Egypt Chapters from Ancient Man

Egypt Chapters from Ancient Man


The History of Man is the record of a hungry creature in search of food.

Wherever food was plentiful and easily gathered, thither man travelled to make his home.

The fame of the Nile valley must have spread at an early date. From far and wide, wild people flocked to the banks of the river. Surrounded on all sides by desert or sea, it was not easy to reach these fertile fields and only the hardiest men and women survived.

We do not know who they were. Some came from the interior of Africa and had woolly hair and thick lips.

Others, with a yellowish skin, came from the desert of Arabia and the broad rivers of western Asia.

They fought each other for the possession of this wonderful land.

They built villages which their neighbors destroyed and they rebuilt them with the bricks they had taken from other neighbors whom they in turn had vanquished.

Gradually a new race developed. They called themselves “remi,” which means simply “the Men.” There was a touch of pride in this name and they used it in the same sense that we refer to America as “God’s own country.”

Part of the year, during the annual flood of the Nile, they lived on small islands within a country which itself was cut off from the rest of the world by the sea and the desert. No wonder that these people were what we call “insular,” and had the habits of villagers who rarely come in contact with their neighbors.

They liked their own ways best. They thought their own habits and customs just a trifle better than those of anybody else. In the same way, their own gods were considered more powerful than the gods of other nations. They did not exactly despise foreigners, but they felt a mild pity for them and if possible they kept them outside of the Egyptian domains, lest their own people be corrupted by “foreign notions.”

They were kind-hearted and rarely did anything that was cruel. They were patient and in business dealings they were rather indifferent Life came as an easy gift and they never became stingy and mean like northern people who have to struggle for mere existence.

When the sun arose above the blood-red horizon of the distant desert, they went forth to till their fields. When the last rays of light had disappeared beyond the mountain ridges, they went to bed.

They worked hard, they plodded and they bore whatever happened with stolid unconcern and profound patience.

They believed that this life was but a short preface to a new existence which began the moment Death had entered the house. Until at last, the life of the future came to be regarded as more important than the life of the present and the people of Egypt turned their teeming land into one vast shrine for the worship of the dead.

The Land Of The Dead

And as most of the papyrus-rolls of the ancient valley tell stories of a religious nature we know with great accuracy just what gods the Egyptians revered and how they tried to assure all possible happiness and comfort to those who had entered upon the eternal sleep. In the beginning each little village had possessed a god of its own.

Often this god was supposed to reside in a queerly shaped stone or in the branch of a particularly large tree. It was well to be good friends with him for he could do great harm and destroy the harvest and prolong the period of drought until the people and the cattle had all died of thirst. Therefore the villages made him presents–offered him things to eat or a bunch of flowers.

When the Egyptians went forth to fight their enemies the god must needs be taken along, until he became a sort of battle flag around which the people rallied in time of danger.

But when the country grew older and better roads had been built and the Egyptians had begun to travel, the old “fetishes,” as such chunks of stone and wood were called, lost their importance and were thrown away or were left in a neglected corner or were used as doorsteps or chairs.

Their place was taken by new gods who were more powerful than the old ones had been and who represented those forces of nature which influenced the lives of the Egyptians of the entire valley.

First among these was the Sun which makes all things grow.

Next came the river Nile which tempered the heat of the day and brought rich deposits of clay to refresh the fields and make them fertile.

Then there was the kindly Moon which at night rowed her little boat across the arch of heaven and there was Thunder and there was Lightning and there were any number of things which could make life happy or miserable according to their pleasure and desire.

Ancient man, entirely at the mercy of these forces of nature, could not get rid of them as easily as we do when we plant lightning rods upon our houses or build reservoirs which keep us alive during the summer months when there is no rain.

On the contrary they formed an intimate part of his daily life–they accompanied him from the moment he was put into his cradle until the day that his body was prepared for eternal rest.

Neither could he imagine that such vast and powerful phenomena as a bolt of lightning or the flood of a river were mere impersonal things. Some one–somewhere–must be their master and must direct them as the engineer directs his engine or a captain steers his ship.

A God-in-Chief was therefore created, like the commanding general of an army.

A number of lower officers were placed at his disposal.

Within their own territory each one could act independently.

In grave matters, however, which affected the happiness of all the people, they must take orders from their master.

The Supreme Divine Ruler of the land of Egypt was called Osiris, and all the little Egyptian children knew the story of his wonderful life.

Once upon a time, in the valley of the Nile, there lived a king called Osiris.

He was a good man who taught his subjects how to till their fields and who gave his country just laws. But he had a bad brother whose name was Seth.

Now Seth envied Osiris because he was so virtuous and one day he invited him to dinner and afterwards he said that he would like to show him something. Curious Osiris asked what it was and Seth said that it was a funnily shaped coffin which fitted one like a suit of clothes. Osiris said that he would like to try it. So he lay down in the coffin but no sooner was he inside when bang!–Seth shut the lid. Then he called for his servants and ordered them to throw the coffin into the Nile.

Soon the news of his terrible deed spread throughout the land. Isis, the wife of Osiris, who had loved her husband very dearly, went at once to the banks of the Nile, and after a short while the waves threw the coffin upon the shore. Then she went forth to tell her son Horus, who ruled in another land, but no sooner had she left than Seth, the wicked brother, broke into the palace and cut the body of Osiris into fourteen pieces.

A Pyramid

When Isis returned, she discovered what Seth had done. She took the fourteen pieces of the dead body and sewed them together and then Osiris came back to life and reigned for ever and ever as king of the lower world to which the souls of men must travel after they have left the body.

As for Seth, the Evil One, he tried to escape, but Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis, who had been warned by his mother, caught him and slew him.

This story of a faithful wife and a wicked brother and a dutiful son who avenged his father and the final victory of virtue over wickedness formed the basis of the religious life of the people of Egypt.

Osiris was regarded as the god of all living things which seemingly die in the winter and yet return to renewed existence the next spring. As ruler of the Life Hereafter, he was the final judge of the acts of men, and woe unto him who had been cruel and unjust and had oppressed the weak.

As for the world of the departed souls, it was situated beyond the high mountains of the west (which was also the home of the young Nile) and when an Egyptian wanted to say that someone had died, he said that he “had gone west.”

Isis shared the honors and the duties of Osiris with him. Their son Horus, who was worshipped as the god of the Sun (hence the word “horizon,” the place where the sun sets) became the first of a new line of Egyptian kings and all the Pharaohs of Egypt had Horus as their middle name.

Of course, each little city and every small village continued to worship a few divinities of their own. But generally speaking, all the people recognized the sublime power of Osiris and tried to gain his favor.

How The Pyramids Grew

This was no easy task, and led to many strange customs. In the first place, the Egyptians came to believe that no soul could enter into the realm of Osiris without the possession of the body which had been its place of residence in this world.

Whatever happened, the body must be preserved after death, and it must be given a permanent and suitable home. Therefore as soon as a man had died, his corpse was embalmed. This was a difficult and complicated operation which was performed by an official who was half doctor and half priest, with the help of an assistant whose duty it was to make the incision through which the chest could be filled with cedar-tree pitch and myrrh and cassia. This assistant belonged to a special class of people who were counted among the most despised of men. The Egyptians thought it a terrible thing to commit acts of violence upon a human being, whether dead or living, and only the lowest of the low could be hired to perform this unpopular task.

Afterwards the priest took the body again and for a period of ten weeks he allowed it to be soaked in a solution of natron which was brought for this purpose from the distant desert of Libya. Then the body had become a “mummy” because it was filled with “Mumiai” or pitch. It was wrapped in yards and yards of specially prepared linen and it was placed in a beautifully decorated wooden coffin, ready to be removed to its final home in the western desert.

The grave itself was a little stone room in the sand of the desert or a cave in a hill-side.

After the coffin had been placed in the center the little room was well supplied with cooking utensils and weapons and statues (of clay or wood) representing bakers and butchers who were expected to wait upon their dead master in case he needed anything. Flutes and fiddles were added to give the occupant of the grave a chance to while away the long hours which he must spend in this “house of eternity.”

Then the roof was covered with sand and the dead Egyptian was left to the peaceful rest of eternal sleep.

But the desert is full of wild creatures, hyenas and wolves, and they dug their way through the wooden roof and the sand and ate up the mummy.

This was a terrible thing, for then the soul was doomed to wander forever and suffer agonies of a man without a home. To assure the corpse all possible safety a low wall of brick was built around the grave and the open space was filled with sand and gravel. In this way a low artificial hill was made which protected the mummy against wild animals and robbers.

