"Chapter 5: Egypt the Birthplace of Greek Decorative Art." by Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards (1831-1892)
A SCHOLAR of no less distinction than the late Sir Richard Burton wrote the other day of Egypt as "the inventor of the alphabet, the cradle of letters, the preacher of animism and metempsychosis, and, generally, the source of all human civilization." This is a broad statement; but it is literally true. Hence the irresistible fascination of Egyptology–a fascination which is quite unintelligible to those who are ignorant of the subject. I have sometimes been asked, for instance, how it happens that I–erewhile a novelist, and therefore a professed student of men and manners as they are–can take so lively an interest in the men and manners of five or six thousand years ago. But it is precisely because these men of five or six thousand years ago had manners, a written language, a literature, a school of art, and a settled government that we find them so interesting. Ourselves the creatures of a day, we delight in studies which help us to realize that we stand between the eternity of the past and the eternity of the future. Hence the charm of those sciences which unfold to us, page by page, the unwritten records of the world we live in. Hence the eagerness with which we listen to the Story of Creation as told by the geologist and the paleontologist. [Page 159]
But the history of Man, and especially of civilized man, concerns us yet more nearly; and the earliest civilized man of whom we know anything is the ancient Egyptian.
From the moment when he emerges–a shadowy figure–from the mists of the dawn of history, he is seen to have a philosophical religion, a hierarchy, and a social system. How many centuries, or tens of centuries, it took him to achieve that result we know not. Of the time when he was yet a savage we detect no trace. His faintest, farthest footprint on the sands of Time bears the impress of a sandal.
To this nation which first translated sounds into signs, and made use of those signs to transmit the memory of its deeds to future generations, we naturally turn for the earliest information of other races; nor do we so turn in vain.
Before they have any writing or any history of their own, we meet with the Ethiopians, the Libyans, the Phoenicians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, in the hieroglyphic inscriptions of ancient Egypt. And in these inscriptions, graven on the storied walls of temples and pylons older by a thousand years than the opening chapters of classical history, we also find the first–the very first–mention of the people of Greece and Italy.
It would be difficult to find a more interesting subject of inquiry than the relations of prehistoric Greece to Egypt, or than to measure, as far as possible, the extent of that debt which the early Greeks owed to the teaching and example of the ancient Egyptians.
The history of Greece and the Greeks, as told by themselves, may be said to begin with the first recorded Olympiad, seven hundred and seventy-six years before the Christian era. It is at this point that we begin to draw the line between fable and fact. But the first mention of the Greeks upon the monuments of Egypt goes back some seventeen centuries earlier, to a rock-cut tablet of the time of Sankhara, a Theban King of the Eleventh Dynasty who reigned about two thousand five hundred years before Christ. They appear in this memorable inscription as the "Hanebu"– [Page 160] that is to say, "the people of all coasts and islands ;" thereby meaning the coast-folk of Greece and Asia Minor, and the islanders of the Ægean. Now, it is a very interesting fact that "Hanebu," as a generic name for these same tribes, is exactly paralleled by the Hebrew "îyê haggôîm," which is used not only by the prophets, but earlier still in the Mosaic books, where it is said of the sons of Yavan, (41) in the tenth chapter of Genesis, "Of these were the isles of the nations divided in their lands." The Revised Version, here quoted, gives an alternative reading of "coastlands" for islands; "Hanebu" and "îyê haggôîm," being strictly capable of both interpretations. After this, we hear no more of the early Greeks in Egypt till they reappear as the Danai or Danæans, some twelve or thirteen hundred years later, in the reign of Thothmes III. Now, Thothmes III. was the Alexander of ancient Egyptian history. He conquered the known world of his day; he carved the names of six hundred and twenty-eight vanquished nations and captured cities on the walls of Karnak; and he set up a tablet of Victory in the Great Temple. It is in this famous tablet, engraved with the oldest heroic poem known to science, that we find the Greeks mentioned for the second time in Egyptian history.
"I came!" says the Great God Amen, addressing the King, who is represented at the top of the tablet in an attitude of worship, "I came! I gave thee might to fell those who dwell in their islands. Those also who live in the midst of the sea hear thy war-cry and tremble ! The isles of the Danai are in the power of thy will !"
That they are now called Danai or descendants of Danaos, the traditional King of Argolis, is a point to be noted; for it shows that these barbarian Greeks had already a legendary lore of their own. And it does more than this. It shows that in the time of Thothmes III., although we are still distant some eight hundred years from the presumed date of the "Iliad," the name of Danæans (like that of Achæans somewhat later) was already applied in the Homeric sense to the whole Hellenic race. According to no other interpretation [Page 161] could the Danai, who were originally but a small tribe settled on the mainland in Argolis, be described as "those who dwell in their islands." Danai, however, which is a transcription from the Greek, did not supersede "Hanebu," which is pure Egyptian. We accordingly find "Hanebu" again employed about two hundred years later in a colossal bas-relief group of Pharaoh Horemheb and his prisoners of war, among whom may be seen a gang of captive "Hanebu"–men and women–with their race-name inscribed against them. The heads of the men are defaced, but the profile of one woman is yet perfect; and that profile is the earliest portrait of a Greek in the world. The eye is defaced; but the delicate outline of the features is yet uninjured. She wears one long ringlet (presumably one on each side ); and this ringlet is a characteristic feature of female heads in archaic Greek art. It may therefore be assumed that it was a national fashion from the earliest period. I may as well add that the word "Hanebu," as a generic term for the Hellenes, whether Asiatic or European, survived till the time of the Ptolemies, when the Greeks ruled in Egypt. Native Egyptian scribes of that comparatively modern age used it to denote the governing race, just as their remote fore-fathers had used it to denote Greek barbarians taken in battle.
HEAD OF HANEBU WOMAN.
Bas-relief from the Pylon of Horemheb, at Karnak. From a photograph by Mr. W. M. Flinders Petrie.
