« ZurückWeiter »
States, this portion of the Egyptian chronology is of easy solution, and of very satisfactory confirmation. The solid ground on which we stand here, may give us vantage for our spring over the more boggy and unsafe quagmire of the earlier periods and Empires.
The exact number of years assigned to these thirteen Dynasties is,
To the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-first,
229 + 112 + 185 + 130 years 656. To the Twenty-second, Twenty-third, Twenty-fourth, Twenty-fifth,
To the Twenty-seventh, Twenty-eighth, Twenty-ninth, and Thirtieth,
The sum of the whole is, of course, 656 + 455 + 185, or 1,296 years. But, while this is expressed in so few figures, it is the result of many conjectural emendations and painful exercises of thought. The historical portion of this elaborate and volu. minous treatise, which is yet to come, bears no comparison, as to difficulty of adjustment, with the nice calculations of the chronology, and may be hoped, by consequence, to prove more generally satisfactory than the chronological dates and figures. That an equal ingenuity and industry have directed the researches in each department, we are well assured; but, from the very nature of the case, the results on the one side cannot command such general assent as on the other. A sample, for instance, of the method employed by Bunsen for the restoration and identification of the early names of the Eighteenth Dynasty, will show how happily his sagacity can be applied to the removal of difficulties in the historical department of his work, while scarcely any method of proof he could adopt would satisfy us, in the same degree, of the correctness either of the smaller items of his calculations, or, in every case, of the sums as a whole. Here there may, and probably always will, exist more or less of hesitation, (unless we so identify ourselves with the author, as to adopt, point-blank, all his conclusions,) because the dates are unsettled, and, by reason of the weak premiss, the inference is unstable. But, in the historical adjustments, there is so obvious an appeal to facts, which fall into their proper sequence and order at the imperial command of genius,-while monumental inscriptions corroborate the inferences,-that the very operation itself is evidence of its truth. We produce one instance of many, because of its neatness and brevity:
The royal Tablet of Abydos enumerates nine Kings at the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty, from Aahmes to Her, inclusive; and the lists of Manetho, according to Josephus,
Harmonizing the Lists.
Africanus, and Eusebius, have the like number of names and dates between Amos, or Amoses, and Horus. Here we have evidently, at the head and at the foot of this short roll of Kings, names that correspond in both catalogues: Aahmes=Amos, and Her=Horus. But the seventh and eighth names in the two enumerations correspond with equal closeness: Tuthmes=Tuthmosis, and Amen-hept Amenophis. Thus four names out of nine are so certainly identified, that not a doubt can exist that the persons they designate are the same. There remain, however, five names in each enumeration, which present a seemingly irreconcileable incongruity. They are these, and stand in the following order :
TABLET OF ABYDOS.
2. Amen-hept I.
6. Amen-hept II.
The first step in the process of harmonizing these names is to exclude Chebron altogether, because not on the monumental tablet; whereby Amenophis takes its place, corresponding with Amen-hept. Mephramuthosis is thus also thrown up a step higher, and answers to Tuthmes or Tuthmosis III., being evidently a mere compound of the preceding Mephres with Tuthmosis. We have thus obtained six correspondences out of nine, and have only three left to be accounted for. Mephres or Mephre is assumed to be the name of a sister co-regent with her brothers, who reigned in succession to each other, with Tuthmosis II. for twenty-two years probably, and again with Tuthmosis III. twenty-six years in the beginning of his reign. Amesses, the name thrown up opposite Tuthmes I. by the ejection of the name Chebron, is Aahmes, daughter, probably, of the first King Aahmes, and introduced directly after her brother, Amenophis, and her consort Tuthmosis I., (Lepsius calls her "sister," Bunsen "wife,") in genealogical, not dynastic or chronological, order. We have still to seek for the origin of the name Chebron, the second in the series. It is probably placed for either Amosis or Amenophis I., between whom it stands, and may be a travesty of a monumental name, being seemingly nothing more than the name Chnebros, which occurs in the scutcheon of Amos, the preceding King, the chief of the Dynasty. Be this, however, satisfactory or not, the identification and proper allocation of eight out of the nine names are effected with great facility and ingenuity, although, among so much of arbitrary conjecture and arrangement, it is impossible for some minds to feel satisfied that the conclusions thus elicited can ever be invested with the authority of undoubted history.
VOL. V. NO. IX.
This is but a sample of the method Bunsen employs throughout, chiefly, indeed, for chronological purposes, as he does in the present instance; but, so far as our opinion goes, with far more satisfying precision of historical identification, than of chronological summation. Could he, for instance, reduce the era of Menes by a thousand years, we should be more disposed to give him credence, than now that he makes that Monarch to have reigned B.C. 3900. Yet that Menes is a perfectly historical personage, we never doubted, nor that he founded and fortified Memphis, that he drained the mountain valley in which that city stood, that he dammed up the Nile and altered its course, and did many other notable things betokening the wise and powerful ruler of a united and civilized people. All that Menes is reported to have done, and that we cannot but believe he did, involves the necessary belief of so much going before, as to population, social organization, and duration of the body politic of Egypt, that we are fain to pause, and estimate cautiously the trustworthiness of the witnesses on whose testimony we are to admit these large chronological demands upon our credence.