Then one day, an Egyptian who had just buried his Mother, of whom he had been particularly fond, decided to give her a monument that should surpass anything that had ever been built in the valley of the Nile.

He gathered his serfs and made them build an artificial mountain that could be seen for miles around. The sides of this hill he covered with a layer of bricks that the sand might not be blown away.

People liked the novelty of the idea.

Soon they were trying to outdo each other and the graves rose twenty and thirty and forty feet above the ground.

At last a rich nobleman ordered a burial chamber made of solid stone.

On top of the actual grave where the mummy rested, he constructed a pile of bricks which rose several hundred feet into the air. A small passage-way gave entrance to the vault and when this passage was closed with a heavy slab of granite the mummy was safe from all intrusion.

The King of course could not allow one of his subjects to outdo him in such a matter. He was the most powerful man of all Egypt who lived in the biggest house and therefore he was entitled to the best grave.

What others had done in brick he could do with the help of more costly materials.

Pharaoh sent his officers far and wide to gather workmen. He constructed roads. He built barracks in which the workmen could live and sleep (you may see those barracks this very day). Then he set to work and made himself a grave which was to endure for all time.

We call this great pile of masonry a “pyramid.”

The origin of the word is a curious one.

When the Greeks visited Egypt the Pyramids were already several thousand years old.

The Mummy

Of course the Egyptians took their guests into the desert to see these wondrous sights just as we take foreigners to gaze at the Wool-worth Tower and Brooklyn Bridge.

The Greek guest, lost in admiration, waved his hands and asked what the strange mountains might be.

His guide thought that he referred to the extraordinary height and said “Yes, they are very high indeed.”

The Egyptian word for height was “pir-em-us.”

The Greek must have thought that this was the name of the whole structure and giving it a Greek ending he called it a “pyramis.”

We have changed the “s” into a “d” but we still use the same Egyptian word when we talk of the stone graves along the banks of the Nile.

The biggest of these many pyramids, which was built fifty centuries ago, was five hundred feet high.

At the base it was seven hundred and fifty-five feet wide.

It covered more than thirteen acres of desert, which is three times as much space as that occupied by the church of Saint Peter, the largest edifice of the Christian world.


During twenty years, over a hundred thousand men were used to carry the stones from the distant peninsula of Sinai–to ferry them across the Nile (how they ever managed to do this we do not understand)–to drag them halfway across the desert and finally hoist them into their correct position.

But so well did Pharaoh’s architects and engineers perform their task that the narrow passage-way which leads to the royal tomb in the heart of the pyramid has never yet been pushed out of shape by the terrific weight of those thousands and thousands of tons of stone which press upon it from all sides.



Nowadays we all are members of a “state.”

We may be Frenchmen or Chinamen or Russians; we may live in the furthest corner of Indonesia (do you know where that is?), but in some way or other we belong to that curious combination of people which is called the “state.”

It does not matter whether we recognize a king or an emperor or a president as our ruler. We are born and we die as a small part of this large Whole and no one can escape this fate.

The “state,” as a matter of fact, is quite a recent invention.

The earliest inhabitants of the world did not know what it was.

Every family lived and hunted and worked and died for and by itself. Sometimes it happened that a few of these families, for the sake of greater protection against the wild animals and against other wild people, formed a loose alliance which was called a tribe or a clan. But as soon as the danger was past, these groups of people acted again by and for themselves and if the weak could not defend their own cave, they were left to the mercies of the hyena and the tiger and nobody was very sorry if they were killed.

In short, each person was a nation unto himself and he felt no responsibility for the happiness and safety of his neighbor. Very, very slowly this was changed and Egypt was the first country where the people were organized into a well-regulated empire.

The Nile was directly responsible for this useful development. I have told you how in the summer of each year the greater part of the Nile valley and the Nile delta is turned into a vast inland sea. To derive the greatest benefit from this water and yet survive the flood, it had been necessary at certain points to build dykes and small islands which would offer shelter for man and beast during the months of August and September. The construction of these little artificial islands however had not been simple.

The Young Nile

A single man or a single family or even a small tribe could not construct a river-dam without the help of others.

However much a farmer might dislike his neighbors he disliked getting drowned even more and he was obliged to call upon the entire country-side when the water of the river began to rise and threatened him and his wife and his children and his cattle with destruction.

