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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

290                          Egypt and Rome
be regarded, when they were re-exported, as Egyptian products.
The theological basis of the absolutism of Egypt was the
divinity of the king. This conception was not, it has been proved,
so common among the people of the Near East as it was once
thought. The longs of Assyria and Babylonia were not gods, nor
did the Persians worship their kings, though the Greeks thought
that they did. Egypt was in fact the only important monarchy
where the theory was held. It is tempting therefore to attribute
to Egypt the rapid growth of the divine monarchy in the Hellen-
istic age. A careful investigation of the problem has, however,
recently established that this was not the case. Alexander and
the Ptolemies were of course gods in the Egyptian pantheon,
like every ruler of the two lands. But the worship of kings by
Greeks grew from Greek roots. The anthropomorphic spirit of
Hellas had never drawn a very clear line between gods and men.
Some of its gods, Heracles for instance, had by universal consent
once been men, and according to a theory which was popular
in the Hellenistic age all the gods were great rulers of the past
whom their grateful subjects had deified; with the growth of
rationalism in the fourth century it was not difficult to apply
this reasoning to modern benefactors. Yet Egypt did play a
small part in the spread of the doctrine. One of the most curious
incidents in the story of Alexander is his journey to the oracle
of Zeus Ammon. We shall never know what motives prompted
his romantic spirit, whether it was the example of his ancestor
Heracles, or that yearning which he felt to explore the mysterious
and unknown. Nor shall we ever know what words passed when
Alexander entered the sanctuary alone, save for the high priest,
and questioned the god. But it is tolerably certain that the god,
through the mouth of his priest, must have addressed him as
a god and a son of Amen; for the temple was an Egyptian
temple, and Alexander was king of Egypt. And it is certain too
that this answer must have impressed Alexander's mind: for
Zeus Ammon was more than an Egyptian god and his oracle