From Horemheb to Rameses II. carries us a hundred years farther along the stream of time. In Rameses II. we are fain to recognize the Pharaoh of the Great Oppression, and in Meneptah, his son and successor, the probable Pharaoh of the Exodus. Under both these kings, and again under Rameses III. some fifty or sixty years later still, the Greeks of the main-land, the Greeks of the islands, the Greeks of Asia Minor, come thronging in quick succession upon the stage of history.
Leagued with the Hittites under the command of a Hittite prince, they invade the Syrian provinces of Egypt in the fifth year of Rameses II. Pharaoh himself goes forth against them, and being cut off from the main body of his forces, is waylaid under the walls of Kadesh, a fortified place on the Orontes. Thus surprised, with only his bodyguard to defend him, the hero charges them in his chariot, hews them down, puts them to flight, and defeats them utterly. Six times, says a contemporary poet, he rushed upon the foe. "Six times he trampled them like straw beneath his horse's hoofs. Six times he dispersed them single-handed, like a god. Two thousand five hundred chariots were there, and he overthrew them; one hundred thousand armed warriors, and he scattered them. Those that he slew not with his hand, he pursued unto the water's edge, causing them to leap to destruction as leaps the crocodile!"
So said Pentaur, the poet-laureate of his day, in an epic which it is no exaggeration to describe as the "Iliad" of ancient Egyptian literature. It may be that Pentaur's version of the facts is somewhat florid. I fear that we must accept his statistics with some reserve; but laureates are privileged, and Pentaur scarcely abused that privilege more than Dryden and his successors.
In this poem, which is sculptured at full length on four great temples and written on a precious papyrus in the British Museum, we find a list of the allies of the Hittites. Among them are five Hellenic nations–namely, the "Masu," or Mysians; the "Leku," or Lycians; the "Akerit," or Carians; the [Page 163] "Aiuna," or Ionians; the "Dardani " or Dardanians. Four of these–the Lycians, Mysians, Carians, and Ionians–are dwellers on the coast of Asia Minor, and near neighbors of the Hittites. The fifth is from Thrace, on the European main-land, where their name, the Dardanians, survives to this day in the Dardanelles.
The Greeks disappear for the remainder of the long reign of Rameses II.; but in the fifth year of his successor, as we learn from an inscription at Karnak, the Libyans, in alliance with a host of barbarians from over the sea, invade Egypt from the westward. The battle-roll of this new coalition is in truth the first page of the first chapter of European history. The Etruscans, Sardinians, and Sicilians, the Lycians and Achæans, are in the ranks of the enemy. This event marks the earliest entry of the Achæans upon the world's great stage, as it also marks the entry of the Latin races. They come into momentary contact with Egyptian civilization, and in the record of their defeat receive for the first time a name and a place in the annals of the ancient East.
Of these new-comers the most interesting to us, by far, are the Achæans. That they should have crossed from the Peloponessus to the coast of Libya, shows that they were already skilled to speed their hollow ships along the wine-colored sea. But what of the men themselves ? Were they fair, longhaired, and stalwart, as became the forerunners of the comrades of Achilles ? We know not; for the wall on which this inscription is carved is in a ruinous state, and the part which was once occupied by the bas-relief sculptures is unfortunately gone. But for this accident, Egypt might have preserved for us a portrait-group of prehistoric Achæans. We do know, however, that they were clad in brass, like the heroes of Homer; for in the catalogue of booty seized by the victorious Egyptians, we find a list of three thousand one hundred and seventy-five swords, poignards, cuirasses, and even greaves–the distinctive armor of "the well-greaved Achæans."
For cuirasses the Egyptian language had a special term, [Page 164] 'Tarena; but for "greaves," wearing no leg-armor themselves, they had no synonym. They therefore represented the greave pictorially, and made of it an ideographic hieroglyph. (42)
EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPH FOR A GREEK GREAVE.
This figure, accurately representing a Greek greave, even to the strap by which it was buckled on the inner side of the knee, is clearly cut in the inscription. It is followed, moreover, by the hieroglyph for "copper," and by the generic ideograph which stands in Egyptian for "metals;" thus indicating that the Achæan armor was of brass, which the scribe probably mistook for copper.
And now, for the space of a century there is peace, till again, about twelve hundred years before our era, the barbarian flood pours southward. Foremost among the foe are the Danæans and the Lycians. First in alliance with the Syrians, next with the Libyans, they attack Egypt by land and sea; and each time they are signally routed.
It may be that at last they had learned to look upon the Egyptians as invincible; or it may be that they found the balmy climate and fertile soil of Southern Europe more attractive; but the tide of invasion, at all events, set henceforth in a north-westerly direction; nor do we again encounter the Greek on Egyptian soil till some five hundred and thirty-four years later, when Psammetichus, Prince of Saïs and Memphis, defeats his colleagues of the Dodecarchy by the aid of an army of Carian and Ionian mercenaries, and founds the Twenty-sixth Egyptian Dynasty.
Too wise to part from the weapon which his own hand had forged, too politic to irritate his subjects by a display of foreign force, Psammetichus established his Greeks in two large camps, one on each side of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile. There, within a few miles of the Syrian frontier, he granted them lands and a permanent settlement. Here, too, he built a royal stronghold, or "palace-fort," for the occasional accommodation of himself and his court. Soon a busy [Page 165] town sprang up in the shelter of the camps and the castle, and more Greek settlers came from over the sea–potters and metal-workers, shipwrights, jewellers, and the like. And docks were built; and the place became a port, and a centre of Greek industry; and it was known far and near as Daphnæ of Pelusium. This also is the town which in the Bible is called "Tahpanhes;" and this same palace-fort, founded by Psammetichus six hundred and sixty-six years before Christ, is the royal residence which Hophra, a later Pharaoh of the same dynasty, assigned for a refuge to the daughters of Zedekiah, when they fled from Jerusalem into "the land of Egypt." The Egyptian name for that ancient castle is unknown to us; but we read of it in the forty-third chapter of the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah as "Pharaoh's house at Tahpanhes."
