Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/222

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

their ways, like their picture writing, were very different indeed from the Sumerian. One of the earliest known figures of a deity is that of a hippopotamus goddess, and so very distinctively African.[1]

The clay of the Nile is not so fine and plastic as the Sumerian clay, and the Egyptians made no use of it for writing. But they early resorted to strips of the papyrus reed fastened together, from whose name comes our word "paper."

The broad outline of the history of Egypt is simpler than the history of Mesopotamia. It has long been the custom to divide the rulers of Egypt into a succession of Dynasties, and in speaking of the periods of Egyptian history it is usual to speak of the first, fourth, fourteenth, and so on, Dynasty. The Egyptians were ultimately conquered by the Persians after their establishment in Babylon, and when finally Egypt fell to Alexander the Great in 332 b.c., it was Dynasty XXXI that came to an end. In that long history of over 4000 years, a much longer period than that between the career of Alexander the Great and the present day, certain broad phases of development may be noted here. There was a phase known as the "old kingdom," which culminated in the IVth Dynasty; this Dynasty marks a period of wealth and splendour, and its monarchs were obsessed by such a passion for making monuments for themselves as no men have ever before or since had a chance to display and gratify. It was Cheops[2] and Chephren and Mycerinus of this IVth Dynasty who raised the vast piles of the great and the second and the third pyramids at Gizeh. These unmeaning[3] sepulchral piles, of an almost incredible vast-

  1. "The original home or centre of development of this 'Dynastic' Egyptian type seems to have been in southern or south-western Arabia. This region of south-western and southern Arabia, ten to fifteen thousand years ago, was probably an even better favoured province than it is at the present day, when it still bears the Roman designation of Arabia Felix—so much of the rest of this gaunt, lava-covered, sand-strewn peninsula being decidedly 'infelix.' It has high mountains—a certain degree of rainfall on them, and was anciently clothed in rich forests before the camels, goats, and sheep of Neolithic and Bronze Age man nibbled away much of this verdure. Above all there grew trees oozing with delicious-scented resins or gums. These, when civilization dawned on the world, became very precious and an offering of sweet savour to the civilized man's gods, because so grateful to his own nostrils." Africa, by Sir H. H. Johnston.
  2. 3733 b.c., Wallis Budge.
  3. But compare the citation of Beowulf in Chap. xv, § 2. — R. L. C.