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- An Egyptian Princess, Volume 3. - 5/10 -
been coined in Egypt. The precious metals were weighed out and used as money in the shape of rings, animals, etc. On many of the monuments we see people purchasing goods and weighing out the gold in payment; while others are paying their tribute in gold rings. These rings were in use as a medium of payment up to the time of the Ptolemies. Pliny XXXIII. I. Balances with weights in the form of animals may be seen in Wilkinson. During the reigns of the Ptolemies many coins were struck.]
"But could that allude to my father?"
"Certainly not," cried Darius.
"It is impossible to say," murmured Bubares. "In this country one can never know what may happen."
"How long does it take for a good horse to reach Naukratis?"
"Three hours, if he can go so long, and the Nile has not overflowed the road too much."
"I will be there in two."
"I shall ride with you," said Darius.
"No, you must remain here with Zopyrus for Bartja's protection. Tell the servants to get ready."
"Yes, you will stay here and excuse me to Amasis. Say I could not come to the evening revel on account of headache, toothache, sickness, anything you like."
"I shall ride Bartja's Nicaean horse; and you, Bubares, will follow me on Darius's. You will lend him, my brother?"
"If I had ten thousand, you should have them all."
"Do you know the way to Naukratis, Bubares?"
"Then go, Darius, and tell them to get your horse and Bartja's ready! To linger would be sin. Farewell Darius, perhaps forever! Protect Bartja! Once more, farewell!"
It wanted two hours of midnight. Bright light was streaming through the open windows of Rhodopis' house, and sounds of mirth and gaiety fell on the ear. Her table had been adorned with special care in Croesus' honor.
On the cushions around it lay the guests with whom we are already acquainted: Theodorus, Ibykus, Phanes, Aristomachus, the merchant Theopompus of Miletus, Croesus and others, crowned with chaplets of poplar and roses.
Theodorus the sculptor was speaking: "Egypt seems to me," he said, "like a girl who persists in wearing a tight and painful shoe only because it is of gold, while within her reach he beautiful and well-fitting slippers in which she could move at ease, if she only would."
"You refer to the Egyptians' pertinacity in retaining traditional forms and customs?" asked Croesus.
"Certainly I do," answered the sculptor. "Two centuries ago Egypt was unquestionably the first of the nations. In Art and Science she far excelled us; but we learnt their methods of working, improved on them, held firm to no prescribed proportions, but to the natural types alone, gave freedom and beauty to their unbending outlines, and now have left our masters far behind us. But how was this possible? simply because the Egyptians, bound by unalterable laws, could make no progress; we, on the contrary, were free to pursue our course in the wide arena of art as far as will and power would allow."
"But how can an artist be compelled to fashion statues alike, which are meant to differ from each other in what they represent?"
"In this case that can be easily explained. The entire human body is divided by the Egyptians into 21 1/4 parts, in accordance with which division the proportion of each separate limb is regulated. I, myself, have laid a wager with Amasis, in presence of the first Egyptian sculptor, (a priest of Thebes), that, if I send my brother Telekles, in Ephesus, dimensions, proportion and attitude, according to the Egyptian method, he and I together can produce a statue which shall look as if sculptured from one block and by one hand, though Telekles is to carve the lower half at Ephesus, and I the upper here in Sais, and under the eye of Amasis."
[These numbers, and the story which immediately follows, are taken from Diodorus I. 98. Plato tells us that, in his time, a law existed binding the Egyptian artists to execute their works with exactly the same amount of beauty or its reverse, as those which had been made more than a thousand years before. This statement is confirmed by the monuments; but any one well acquainted with Egyptian art can discern a marked difference in the style of each epoch. At the time of the ancient kingdom the forms were compressed and stunted; under Seti I. beauty of proportion reached its highest point. During, and after the 20th dynasty, the style declined in beauty; in the 26th, under the descendants of Psammetichus, we meet with a last revival of art, but the ancient purity of form was never again attained.]
"And shall you win your wager?"
"Undoubtedly. I am just going to begin this trick of art; it will as little deserve the name of a work of art, as any Egyptian statue."