Now, according to Herodotus, these fortified camps at Daphnæ and the town adjoining formed the site of "the first settlement of a foreign-speaking people in Egypt;" and Herodotus was probably so far right that Daphnæ was the first legally established colony of aliens in conservative Egypt. Mr. Flinders Petrie's explorations in 1889 having, however, brought to light traces of two much earlier Greek settlements, we are fain to rectify, in some degree, this statement of Herodotus.*
That the Greeks, who were the most active, imitative, quick-witted, and ingenious people of antiquity, did settle in Egypt, no matter how early or how late, is the really important fact–a fact of primary significance in the history of the arts.
Daphnæ of Pelusium was destined to be eventually superseded by Naukratis. It flourished for about one hundred years, till Amasis, the last of the Saïte Kings, removed the Greek garrison to Memphis, and made over the city of Naukratis to the Greek traders. He thus transferred the Egyptian centre of Greek commerce from the Eastern to the [Page 166] Western Delta. Daphnæ from this time seems to have been completely abandoned; for Herodotus, who writes as if he had seen the place with his own eyes, states that "the docks where the Greek vessels were laid up, and the ruins of the houses in which the Greek citizens of Daphnæ once dwelt," were yet visible in his time.
At Daphnæ first, and then at Naukratis, the Greeks thus found a permanent and recognized footing in Egypt. No longer as undisciplined and semi-civilized hordes hurling themselves in vain against the trained battalions of the Pharaohs, no longer as miserable captives haled through the streets of Thebes behind the chariot wheels of a conqueror do they now come before us; but as hardy soldiers, as busy citizens, as thriving merchants. The native Egyptians despise them, mistrust them, and will neither eat nor wed with them, nor do anything but trade with them. But the strangers are quick to learn and skilful to imitate; and ere long they rival their masters as artists and craftsmen, disputing many a market in which the Egyptians have for ages enjoyed an immemorial monopoly. At Daphnæ, the Ionians and Carians, and at Naukratis the Milesians, rapidly become famous as potters, reproducing and improving upon the time-honored designs of Egypt. They even make scarabs, and amulets, and images of the Egyptian gods for the Egyptian bazaars.
I am drawing no imaginary picture. The sites of Daphnæ and Naukratis have been excavated within the last four years by Mr. Flinders Petrie, and it is not too much to say that the direct and indirect results of these explorations have completely settled that interesting question which has been so often debated and so long unanswered–namely, the question of the nature and extent of the aesthetic debt of Greece to Egypt.
That debt, in so far as it was in their power to estimate it, was freely admitted by the later Greeks themselves. Solon, Thales, Pythagoras, Eudoxus, Eratosthenes, Plato, and a host of others, were proud to sit at the feet of the most ancient of [Page 167] nations; but they were wholly ignorant of the fact that they owed the first elements of civilization and those greatest of all gifts, the alphabet and the art of writing, to the wisdom of the Egyptians.
We now know what the Greeks themselves never knew. We know that their prehistoric ancestors ventured their desperate fortunes against the might of the Pharaohs at a date so remote that they must have beheld the dawn, as well as the splendor, of Thebes; and, knowing this, we also know what they saw in Egypt, and what they must certainly have learned there.
It is not, of course, to be supposed that these coastmen and islanders of the Ægean were without some rudimentary notions of art of their own. In the time of Thothmes III., there were already Cypriote settlers making Cypriote pottery, and inscribing their pots with Cypriote characters at Tell Gurob. In the time of Meneptah, the Lycians and Carians and Achæans were ship-builders and workers in bronze; and we may take it for granted that they fashioned rude Cyclopean temples, like the primitive temple discovered a few years ago in Delos, with probably an upright stone for a god. But architecture, sculpture, and original decorative art, we may be sure they had none.
And the proof that they had none is found in the fact that the earliest known vestiges of Greek architecture, Greek sculpture, and Greek decorative art are copied from Egyptian sources.
It is not at all strange that the Greeks should have borrowed their first notions of architecture and decoration from Egypt, the parent of the arts; but that they should have borrowed architectural decoration before they borrowed architecture itself, sounds paradoxical enough. Yet such is the fact; and it is a fact for which it is easy to account.
The most ancient remains of buildings in Greece are of Cyclopean, or, as some have it, of Pelasgic origin; and the most famous of these Cyclopean works are two subterraneous structures known as the Treasury of Atreus and the Treas- [Page 168] ury of Minyas–the former at Mycenæ, in Argolis, the latter at Orchomenos, in Boeotia. Both are built after the one plan, being huge dome-shaped constructions formed of horizontal layers of dressed stones, each layer projecting over the one next below, till the top was closed by a single block. The whole was then covered in with earth, and so buried. Such structures scarcely come under the head of architecture, in the accepted sense of the word.
Now, whether the Pelasgi were the rude forefathers of the Aryan Hellenes, or whether they were a distinct race of Turanian origin settled in Greece before Hellas began, is a disputed question which I cannot pretend to decide; but what we do know is, that the prehistoric ruins of Mycenæ and Orchomenos are four hundred, if not five hundred, years older than the oldest remains of the historic school. Of all that happened during the dark interval which separated the prehistoric from the historic, we are absolutely ignorant.
If, however, the builders of Mycenæ and Orchomenos were Pelasgians, and if the builders of the earliest historic temples were Hellenes, it is, at all events, certain that the Pelasgians went to Egypt for their surface decoration, and the Hellenes for their architectural models. Moreover–and this is very curious–they both appear to have gone to school to the same place. That place is on the confines of Middle and Upper Egypt, about one hundred and seventy miles above Cairo, and its modern name is Beni-Hasan.