Necessity forced the people to forget their small differences and soon the entire valley of the Nile was covered with little combinations of people who constantly worked together for a common purpose and who depended upon each other for life and prosperity.

Out of such small beginnings grew the first powerful State.

It was a great step forward along the road of progress.

It made the land of Egypt a truly inhabitable place. It meant the end of lawless murder. It assured the people greater safety than ever before and gave the weaker members of the tribe a chance to survive. Nowadays, when conditions of absolute disorder exist only in the jungles of Africa, it is hard to imagine a world without laws and policemen and judges and health officers and hospitals and schools.

But five thousand years ago, Egypt stood alone as an organized state and was greatly envied by those of her neighbors who were obliged to face the difficulties of life single-handedly.

A state, however, is not only composed of citizens.

There must be a few men who execute the laws and who, in case of an emergency, take command of the entire community. Therefore no country has ever been able to endure without a single head, be he called a King or an Emperor or a Shah (as in Persia) or a President, as he is called in our own land.

The Fertile Valley

In ancient Egypt, every village recognized the authority of the Village-Elders, who were old men and possessed greater experience than the young ones. These Elders selected a strong man to command their soldiers in case of war and to tell them what to do when there was a flood. They gave him a title which distinguished him from the others. They called him a King or a prince and obeyed his orders for their own common benefit.

Therefore in the oldest days of Egyptian history, we find the following division among the people:

The majority are peasants.

All of them are equally rich and equally poor.

They are ruled by a powerful man who is the commander-in-chief of their armies and who appoints their judges and causes roads to be built for the common benefit and comfort.

He also is the chief of the police force and catches the thieves.

In return for these valuable services he receives a certain amount of everybody’s money which is called a tax. The greater part of these taxes, however, do not belong to the King personally. They are money entrusted to him to be used for the common good.


But after a short while a new class of people, neither peasants nor king, begins to develop. This new class, commonly called the nobles, stands between the ruler and his subjects.

Since those early days it has made its appearance in the history of every country and it has played a great role in the development of every nation.

I must try and explain to you how this class of nobles developed out of the most commonplace circumstances of everyday life and why it has maintained itself to this very day, against every form of opposition.

To make my story quite clear, I have drawn a picture.

It shows you five Egyptian farms. The original owners of these farms had moved into Egypt years and years ago. Each had taken a piece of unoccupied land and had settled down upon it to raise grain and cows and pigs and do whatever was necessary to keep themselves and their children alive. Apparently they had the same chance in life.

How then did it happen that one became the ruler of his neighbors and got hold of all their fields and barns without breaking a single law?

The Origins of the Feudal System

One day after the harvest, Mr. Fish (you see his name in hieroglyphics on the map) sent his boat loaded with grain to the town of Memphis to sell the cargo to the inhabitants of central Egypt. It happened to have been a good year for the farmer and Fish got a great deal of money for his wheat. After ten days the boat returned to the homestead and the captain handed the money which he had received to his employer.

A few weeks later, Mr. Sparrow, whose farm was next to that of Fish, sent his wheat to the nearest market. Poor Sparrow had not been very lucky for the last few years. But he hoped to make up for his recent losses by a profitable sale of his grain. Therefore he had waited until the price of wheat in Memphis should have gone a little higher.

That morning a rumor had reached the village of a famine in the island of Crete. As a result the grain in the Egyptian markets had greatly increased in value.

Sparrow hoped to profit through this unexpected turn of the market and he bade his skipper to hurry.

The skipper handled the rudder of his craft so clumsily that the boat struck a rock and sank, drowning the mate who was caught under the sail.

Sparrow not only lost all his grain and his ship but he was also forced to pay the widow of his drowned mate ten pieces of gold to make up for the loss of her husband.


These disasters occurred at the very moment when Sparrow could not afford another loss.

Winter was near and he had no money to buy cloaks for his children. He had put off buying new hoes and spades for such a long time that the old ones were completely worn out. He had no seeds for his fields. He was in a desperate plight.

He did not like his neighbor, Mr. Fish, any too well but there was no way out. He must go and humbly he must ask for the loan of a small sum of money.

He called on Fish. The latter said that he would gladly let him have whatever he needed but could Sparrow put up any sort of guaranty?

