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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Introduction                              xv
tively easy country to defend; and her natural defences remained
her natural boundaries, though her 'empire' over subject peoples
extended beyond them at different times. Moreover, within
these boundaries she was self-sufficient except for lumber and
a few luxury products, thanks to her amazingly fertile soil and
the mineral wealth of her eastern mountains.
These advantages were no doubt contributory agents to that
third side of Egyptian conservatism which is manifested in the
people themselves. It is a quality essential to them to-day, and
though it may well have been inherent in the original Hamitic
stocks which gave us the earliest known predynastic population
of Upper Egypt, it is clearly an attitude of mind which was
fostered by climatic and topographical conditions: the depen-
dability of the weather and of the annual Nile flood, and the
homogeneity of the natural surroundings at any point on the
river from Kom Ombo to Memphis. The climate, too, encour-
aged a slothful temper, as did probably the ease with which a
bare living could be obtained, though this cannot have been as
simple a process as it is to-day. For such a temper innovations
have no attraction. It was in fact a land in which Nature,
once tamed, ceased to change except within the cycle of her
seasons, the recurrence of which reiterated both their monotony
and their inevitability. Why then should men change their
habits of mind or body, except under strong pressure from
without? From time to time the Egyptians received such
violent impressions from their neighbours, but the effect even
of these tended to be erased after a return to normal condi-
tions. For the rest their abiding frontiers presented high walls
which turned their vision back on themselves and on the Nile
valley.
We may suppose that some such explanation accounts for a
tendency to conservatism in the Egyptian which may be traced
in every phase of his life that we can watch. In agriculture and
craftsmanship the simplest tools, once evolved, were retained