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THE HISTORY OF EGYPT UNDER THE ROMANS.
From the Examiner.
The History of Egypt under the Romans, by
Samuel Sharpe. Moxon.
THE battle of Actium dates some twentynine years before the birth of Christ, and it was in the six hundred and fortieth year of the Christian era that haughty Amrou son of Asi, wrote word to his Caliph Omar that he had taken city which passed all description, in which he found four thousand palaces, four thousand baths, forty thousand Jews paying tribute, four hundred theatres, and twelve thousand sellers of herbs. He meant Alexandria.
The period of Mr. Sharpe's history, then, includes six hundred and seventy years: memorable years, for account of which before we received his excellent volume, Gibbon, Lardner, and Mosheim, were our only accessible authorities. The book is a great advance on Mr. Sharpe's former researches in connexion with his favorite study, learned as these were. For not the learning only have we here; but the feeling and life of the subject. Within the province of history is rightly brought whatsoever can vivify its scenes, reanimate its actors. The style is not ambitious, but has a certain measured dignity which we find appropriate a happy mean to have kept, within sound of the sonorous march of Gibbon. And having undergone the labor of original research, with materials in reach for a book of any conceivable size, Mr. Sharpe has been wise enough to write a small book, of little more than two hundred and fifty pages.
Of the influence of the scenes it records, on habits, feelings, and opinions, which have been the main-spring of modern civilization, this is hardly the place to speak. Soon it fixes the thoughtful reader's attention. The opening picture has in itself the germ of much. Octavian-we beg his pardon-AUGUSTUS enters the conquered Alexandria on foot, leaning on the arm of the philosopher Arius, and, with the sounding pretence of a lover of learning as well as mercy, gives out to the motley crowd assembled small swarthy dark Egyptians, lively volatile Greeks, depressed Hebrews, and sour, discontented Romans-that he had spared the place to the prayers of his philosophic friend. To that picture, with Conquest and Philosophy in the front-the field won and the cultivator ready, a background silently rises. ROME had here at
last gathered into one fold the greater proportion of the before scattered tribes and nations; from the Euphrates to the Atlantic, from the shores of Britain and the borders of the German forests to the sands of the
African deserts, the bonds of a common and apparently well settled system now held together the inhabitants of the world; nay more, between these widely separated regions a free and common intercourse had been recently established by public pathways opened for the conquering legions;* when suddenly appeared the first RELIGION that had ever aimed at a conquest as great and universal, which did not proclaim itself the religion of a nation or a tribe, but invited all who lived to come within its ample shelter, as the universal family and brotherhood of MAN. The Poor had the tidings first, but in good time they reached the Philosopher: and then, upon Christianity, rose the Church.
No one in the least acquainted with this great subject fails to perceive the effect, to this day, of the Alexandrian Schools of New Platonism on the character of our religious establishment. They date at the commencement of the second century, but through all the prior struggles of the faith, Alexandrians had played an important part. Mr. Sharpe rightly thinks they have hardly had justice done them by the moderns, either in regard to the improvement they wrought in Paganism, or to the share they have had in forming the present opinions of the world. He refers to what their copiers and libraries did for us in preservation of the great Greek writers, and of our earliest manuscripts of the Bible-" while," he adds, "whatever help we have received from grammarians and critics, whatever in history we have gained from chronology, in poetry from prosody, in geography from mathematics, and in medicine from anatomy, was first taught by the Alexandrians.”
