« PrécédentContinuer »
return of the inundation, upon which all his hopes for the ensuing year depended. He watched with scrupulous attention the first rise of the river; the state of its daily increase was noted down and proclaimed by the curators of the Nilometers at Memphis and other places; and the same anxiety for the approaching inundation was felt on each succeeding year. But during this interval he was not idle, and the quantity of water required for artificial irrigation entailed on the peasant incessant labour, except when the Nile was at its highest; and even while watching his water-melons, and various cucurbitaceous plants (like the modern felláh, under the shade of a rude "lodge in a garden of cucumbers”), he occupied himself in preparing something that might be serviceable on a future occasion.
During the inundation, when the Nile had been admitted by the canals into the interior, and the fields were covered with water, the peasantry indulged in various amusements which this leisure period gave them time to enjoy. Their cattle were housed, and supplied with dry food, which had been previously prepared for the purpose; the tillage of the land and all agricultural occupations were suspended; and this season was celebrated as a harvest home, with recreations of every kind. They indulged in feasting, and in all the luxuries of the table that they could afford; they attended the public games held in some of the principal towns, where the competitors contended for prizes of cattle, skins, and other things well suited to the taste or wants of the peasant; and they amused themselves with wrestlingmatches, bull-fights, and various sports. Many a leisure hour was passed in singing and dancing; and among the songs of the Egyptian peasant, Julius Pollux mentions that of Maneros; who was even celebrated as the inventor of husbandry,—an honour generally given to the still more mysterious Osiris. But some songs and games were exclusively appropriated to certain festivals; and this adaptation of peculiar ceremonies to particular occasions, is quite consistent with the character of the Egyptians.
They had many festivals connected with agriculture and the produce of the soil, which happened at different periods of the
year. In the month Mesoré, they offered the firstfruits of their lentils to the God Harpocrates, "calling out at the same time, The tongue is Fortune, the tongue is God;" and the allegorical festival of "the delivery of Isis was celebrated immediately after the Vernal Equinox," to commemorate the beginning of harvest. "Some," says Plutarch, " assimilate the history of those Gods to the various changes which happen in the air, during the several seasons of the year, or to those accidents which are observed in the production of corn, in its sowing and ripening; 'for,' they observe, 'what can the burial of Osiris more aptly signify, than the first covering the seed in the ground after it is sown? or his reviving and reappearing, than its first beginning to shoot up? and why is Isis said, upon perceiving herself to be with child, to have hung an amulet about her neck on the 6th of the month Phaophi, soon after sowing time, but in allusion to this allegory? and who is that Harpocrates, whom they tell us she brought forth about the time of the winter tropic, but those weak and slender shootings of the corn, which are yet feeble and imperfect?'-for which reason it is, that the firstfruits of their lentils are dedicated to this God, and they celebrate the feast of his mother's delivery just after the vernal equinox." From this it may be inferred that the festival of the lentils was instituted when the month Mesoré coincided with the end of March; for since they were sown at the end of November, and ripened in about 100 or 110 days, the firstfruits might be gathered in three months and a half, or, "just after the vernal equinox," or the last week in March: which would carry back the original institution of the festival to about 2650 years before our era, or some time after the reign of Menes.
"On the 19th day of the first month (Thoth), which was the feast of Hermes, they eat honey and figs, saying to each other, 'how sweet a thing is truth!"-a satisfactory proof that the month itself, and not the first day alone, was called after and dedicated to Thoth, the Egyptian Hermes; and another festival, answering to the "Thesmophoria of the Athenians," was established to commemorate the period when "the husbandmen began to sow their corn, in the Egyptian month Athyr.
Many of the sacred festivals of the Egyptians were connected with agriculture; but these I have already introduced among their religious ceremonies. The gardeners have also been noticed, in mentioning the villas of the Egyptians.*
The huntsmen formed another subdivision of this class.
They were employed in great numbers to attend and assist the amateur sportsmen, during their excursions in pursuit of the wild animals of the country; the scenes of which were chiefly in the deserts of Upper Egypt. They conducted the dogs to the field; they had the management of them in loosing them for the chase, and they secured and brought home the game, after having contributed by their own skill to increase the sport of the chasseur. They also followed the occupation on their own account; making a considerable profit by catching the animals most prized for the table; by the reward they received for destroying the hyæna, and other animals hostile to the husbandman or the shepherd; and by the lucrative chase of the ostrich, which was highly valued for its plumes and eggs, and was sold to the wealthier Egyptians.
*Vol. i. pp. 296 to 301, and 33 to 45, and 55, 56, 57.
The boatmen of the Nile belonged to the same third class. They were of different grades; some belonging to the private sailing or pleasure boats of the grandees; others to those of burden. They also differed from the sailors of the "long ships" employed at sea, and even from those of the war galleys on the Nile, which acted as guard-boats, and were also used in the expeditions undertaken by the Pharaohs into Ethiopia * These government boatmen were sometimes employed by the Kings in transporting large blocks of stone to ornament the temples; and the immense monolith of granite, brought by Amasis from the first cataract to Saïs, was dragged overland by 2000 boatmen; but those who carried stones in lighters from the quarries were an inferior order, and ranked among the common boatmen of the Nile. Even among them the office of steersman seems always to have been very important; and as the pilots of the ships of war had a high rank above the "able seamen of the fleet, so the helmsman in the ordinary boats of the Nile was looked upon as little inferior to the captain; standing in the same relative position as the Mestámel to the Ryïs of the modern Cangia.
* See above, vol. i. p. 411, on their sailors and ships of war.
Modern boats of the Nile. On the opposite bank is a whirlwind of sand.
FOURTH CLASS: ARTIFICERS, TRADESMEN OR SHOPKEEPERS, MUSICIANS,
IN the fourth class were included the workers in glass, metals, wood, and leather; the manufacturers of linen and various stuffs; dyers, tanners, carpenters, cabinet-makers, masons; and all who followed handicraft employments, or any kind of trade. The musicians, who gained their livelihood by singing and playing, the leather-cutters and the carvers in stone, and ordinary painters (distinct of course from sculptors and artists) were included in the same class, which was mostly composed of people living in towns. Each craft (as is generally the case in Modern Egypt also) had its own quarter of the town, called after it; as the quarter of the goldsmiths, of the leather-cutters, and others; and no one presumed to interfere with the occupation of a different trade from his own.
It is even said that every one was obliged by law to