The rock-cut sepulchres of Beni-Hasan are among the famous sights of the Nile. They are excavated in terraces at a great height above the river, and they were made for the great feudal princes who governed this province under the Pharaohs of the Twelfth Dynasty. Their walls are covered with paintings of the highest interest; their ceilings are rich in polychromatic decoration; and many are adorned with pillared porches cut in the solid rock. (43)
It is to be remembered that the foundation of the Twelfth Egyptian Dynasty–the great dynasty of the Usertesens and Amenemhats–dates from about 3000 to 2500 years before [Page 169] Christ. These Beni-Hasan sepulchres are therefore older by many centuries than the so-called "Treasuries" of Orchomenos and Mycenæ.
Now, at Mycenæ, near the entrance to the Treasury of Atreus, there stands the base and part of the shaft of a column decorated with a spiral ornament, which here makes its first appearance on Greek soil. This spiral (though it never achieved the universal popularity of the meander, or "key pattern," or of the misnamed "honeysuckle pattern" ) became in historic times a stock motive of Hellenic design; and all three patterns–the spiral, the meander, and the honeysuckle–have long been regarded as purely Greek inventions. But they were all painted on the ceilings of the Beni-Hasan tombs full twelve hundred years before a stone of the Treasuries of Mycenæ or Orchomenos was cut from the quarry. The spiral, either in its simplest form, or in combination with the rosette or the lotus, is an Egyptian design. The rosette is Egyptian; and the honeysuckle, which Mr. Petrie has identified as a florid variety of the lotus pattern, (44) is also distinctly Egyptian.
DECORATED COLUMN AT MYCENÆ.
The spiral in combination with the rosette is first found, as a decorative design, on a ceiling in one of the tombs at Beni-Hasan, as in the following illustration; and in another [Page 170] ceiling decoration from the same rich mine of early design, we have the key pattern–the canonical Greek key pattern–combined also with the rosette.
SPIRAL AND ROSETTE DESIGN.
Beni-Hasan ceiling, Twelfth Dynasty.
ROSETTE AND KEY-PATTERN.
Beni-Hasan ceiling, Twelfth Dynasty.
The identity of these and other Beni-Hasan designs with the classic motives of Greek decorative art was first pointed out by Mr. W. H. Goodyear in his remarkable paper on the "Egyptian Origin of the Ionic Capital and of the Anthemion," contributed to the American Journal of Archæology in 1888. To the same chain of demonstrations belongs the next illustration, representing, side by side, a specimen of Beni-Hasan decoration and a fragment of prehistoric painted pottery found by Dr. Schliemann in the course of his excavations at Mycenæ–a fragment coeval, apparently, with the Treasury and the pillar.
This pattern is known as the heart-shaped, or herz-blatt, pattern. It has always been accepted as of Greek origin; but beside it is given an example of the same design, more ornately treated, from another of the Beni-Hasan ceilings.
The foregoing illustrations of Greek design being derived from Mycenæan sources, we will next turn to Orchomenos. It was here that Dr. Schliemann, in 1880, discovered in the Treasury of Minyas a small and hitherto unsuspected chamber, which had originally been decorated with a stone ceiling consisting of four large slabs elaborately carved. (45) These slabs had fallen, and were lying on the [Page 171] floor; and Dr. Schliemann was thus enabled to take paper casts of the design, which consists of an outer border of small squares, an inner border of rosettes, and a centre which he describes as "spirals interwoven with palm-leaves, between which a long bud shoots forth."
TWO EXAMPLES OF HERZ-BLATT PATTERN.
1. Potsherd from Mycenæ. 2. Beni-Hasan ceiling.
Dr. Schliemann then goes on to say that the same sort of spiral is found at Troy and at Mycenæ, and that rosettes (which he designates as "palmettes") also occur at the latter place; but he claims that the composition of the Orchomenos design is "perfectly new." He further adds that Professor Ziller believed this decoration to have been "the motive of a carpet, from which it was copied on the ceiling;" while, according to Professor Sayce, the rosettes were "originally Babylonian, and passed over into Phoenician art, which they characterize." (46)
But these eminent archæologists, when they lent the weight of their authority to these views, were for once in error. The carpet theory is, of course, below criticism. The Pelasgians, or Prehistoric Greeks, may have spread their floors with skins, the spoils of the chase; but it needs some imagination to conceive of them as weavers of carpets and rugs. The rosettes were Egyptian before they were ever Babylonian or Phoenician. And as for the composition of the Orchomenos pattern, so far from being "perfectly new," it is found as a [Page 172] cornice design at Beni-Hasan, where it decorates tombs older by at least twelve centuries than the Treasury of Minyas.
EXAMPLE OF ROSETTE BORDER AND CENTRAL DESIGN OF SPIRAL AND LOTUS.
From a ceiling pattern at Orchomenos. Pre-historic Greek.
The illustration reproduces two cornice patterns from Beni-Hasan. The first example gives the spiral in combination with a fan-like ornament, which is but a simplified variation on the lotus pattern. In the second example the rosette is substituted for the inner curves of the spiral, and the intermediate space is filled in with the true lotus motive. The Orchomenos design is palpably an adaptation from these two Egyptian originals. The spiral is the spiral of No. 1; the rosettes are taken out of the spirals of No. 2, and transferred to the border; while Dr. Schliemann's "long bud" is simply an elongation of the centre petal of the lotus. As for the so-called "palmette," it is neither more nor less than a variation of the lotus. It should be added that all these Beni-Hasan patterns are to be found in Rosellini's volume of Monumenti Civili; and that Mr. W. H. Goodyear's further researches into the Lotus origin of these and other motives of decorative design, not only in Greece, but in many other lands of the ancient world, will shortly be given to the public in his forthcoming work, entitled The Grammar of the Lotus.
CORNICE PATTERN FROM BENI-HASAN TOMBS.
