The double still haunts the statues with which he was associated in the past. As in former times, he yet strikes with madness or death any who dare to disturb is repose; and one can only be protected from him by breaking, at the moment of discovery, the perfect statues which the vault contains. The double is weakened or killed by the mutilation of these his sustainers. The statues furnish in their modelling a more correct idea of the deceased than his mummy, disfigured as it was by the work of the embalmers; they were also less easily destroyed, and any number could be made at will.
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Hence arose the really incredible number of statues sometimes hidden away in the same tomb. These sustainers or imperishable bodies of the double were multiplied so as to insure for him a practical immortality; and the care with which they were shut into a secure hiding-place, increased their chances of preservation. All the same, no precaution was neglected that could save a mummy from destruction. The shaft leading to it descended to a mean depth of forty to fifty feet, but sometimes it reached, and even exceeded, a hundred feet. Running horizontally from it is a passage so low as to prevent a man standing upright in it, which leads to the sepulchral chamber properly so called, hewn out of the solid rock and devoid of all ornament; the sarcophagus, whether of fine limestone, rose-granite, or black basalt, does not always bear the name and titles of the deceased.
The servants who deposited the body in it placed beside it on the dusty floor the quarters of the ox, previously slaughtered in the chapel, as well as phials of perfume, and large vases of red pottery containing muddy water; after which they walled up the entrance to the passage and filled the shaft with chips of stone intermingled with earth and gravel. The whole, being well watered, soon hardened into a compact mass, which protected the vault and its master from desecration. During the course of centuries, the ever-increasing number of tombs at length formed an almost uninterrupted chain of burying-places on the table-land.
Everywhere the tombs are rich in inscriptions, statues, and painted or sculptured scenes, each revealing some characteristic custom, or some detail of contemporary civilization. From the womb, as it were, of these cemeteries, the Egypt of the Memphite dynasties gradually takes new life, and reappears in the full daylight of history. Nobles and fellahs, soldiers and priests, scribes and craftsmen,—the whole nation lives anew before us; each with his manners, his dress, his daily round of occupation and pleasures.
It is a perfect picture, and although in places the drawing is defaced and the colour dimmed, yet these may be restored with no great difficulty, and with almost absolute certainty. The king stands out boldly in the foreground, and his tall figure towers over all else. He so completely transcends his surroundings, that at first sight one may well ask if he does not represent a god rather than a man; and, as a matter of fact, he is a god to his subjects.
If things came to the worst, a marriage with some princess would soon legitimise, if not the usurper himself, at least his descendants, and thus firmly re-establish the succession. The Pharaohs, therefore, are blood-relations of the Sun-god, some through their father, others through their mother, directly begotten by the God, and their souls as well as their bodies have a supernatural origin; each soul being a double detached from Horus, the successor of Osiris, and the first to reign alone over Egypt.
This divine double is infused into the royal infant at birth, in the same manner as the ordinary double is incarnate in common mortals. It always remained concealed, and seemed to lie dormant in those princes whom destiny did not call upon to reign, but it awoke to full self-consciousness in those who ascended the throne at the moment of their accession. Their complex nature was revealed at the outset in the form and arrangement of their names. Among the Egyptians the choice of a name was not a matter of indifference; not only did men and beasts, but even inanimate objects, require one or more names, and it may be said that no person or thing in the world could attain to complete existence until the name had been conferred.
The name having once, as it were, taken possession of a man on his entrance into life, never leaves him either in this world or the next; the prince who had been called Unas or Assi at the moment of his birth, retained this name even after death, so long as his mummy existed, and his double was not annihilated. When the Egyptians wished to denote that a person or thing was in a certain place, they inserted their names within the picture of the place in question.
But this first name chosen for the child did not include the whole man; it left without appropriate designation the double of Horus, which was revealed in the prince at the moment of accession. This artless preamble was not enough to satisfy the love of precision which is the essential characteristic of the Egyptians. When they wished to represent the double in his sepulchral chamber, they left out of consideration the period in his existence during which he had presided over the earthly destinies of the sovereign, in order to render them similar to those of Horus, from whom the double proceeded.
They, therefore, withdrew him from the tomb which should have been his lot, and there was substituted for the ordinary sparrow-hawk one of those groups which symbolize sovereignty over the two countries of the Nile—the coiled urasus of the North, and the vulture of the South, [—]; there was then finally added a second sparrow-hawk, the golden sparrow-hawk, [—], the triumphant sparrow-hawk which had delivered Egypt from Typhon.