The glib remark, so often repeated since its incautious use by a great writer, which would associate the rise of the Christian belief with the decline of all literature, is
the earliest known examples of a monastic system. Mr. Sharpe here uses almost the exact words of the historian Philo, to whom we owe this beautiful picture of the contemplative life.
certainly, independent of these special con- |pied a hill near the shores of the lake Masiderations offered by Mr. Sharpe, not ria, and who seem to have left us one of founded in the fact. Christianity was as yet without influence when the old classic literature, sinking continuously through the interval between Augustus and the Antonnines, dropped at last into irretrievable decay. Not the new Faith, but the civil 66 They had left, says the historian Philo, their distractions of the Empire, the increased worldly wealth to their families or friends; they license of the soldiery, the frequent inroads had forsaken wives, children, brethren, parents, of the barbarians, and above all, the pro-and the society of men, to bury themselves in gress of internal despotism, had given solitude, and pass their lives in the contemplacheck to lofty aspirations of genius as well tion of the divine essence. Seized by this heavenly love, they were eager to enter upon the as the quiet pursuits of learning. It was next world as though they were already dead an age of iron that preceded what was to this. Each man or woman lived alone in his called the golden age of Trajan and the cell or monastery, caring neither for food nor Antonnines. The nervous hand of Gibbon for raiment, hut having his thoughts wholly has marked with eternal reprobation the turned to the Law and the Prophets, or to savices of the successors of Augustus-the cred hymns of their own composing. They had dark unrelenting Tiberius, the furious Ca- God always in their thoughts, and even the ligula, the feeble Claudius, the profligate dreams were treasures of religious wisdom.broken sentences which they uttered in their and cruel Nero, the beastly Vitellius, and They prayed each morning at sunrise, and then the timid, inhuman Domitian. That we spent the day in turning over the sacred volshould make farther inquiry as to the degra-umes, and the commentaries which explained dation of a people whom such men ruled, is the allegories or pointed out a secondary meannot incumbent upon us! In the midst of ing as hidden beneath the surface of even the the degradation, Trajan and the Anton-historical books of the Old Testament. At sunnines were an accident: permanently affect- and only meal. set they again prayed, and then tasted their first Self-denial indeed was the ing nothing. And so-uninfluenced alike foundation of all their virtues. Some made only in its decline before the last-named Em-three meals in the week, that their meditations perors, or in its rapid and most precipi- might be more free; while others even attempttate fall between Marcus and Diocletian-ed to prolong their fast to the sixth day. During the old Literature went, to the last not ill-six days of the week they saw nobody, not even attended, to her tomb. For out of even in synagogue. Here they sat, each according one another. On the seventh they met together the vices of these later Emperors had sprung to his age; the women separated from the men. the splendid genius of JUVENAL; the pro- Each wore a plain modest robe, which covered gress of science and the increased know the arms and hands, and they sat in silence ledge of man, which we cannot deny to while one of the elders preached. As they Rome's latter years, had asserted them-studied the mystic powers of numbers, they selves in the composition of the immortal history of TACITUS; the statesmanlike muse of LUCAN, the wise wit of LUCIAN, had sung requiem to a declining history and a disappearing faith; the receding forms of Greek and Roman civilization had been struck into eternal life by the hand of PLUTARCH; while EPICTETUS, SENECA, and the two PLINYS, had honorably associated the last efforts of their art, with science, philosophy, and virtue. That famous Literature could not have been better waited on to her grave than by such writers as these, her honored children. It was not within the power of Christianity to have hastened or retarded the end. The Christians were as yet composed of the middle and lower classes only. Prominent among the Greek Jews of Alexandria, to whom Mr. Sharpe supposes we are indebted for preservation of the Oldal Testament, were a little colony who occu
thought the number seven was a holy number, and that seven times seven made a great week, and hence they kept the fiftieth day as a solemn festival. On that day they dined together, the men lying on one side and the women on the other. The rushy papyrus formed the couches; bread was their only meat, water their drink, salt the seasoning, and cresses the only delicacy. They had no slaves, since all men were born equal. Nobody spoke unless it were to propose a question out of the Old Testament, or to answer the question of another. The feast ended with a hymn to the praise of God, which they sang, sometimes in full chorus, and sometimes in alternate verses."