1. Spiral and Lotus. 2. Spiral, Lotus, and Rosette.
The identity of these patterns being demonstrated, and the priority of the Egyptian originals being beyond dispute it remains to be asked whether it is possible to regard the Greek reproductions as mere fortuitous coincidences.
Let us for a moment suppose that we know nothing of the presence of prehistoric Greeks in Egypt. Let us grant that the triumphal chant of Thothmes III., and the epic of Pentaur, and the annals of Meneptah and Rameses III. had never been translated. Could we, even so, have gone through this series of designs without recognizing that some must be originals and others copies? We might not, it is true, have known whether the Greek sat at the feet of the Egyptian, or the Egyptian at the feet of the Greek; but we should surely have seen that one must be the pupil, and the other the master.
FACADE OF TOMB AT BENI-HASAN.
The historic school of Greek architecture begins at Corinth with the remains of a Doric temple dating from about 650 [Page 174] B.C.; and this ruin is believed to be the oldest in Greece. In its extreme simplicity of style and the inelegant strength of its proportions, it is impossible not to recognize a close but clumsy relationship to Egyptian models. Ferguson boldly asserts, indeed, that this structure is "indubitably copied" from the pillared porches of Beni-Hasan. (47)
The columns of these pillared porches have sixteen flutings, a plain abacus, and no plinth. They also support a plain entablature. This is the "proto-Doric" type about which archæologists have disputed so long and so hotly.
It is important to compare this so-called "proto-Doric" with the Greek Doric, of which we here have three examples, showing the development of the order at three periods.
EXAMPLES OF DORIC COLUMNS.
1. From Corinth. 2. From the Parthenon. 3. From Delos.
The first is from the early temple at Corinth; the second is from the Parthenon, dating, therefore, from the age of Pericles; the third and latest is from a temple at Delos, of the time of Philip of Macedon.
The column of the Corinth temple is identical in design and proportions with the columns of Beni-Hasan; the Parthenon column is loftier, and of admirable grace; while in the Delian example we have yet more height, no gradation, and no grace.
But whether loftier or lower, plain or decorated, the essential principle of the Doric order is Egyptian to the last.
The Corinth column, however, was not necessarily copied from Beni-Hasan. It may, with equal probability, have been [Page 175] studied from the Temple of Thothmes III. at Karnak–the finest example of this style in Egypt.
TEMPLE OF TOTHMES III AT KARNAK.
M. Perrot in the first volume of his Histoire de l'Art dans l'Antiquité, has urged, among other objections, that this style was already archaic in Egypt when the Corinth temple was built; and that, "not being archæologists," the Greeks, had they borrowed from Egypt, would surely have borrowed from the more ornate and modern school. But this is a fallacious argument. Younger nations, when they borrow from older civilizations, invariably take those things which suit their special needs; and in the proto-Doric column of Egypt, the Greek instinctively recognized not only the easiest model upon which to try his "'prentice hand," but that which especially embodied those principles of simplicity and grace which were most in harmony with his taste and his climate.
From the Egyptian origin of the Doric order, we pass on [Page 176] to the Egyptian origin of the Ionic. In order to prove this point, I must draw upon Mr. W. O. Goodyear's essay in the American Journal of Archæology, already referred to, and briefly sketch the part played by the lotus in Egyptian art –a part much more considerable than has hitherto been suspected.
LOTUS LEAF DESIGN.
From a tomb of the Ancient Empire, Sakkarah. From a sketch by Mariette-Pasha, in Les Mastabahs de l'ancienne Empire.
To the modern traveller who ascends the Nile from Cairo to Assûan without seeing a single specimen of this famous lily, it would almost seem as if the lotus had become extinct with the people who in olden time associated it with all the pleasures of their social life, and with all the ceremonies of their religion. This, however, is not the case. Of the three varieties which flourished abundantly in the time of Herodotus–the white, the blue, and the rose lotus–only the last (the Nelumbium speciosa ) has disappeared. The white and the blue Nenuphar * yet star the unfrequented waterways of the Delta, and grow with rank luxuriance in the ditches and stagnant pools which abound in the neighborhood of Rosetta and Damietta. Here the children of the fellaheen still pluck the pods and eat the seeds, as the Egyptians plucked and ate them in the days of the Pharaohs. Beautiful as it was, the rose lotus was not the dominant lotus of Egyptian decorative art. The architect, the potter, the bronze-worker turned rather to the blue or white variety, preferring the flat and floating leaf of these species to the bell-shaped leaf of the Nelumbium speciosa. This floating leaf slightly curved at the edge and divided at its point of junction with the stem, furnished the architects of the Ancient Empire with a [Page 177] noble and simple model for decorative purposes. Very slightly conventionalized, it enriches the severe facades of tombs of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth dynasties, which thus preserve for us one of the earliest motives of symmetrical design in the history of ornament.
NATURAL LOTUS IN BUD, BLOSSOM, AND SEED-POD.
In the next illustration* we have the blossom and leaf of the blue lotus, and two seed-pods of the pink lotus. The blossom is full-blown, and the calyx-leaves, which closely [Page 178] enfold it in its earlier stages, separate from the fully-opened flower. Thus separating, they droop over, and assume a variety of graceful curves. These drooping calyx-leaves play a very important part in the history of architecture; for from these–and these only–were derived the volutes of the Ionic capital.
We now pass from the lotus in nature to the lotus in art. Of the Egyptian treatment of the lotus in decoration, we next have three examples.
THE EXAMPLES OF CONVENTIONAL LOTUS.
1. From a wall-painting. 2. Wooden capital, from a wall-painting. 3. Bas-relief on square limestone column.
1. First in order comes the conventional lotus of the Egyptian school of flower-painting–that lotus with upright calyx-leaves and ordered petals which we know so well from the illustrations to Wilkinson and Ebers. As an offering upon the altar, as an oblation to the manes of the dead, wreathed as a chaplet, strung as a necklace, carried as a bouquet, we meet with it at every turn in the tombs and temples of Egypt.