"And yet there are single sculptures here which are of exquisite workmanship; such, for instance, as the one Amasis sent to Samos as a present to Polykrates. In Memphis I saw a statue said to be about three thousand years old, and to represent a king who built the great Pyramid, which excited my admiration in every respect. With what certainty and precision that unusually hard stone has been wrought! the muscles, how carefully carved! especially in the breast, legs and feet; the harmony of the features too, and, above all, the polish of the whole, leave nothing to be desired."
"Unquestionably. In all the mechanism of art, such as precision and certainty in working even the hardest materials, the Egyptians, though they have so long stood still in other points, are still far before us; but to model form with freedom, to breathe, like Prometheus, a soul into the stone, they will never learn until their old notions on this subject have been entirely abandoned. Even the pleasing varieties of corporeal life cannot be represented by a system of mere proportions, much less those which are inner and spiritual. Look at the countless statues which have been erected during the last three thousand years, in all the temples and palaces from Naukratis up to the Cataracts. They are all of one type, and represent men of middle age, with grave but benevolent countenances. Yet they are intended, some as statues of aged monarchs, others to perpetuate the memory of young princes. The warrior and the lawgiver, the blood-thirsty tyrant and the philanthropist are only distinguished from each other by a difference in size, by which the Egyptian sculptor expresses the idea of power and strength. Amasis orders a statue just as I should a sword. Breadth and length being specified, we both of us know quite well, before the master has begun his work, what we shall receive when it is finished. How could I possibly fashion an infirm old man like an eager youth? a pugilist like a runner in the foot-race? a poet like a warrior? Put Ibykus and our Spartan friend side by side, and tell me what you would say, were I to give to the stern warrior the gentle features and gestures of our heart-ensnaring poet."
"Well, and how does Amasis answer your remarks on this stagnation in art?"
"He deplores it; but does not feel himself strong enough to abolish the restrictive laws of the priests."
"And yet," said the Delphian, "he has given a large sum towards the embellishment of our new temple, expressly, (I use his own words) for the promotion of Hellenic art!"
"That is admirable in him," exclaimed Croesus. "Will the Alkmaeonidae soon have collected the three hundred talents necessary for the completion of the temple? Were I as rich as formerly I would gladly undertake the entire cost; notwithstanding that your malicious god so cruelly deceived me, after all my offerings at his shrine. For when I sent to ask whether I should begin the war with Cyrus, he returned this answer: I should destroy a mighty kingdom by crossing the river Halys. I trusted the god, secured the friendship of Sparta according to his commands, crossed the boundary stream, and, in so doing, did indeed destroy a mighty kingdom; not however that of the Medes and Persians, but my own poor Lydia, which, as a satrapy of Cambyses, finds its loss of independence a hard and uncongenial yoke."
"You blame the god unjustly," answered Phryxus. It cannot be his fault that you, in your human conceit, should have misinterpreted his oracle. The answer did not say 'the kingdom of Persia,' but 'a kingdom' should be destroyed through your desire for war. Why did you not enquire what kingdom was meant? Was not your son's fate truly prophesied by the oracle? and also that on the day of misfortune he would regain his speech? And when, after the fall of Sardis, Cyrus granted your wish to enquire at Delphi whether the Greek gods made a rule of requiting their benefactors by ingratitude, Loxias answered that he had willed the best for you, but was controlled by a mightier power than himself, by that inexorable fate which had foretold to thy great ancestor, that his fifth successor was doomed to destruction."
"In the first days of my adversity I needed those words far more than now," interrupted Croesus. "There was a time when I cursed your god and his oracles; but later, when with my riches my flatterers had left me, and I became accustomed to pronounce judgment on my own actions, I saw clearly that not Apollo, but my own vanity had been the cause of my ruin. How could 'the kingdom to be destroyed' possibly mean mine, the mighty realm of the powerful Croesus, the friend of the gods, the hitherto unconquered leader? Had a friend hinted at this interpretation of the ambiguous oracle, I should have derided, nay, probably caused him to be punished. For a despotic ruler is like a fiery steed; the latter endeavors to kick him who touches his wounds with intent to heal; the former punishes him who lays a hand on the weak or failing points of his diseased mind. Thus I missed what, if my eyes had not been dazzled, I might easily have seen; and now that my vision is clearer, though I have nothing to lose, I am far more often anxious than in the days when none could possibly lose more than I. In comparison with those days, Phryxus, I may be called a poor man now, but Cambyses does not leave me to famish,
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