Meanwhile, to justify the position of suspense which we have taken up in relation to the chronological portion of the work, we may be allowed to state, that all the dates of any consequence in the Chevalier's volumes are derived from the epitomists of the history of Egypt, and not from the existing monuments, copious though these latter be, because the monuments signalize events, not dates; and that both names and dates appear to be shifted up and down at pleasure, much like men upon a chessboard, to suit the exigencies of argument and the requirements of hypothesis. The proof of this statement is so abundant, appearing, in short, upon every page, that we need cite no instance in corroboration, although we freely own that the learned author is as fully able to justify this critical leger-de-main with plausible conjecture or convincing reason, as, from our previous knowledge of his powers, we should have pronounced him to be. We intend this assertion to be understood in a complimentary, and not in a disparaging, sense. The ability of an accomplished pleader will show itself, no less in the advocacy of the weakest, than of the strongest, cause.
To proceed, however: in order to give a fair share of satisfaction to the mind, with reference to the antiquities of Egypt, and more especially its chronology, we want not exactly the autographs of Manetho, Eratosthenes, and Apollodorus, but full and faithful transcripts of their writings. Without such a chart in our hands, we confess that we shall never feel confidence in traversing so dangerous a sea; for, instead of this grand desideratum of the original authorities with the historical and critical matter appended, explaining difficulties and recording facts, we
Conflicting Systems of Chronology.
have only synoptic lists, with here and there some most scanty and even impertinent notices regarding the names in the text; and the whole epitomized by later authors, confessedly with a view to sustain their respective systems. Thus Diodorus, Josephus, Eusebius, Julius, and Syncellus, each had his system, No one of them cites in a complete form the chronological matter before him, but each adopts just such a catalogue of names, and synchronism of dates, as harmonize with his own purpose in the selection. In addition to all which, we have the mistakes of ignorant, and the perversions of wilful, transcribers, to defeat our search after even a clean text of these partial epitomes, and to foster within us an obstinate scepticism as to the results based on such faulty data. We may as well frankly confess, that we find this an unconquerable obstacle to the conviction of our understanding, conceding, as that understanding nevertheless does, the entire trustworthiness, on moral grounds, of the authors above named. Nor do we conceive the present condition of our knowledge of hieroglyphic literature at all such as to justify a boundless belief in conclusions that may rest, in any high degree, on the interpretation of the ciphers of this still dark tongue. This is another phase of the difficulty of Egyptian studies, but it is a very important one; and one which ought, in all faithfulness, to be urged, when sanguine minds leap to conclusions from totally insufficient premises.
What will our readers think, for instance, of the assertion, that an old Egyptian novel has been translated out of dead hieroglyphics into the living speech of us men of modern days, by the aid of modern science; and that the very ceremonial of the pre-Pharaonite worshippers of the Graces has been done into modern German, for the edification of ritualists to the end of time? Yet so it is reported to be. The Vicomte Rougé, of Paris, a distinguished student of the ancient literature of Egypt, has quite recently and successfully deciphered, in our author's belief, an Egyptian tale of "The Two Brothers,' belonging to the period of the exodus of the Israelites from the land of the Nile. It is said to contain its story of temptation by an impure woman,-a counterpart of that of Yussuf and Zuleika, proving that the morals of married life had not improved since the time of the graceful Hebrew bondsman who was steward of Potiphar's household,-and many incidents besides, on which we need not dwell, referring our readers for fuller details to the pages of the Revue Archéologique of 1852. The incidents of the tale, it will be readily understood, are not the attraction to us, men of grave and studious occupations, but the wonderful decipherment of the character and continuity of the narrative,-an achievement, if thorough and triumphant, only second to the original discovering of the hieroglyphic alphabet by means of the Rosetta Stone.
The interpretation of the Ceremonial Book of the Dead, it is modestly allowed, has not been so full and satisfactory; nevertheless, Lepsius, the great Berlin Egyptologer, has done much to render its pictures and text intelligible, while the amount of discovery already made, in regard to its contents, renders further achievement in this field at once more easy and more certain. Every day, in fact, is adding both to the store of our materials, and to our facilities for their elucidation. Such a resurrection of a defunct literature was never known in the history of the world before, and finds its only parallel in modern times in the discovery of Nineveh, with its precious buried treasures.
Now, while we allow interpreters of the hieroglyphic legend all the credit they deserve for their extraordinary painstaking in the resuscitation of this dead and forgotten tongue, and feel no hesitation in employing the most unmeasured terms to express our gratitude for the "sermons in stones," which their patience and sagacity have enabled them to read to us, we will not permit ourselves to be blinded by partiality, or misled by a false generosity, into an exaggerated estimate of the amount of their success. Two or three pregnant facts must never be lost sight of in relation to our knowledge of hieroglyphic literature. One of these is, that, while names of persons and places have been recognised with tolerable facility and correctness, and a few of the more obvious terms connected with these, such as complimentary inscriptions, dedications, et hoc genus omne, the language itself in substance has not been recovered, nor would any one but the veriest tyro aver that it had.
Such, and no more, is the extent hitherto of our exploration of Egyptian hieroglyphics. That it will certainly lead to something fuller and better than this, we have already expressed an unhesitating opinion; but for the present we cannot too strongly reiterate our verdict, that, while enough has been achieved to justify our cordial felicitations, very little has been done to justify the reconstruction, on this basis alone or chiefly, of the entire past history of the world.
A few observations here, on the List of Hieroglyphics appended to Bunsen's first volume, may not be out of place, forming, as that List does, a most interesting portion of his work; and sustaining, as we proceed to show, the question how very problematical may be any conclusions formed on the basis of hieroglyphics, where not fully borne out by simpler and more convincing evidence.
Of pure hieroglyphics, in the shape of ideographic signs, there have been discovered in all hitherto only 620. But ideographic signs are no exponents of a language; they are simply pictured representations of facts or ideas, and are susceptible of an indefinite number of interpretations, according