2. The next example, from a Theban wall-painting, represents the capital of a wooden column. Here we have three lotus lilies, one large blossom and two smaller blossoms, issu- [Page 179] ing from a conventionalized base of drooping calyx-leaves. A bud on each side of the calyx repeats the symmetrical arrangement of the smaller lotuses above. Fantastic though it is, and overcharged with detail, this capital gives a good example of the curvature of the calyx-leaf in architectural design.
3. The third example reproduces a bas-relief decoration upon a square granite column of Thothmes III. at Karnak. Here we have the calyx without the flower; and at this stage of the design we are but one remove from the Ionic capital. Suppose a flat stone to be placed on the top of those curved calyx-leaves, let the weight of the stone press them downwards and outwards, and we have the Ionic capital of Greece.
Of the earliest known example of true Ionic it is not possible to give an illustration; yet that earliest example was in existence only six years ago. It belonged to the archaic Temple of Apollo, at Naukratis.
EXAMPLE OF GRECIAN IONIC.
It was in 1885 that Mr. Petrie identified the site of that long-lost city with a large mound situate about half-way between Alexandria and Cairo, in the Western Delta. The modern Arab name for this mound is Tell Nebireh. It is rather more than half a mile in length by a quarter of a mile in breadth; and the canal along which, in olden days, the Greek merchant-galleys sailed to and fro between Naukratis and the sea yet skirts one side of the mound. Now, Herodotus says of Naukratis that Amasis assigned it to the Greek traders, and therewith granted them special privileges; hence it has always been taken for granted that they then first settled in [Page 180] that place. But Mr. Petrie's excavations show them to have been in possession of the city from a much earlier period–earlier, perhaps, than the dynasty to which Amasis belonged. What Amasis actually did for the Greeks of Naukratis must, therefore, have been to confirm them in their occupation of that site, and to grant them an exclusive charter whereby they should be entitled to hold it in perpetuity.
The beginnings of Naukratis seem to have been humble enough, the earliest town having been built of wood and burned to the ground, we know not when nor by whom. Its ashes underlie the ruins of the second town, which dates from about the time of Psammetichus I., the founder of Daphnæ. *
To this period–that is, from about 666 B.C. to 640 B.C.– belong the remains of that first temple to Apollo which is the very earliest of which it can be said with certainty that it belonged to the Ionic order.
It was a primitive little structure built of mud-bricks faced with stucco, and finished with decorations and columns of limestone. All that remained of it when discovered were a few fragments of sculptured decoration, the piece of fluted column figured on the following page, and a single volute. That volute–the oldest Ionic volute known–was seen by Mr. Petrie at the moment when it was turned up by the spade of the digger. He hastened to fetch his camera that he might photograph the fragments as they lay; but before he could return to the spot, the volute had been smashed up and carried to the nearest lime-kiln. The rest of the fragments are now in the British Museum.
Like the Beni-Hasan columns, the flutings on this fragment of shaft are sixteen in number, and meet edge to edge, without any flat between.
The first Temple of Apollo seems to have been destroyed about 440 B.C., to make way for a second and a larger structure, adorned with columns and architraves of fine white marble. [Page 181]
FRAGMENTS OF SHAFT, ETC., FROM THE ARCHAIC TEMPLE OF APOLLO, NAUKRATIS.
The only relics of this second temple are here reproduced from a photograph by Mr. Petrie. Scant though they are, they at all events show to what skill the Greeks of Naukratis had by this time attained in the art of decorative sculpture. Among these fragments we note an anthemion, some bits of the so-called Oriental palmette, and a few scraps of lotus pattern, naturalistically treated. That the anthemion and the palmette are lotus motives conventionally treated has been conclusively demonstrated by Mr. W. H. Goodyear in a series of examples from Egyptian, Cypriote, Greek, and Græco-Roman monuments, which trace the evolution of these forms step by step, and leave no room for debate. (48)
FRAGMENTS FROM THE SECOND TEMPLE OF APOLLO, NAUKRATIS.
It is impossible in the course of a few pages to do more than touch upon some of the more striking instances of the influence of the lotus upon Greek decorative art. The subject, as a whole, is too complicated and too extensive for summary treatment. It will, however, be interesting to glance at two or three more examples of lotus designs, beginning [Page 182] with the conventional treatment of Egypt, and leading up to what is erroneously called the "honeysuckle pattern of the Greeks."
EGYPTIAN VASE WITH INVERTED LOTUS DESIGN.
From a drawing by Mr. W. M. F. Petrie.
In this illustration we have an alabaster vase of pure Egyptian style and workmanship, found by Mr. Petrie at Tell Nebesheh in a tomb of the time of the Twentieth Dynasty. The lotus design engraved on the shoulder of this vase is identical in treatment with the conventional lotus of the Egyptian flower painters, as shown in the previous illustration. This is easily demonstrable by reversing the page, and looking at the vase upsidedown.
ARCHAIC GRÆCO-EGYPTIAN VASE.
From a drawing by Mr. W. M. F. Petrie.
This next vase is more modern by six hundred years. It was found at Tell Defenneh (Daphnæ of Pelusium) in the ruins of the palace-fort of Psammetichus I. As an example of very early Greek painted ware, reproducing the stock motives of Egyptian decoration and dominated by Egyptian influences, this beautiful vase is most instructive. The friezes of birds and animals are Greek, and re- [Page 183] mind us of the Rhodian and Cypriote schools. The enriched "key pattern" between the two friezes, and the simpler "key pattern" below, are Egyptian. We have already seen them in the Beni-Hasan designs; while the floral subjects in the two lower bands mark the first appearance of the misnamed "honeysuckle" pattern, which is neither more nor less than a Greek variation upon the old familiar lotus and scroll of the Beni-Hasan cornice patterns. The form of the vase is restored in dotted lines where broken.
ARCHAIC GRÆCO-EGYPTIAN VASE.
