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for the space of six centuries and a half, a kind of bone of contention; and, after being many times pillaged, and as often restored, was at last utterly destroyed by order of the caliph Omar, the third after Mahomet, who commanded that, without any exception, the books should be distributed to the different baths of the city, and in the language of your great historian, “six months were scarcely sufficient for the destruction of the precious fuel.” In this manner perished the greatest collection of books that was ever made in the world; and the loss of literature and science is perhaps, more than any one can estimate. But even after its destruction, the library of Alexandria will always stand on the page of history as a remarkable specimen of the protection which, at all times, the sovereigns of Egypt have shewn to knowledge. If then, even under the Ptolemies, the degenerate Egyptians possessed so valuable a testimony of their attachment to learning, we may well conceive what this attachment must have been, during the brilliant ages of the Pharaonic rule, when the most valuable contributors to the scientific learning of Egypt, were those very priests, who had been the discoverers of so many important inventions, and, by their precepts and example, the instructors of mankind. From the short account which, to the best of my abilities, I have endeavoured to give, we must acquit the ancients of any sin of exaggeration, and not wonder at the praises, however extravagant
they may appear to us, which they have bestowed on the learning of the primitive priests, under the Pharaohs. In the information which I have offered, my best guide has been the indefatigable and learned Zoëga, to whose work on the origin and use of obelisks I stand indebted for many of the facts I have stated to you.
Indeed the more I dip into the antiquities of Egypt, the more I feel convinced, that the discovery of the reading of hieroglyphics is, without doubt, the greatest literary discovery of the age, or perhaps of any age ; and if some of the monuments of Egyptian wisdom, and Egyptian learning are still, as I suppose, in existence, I dare hope that human efforts, and European skill will, at some time or other, disinter them from under the mountains of sand and rubbish under which they are lying. If we can once get into the subterraneous passages leading to this theatre, where the mysteries of Isis were once celebrated, we may, I have no doubt, get at the chamber of the Hierophantes. There some monuments, perhaps some of the Hermetic books, may still be found, and what revolution they may produce upon our knowledge of antiquity, who shall tell ?
Different appellations by which Egypt has been called by the ancients—Origin of the name of Egypt—How called by the natives—Geography of Egypt—Its natural and political boundaries—Short account of the Oasis and of the Egyptian colonies on the eastern shores of the Red Sea—Curious answer of the oracle of Ammon—The Nile–Different names by which it was known—Its course and inundation—Division of Egypt —Attempt at ascertaining when it was first made—Difference between Modern and Ancient Egypt—Mistakes of the ancients —Causes which produced them—Alterations produced by the Greek writers in the Egyptian names—Mode by which they have been recovered.
For the sake of giving you, to the best of my power, a full idea of the extraordinary kingdom of Egypt, and its still more extraordinary inhabitants, I mean in this Lecture to direct your attention to its topography. I shall endeavour therefore, first to ascertain the different names by which it was known, and the extent of its natural as well as political limits; and in so doing I shall mention the different colonies which acknowledged the authority of the Pharaohs. I shall afterwards proceed to describe the Nile, the mighty river from
which this country derived the greatest part of its celebrity and power; and as well as I can, exhibit a comprehensive account of its origin and course, and of the different names by which it was designated.
From the topography of this country, it is my intention to turn to its political existence, and to mention the number of governments, or provinces, into which it was divided, and the names by which they were signified. This consideration will lead us to observe the alterations which the Greeks made in the ancient terms; and as a necessary consequence, to ascertain the causes of this change, which increases the difficulty of obtaining from them an accurate account of Egypt under the reign of the Pharaohs; and I shall conclude the Lecture with stating the mode by which the old nomenclature has been recovered, so as to 'have allowed us to form a clearer and more full idea of the whole subject of Egyptian antiquities.
The country which we now call Egypt has received several appellations from the ancients. Most of them, indeed, seem rather epithets than names, though occasionally they have been used as such, and without exception they all betray their Greek origin, that is, they were all invented by the Greeks. Of this sort is the name of Apela, from the supposed wife of Belus, who was the father of Egyptus, and Aeria, from an Indian called Aétos. We find it also called Potamia, from lorauos, the appellation they gave to the Nile, and $2yuyra,
from the adjective S2 yuylos, which means, belonging to Ogyges. For the same reason we find it occasionally styled 'Hpalotia, that is, belonging to 'Hpalotos, Héphaistos, the name which the Greeks gave
to the Vulcan of the Romans; and Medaußodoç, on account of its land being of a black colour. It is pretended that the Phænicians called it Mysra and Myara, which latter appellation may be a corruption of the former, or rather a mistake of the copyist ; for Misra is the same as Missr, a name which the Orientals still give to Egypt. It is evidently an abbreviation of Misraim, who according to Scripture, first went to inhabit the land, unless we should adopt the opinion of the Arabians, who pretend that Missr was the son of Misraim. There was in fact, an ancient custom amongst the Orientals, generally to name a nation after some peculiar characteristic of their language, or some remarkable personage recorded by their history, or by their traditions ; and this custom seems still to exist amongst the Arabians, the Persians, the Tartars, and the Ethiopians.
These were the principal, but not all the names by which the different writers of antiquity have designated Egypt; and this appellation, which like the rest, is of Greek extraction, has been adopted by most of the nations.
The Greeks called it ALYUTTOG, from which the Latins made Ægyptus, and the moderns Egypt. The fables which according to custom, the Greeks invented to account for this denomination, are