Index Previous Page Next Page

The Great Barons of Egypt

Resuming our journey up the Nile, we come upon later tombs. These are cut into the cliffs, and are the tombs oi the great lords of the feudal age of Egypt. The wall pictures show that these ancient barons lived in fine villas, with beautiful gardens. Remains of their libraries -- great rolls of papyrus -- have been unearthed. These writings tell us the oldest stories of the world. They describe the drugs that men used, and the value of castor oil. They include the first books in arithmetic, geometry, and algebra, for the Egyptians were the first people to measure land and to learn the mechanics of carrying and raising great masses of stone.

Proceeding still farther up the Nile, we reach the colossal ruins of Thebes, some 500 miles south of Cairo. This was the capital of Egypt in its last great age, when it had won an empire from the Sahara to the Euphrates. At Karnak, where ancient Thebes stood, we see again the ruins of vast cemeteries and temples, and their walls covered with sculptured pictures of the life of Egypt and Asia. Here, for the first time pictured in history, is the tamed horse, and with it the wheeled chariot, both imported from Asia.

With the wealth they looted from Asia, they built the greatest hall and columns ever made by man. The "column" and the "clerestory" were invented in Egypt, and the idea passed to Europe, to be used centuries later in the earliest Christian churches. Beautiful furniture and lovely jewelled boxes have been found in the great tomb-chapels of the nobles of the Egyptian Empire, and Today they may be seen in the National Museum of Cairo.

In that museum of the earliest civilized life we may see nearly all the arts of life as we know them -- weaving and spinning, working in pottery and glass-blowing, building and carving and painting; ploughing, sowing, threshing, and gathering into barns; boating, fishing, irrigation; wine-pressing, dancing, singing and playing. "It was a vast community, orderly, peaceful, and intelligent; capable of gigantic works and of refined art, before which we are lost in wonder; a civilized community, busy and orderly as a hive of bees, amongst whom every labour was arranged in perfect harmony and distinctness." All this may be seen upon monuments 5,000 years old. However, at last, about 1,000 B.C., the glory of Egypt came to an end. The attacks of many enemies, and internal strife, led to its decay.

In later history Egypt became part of Alexander's Empire; later it belonged to the Roman Empire, after the last and most beautiful of Egyptian queens, Cleopatra, had tried to save her country; and in modern times Egypt was ruled as a part of the British Empire.

The story of the mounds and ruins of that other famous valley, that of the twin rivers Tigris and Euphrates, shows that civilized life had also begun in very early times among the peoples of Asia.