In good lively contrast to which, Dion. Chrysostom supplies the historian with this not very favorable but very graphic portrait of the popular characteristics of his Alexandrian countrymen :
"With their wealth, they had all those vices which usually follow or cause the loss of nationindependence. They seemed eager after nothing but food and horse-races, those never-fail
ing bribes for which the idle of every country | of his government being disapproved of in Rome will sell all that a man should hold most dear. was his finding himself a prisoner in his own They were cool and quiet at their sacrifices and palace. The friends stood motionless with surgrave in business, but in the theatre or in the prise, the centurion produced the emperor's orstadium, men, women, and children were alike der for what he was doing, and as no resistance heated into passion, and overcome with eager was attempted, all passed off quietly; Flaccus ness and warmth of feeling. They cared more was hurried on board the vessel on the same for the tumble of a favorite charioteer than for evening, and immediately taken to Rome. the sinking state of the nation. A scurrilous "It so happened that on the night that Flacsong or a horse-race would so rouse them into cus was seized, the Jews had met together to a quarrel that they could not hear for their own celebrate their autumnal feast, the feast of the noise, nor see for the dust raised by their own Tabernacles; not as on former years with joy bustle in the hippodrome; while all those acts and pomp, but in fear, in grief, and in prayer. of their rulers which, in a more wholesome state Their chief men were in prison, their nation of society, would have called for notice, passed smarting under its wrongs and in daily fear of by unheeded. In the army they made but sec- fresh cruelties; and it was not without alarm ond rate soldiers, while as singing boys at the that they heard the noise of soldiers moving to supper tables of the wealthy Romans they were and fro through the city, and of the guards much sought after, and all the world acknow-marching by torch-light from the camp to the ledged that there were no fighting-cocks equal to those reared by the Alexandrians."
palace. But their fear was soon turned into joy when they heard that Flaccus, the author of all their wrongs, was already a prisoner on board Here in some sort we find explanation of the vessel in the harbor; and they gave glory the palaces, baths, theatres, and sellers of to God, not, says Philo, that their enemy was herbs, which crowded themselves by thou-going to be punished, but because their own sands into the Oriental brain of Amrou. own sufferings were at an end.” Hadrian, Athenæus, and many others might also have been quoted, for curious additions to the picture.
The general wisdom of the Roman polity
We close with some general illustrations of the tone and style of Mr. Sharpe's admirable volume.
and laws is admitted on every hand: Greece "The economist will perhaps ask from what
has not done more for Thought than her
ty; but the only answer which we can give is, that the chief encouragement at all times to any great work is a strong sense of religious duty, and the only fund of wealth upon which men can draw for their generosity, or nations for their public works, is to be found in self-denial."
source the oppressed Egyptians drew the wealth hardy conqueror for Government. Nor and where they found the encouragement newas ever this capacity for affairs more sig-cessary to finish these gigantic undertakings, nally shown than in her management of which were begun in times of greater prosperisubject provinces: we see here that even the Emperor whom savage passions obscured and blinded in Rome, could yet keep sagacious outlook upon Egypt. A perfect sycophancy never stood him in stead for something better: if he could not keep his province quiet he was brought away on the instant, and punished for his want of "We should almost think that the seasons success. Here is the case of were more favorable to the husbandman during Flaccus, whose zealous determination to have Cali- set it down to the canals being better cleansed by the reigns of these good emperors, did we not gula's statue worshipped by the Jews, had the care of the prefect, and to the mildness of been the cause of sudden riots in Alexan- the government leaving the people at liberty to dria. No mercy on that account for Flac-enjoy the bounties of nature, and at the same cus! time making them more grateful in acknowledging them."
