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- An Egyptian Princess, Volume 4. - 11/11 -
the quintessence of human morality--and this we find ready paragraphed in our negative justification. Todtenbuch ed. Lepsius. 125. We cannot discuss this question philosophically here, but the law of Pythagoras, who borrowed so much from Egypt, and the contents of which are the same, speaks for our view. It is similar in form to the Egyptian.]
"There you remind me," said Croesus "that I have undertaken to arrange for your instruction in the Persian customs, religion and language. I had intended to withdraw to Barene, the town which I received as a gift from Cyrus, and there, in that most lovely mountain valley, to take my rest; but for your sake and for the king's, I will remain here and continue to give you instruction in the Persian tongue. Kassandane herself will initiate you in the customs peculiar to women at the Persian court, and Oropastes, the high-priest, has been ordered by the king to make you acquainted with the religion of Iran. He will be your spiritual, and I your secular guardian."
At these words Nitetis, who had been smiling happily, cast down her eyes and asked in a low voice: "Am I to become unfaithful to the gods of my fathers, who have never failed to hear my prayers? Can I, ought I to forget them?"
"Yes," said Kassandane decidedly, "thou canst, and it is thy bounden duty, for a wife ought to have no friends but those her husband calls such. The gods are a man's earliest, mightiest and most faithful friends, and it therefore becomes thy duty, as a wife, to honor them, and to close thine heart against strange gods and superstitions, as thou wouldst close it against strange lovers."
"And," added Croesus, "we will not rob you of your deities; we will only give them to you under other names. As Truth remains eternally the same, whether called 'maa', as by the Egyptians, or 'Aletheia' as by the Greeks, so the essence of the Deity continues unchanged in all places and times. Listen, my daughter: I myself, while still king of Lydia, often sacrificed in sincere devotion to the Apollo of the Greeks, without a fear that in so doing I should offend the Lydian sun-god Sandon; the Ionians pay their worship to the Asiatic Cybele, and, now that I have become a Persian, I raise my hands adoringly to Mithras, Ormuzd and the lovely Anahita. Pythagoras too, whose teaching is not new to you, worships one god only, whom he calls Apollo; because, like the Greek sun- god, he is the source of light and of those harmonies which Pythagoras holds to be higher than all else. And lastly, Xenophanes of Colophon laughs at the many and divers gods of Homer and sets one single deity on high--the ceaselessly creative might of nature, whose essence consists of thought, reason and eternity.
[A celebrated freethinker, who indulged in bold and independent speculations, and suffered much persecution for his ridicule of the Homeric deities. He flourished at the time of our history and lived to a great age, far on into the fifth century. We have quoted some fragments of his writings above. He committed his speculations also to verse.]
"In this power everything has its rise, and it alone remains unchanged, while all created matter must be continually renewed and perfected. The ardent longing for some being above us, on whom we can lean when our own powers fail,--the wonderful instinct which desires a faithful friend to whom we can tell every joy and sorrow without fear of disclosure, the thankfulness with which we behold this beautiful world and all the rich blessings we have received--these are the feelings which we call piety-- devotion.
"These you must hold fast; remembering, however, at the same time, that the world is ruled neither by the Egyptian, the Persian, nor the Greek divinities apart from each other, but that all these are one; and that one indivisible Deity, how different soever may be the names and characters under which He is represented, guides the fate of men and nations."
The two Persian women listened to the old man in amazement. Their unpractised powers were unable to follow the course of his thoughts. Nitetis, however, had understood him thoroughly, and answered: "My mother Ladice was the pupil of Pythagoras, and has told me something like this already; but the Egyptian priests consider such views to be sacrilegious, and call their originators despisers of the gods. So I tried to repress such thoughts; but now I will resist them no longer. What the good and wise Croesus believes cannot possibly be evil or impious! Let Oropastes come! I am ready to listen to his teaching. The god of Thebes, our Ammon, shall be transformed into Ormuzd,--Isis or Hathor, into Anahita, and those among our gods for whom I can find no likeness in the Persian religion, I shall designate by the name of 'the Deity.'"
Croesus smiled. He had fancied, knowing how obstinately the Egyptians clung to all they had received from tradition and education, that it would have been more difficult for Nitetis to give up the gods of her native land. He had forgotten that her mother was a Greek, and that the daughters of Amasis had studied the doctrines of Pythagoras. Neither was he aware how ardently Nitetis longed to please her proud lord and master. Even Amasis, who so revered the Samian philosopher, who had so often yielded to Hellenic influence, and who with good reason might be called a free-thinking Egyptian, would sooner have exchanged life for death, than his multiform gods for the one idea "Deity."
"You are a teachable pupil," said Croesus, laying his hand on her head, "and as a reward, you shall be allowed either to visit Kassandane, or to receive Atossa in the hanging-gardens, every morning, and every afternoon until sunset."
This joyful news was received with loud rejoicings by Atossa, and with a grateful smile by the Egyptian girl.
"And lastly," said Croesus, "I have brought some balls and hoops with me from Sais, that you may be able to amuse yourselves in Egyptian fashion."
"Balls?" asked Atossa in amazement; "what can we do with the heavy wooden things?"
"That need not trouble you," answered Croesus, laughing. "The balls I speak of are pretty little things made of the skins of fish filled with air, or of leather. A child of two years old can throw these, but you would find it no easy matter even to lift one of those wooden balls with which the Persian boys play. Are you content with me, Nitetis?"
[In Persia games with balls are still reckoned among the amusements of the men. One player drives a wooden hall to the other, as in the English game of cricket. Chardin (Voyage en Perse. III. p. 226.) saw the game played by 300 players.]
"How can I thank you enough, my father?"
"And now listen to my plan for the division of your time. In the morning you will visit Kassandane, chat with Atossa, and listen to the teaching of your noble mother."
Here the blind woman bent her head in approval. "Towards noon I shall come to teach you, and we can talk sometimes about Egypt and your loved ones there, but always in Persian. You would like this, would you not?"
"Every second day, Oropastes will be in attendance to initiate you in the Persian religion."
"I will take the greatest pains to comprehend him quickly."
"In the afternoon you can be with Atossa as long as you like. Does that please you too?"
"O Croesus!" cried the young girl and kissed the old man's hand.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A first impression is often a final one Assigned sixty years as the limit of a happy life At my age every year must be accepted as an undeserved gift Cambyses had been spoiled from his earliest infancy Devoid of occupation, envy easily becomes hatred Easy to understand what we like to hear Eros mocks all human efforts to resist or confine him Eyes are much more eloquent than all the tongues in the world For the errors of the wise the remedy is reparation, not regret Greeks have not the same reverence for truth He who is to govern well must begin by learning to obey In war the fathers live to mourn for their slain sons Inn, was to be found about every eighteen miles Lovers are the most unteachable of pupils The beautiful past is all he has to live upon The gods cast envious glances at the happiness of mortals Unwise to try to make a man happy by force War is a perversion of nature Ye play with eternity as if it were but a passing moment Zeus pays no heed to lovers' oaths
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