Page:The Religion of Ancient Egypt.djvu/40

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famous picture at Benihassan which was formerly thought to represent Joseph presenting his brethren to Pharaoh. An English lady has been heard to request her guide to cut out for her the face of Joseph.

But this destruction in some form or other has been going on for centuries. Abd-el-Latif, a learned Arabian writer of the middle ages, tells us in his description of Egypt that the ruins of Memphis in his time extended half a day's journey in every direction, and that, in spite of the removal for building purposes of immense masses of materials, its ruins presented to the spectator a re-union of marvels sufficient to confound the intelligence, and which the most eloquent man would vainly undertake to describe. He then proceeds to give a very intelligent account of these marvels, which must have been scarce less astounding than those still to be seen at Thebes. But of Memphis there is at present hardly a trace left. And other great cities known to ancient travellers have disappeared with their monuments. Mummy-cases and coffins with most interesting inscriptions have for centuries been used as fuel. And innumerable manuscripts have suffered the same fate.

In speaking of our stock of information respecting the ancient world, Mr. Grote says that "we possess only what has drifted ashore from the wreck of a stranded vessel." If this be true with reference to such a literature as that of Greece, with its immortal