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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

384                The Legacy to Modern Egypt
down to the peasantry. At the same time it is disappearing at
the top. Europe is now the arbiter of Ion ton, and Europe has
decreed that polygamy is barbarous. Thus we are assisting at
a complete reversal of the ancient institution: from being first
royal, then aristocratic, polygamy is becoming plebeian, because
the peasant is the last to be reached by the changes of fashion;
besides, his wives and children work, and so are an asset instead
of a burden, as they are in higher spheres.
Concubines, as distinct from wives, were an important part
of Pharaoh's state. They were kept in a seclusion as strict as
that which still prevails and has become associated with Islam.
The Pharaoh's harem was known as the 'House of the Isolated',
and a foreign princess who entered it was lost to the world.
We have by now acquired some experience of the way in
which a new dispensation establishes itself on the ruins of its
forerunners. