« PreviousContinue »
B.c. called an aristocracy. But where the legislative
power is in the people, and the affairs of the state are determined only by a majority of votes, that government is called a democracy or republic. The most ancient and the happiest form of government, and that which has been the desire of good men in all periods of history, is a vigorous constitutional monarchy, at once limited by wise laws, and with full powers to carry them into execution.
B. C. OF the early history of the world we have but
little information, and even that little is not very satisfactory. The earliest times of which our records are by any means authentic, do not date much further back than the year B.C. 1000. All history of an earlier date, if not altogether fictitious, is so blended with fable, that it is difficult even to guess at the truth. Egypt, a land of many natural wonders, is the only country that possesses earlier monuments of human art. Egypt is subject to a periodical inundation of the Nile, which every summer overflows its banks, and by a slimy deposit manures the land and renders it
extremely fertile. The most productive part is in B.C. the north, and is called the Delta; this land, however, did not exist in early times, but has gradually accumulated from the sand and the mud which the Nile carries down to the sea.
Besides an abundance of rice and corn, one remarkable production of Egypt is the papyrus reed, which anciently served as writing materials, and gives the name of paper to the composition of rags in present use. But, at the period to which we allude, letters were unknown, and hieroglyphics were used instead. Each word had its several sign, though its meaning was only known to the priests. The Egyptians manufactured a fine kind of linen called byssus, of great celebrity in early days. Though the overflowing of the Nile tended greatly to the fertility of the soil, yet the slime it left behind produced myriads of noxious insects, and by its baneful exhalations, caused a disease called the plague. This country is exceedingly deficient in timber and in metals; but, as if in compensation, there are extensive quarries of stone on the eastern frontier. Of this stone are composed those mighty edifices called obelisks and pyramids, nearly all of which are upwards of 3000 years old. Obelisks are large columns, quadrangular and culminating to a point, from 50 to 180 feet high, and often of one single stope. Pyramids are enormous structures of square base, ascending to a point from 200 to 800 feet in height, and faced with sloping walls. They are built for the most part of
B.c. limestone, on elevated ground, which forms an
island from the fact that by an artificial channel the river flows around it. Above ground as well as below, are galleries and chambers used as depositories of embalmed bodies. These bodies were first cleared of all their more corruptible parts, then steeped in a powerful composition, and afterwards covered with a hardened transparent resinous preparation, and in this state were called mummies. Many mummies are preserved to this day, being more than 3000
B. C. 1000.
The ancient Egyptians possessed much valuable skill in the arts, and brought many to great perfection; but their division into castes, and their law, which bound the son to the trade or business of his father, proved powerful checks to advancement. The priests possessed all the learning, and other classes were precluded from its attainment. One division of priests consisted of physicians, and they were not allowed to treat a patient by the symptoms of the disease and their own judgment, but were tied down to certain established
and written rules of practice. The overflowing of s.c. the Nile formed an epoch in the Egyptian calendar; these overflowings generally returned after 365 days, about the time of the rising of the dogstar. But the Egyptians seem to have taken no account of the time by which the real solar year exceeded 365 days. The Greeks were the first who adopted an accurate calculation of time. Among the Romans, Julius Cæsar, 46 B.C., arranged the calendar, making three consecutive years contain 365 days each, but making the fourth year a leap year, and containing 366 days, because it was then supposed that the solar year contained 365 days exactly. But the year in reality consists of 365 days, 5 hours, 482 minutes. The consequence of the error was, that the Julian Calendar increased the true time by 45 minutes every fourth year,
which, by the year A.D. 1500, caused an error in our reckoning of no less than ten days. Accordingly, Pope Gregory XIII. ordered that these ten days should be added, and that for the future, instead of allowing with the Julian Calendar 100 leap years in 400 years, three out of these years
should be reckoned as common years, and the leap years in the 400 limited to 97. The Russians have not yet adopted the improved Gregorian Calendar, and are therefore, in their reckoning of time, about twelve days behind us. The animal worship of the Egyptian is also well worthy of notice. They venerated a bird called the ibis, which resembled the stork; also the cat and the
B. c. crocodile, and especially a curiously marked breed
of oxen called apis. These they embalmed after death with all the care of the bodies of human creatures. Of the earliest events in the history of the Egyptians we know but little, because the Egyptians kept themselves quite distinct from all other nations. It was not till 700 B.C. that they allowed the Grecians to land and to take their abode and traffic amongst them. Psammeticus was the first Egyptian monarch that admitted them, and with their assistance he conquered the other eleven kings with whom he had previously been on friendly terms, and whom he had joined in constructing the extensive labyrinth leading to the royal sepulchres.
ABRAHAM-JOSEPH — THE ISRAELITES IN
B. C. ABRAHAM, whom the Jews call the father of
their race, while following the occupation of a herdsman, crossed from the further side of the Euphrates to the side toward the land of Canaan. The student of Scripture will remember how a grievous famine compelled him to go to Egypt, from which land he returned with considerable