From a drawing by Mr. W. M. F. Petrie. *
The vase next reproduced from a drawing by Mr. Petrie is also from Tell Defenneh. The lotus and scroll are treated with yet more playful freedom and grace, and the artist has even ventured to combine some dancing figures with his design. In the lowest register we observe, however, a return to the old conventional forms–a severely simplified lotus of the Egyptian type alternating with an upright bud.
This simplified lotus-and-bud pattern, which is much more nearly related to the Egyptian school of design than to the Greek, was by no means monopolized by the potters of Daphnæ. It speedily became the common property of both architects and vase-painters in all the schools of Hellas. It appears for the first time as an architectural decoration in a fragment of sculptured necking from the archaic Temple of [Page 184] Apollo at Naukratis, which is dated by Mr. Petrie at 666 B.C. to 640 B.C.
SKETCH OF LOTUS-AND-BUD PATTERN.
(i.e. "Egg-and-Dart"), from a fragment of necking from archaic Temple of Apollo, Naukratis.
In this piece of necking, which belonged to one of the limestone columns, we at once recognize the lotus-and-bud pattern of the second Defenneh vase, which may be ascribed to about 650 B.C. or 640 B.C. The vase and the temple, if not actually contemporaneous, fall, therefore, within about ten years of the same date; and both are decorated with a design directly borrowed from the lotus pattern of Egyptian art. This design is none other than the so-called "egg-and-dart" pattern of Greek architecture.
I will cite but one more instance of the uses to which Greek craftsmen adapted this well-worn subject. At Daphnæ there would seem to have been a busy trade in jewellery as well as in pottery, and the jewellers were no less ready than the potters to seize upon the national flower-subject. Innumerable scraps of fine goldsmiths' work, such as amulets and parts of ear-rings, chains, and the like, were found by Hr. Petrie's Arabs in the ruins of the town; but by far the most striking object of this class was discovered in a corner of the great camp, where it had probably been buried when the palace-fort was sacked and burned. This very precious and beautiful relic is a tray handle in solid gold, [Page 185] showing a new variety of lotus pattern, the petals being arranged in an elongated form, issuing from voluted calyx-leaves. Here we identify the original of the supposed "palmette" motive. It is also important to note the identity of these voluted calyx-leaves with the bas-relief calyx capitals from Karnak which gave the derivation of the Ionic volute.* This exquisite handle was originally inlaid with colored glass, or stones; the body of the lotus being cast, and the dividing ribs for holding the inlaying being soldered on.
GOLD HANDLE OF A TRAY.
Found in the ruins of the Greek camp at Tell Defenneh. The two pendant straps, which passed under the tray, are also of solid gold. From the three bands out of which the calyx springs to the top of the handle measures 2.95 inches (.075 metres).
This very brief and inadequate sketch may serve to convey a general idea of the important part played by the Egyptian lotus in Greek decorative art, from its first appearance on the Orchomenos ceiling down to the time when the Greeks obtained a permanent footing in the Delta. Thenceforth, whether issuing from the workshops of Naukratis or multiplied in the studios of Hellas, the time-honored lily of the Nile not only continued to be the stock motive of all floral decoration upon Greek vases, but held its place as a leading motive for architectural ornament. It was repro- [Page 186] duced in the painted vases of Rhodes and Cyprus; it blossomed in ordered beauty along the entablature of the Erectheum; as an anthemion, it crowned the pediment of the Parthenon; and it enriched the prize vases awarded to victors in the Panathenaic games. Professor Alan Marquand, whose voice in matters of Greek archæology is second in authority to none, is even of opinion that the Corinthian capital is of lotus derivation.
As regards the exclusive employment of the lotus motive in Greek ceramic art, we marvel at the ingenuity with which the Hellenic vase-painter varied, played with, and adapted this one subject; but far more extraordinary is the poverty of invention which allowed him to remain forever content to execute only variations, however ingenious, upon the one invariable theme.
The Greeks borrowed many things from Egypt besides the lotus. From the Fields of "Aahlu " in the realm of Osiris, where the pure-souled Egyptian steered his papyrus bark amid the sunny islands of a waveless sea, the Greeks borrowed their Elysian Fields and their Islands of the Blest.
The child-god Horus, son of Osiris and Isis, depicted as an infant with his finger in his mouth, became the Greek God of Silence, with his finger on his lip; and "Hor-pakhroti," "Hor-the-child," was transformed into Harpocrates.
It would be easy to multiply such instances, were it not that my present inquiry is directed to the sources of Greek art, and not to the sources of Greek religious thought. Sometimes, however, the one conception involves the other; and when this is the case, the Greek, as a rule, entirely misunderstands the Egyptian idea.
According to old Egyptian belief, for instance, the living man consisted of a Body, a Soul, an Intelligence, a Name, a Shadow, and a Ka, which last I have elsewhere ventured to interpret as the Vital Principle.* He died, and each of these [Page 187] component parts fulfilled a different destiny. The Body was embalmed; the Ka dwelt with the mummy in the sepulchre; the Intelligence fled back to the immortal source of light and life; the Name and the Shadow awaited reunion with the Body in a state of final immortality; and the Soul, or "Ba," represented as a human-headed hawk, fluttered to and fro between this world and the next, occasionally visiting and comforting the mummy in its tomb. These visits of the Soul to the Body are frequently represented in Egyptian tomb-paintings, and in illustrations to the Book of the Dead; as, for example, in this vignette to the eighty-ninth chapter of that famous collection of prayers and invocations which has been called–not too correctly–the ancient Egyptian Bible.
THE MUMMY AND THE "BA".
From a vignette in "The Book of the Dead."
