Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/262

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238
THE OUTLINE OF HISTORY

proval gave prosperity, whose anger meant misfortune; he could be propitiated by little presents and the help of his servants could be obtained. He was wonderful, and of such power and knowledge that it did not do to be disrespectful to him even in one's thoughts. Within the priesthood, however, a certain amount of thinking went on at a rather higher level than that.

 

§ 3[1]

And now we have to note a very interesting fact about the chief temples of Egypt and, so far as we know—because the ruins are not so distinct—of Babylonia, and that is that they were "oriented"—that is to say, that the same sort of temple was built so that the shrine and entrance always faced in the same direction.[2] In Babylonian temples this was most often due east, facing the sunrise on March 21st and September 21st, the equinoxes; and it is to be noted that it was at the spring equinox that the Euphrates and Tigris came down in flood. The Pyramids of Gizeh are also oriented east and west, and the Sphinx faces due east, but very many of the Egyptian temples to the south of the delta of the Nile do not point due east, but to the point where the sun rises at the longest day—and in Egypt the inundation comes close to that date. Others, however, pointed nearly northward, and others again pointed to the rising of the star Sirius or to the rising-point of other conspicuous stars. The fact of orientation links up with the fact that there early arose a close association between various gods and the sun and various fixed stars. Whatever the mass of people outside were thinking, the priests of the temples were beginning to link the movements of those heavenly bodies with the power in the shrine. They were thinking about the gods they served and thinking new meanings into them. They were brooding upon the mystery of the stars. It was very natural for them to suppose that these shining bodies, so irregularly distributed and circling so solemnly and silently, must be charged with portents to mankind.

  1. See Johnson's Byeways of British Archæology.
  2. Many Christian churches, almost all, indeed, built between the fifth century and the Renaissance, are oriented to the east. St. Peter's at Rome is oriented east and west.