"To have found it necessary to call out the troops was of course a fault in a governor ; but doubly so at a time and in a province where a successful general might so easily become a formidable rebel. Accordingly a centurion, with a trusty cohort of soldiers, was sent from Rome for the recall of the prefect. On approaching the coast of Egypt, they kept the vessel in deep water till sunset, and then entered the harbor of Alexandria in the dark. The centurion on landing met with a freedman of the emperor, from whom he learned that the prefect was then at supper, entertaining a large company of friends. The freedman led the cohort quietly into the palace, into the very room where Flaccus was sitting at table; and the first tidings that he heard
CHRISTIANITY AND PAGANISM. "When the crier, standing on the steps of the portico, in front of the great temples of Alexandria, called upon the pagans to come near and join in the celebration of their mysteries, he cried out; 'All ye who are clean of hands and pure of heart, all ye who are guiltless in thought and deed, come to the sacrifice.' But many a repentant sinner and humble spirit must have drawn back in distrust from a summons which to him was so forbidding, and been glad to hear the good tidings of God's mercy offered by Christianity to those who labor and are heavy laden, and to the broken-hearted who would turn away from their wickedness. While such were the
chief followers of the gospel, it was not likely to be much noticed by the historians; and we must wait till it forced its way into the schools and the palace before we shall find many traces of the rapidity with which it spread."
HINT TO HISTORIANS.
CALIPH OMAR-LOVER OF KORAN.
"The Arabic historian tells us that when Alexandria was conquered by Amrou he set his seal upon the library, together with the other public property of the city. But John Philiponus begged that the books might be spared, as "The historian in his labors should never lose would have granted the request at once if he had being of no use to the conquerors; and Amrou sight of the coins. They teach us by their work- not thought it necessary to ask leave of the manship the state of the arts, and by their caliph. He therefore wrote to Omar for orders, weight, number, and purity of metal the wealth who answered him that, if the books were the of the country. They also teach dates, titles, same as the Koran, they were useless, and if not and the places where they were struck; and the same they were worse than useless, and that even in those cases where they seem to add lit-in either case they were to be burnt. Amrou tle to what we learn from other sources, they are still the living witnesses to which we appeal, to prove the truth of the authors who have told
A GREAT WORLD-GOVERNOR-PAPYRUS.
"It was grown in the pools of stagnant water which were left after the overflow of the Nile. Its thick knotted roots were used as wood, both for making fires and for furniture, and its graceful feathery head was often entwined round the statues of the gods as a garland. Wicker-work boats were woven out of its stalk, while of the bark were made sails, cordage and cloth. It was chewed as food, both raw and cooked, though the juice only was swallowed. Paper was made of it by splitting it into sheets as thin as possible. The best kind had been called Hieratic paper, because it was used for the sacred books; but in the time of Augustus two better kinds were made, which were named Augustan and Livian, after himself and his wife. A fourth and fifth of worse quality were called Fannian, from the name of a clever Roman maker, and Amphitheatric, from the name of the street in Rome where it was sold. A sixth kind was called Saitic, from the city Sais, near which it grew in greater quantity, but of a still worse quality. A seventh, called Leneotic, was nearer the bark, and so much worse as to be sold by weight. The eighth and the last kind was the Emporetic, which was not good enough to write on, and was used in the shop to wrap up parcels. The first two were thirteen inches wide, the Hieratic eleven, the Fannian ten, the Amphitheatric nine, while the Emporetic was not more than six inches wide. After a time the best kinds were found too thin for books, as the writing on one side often made a blot through to the other; and so in the reign of Claudius Cæsar a new kind was made, called Claudian, of two sheets thick, in which the fibres of one crossed those of the other."
EMPEROR JULIAN-LOVER OF LEARNING.
"George had employed his wealth in getting together a large library, rich in historians, rhet oricians, and philosophers of all sects; and on the murder of the bishop, Julian wrote letter after letter to Alexandria, to beg the prefect and his friend Porphyrius to save these books, and send them to him in Cappadocia. He promised freedom to the librarian if he gave them up, and torture if he hid them; and further begged that no books in favor of Christianity should be destroyed, lest other and better books should be lost with them."
obeyed this order, and sent the books, most of which were of papyrus, to the public baths of Alexandria, and the Arabic historian, in the poetic style of his nation, says that the baths were heated by them for the space of six months."
BY THE HON. JULIA AUGUSTA MAYNARD.
From Ainsworth's Magazine.