The mummy lies on the bier, attended by Anubis, the jackal-headed god of embalmment. The Soul, grasping in one hand a little sail, the emblem of breath, in the other hand the "ankh," or emblem of Life, hovers over the face of the corpse. Now this Soul, this "Ba," is a loving visitant to the dead man. It brings a breath of the sweet north wind, and the cheering hope of immortality in the sunny Fields of Aahlu. The Greeks, however, misapprehending its nature and functions, conceived of it as a malevolent emissary of the gods, and converted it into the Harpy. We have next the Greek conception of a Harpy, from a fragment of early Greek painted ware found at Daphnæ. But we have a still finer example in the illustration reproduced from the famous Harpy-Tomb in the British [Page 188] Museum. The Harpy is carrying off one of the daughters of Pandarus. She wears a fillet and pendant curls, and besides the claws of a bird, she has human arms like the Egyptian "Ba," wherewith to clasp her prey. The monument from which this group is copied was discovered by Sir Charles Fellows at Xanthus, in Lycia, and it dates from about five hundred and forty years before our era. It is more recent, that is to say, by about a century, than the painted potsherd of the preceding illustration.
From a fragment of painted ware. Tell Defenneh. 650 B.C.
Not less interesting than the self-evident connection between the Greek Harpy and the Egyptian "Ba " is the fact that this Harpy-tomb is the work of Lycian artists; for the Lycians, or "Leku," as we have already seen, had been brought into close contact with Egypt as early as the time of the Nineteenth Dynasty, having been among those very nations which allied themselves with the Hittites against Rameses II. and with the Libyans against Meneptah.
From the Harpy-Tomb of Xanthus.
Not content to convert [Page 189] the gentle bird-soul of the Egyptians into a Harpy, the later Greeks went yet further, and transformed it into a Siren.
The illustration is from a vase in the British Museum, and it may be about one hundred, or one hundred and twenty years later than the Xanthian tomb. The scene shows Odysseus passing the Sirens. He is bound to the mast of his galley, which glides between two rocks, on each of which perches a Siren. A third Siren hovers over the rowers. All three wear the fillet and pendant curl of the Harpy of the Lycian tomb–that same pendant curl which is worn by the "Hanebu" woman, sculptured nearly a thousand years before on the pylon of Pharaoh Horemheb at Karnak.*
ODYSSEUS AND THE SIRENS.
From a vase in the British Museum.
The question of archaic Greek figure-sculpture, and its unquestioned derivation from Egyptian sources, is so wide and far-reaching that it would demand, not a chapter, but a volume. It is far too complex for a rapid survey. The Egyptian character of all very early Greek statuary may, [Page 190] however, be at once recognized by any observant visitor to the British Museum, the Louvre, the Berlin Museum, or the Glyptotheca of Munich. He needs but to walk from the galleries containing the Egyptian collections into the galleries assigned to the archaic Greek marbles, and the evidence will be before his eyes. In the Museum of Athens he will see the archaic Apollo of Thera; in the British Museum, the Strangford Apollo, and in the Glyptotheca of Munich the Apollo of Tenea, to say nothing of other examples in which the general proportions and treatment are distinctly Egyptian. The Strangford Apollo, the Apollo of Thera, and the Apollo of Tenea, are even represented in the canonical, or "hieratic" attitude, with clenched hands, and arms straightened to the sides, which stamps all Egyptian figure-sculpture in stone.
THE ARCHAIC APOLLO OF THERA.
In the National Museum, Athens.
I should add that, among the numerous fragments of votive sculpture discovered by Mr. Petrie in the ruins of the second temple of Apollo at Naukratis, there was found a well-executed torso of an archaic Apollo * in this attitude; thus demonstrating the starting-point of Græco-Egyptian figure-sculpture on Egyptian soil.
THE ARCHAIC APOLLO OF NAUKRATIS.
We have now followed the footsteps of our prehistoric Greek from the moment when he first emerges from primeval darkness, to the hour of his entry upon the stage of history. That is to say, from a period some seventeen centuries earlier than the accepted date of the "Iliad," to a time when that immortal poem had been current for more than a hundred and fifty years. We have traced the Dardaneans to the reign of Thothmes III., thus proving the existence of at least one important Hellenic tradition at an epoch eight hundred years earlier than its first appearance in Homer. And, further, we have identified those "shining savages," the well-greaved Achæans, with the armored warriors of the West who fought and fell with the Libyan host but a few years, probably, before the Children of Israel went forth out of the House of Bondage. Thus far, our facts are drawn from Egyptian sources. Passing on thence to Greek sources, and to the tangible results of recent explorations, we have beheld the colonization of Daphnæ and Naukratis, and followed the evolution of Greek from Egyptian art. We have traced the Doric shaft, and the elaborate ceiling pattern of Orchomenos to the tombs of Beni-Hasan; and we have indentified the Ionic capital, the familiar honeysuckle pattern, and all the [Page 191] floral decorative motives of Greek ceramic art with the lotus of the Nile.
It is such results as these which unite the Orientalist and the Classical scholar in a bond of brotherhood which had not even begun to exist a few years ago, and which I believe and hope will never, and can never, be dissolved.
FEMALE WINGED SPHINX OF GREEK ART.
(From a fragment of Daphnæan pottery.)
See chap. iii. on "Portrait-Painting in Ancient Egypt."
* The Nymphæ Alba and the Nymphæ Coerulea.
* Abridged from an illustration to Mr. W. H. Goodyear's article in the American Journal of Archæology. Vol. iii.
* See chap. i., "The Buried Cities of Ancient Egypt."
* For these three illustrations of vases, see Plates i., xxvii., and xxviii. Tanis, Part II., by W. M. Flinders Petrie, Trubner, 1887.
* See third example in illustration of "The Conventional Lotus in Egyptian Art."
* See chap. iv., "The Origin of Portrait Sculpture and the History of the Ka."
* See Page 161.
* This important fragment is now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, United States of America, and its close relationship to the Strangford, Tenean, and Theran Apollos, has been recognized by Mr. Robinson (curator), in his very interesting and able report to the Trustees for the year 1889.