« PrécédentContinuer »
side, in a state of dissolution. The natron also dissolves the flesh; so that nothing remains but the skin and bones. This process being over, they restore the body without any further operation.
"The third kind of embalming is only adopted for the poor. In this they merely cleanse the body by an injection of syrmæa, and salt it during seventy days; after which it is returned to the friends who brought it.
"The bodies of women of quality are not embalmed directly after their death *, and it is customary for the family to keep them three or four days before they are subjected to that process."
The account given by Diodorus† is similar to that of the historian of Halicarnassus. "The funerals of the Egyptians are conducted upon three different scales, -the most expensive, the more moderate, and the humblest. The first is said to cost a talent of silver (about 250l. sterling); the second 22 minæ (or 607.); and the third is extremely cheap. The persons who embalm the bodies are artists who have learnt this secret from their ancestors. They present to the friends of the deceased who apply to them an estimate of the funeral expenses, and ask them in what manner they wish it to be performed; which being agreed upon, they deliver the body to the proper persons
* Herodotus says, “ Τας δε γυναίκας των επιφανεων ανδρων, επεαν τε λευτήσωσι, ου παραυτικα διδουσι ταριχεύειν, ουδε όσαι αν ώσι ευειδεες καρτα και λόγου πλεύνος γυναίκες. Αλλ επεάν τριταιαι η τεταρταίαι γενωνται, ούτω παραδίδουσι τοισι ταριχευουσι, τούτο δε ποιεύσι ουτω τούδε είνεκεν, ίνα μη σφι οι ταριχεύται μισχωνται τῇσι γυναιξί, λαμφθηναι γαρ τινα φασι μισγόμενον νεκρῳ προσφατῳ γυναικός, κατειπαι δε τον ομοτέχνον.
+ Diodor. i. 91.
appointed to that office. First, one, who is denominated the scribe, marks upon the left side of the body, as it lies on the ground, the extent of the incision which is to be made; then another, who is called paraschistes (the dissector), cuts open as much of the flesh as the law permits with an Ethiopian stone, and immediately runs away*, pursued by those who are present, throwing stones at him amidst bitter execrations, as if to cast upon him all the odium of this necessary act. For they look upon every one who has offered violence to, or inflicted a wound or any other injury upon a human body, to be hateful; but the embalmers, on the contrary, are held in the greatest consideration and respect, being the associates of the priests, and permitted free access to the temples as sacred persons.
"As soon as they have met together to embalm the body thus prepared for them, one introduces his hand through the aperture into the abdomen, and takes every thing out, except the kidneys and heart. † Another cleanses each of the viscera with palm wine and aromatic substances. Lastly, after having applied oil of cedar and other things to the whole body for upwards of thirty days, they add myrrh, cinnamon, and those drugs which have
Vide Pausanias, Attic. lib. i. c. 24.; who speaks of the priest fleeing away as soon as he had killed the victim, before the altar of Jupiter Poliéus, at Athens.
According to Pliny, the Egyptians believed the heart to be the great vital principle, and that man could not live beyond 100 years from its being impaired by that time. Non vivere hominem ultra centesimum annum defectu cordis, Egyptii existimant, quibus mos est cadavera asservare medicata." (lib. xi. c. 37.)
not only the power of preserving the body for a length of time, but of imparting to it a fragrant odour. It is then restored to the friends of the deceased. And so perfectly are all the members preserved, that even the hairs of the eyelids and eyebrows remain undisturbed, and the whole appearance of the person is so unaltered that every feature may be recognised. The Egyptians, therefore, who sometimes keep the bodies of their ancestors in magnificent apartments set apart for the purpose, have an opportunity of contemplating the faces of those who died many generations before them; and the height and figure of their bodies being distinguishable, as well as the character of the countenance, they enjoy a wonderful gratification, as if they lived in the society of those they see before them."
On the foregoing statements of the two historians, I may be permitted some observations.
First, with regard to what Herodotus says of the wooden figures kept as patterns for mummies, the most elaborate of which represented Osiris. All the Egyptians who, from their virtues, were admitted to the mansions of the blessed, were permitted to assume the form and name of this Deity. It was not confined to the rich alone, who paid for the superior kind of embalming, or to those mummies which were sufficiently well made to assume the form of Osiris; and Herodotus should therefore have confined his remark to those
Diodorus is wrong in supposing that they could see the actual face of the dead body. Vide infrà, p. 457.
which were of so inferior a kind as not to imitate the figure of a man. For we know that the second class of mummies were put up in the same form of Osiris; and if it was not so with the cheapest kind, this was in consequence of their being merely wrapped in cloths or matting, and assuming no shape beyond that of a bandaged body.*
Secondly. It is evident from the mummies which have been found in such abundance at Thebes and other places, that in the three different modes of embalming several gradations existed; some of which differ so much in many essential points as almost to justify our extending the number mentioned by the historians, as will be seen from what I shall hereafter state respecting the various modes ascertained from the bodies themselves. I may also refer for this subject to Mr. Pettigrew's valuable work on the History of the Egyptian Mummies.
Thirdly. The extraction of the brain by the nostrils is proved by the appearance of the mummies found in the tombs; and some of the crooked instruments (always of bronze) supposed to have been used for this purpose have been discovered at Thebes.
Fourthly. The incision in the side is, as Diodorus says, on the left. Over it the sacred eye of Osiris (?) was placed, and through it the viscera were returned when not deposited in the four vases.
Fifthly. The second class of mummies without any incision in the side are often found in the
* He perhaps had in view those only which had a cartonage.
tombs; but it is also shown from the bodies at Thebes that the incision was not always confined to those of the first class, and that some of an inferior kind were submitted to this simple and ef fectual process.
Sixthly. The sum stated by Diodorus of a talent of silver can only be a general estimate of the expense of the first kind of embalming; since the various gradations in the style of preparing them prove that some mummies must have cost far more than others and the sumptuous manner in which many persons performed the funerals of their friends kept pace with the splendour of the tombs they made or purchased for their reception.
Seventhly. The execrations with which the paraschistes was pursued could only have been a religious form, from which he was doubtless in little apprehension; an anomaly not altogether without a parallel in other civilised countries.
Eighthly. Diodorus is in error when he supposes the actual face of the body was seen after it was restored to the family; for even before it was deposited in the case, which Herodotus says the friends made for it, the features, as well as the whole body, were concealed by the bandages which enveloped them. The resemblance he mentions was only in the mummy case, or the cartonage which came next to the bandages; and, indeed, whatever number of cases covered a mummy, the face of each was intended as a representation of the person within, as the lower part was in imitation