Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

which was, that the system of physical-theology, which was, indeed, one of the last sciences of the Egyptian school, was supposed to be the first ; and hero-worship, which was indeed the first religion of the Egyptian church, was supposed to be the last. This is no more than saying, that (for reasons given before) the Magistrate would very early institute the worship of their dead benefactors, and that the Philosopher could have no occasion, till many ages afterwards (when men grew inquisitive or licentious), to hide the ignominy of it, by making those hero Gods only shadowy Beings, and no more than emblems of the several parts of nature.*

Now though the doctrine of this early physical Theology, as explained by the Greeks, makes very much for the high antiquity of Egyptian learning, the point I am concerned to prove ; yet as my only end is truth, in all these enquiries, I can, with the same pleasure, confute an error which supports my system, that I have in detecting those which made against it.

The common notion of these Philologists, we see, brings Heroworship, by consequence, very low; and as some of their followers have pursued that consequence, I shall beg leave to examine their reasonings. The learned author of the Connections pushes the matter very far :-“It does not appear from this table (the Bembine) that the Egyptians worshipped any idols of human shape, at the time when this table was composed; but rather, on the contrary, all the images herein represented, before which any persons are described in postures of adoration, being the figures of birds, beasts, or fishes this table seems to have been delineated BEFORE the Egyptians worshipped the images of men and women ; WHICH WAS THE LAST AND LOWEST STEP OF THEIR IDOLATRY." op Now the whole of this observation will, I am afraid, only amount to an illogical consequence drawn from a false fact ; let the reader judge. All the images (he says) herein represented, before which any persons are described, in postures of adoration, are the figures of birds, beasts, and fishes. I was some time in doubt whether the learned writer and I had seen the same table : for in that given us by Kircher, the whole body of the picture is filled up with the greater Egyptian Gods in HUMAN SHAPE ; before several of which, are other human figures in postures of adoration ; unless the learned writer will confine that posture to kneeling; which yet he brings no higher than the time of Solomon. Some of these worshippers are represented sacrificing ; $ others in the act of offering; and offering to Gods inthroned. || One of which figures I have caused to be engraved, where a'mummy from Kir

• See note TTT, at the end of this book. the World connected," vol, ii. p. 320. ll As at (T. .] (0. 2.) and (S. X.)

+ “Sacred and Profane History of Ibid. p. 317.

§ As at (S. V.] See plate ix, fig. 1.

[blocks in formation]
[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed]

cher's Oedipus * will shew us what sort of idol it is which we see worshipped by offerings. With regard to the kneeling postures of adoration, to birds, beasts, and fishes, these are in a narrow border of the table, which runs round the principal compartments. The learned writer indeed seems to make a matter of it, “that all the images that kneel are represented as paying their worship to some animal figure ; there not being one instance or representation of this worship paid to an image of human form, either on the border or in the table.” I But surely there is no mystery in this. The table was apparently made for the devotees of Isis in Rome. Now, amongst the Romans, brute-worship was so uncommon, that the artist thought proper to mark it out by the most distinguished posture of adoration; while the worship of the greater Hero-Gods, a worship like their own, was sufficiently designed by the sole acts of offering and sacrifice.

But supposing the fact to have been as the writer of these Connections represents it; how, I ask, would his consequence follow, That the table was made BEFORE the Egyptians worshipped the images of men and women? It depends altogether on this supposition, that Brute-worship was not symbolical of Hero-worship; but the contrary hath been shewn. The learned author himself must own that Apis, at least, was the symbol of the Hero-God Osiris. But can any one believe, he was not worshipped in his own figure before he was delineated under that of an ox? To say the truth, had this author's fact been right, it had been a much juster consequence, That the table was made AFTER the Egyptians had generally left off worshipping the images of men and women ; for it is certain, the symbolic worship of brutes brought human images into disuse. Who can doubt but human images of Hero-Gods were used in Egypt long before the time of Strabo ? yet he tells us,|| that in their temples (of which he gives a general description) they either have no images, or none of human form, but of some beast. He could not mean in those temples dedicated to animals ; for where had been the wonder of that? nor will this disuse of human images appear strange to those who reflect on what hath been said of these Symbols, which being supposed given by the Gods themselves, their use in religious worship would be thought most pleasing to the givers.

This conclusion is further strengthened by these considerations : 1. That the age of the table is so far from being of the antiquity conceived by the learned writer, that it is the very latest of all the

• Fig. 2. plate ix.

† Fig. 1.

1 “Sacred and Profane History of the World connected,” vol. ii. p. 318.

$ See note UUU, at the end of this book. Η Της δε κατασκευής των ιερών η διάθεσις τοιαύτη. Κατά την εισβολήν τήν εις το τέμενος, &c-μετά δε τα προπύλαια, ο νεώς πρόναον έχων μέγαν, και αξιόλογον τον δε σηκών σύμμετρον, ξόανον δε ουδέν, ή ουκ άνθρωπόμορφον, αλλά των αλόγων ζώων τινός. - Geogr. lib. xvii. pp. 1158, 1159, Amst. ed.

old Egyptian monuments ; as appears from the mixture of all kinds of hieroglyphic characters in it. 2. That on almost all the obelisks * in Kircher's Theatrum Hieroglyphicum, which are undoubtedly very ancient, we see adoration given to idols in human form ; and likewise in that very way the learned author so much insists upon, namely Genuflexion.

Thus, though from the Bembine-table nothing can be concluded for the high date of heroic image-worship, yet nothing can be concluded for the low. However the learned writer will still suppose (what every one is so apt to do that he is in the right; and therefore tries to maintain his ground by fact and reason.

His argument from fact stands thus :-“The Egyptians relate a very remarkable fable of the birth of these five Gods. They say that Rhea lay privately with Saturn, and was with child by him ; that the Sun, upon finding out her baseness, laid a curse upon her, that she should not be delivered in any month or year : That Mercury being in love with the goddess lay with her also ; and then played at dice with the Moon, and won from her the seventy-second part of each day, and made up of these winnings five days, which he added to the year, making the year to consist of three hundred sixty-five days, which before consisted of three hundred sixty days only; and that in these days Rhea brought forth five children, Osiris, Orus, Typho, Isis, and Nephthe. We need not inquire into the mythology of this fable; what I remark from it is this, that the fable could not be invented before the Egyptians had found out that the year consisted of three hundred and sixty-five days, and consequently that by their own accounts the five deities said to be born on the five én cyóuevas, or additional days, were not deified before they knew that the year had these five days added to it; and this addition to the year was made about—A.M. 2665, a little after the death of Joshua." +

I agree with this learned author, that the fable could not be invented before the Egyptians had found out that the year consisted of three hundred and sixty-five days ; I agree with him, that the addition of the five days might be made about A.M. 2665; but I deny the consequence, that the five Gods were not deified before this addition to the year ; nay, I deny that it will follow from the fable, that the makers and venders of it so thought. What hath misled the learned writer seems to be his supposing that the fable was made to commemorate the deification of the five Gods, whereas it was made to commemorate the insertion of the five days; as appears from its being told in that figurative and allegoric manner in which the Egyptians usually con

Namely, the Lateran of Ramesses, the Flaminian of Psammitichus, the Sallustian, and the Constantinopolitan. † “ Connection,” vol. ii. pp. 283, 284.

« IndietroContinua »