THERE stands a rugged promontory o'er
LOUIS BLANC'S HISTORY OF TEN YEARS. | one idea to be sacred, and regard its op
ponents as priests; you cannot believe one course of policy tyrannous and destructive, Par yet look upon its ministers as enlightened II. patriots. All that impartiality can do is to make allowance for difference of opinion, and not deny the sincerity of an opponent: to anathematize the doctrine, not the man. M. Louis Blanc is, in this sense, tolerably impartial.
THIS is a remarkable work. So strong is the sensation it has created in Germany, as well as in France, that we must introduce it to the notice of our readers, in spite of its incomplete state. Three volumes of the promised five have already appeared. Three editions were demanded of the first volume before the second was published, although the publication takes place by weekly livraisons. The second and third volumes have already had two large editions, the demand increasing.
L'Histoire de dix Ans' is not conspicuous for any profound views; its philosophy is often but philosophic rhetoric. But it is not without excellent aperçus, and acute penetration of motives. There is a great deal of the Journalist visible in the work. M. Blanc is a young man still, edits La Revue du Progrès,' and is more familiar And this success is explained by the with Journalism than with social science. talent of the author no less than by the ab- His work manifests both the advantages sorbing interest of the theme. The ten and disadvantages of such a condition. If years, 1830-1840, were troubled, stirring, the Journalist is incapable of that calm reand important times to every European na- view of things, and those laborious genertion to none so much as France. The alizations, which the social philosopher revolution of July-those Glorious Three elaborates from his abstract point of view; Days; the revolutions of Poland and Bel- yet is he the more conversant with the congium; the siege of Antwerp; the insurrec- crete special instances, more familiar with tions at Lyons and Grenoble, with the the motives and passions of political parcountless conspiracies and insurrections at ties, more ready to understand every coup Paris; the cholera morbus, with its eighteen d'état. M. Blanc shows a thorough penethousand victims in Paris alone; the Duch-tration into the spirit of each party, and esse de Berri and La Chouanerie; the tak- sees the germs of strength or of disease. ing of Algiers; five attempts at regicide; St. He has lived amongst conspirators; dined Simonism; Republicanism, and innumerable with legitimatists, been familiar with Boother 'isms: these are brilliant subjects, napartists. Above all, he understands the brilliantly treated by M. Louis Blanc. national spirit: its reckless daring, insou 'L'Histoire de Dix Ans' is one of those ciance, gaiety, love of excitement, of miliworks so often libelled by being called 'as tary glory, idolatry of symbols, and facility interesting as a novel:' were novels a tithe of being led away by a sonorous word, or as interesting, they would be what they pretend. It has all that we require in a novel, and much more. It is a narrative of events real, striking, absorbing the subjects of immense interest to all readers, and the style unusually excellent. As a narrative we know of few to compare with it, even in French History. Eloquent, earnest, rapid, brief, yet full of detail; it has the vividness of Carlyle or Michelet, without transgressing the rules of classic taste. The style, though not free from an occasional inelegance, is remarkable for concinnity and picturesqueness, alternating between rhetoric and epigram. The spirit of the work is avowedly republican. The author never disguises his sympathies or convictions; yet at the same time is fully alive to all the errors of his party, and reveals the true causes of their ill success. Impartial he is not; no man with strong convictions can be so. You cannot hold
pompous formula. One of the people himself, he rightly understands the people's nature. We may illustrate this power of penetration by the citation of two of the numerous epigrams with which his book abounds. Speaking of the incompetence of the Legitimatists to shake the Orleans dynasty he says: 'Les Révolutions se font avec des haines fortes et de violents désirs: les légitimistes n'avaient guère que des haines. The second is really a profound mot: of the Buonapartist party he says: il avait un drapeau plutôt qu'un principe. C'était là l'invincible cause de son impuissance.'t
An excellence not to be overlooked in his book is the portraiture of remarkable
* Revolutions are effected by means of strong hatreds and violent desires: the legitimatists had scarcely any thing but hatreds.
It had a Banner rather than a Principle. Therein lay the invincible cause of its impotence.