The Wisdom of the Egyptians
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Pages (PDF): 168
Publication Date: 1923
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From the Introduction: 'IN ancient times the land that is now called Egypt was called by the people, then inhabiting that part of Africa, "Kam," a word that means "black" or "dark-colored" and referred to the dark color of the muddy soil in their land. To the Hebrews this name was known as "Khám" or "Ham" and in the Bible the Egyptians are referred to as "Sons of Ham" or "Children of Ham."'
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IN ancient times the land that is now called Egypt was called by the people, then inhabiting that part of Africa, "Kam," a word that means "black" or "dark-colored" and referred to the dark color of the muddy soil in their land. To the Hebrews this name was known as "Khám" or "Ham" and in the Bible the Egyptians are referred to as "Sons of Ham" or "Children of Ham."
These people had a God called "Ptah" to whom they raised a temple--the temple was called "He-Ka-ptah" or House of "Ka"--of "Ptah." This name, that was in the beginning confined to "Memphis," gradually spread to other parts of the Nile Valley, and by degrees the whole country became known as "HeKapath," to other people with whom these people had contact. The Greeks changed the name into "Aiguptos" and the Romans changed it into "Aegyptus," so from these names we get the name in its present form--"Egypt."
To what race do the Egyptians belong? On this subject Prof. James Breasted in his "History of Egypt" writes the following:
"On the now bare and windswept desert plateau, through which the Nile has hollowed its channel, there once dwelt a race of men. Plenteous rains, now no longer known there, rendered it a fertile and productive region. The geological changes which have since made the country almost rainless, denuded it of vegetation and soil, and made it for the most part uninhabitable, took place many thousands of years before the beginning of the Egyptian civilization, which we are to study; but the prehistoric race, who before these changes peopled the plateau, left behind them as the sole memorial of their existence vast numbers of rude flint implements, now lying scattered about the surface of the present desert exposed by denudation.
"These men of the paleolithic age were the first inhabitants of whom we have any knowledge in Egypt. They cannot be connected in any way with the historic or prehistoric civilization of the Egyptians and they fall exclusively within the province of the geologist and anthropologist. The forefathers of the people with whom we shall have to deal were related to the Libyans or North Africans on the one hand, and on the other to the peoples of eastern Africa, now known as the Galla, Somali, Bega and other tribes.
"An invasion of the Nile Valley by Semitic Nomads of Asia, stamped its essential character unmistakably upon the language of the African people there. The earliest strata of the language accessible to us, betray clearly this composite origin. While still colored by its African antecedents, the language is in structure Semitic. It is moreover a completed product as observable in our earliest preserved examples of it; but the fusion of the Libyans and East Africans with the Nile Valley peoples continued far into historic times, and in the case of the Libyans may be traced in ancient historical documents for three thousand years or more.
"The Semitic immigration from Asia, examples of which are also observable in the historic age, occurred in an epoch that lies far below our remotest historical horizon. We shall never be able to determine when, nor with certainty through what channels, it took place, although the most probable route is that along which we may observe a similar influx from the deserts of Arabia in historic times, the isthmus of Suez, by which the Mohammedan invasion entered the country.
"While the Semitic language which they brought with them left its indelible impress upon the old Nile Valley people, the nomadic life of the desert which the invaders left behind them, evidently was not so persistent, and the religion of Egypt, that element of life which always receives the stamp of its environment, shows no trace of the desert life. The affinities observable in the language are confirmed in case of the Libyans, by the surviving products of archaic civilization in the Nile Valley such as some of the early pottery, which closely resembles that still made by the Libyan Kabyles. Again the representations of the early Puntites, or Somali people, on the Egyptian monuments, show striking resemblances to the Egyptians themselves. The examination of the bodies exhumed from archaic burials in the Nile Valley, which we had hoped might bring further evidence for the settlement of the problem, has, however, produced such diversity of opinion among the physical anthropologists, as to render it impossible for the historian to obtain decisive results from their researches. The conclusion once maintained by some historians, that the Egyptian was of African negro origin is now refuted; and evidently indicated that at most he may have been slightly tinctured with negro blood, in addition to other ethnic elements already mentioned."
THE EGYPTIAN RELIGION
If we were called upon to characterize the Egyptian religion in a few words, we should call it, both as a system and as a cult, an almost monarchical polytheism in a theocratic form. The Egyptian polytheism was not purely monarchical, for there were several divine monarchies; and only by the somewhat arbitrary doctrine that all the chief gods were in reality the same under different names, could the semblance of monarchy be maintained. But this religion was undoubtedly theocratic in the strictest sense of the word. The divinity himself reigned through his son, the absolute king, his incarnation and representative on earth. The priesthood of Amon, strengthened by its victory over the heretic, and by the measureless wealth which the munificence of successful conquerors poured into its lap, had attained the most tremendous power in the state; and when, after a long time, its members had reduced the king to weak tools in their hands, and succeeded at last in usurping the throne itself, the theocracy was altered in form only, but not in its essence.
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