Sparrow said, “Yes.” He would offer his own farm as a pledge of good faith.

Unfortunately Fish knew all about that farm. It had belonged to the Sparrow family for many generations. But the Father of the present owner had allowed himself to be terribly cheated by a Phoenician trader who had sold him a couple of “Phrygian Oxen” (nobody knew what the name meant) which were said to be of a very fine breed, which needed little food and performed twice as much labor as the common Egyptian oxen. The old farmer had believed the solemn words of the impostor. He had bought the wonderful beasts, greatly envied by all his neighbors.

They had not proved a success.

They were very stupid and very slow and exceedingly lazy and within three weeks they had died from a mysterious disease.

The old farmer was so angry that he suffered a stroke and the management of his estate was left to the son, who worked hard but without much result.

The loss of his grain and his vessel were the last straw.

Young Sparrow must either starve or ask his neighbor to help him with a loan.

Fish who was familiar with the lives of all his neighbors (he was that kind of person, not because he loved gossip but one never knew how such information might come in handy) and who knew to a penny the state of affairs in the Sparrow household, felt strong enough to insist upon certain terms. Sparrow could have all the money he needed upon the following condition. He must promise to work for Fish six weeks of every year and he must allow him free access to his grounds at all times.

Sparrow did not like these terms, but the days were growing shorter and winter was coming on fast and his family were without food.

He was forced to accept and from that time on, he and his sons and daughters were no longer quite as free as they had been before.

They did not exactly become the servants or the slaves of their neighbor, but they were dependent upon his kindness for their own livelihood. When they met Fish in the road they stepped aside and said “Good morning, sir.” And he answered them–or not–as the case might be.

He now owned a great deal of water-front, twice as much as before.

He had more land and more laborers and he could raise more grain than in the past years. The nearby villagers talked of the new house he was building and in a general way, he was regarded as a man of growing wealth and importance.

Late that summer an unheard-of-thing happened.

It rained.

The oldest inhabitants could not remember such a thing, but it rained hard and steadily for two whole days. A little brook, the existence of which everybody had forgotten, was suddenly turned into a wild torrent. In the middle of the night it came thundering down from the mountains and destroyed the harvest of the farmer who occupied the rocky ground at the foot of the hills. His name was Cup and he too had inherited his land from a hundred other Cups who had gone before. The damage was almost irreparable. Cup needed new seed grain and he needed it at once. He had heard Sparrow’s story. He too hated to ask a favor of Fish who was known far and wide as a shrewd dealer. But in the end, he found his way to the Fishs’ homestead and humbly begged for the loan of a few bushels of wheat. He got them but not until he had agreed to work two whole months of each year on the farm of Fish.

Fish was now doing very well. His new house was ready and he thought the time had come to establish himself as the head of a household.

Just across the way, there lived a farmer who had a young daughter. The name of this farmer was Knife. He was a happy-go-lucky person and he could not give his child a large dowry.

Fish called on Knife and told him that he did not care for money. He was rich and he was willing to take the daughter without a single penny. Knife, however, must promise to leave his land to his son-in-law in case he died.

This was done.

The will was duly drawn up before a notary, the wedding took place and Fish now possessed (or was about to possess) the greater part of four farms.

It is true there was a fifth farm situated right in between the others. But its owner, by the name of Sickle, could not carry his wheat to the market without crossing the lands over which Fish held sway. Besides, Sickle was not very energetic and he willingly hired himself out to Fish on condition that he and his old wife be given a room and food and clothes for the rest of their days. They had no children and this settlement assured them a peaceful old age. When Sickle died, a distant nephew appeared who claimed a right to his uncle’s farm. Fish had the dogs turned loose on him and the fellow was never seen again.

These transactions had covered a period of twenty years.

The younger generations of the Cup and

Sickle and Sparrow families accepted their situation in life without questioning. They knew old Fish as “the Squire” upon whose good-will they were more or less dependent if they wanted to succeed in life.

When the old man died he left his son many wide acres and a position of great influence among his immediate neighbors.

Young Fish resembled his father. He was very able and had a great deal of ambition. When the king of Upper Egypt went to war against the wild Berber tribes, he volunteered his services.

He fought so bravely that the king appointed him Collector of the Royal Revenue for three hundred villages.

Often it happened that certain farmers could not pay their tax.

