by their interpreter, a Greek, but who had been brought up in Egypt, and spoke both languages with equal facility.
[Psamtik I. is said to have formed a new caste, viz.: the caste of Interpreters, out of those Greeks who had been born and bred up in Egypt. Herod. II. 154. Herodotus himself was probably conducted by such a "Dragoman."]
Those streets of Sais which lay near the palace wore a pleasant aspect. The houses, many of which were five stories high, were generally covered with pictures or hieroglyphics; galleries with balustrades of carved and gaily-painted wood-work, supported by columns also brightly painted, ran round the walls surrounding the courts. In many cases the proprietor's name and rank was to be read on the door, which was, however, well closed and locked. Flowers and shrubs ornamented the flat roofs, on which the Egyptians loved to spend the evening hours, unless indeed, they preferred ascending the mosquito-tower with which nearly every house was provided. These troublesome insects, engendered by the Nile, fly low, and these little watch-towers were built as a protection from them.
The young Persians admired the great, almost excessive cleanliness, with which each house, nay, even the streets themselves, literally shone. The door-plates and knockers sparkled in the sun; paintings, balconies and columns all had the appearance of having been only just finished, and even the street-pavement looked as if it were often scoured.
[The streets of Egyptian towns seem to have been paved, judging from the ruins of Alabastron and Memphis. We know at least with certainty that this was the case with those leading to the temples.]
But as the Persians left the neighborhood of the Nile and the palace, the streets became smaller. Sais was built on the slope of a moderately high hill, and had only been the residence of the Pharaohs for two centuries and a half, but, during that comparatively short interval, had risen from an unimportant place into a town of considerable magnitude.
On its river-side the houses and streets were brilliant, but on the hill- slope lay, with but few more respectable exceptions, miserable, poverty- stricken huts constructed of acacia-boughs and Nile-mud. On the north- west rose the royal citadel.
"Let us turn back here," exclaimed Gyges to his young companions. During his father's absence he was responsible as their guide and protector, and now perceived that the crowd of curious spectators, which had hitherto followed them, was increasing at every step.
"I obey your orders," replied the interpreter, "but yonder in the valley, at the foot of that hill, lies the Saitic city of the dead, and for foreigners I should think that would be of great interest."
"Go forward!" cried Bartja. "For what did we leave Persia, if not to behold these remarkable objects?"
On arriving at an open kind of square surrounded by workmen's booths, and not far from the city of the dead, confused cries rose among the crowd behind them.
[Artisans, as well among the ancient as the modern Egyptians, were accustomed to work in the open air.]
The children shouted for joy, the women called out, and one voice louder than the rest was heard exclaiming: "Come hither to the fore-court of the temple, and see the works of the great magician, who comes from the western oases of Libya and is endowed with miraculous gifts by Chunsu, the giver of good counsels, and by the great goddess Hekt."
"Follow me to the small temple yonder," said the interpreter, "and you will behold a strange spectacle." He pushed a way for himself and the Persians through the crowd, obstructed in his course by many a sallow woman and naked child; and at length came back with a priest, who conducted the strangers into the fore-court of the temple. Here, surrounded by various chests and boxes, stood a man in the dress of a priest; beside him on the earth knelt two negroes. The Libyan was a man of gigantic stature, with great suppleness of limb and a pair of piercing black eyes. In his hand he held a wind-instrument resembling a modern clarionet, and a number of snakes, known in Egypt to be poisonous, lay coiling themselves over his breast and arms.
On finding himself in the presence of the Persians he bowed low, inviting them by a solemn gesture to gaze at his performances; he then cast off his white robe and began all kinds of tricks with the snakes.
He allowed them to bite him, till the blood trickled down his cheeks; compelled them by the notes of his flute to assume an erect position and perform a kind of dancing evolution; by spitting into their jaws he transformed them to all appearance into motionless rods; and then, dashing them all on to the earth, performed a wild dance in their midst, yet without once touching a single snake.
Like one possessed, he contorted his pliant limbs until his eyes seemed starting from his head and a bloody foam issued from his lips.
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