On the other hand, the royal prince, when he put on the diadem, received, from the moment of his advancement to the highest rank, such an increase of dignity, that his birth-name—even when framed in a cartouche and enhanced with brilliant epithets—was no longer able to fully represent him. This exaltation of his person was therefore marked by a new designation. Several Pharaohs of the IVth dynasty had already dignified themselves by these surnames; those of the VIth were the first to incorporate them regularly into the royal preamble.
Four terms seemed thus necessary to the Egyptians in order to define accurately the Pharaoh, both in time and in eternity. Long centuries were needed before this subtle analysis of the royal person, and the learned graduation of the formulas which corresponded to it, could transform the Nome chief, become by conquest suzerain over all other chiefs and king of all Egypt, into a living god here below, the all-powerful son and successor of the gods; but the divine concept of royalty, once implanted in the mind, quickly produced its inevitable consequences.
From the moment that the Pharaoh became god upon earth, the gods of heaven, his fathers or his brothers, and the goddesses recognized him as their son, and, according to the ceremonial imposed by custom in such cases, consecrated his adoption by offering him the breast to suck, as they would have done to their own child. No one is free from this obligation: his ministers themselves, and the great ones of his kingdom, cannot deliberate with him on matters of state, without inaugurating the proceeding by a sort of solemn service in his honour, and reciting to him at length a eulogy of his divinity.
The viper or uraeus, in metal or gilded wood, which rose from his forehead, was imbued with a mysterious life, which made it a means of executing his vengeance and accomplishing his secret purposes.
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It was supposed to vomit flames and to destroy those who should dare to attack its master in battle. The supernatural virtues which it communicated to the crown, made it an enchanted thing which no one could resist. Lastly, Pharaoh had his temples where his enthroned statue, animated by one of his doubles, received worship, prophesied, and fulfilled all the functions of a Divine Being, both during his life, and after he had rejoined in the tomb his ancestors the gods, who existed before him and who now reposed impassively within the depths of their pyramids. Man, as far as his body was concerned, and god in virtue of his soul and its attributes, the Pharaoh, in right of this double nature, acted as a constant mediator between heaven and earth.
He alone was fit to transmit the prayers of men to his fathers and his brethren the gods.
Just as the head of a family was in his household the priest par excellence of the gods of that family,—just as the chief of a nome was in his nome the priest par excellence in regard to the gods of the nome,—so was Pharaoh the priest par excellence of the gods of all Egypt, who were his special deities. He accompanied their images in solemn processions; he poured out before them the wine and mystic milk, recited the formulas in their hearing, seized the bull who was the victim with a lasso and slaughtered it according to the rite consecrated by ancient tradition.
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He thus maintained daily intercourse with the gods, and they, on their part, did not neglect any occasion of communicating with him. They appeared to him in dreams to foretell his future, to command him to restore a monument which was threatened with ruin, to advise him to set out to war, to forbid him risking his life in the thick of the fight.
Communication by prophetic dreams was not, however, the method usually selected by the gods: they employed as interpreters of their wishes the priests and the statues in the temples. The king entered the chapel where the statue was kept, and performed in its presence the invocatory rites, and questioned it upon the subject which occupied his mind.
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The priest replied under direct inspiration from on high, and the dialogue thus entered upon might last a long time. Interminable discourses, whose records cover the walls of the Theban temples, inform us what the Pharaoh said on such occasions, and in what emphatic tones the gods replied. Sometimes the animated statues raised their voices in the darkness of the sanctuary and themselves announced their will; more frequently they were content to indicate it by a gesture.
When they were consulted on some particular subject and returned no sign, it was their way of signifying their disapprobation. If, on the other hand, they significantly bowed their head, once or twice, the subject was an acceptable one, and they approved it. No state affair was settled without asking their advice, and without their giving it in one way or another. The monuments, which throw full light on the supernatural character of the Pharaohs in general, tell us but little of the individual disposition of any king in particular, or of their everyday life.
When by chance we come into closer intimacy for a moment with the sovereign, he is revealed to us as being less divine and majestic than we might have been led to believe, had we judged him only by his impassive expression and by the pomp with which he was surrounded in public. Not that he ever quite laid aside his grandeur; even in his home life, in his chamber or his garden, during those hours when he felt himself withdrawn from public gaze, those highest in rank might never forget when they approached him that he was a god.
He took an interest in those who waited on him, allowed them certain breaches of etiquette when he was pleased with them, and was indulgent to their little failings.