Then young Fish offered to give them a small loan.

Before they knew it, they were working for the Royal Tax Gatherer, to repay both the money which they had borrowed and the interest on the loan.

The years went by and the Fish family reigned supreme in the land of their birth. The old home was no longer good enough for such important people.

A noble hall was built (after the pattern of the Royal Banqueting Hall of Thebes). A high wall was erected to keep the crowd at a respectful distance and Fish never went out without a bodyguard of armed soldiers.

Twice a year he travelled to Thebes to be with his King, who lived in the largest palace of all Egypt and who was therefore known as “Pharaoh,” the owner of the “Big House.”

Upon one of his visits, he took Fish the Third, grandson of the founder of the family, who was a handsome young fellow.

The daughter of Pharaoh saw the youth and desired him for her husband. The wedding cost Fish most of his fortune, but he was still Collector of the Royal Revenue and by treating the people without mercy he was able to fill his strong-box in less than three years.

When he died he was buried in a small Pyramid, just as if he had been a member of the Royal Family, and a daughter of Pharaoh wept over his grave.

That is my story which begins somewhere along the banks of the Nile and which in the course of three generations lifts a farmer from the ranks of his own humble ancestors and drops him outside the gate but near the throne-room of the King’s palace.

What happened to Fish, happened to a large number of equally energetic and resourceful men.

They formed a class apart.

They married each other’s daughters and in this way they kept the family fortunes in the hands of a small number of people.

They served the King faithfully as officers in his army and as collectors of his taxes.

They looked after the safety of the roads and the waterways.

They performed many useful tasks and among themselves they obeyed the laws of a very strict code of honor.

If the Kings were bad, the nobles were apt to be bad too.

When the Kings were weak the nobles often managed to get hold of the State.

Then it often happened that the people arose in their wrath and destroyed those who oppressed them.

Many of the old nobles were killed and a new division of the land took place which gave everybody an equal chance.

But after a short while the old story repeated itself.

This time it was perhaps a member of the Sparrow family who used his greater shrewdness and industry to make himself master of the countryside while the descendants of Fish (of glorious memory!) were reduced to poverty.

Otherwise very little was changed.

The faithful peasants continued to work and pay taxes.

The equally faithful tax gatherers continued to gather wealth.

But the old Nile, indifferent to the ambitions of men, flowed as placidly as ever between its age-worn banks and bestowed its fertile blessings upon the poor and upon the rich with the impartial justice which is found only in the forces of nature.



We often hear it said that “civilization travels westward.” What we mean is that hardy pioneers have crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled along the shores of New England and New Netherland–that their children have crossed the vast prairies–that their great-grandchildren have moved into California–and that the present generation hopes to turn the vast Pacific into the most important sea of the ages.

As a matter of fact, “civilization” never remains long in the same spot. It is always going somewhere but it does not always move westward by any means. Sometimes its course points towards the east or the south. Often it zigzags across the map. But it keeps moving. After two or three hundred years, civilization seems to say, “Well, I have been keeping company with these particular people long enough,” and it packs its books and its science and its art and its music, and wanders forth in search of new domains. But no one knows whither it is bound, and that is what makes life so interesting.

The Soil Of The Fertile Valley

In the case of Egypt, the center of civilization moved northward and southward, along the banks of the Nile. First of all, as I told you, people from all over Africa and western Asia moved into the valley and settled down. Thereupon they formed small villages and townships and accepted the rule of a Commander-in-Chief, who was called Pharaoh, and who had his capital in Memphis, in the lower part of Egypt.

After a couple of thousand years, the rulers of this ancient house became too weak to maintain themselves. A new family from the town of Thebes, 350 miles towards the south in Upper Egypt, tried to make itself master of the entire valley. In the year 2400 B.C. they succeeded. As rulers of both Upper and Lower Egypt, they set forth to conquer the rest of the world. They marched towards the sources of the Nile (which they never reached) and conquered black Ethiopia. Next they crossed the desert of Sinai and invaded Syria where they made their name feared by the Babylonians and Assyrians. The possession of these outlying districts assured the safety of Egypt and they could set to work to turn the valley into a happy home, for as many of the people as could find room there. They built many new dikes and dams and a vast reservoir in the desert which they filled with water from the Nile to be kept and used in case of a prolonged drought. They encouraged people to devote themselves to the study of mathematics and astronomy so that they might determine the time when the floods of the Nile were to be expected. Since for this purpose it was necessary to have a handy method by which time could be measured, they established the year of 365 days, which they divided into twelve months.

