Page:The Religion of Ancient Egypt.djvu/93

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78
LECTURE II.

features of Egyptian civilization, and I ought not to conclude without alluding to two errors, one of which may be considered as entirely obsolete among scholars, whilst the other may claim the sanction of very high authority.


Castes.

As long as our information depended upon the classical Greek authors, the existence of castes among the Egyptians was admitted as certain. The error was detected as soon as the sense of the inscriptions could be made out. A very slight knowledge of the language was sufficient to demonstrate the truth to the late M. Ampère.[1] Among ourselves, many men may be found whose ancestors have for several generations followed the same calling, either the army or the church, or some branch of industry or trade. The Egyptians were no doubt even more conservative than ourselves in this respect. But there was no impassable barrier between two professions. The son or the brother of a warrior might be a priest. It was perhaps more difficult to rise in the world than it is with us; but a man of education, a scribe, was eligible to any office, civil, military or sacerdotal, to which his talents or the chances of fortune might lead him, and nothing prevented his marriage with the daughter of a man of a different profession.

  1. "Des Castes dans l'ancienne Egypte," in the Revue des Deux Mondes, Sept. 1848.