If they had just returned from foreign lands, a little countrified after a lengthy exile from the court, he would break out into pleasantries over their embarrassment and their unfashionable costume,—kingly pleasantries which excited the forced mirth of the bystanders, but which soon fell flat and had no meaning for those outside the palace. The Pharaoh was fond of laughing and drinking; indeed, if we may believe evil tongues, he took so much at times as to incapacitate him for business.
The chase was not always a pleasure to him, hunting in the desert, at least, where the lions evinced a provoking tendency to show as little respect for the divinity of the prince as for his mortal subjects; but, like the chiefs of old, he felt it a duty to his people to destroy wild beasts, and he ended by counting the slain in hundreds, however short his reign might be. A considerable part of his time was taken up in war—in the east, against the Libyans in the regions of the Oasis; in the Nile Valley to the south of Aswan against the Nubians; on the Isthmus of Suez and in the Sinaitic Peninsula against the Bedouin; frequently also in a civil war against some ambitious noble or some turbulent member of his own family.
He restored or enlarged the monuments, regulated equitably the assessment of taxes and charges, settled or dismissed the lawsuits between one town and another concerning the appropriation of the water, or the possession of certain territories, distributed fiefs which had fallen vacant, among his faithful servants, and granted pensions to be paid out of the royal revenues. At length he re-entered Memphis, or one of his usual residences, where fresh labours awaited him.
He gave audience daily to all, whether high or low, who were, or believed that they were, wronged by some official, and who came to appeal to the justice of the master against the injustice of his servant. If he quitted the palace when the cause had been heard, to take boat or to go to the temple, he was not left undisturbed, but petitions and supplications assailed him by the way.
In addition to this, there were the daily sacrifices, the despatch of current affairs, the ceremonies which demanded the presence of the Pharaoh, and the reception of nobles or foreign envoys. One would think that in the midst of so many occupations he would never feel time hang heavy on his hands. He was, however, a prey to that profound ennui which most Oriental monarchs feel so keenly, and which neither the cares nor the pleasures of ordinary life could dispel.
All his pastimes were not so playful. The Egyptians by nature were not cruel, and we have very few records either in history or tradition of bloodthirsty Pharaohs; but the life of an ordinary individual was of so little value in their eyes, that they never hesitated to sacrifice it, even for a caprice.
A sorcerer had no sooner boasted before Kheops of being able to raise the dead, than the king proposed that he should try the experiment on a prisoner whose head was to be forthwith cut off. The royal family was very numerous. They did not all enjoy the same treatment or consideration, and their original position decided their status in the harem, unless the amorous caprice of their master should otherwise decide.
She had her own house, and a train of servants and followers as large as those of the king; while the women of inferior rank were more or less shut up in the parts of the palace assigned to them, she came and went at pleasure, and appeared in public with or without her husband. The preamble of official documents in which she is mentioned, solemnly recognizes her as the living follower of Horus, the associate of the Lord of the Vulture and the Uraeus, the very gentle, the very praiseworthy, she who sees her Horus, or Horus and Sit, face to face.
Her union with the god-king rendered her a goddess, and entailed upon her the fulfilment of all the duties which a goddess owed to a god. They were varied and important. The woman, indeed, was supposed to combine in herself more completely than a man the qualities necessary for the exercise of magic, whether legitimate or otherwise: she saw and heard that which the eyes and ears of man could not perceive; her voice, being more flexible and piercing, was heard at greater distances; she was by nature mistress of the art of summoning or banishing invisible beings.
While Pharaoh was engaged in sacrificing, the queen, by her incantations, protected him from malignant deities, whose interest it was to divert the attention of the celebrant from holy things: she put them to flight by the sound of prayer and sistrum, she poured libations and offered perfumes and flowers. In processions she walked behind her husband, gave audience with him, governed for him while he was engaged in foreign wars, or during his progresses through his kingdom: such was the work of Isis while her brother Osiris was conquering the world.
Widowhood did not always entirely disqualify her. If she belonged to the solar race, and the new sovereign was a minor, she acted as regent by hereditary right, and retained the authority for some years longer. It occasionally happened that she had no posterity, or that the child of another woman inherited the crown. In that case there was no law or custom to prevent a young and beautiful widow from wedding the son, and thus regaining her rank as Queen by a marriage with the successor of her deceased husband.
Children swarmed in the palace, as in the houses of private individuals: in spite of the number who died in infancy, they were reckoned by tens, sometimes by the hundred, and more than one Pharaoh must have been puzzled to remember exactly the number and names of his offspring.