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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

CHAPTER 2
THE POLITICAL APPROACH TO THE
CLASSICAL WORLD
IN 450 B.C. Babylon was falling into decay and dynastic Egypt
was nearing the end of its long history. Their palaces, tombs,
and temples stood as witnesses to a great past; their priests told
tales of the mighty kings of long ago. The Greek visitor, coming
from a homeland still in the vigour of youth, still eagerly experi-
menting with new ideas and developing new methods of ex-
pression, was awed by the vast antiquity of the lands of the
Near East, their reverence for tradition, their preoccupation
with past greatness. Herodotus of Halicarnassus was one of those
who saw and marvelled. He felt something of the debt which
his own civilization owed to these countries which had been old
when the first Greeks sighted the Aegean Sea, and in his history
of the struggle between East and West he set down what he
knew of their past. He had been told of Semiramis and Nitocris,
of Sesostris and Rhampsinitus; eleven thousand years, said the
Egyptians, had passed since the reign of the first Pharaoh. It
is probable that his history, distorted and exaggerated though
it is, represents the sum of knowledge current among his hosts*
Even Manetho, who later had access to the official records, was
far from presenting a satisfactory outline of his country's
past.
To-day we are more fortunate. Excavation and research have
told us more of the ancient civilizations of the East than they
could know who saw them in the last stages of their decline. We
do not yet possess the whole drama; some acts are still imperfect,
some scenes wholly veiled from our sight. But the main lines
of development are now clear, and the unfolding of the plot in
detail, which goes on year after year, itself gives an added
fascination to the study of the past. A stroke of the pick, a turn
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