Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/169

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the Indian tribes of America, that it is startling to recollect how large a place it held in the intricate mythology of so wise and learned a people as the ancient Egyptians, who not only excelled in all arts of peace and war, but seem to have mastered many of those mysteries of science which still perplex the learned men of the nineteenth century. Long ere the Greeks and Israelites had learnt their earliest lessons from the sages from Egypt, and while Rome was but a village of mud-huts, the banks of the Nile were graced with buildings, which, in their stately beauty, rivalled the marvels of Babel. Prominent among these was the temple of the sacred bull Mnevis. The patron god of Memphis was the golden bull Apis, to whom pure white bulls were sacrificed; while in his honour jet-black bulls were worshipped during life, and after death were embalmed, and preserved in sarcophagi of polished black basalt. Only their bones were preserved, swathed in linen, and tied up so as to resemble an animal lying down. A full-grown bull thus prepared was no bigger than a calf, while a calf was the size of a dog. Thirty-three of these sacred bull-mummies were found in the catacombs, each in its own sarcophagus.

Other catacombs were entirely devoted to the mummies of sacred dogs and cats, beetles and mice, hawks and ibis, each neatly strapped up in linen and sealed up in a red earthenware jar. These are found packed like the contents of some vast wine-cellar—tier behind tier, and in layers reaching to the roof of the catacombs, some of which are large caves, with endless ramifications; yet chamber after chamber of these vast storehouses are all alike closely packed with this vast multitude of mummy-jars, accumulated by countless generations of reverent worshippers.

Strangest of all these sepulchres of sacred creatures, are the crocodile mummy-pits, in which are stored a vast assemblage of crocodiles of all sizes, from the patriarch measuring twelve or fourteen feet in length, to the poor baby only five inches long, each wrapped up in palm-leaves. Thousands of these little demigods, about eighteen inches long, are tied together in bundles of eight or ten, and swathed in coarse cloth. True believers in the crocodile-headed god Savak, kept these creatures tame in a great crocodile city near the artificial lake Mœris, where they were fed with cake and roast meat, washed down by draughts of mulled wine; their fore-feet were adorned with golden bracelets, and their ears were pierced and enriched with precious gems. But the worshippers had to fight the battles of their gods against various irreverent neighbours, notably against the people of Elephantine, who, so far from worshipping the crocodile, considered it a dainty dish, to be eaten as often as it could be captured.

So well known to their contemporaries was this Egyptian reverence