Contrary to the old tradition which made the Egyptians keep away from all things foreign, they allowed the exchange of Egyptian merchandise for goods which had been carried to their harbors from elsewhere.

They traded with the Greeks of Crete and with the Arabs of western Asia and they got spices from the Indies and they imported gold and silk from China.

But all human institutions are subject to certain definite laws of progress and decline and a State or a dynasty is no exception. After four hundred years of prosperity, these mighty kings showed signs of growing tired. Rather than ride a camel at the head of their army, the rulers of the great Egyptian Empire stayed within the gates of their palace and listened to the music of the harp or the flute.

One day there came rumors to the town of Thebes that wild tribes of horsemen had been pillaging along the frontiers. An army was sent to drive them away. This army moved into the desert. To the last man it was killed by the fierce Arabs, who now marched towards the Nile, bringing their flocks of sheep and their household goods.

Another army was told to stop their progress. The battle was disastrous for the Egyptians and the valley of the Nile was open to the invaders.

They rode fleet horses and they used bows and arrows. Within a short time they had made themselves master of the entire country. For five centuries they ruled the land of Egypt. They removed the old capital to the Delta of the Nile.

They oppressed the Egyptian peasants.

They treated the men cruelly and they killed the children and they were rude to the ancient gods. They did not like to live in the cities but stayed with their flocks in the open fields and therefore they were called the Hyksos, which means the Shepherd Kings.

At last their rule grew unbearable.

A noble family from the city of Thebes placed itself at the head of a national revolution against the foreign usurpers. It was a desperate fight but the Egyptians won. The Hyksos were driven out of the country, and they went back to the desert whence they had come. The experience had been a warning to the Egyptian people. Their five hundred years of foreign slavery had been a terrible experience. Such a thing must never happen again. The frontier of the fatherland must be made so strong that no one dare to attack the holy soil.

A new Theban king, called Tethmosis, invaded Asia and never stopped until he reached the plains of Mesopotamia. He watered his oxen in the river Euphrates, and Babylon and Nineveh trembled at the mention of his name. Wherever he went, he built strong fortresses, which were connected by excellent roads. Tethmosis, having built a barrier against future invasions, went home and died. But his daughter, Hatshepsut, continued his good work. She rebuilt the temples which the Hyksos had destroyed and she founded a strong state in which soldiers and merchants worked together for a common purpose and which was called the New Empire, and lasted from 1600 to 1300 B.C.

Military nations, however, never last very long. The larger the empire, the more men are needed for its defense and the more men there are in the army, the fewer can stay at home to work the farms and attend to the demands of trade. Within a few years, the Egyptian state had become top-heavy and the army, which was meant to be a bulwark against foreign invasion, dragged the country into ruin from sheer lack of both men and money.

Without interruption, wild people from Asia were attacking those strong walls behind which Egypt was hoarding the riches of the entire civilized world.

At first the Egyptian garrisons could hold their own.

One day, however, in distant Mesopotamia, there arose a new military empire which was called Assyria. It cared for neither art nor science, but it could fight. The Assyrians marched against the Egyptians and defeated them in battle. For more than twenty years they ruled the land of the Nile. To Egypt this meant the beginning of the end.

A few times, for short periods, the people managed to regain their independence. But they were an old race, and they were worn out by centuries of hard work.

The time had come for them to disappear from the stage of history and surrender their leadership as the most civilized people of the world. Greek merchants were swarming down upon the cities at the mouth of the Nile.

A new capital was built at Sais, near the mouth of the Nile, and Egypt became a purely commercial state, the half-way house for the trade between western Asia and eastern Europe.

After the Greeks came the Persians, who conquered all of northern Africa.

Two centuries later, Alexander the Great turned the ancient land of the Pharaoh? into a Greek province. When he died, one of his generals, Ptolemy by name, established himself as the independent king of a new Egyptian state.

The Ptolemy family continued to rule for two hundred years.

In the year 30 B.C., Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemys, killed herself, rather than become a prisoner of the victorious Roman general, Octavianus.

That was the end.

Egypt became part of the Roman Empire and her life as an independent state ceased for all time.