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378 The Legacy to Modern Egypt
priests. They read the Qur'an as the ancient kherheb used to
read the holy books of paganism; they are authorities in law like
the priests of Ma'at, the goddess of justice; they teach reading
and writing for sacred rather than for everyday purposes.
There is the imam who is the authority on all those social
relationships that come within the orbit of Islam.
The schoolmaster carries on the work of those who dictated
the Instructions of Amenemhet I, the Teaching of Duauf, the
Story of Sinuhe, and all those texts that were copied by genera-
tions of schoolboys in antiquity. Only, he does not range so
widely; he is confined to the Qur'an.
This narrowing of scope is characteristic of Modern as con-
trasted with Ancient Egypt. There are those who complain that
it is impoverishment; but sometimes, at least, it means a welcome
simplification. Thus the writing which the schoolmaster now
teaches is a great improvement on the old one. The hiero-
glyphs were a combination of several principles that had suc-
ceeded without superseding one another. The Arabic writing
contains no new principle, but employs only one out of the
several ancient ones. It should be noted, however, that some
simplification had already been undertaken by the later ancients
under Greek influence, producing demotic.
There were priestesses in Ancient Egypt. Islam will not have
women in office; but, cast out of the official system, they have
found a refuge in the popular religion, which, in Egypt as else-
where, subsists in the basement of the intelligentsia's edifice of
thought. They live on in reduced circumstances as the self-
appointed vehicles of the spirits of the dead.
Besides clerics the village has craftsmen: potters, blacksmiths,
wheelwrights, mat-makers, shearers, farriers, and others. They
settle where there is work, and the father hands on his occupa-
tion to his son. This was noted by Herodotus as characteristic
of Egypt, and he is confirmed by numerous inscriptions: we
know of one headship of the painters of Amun which was in-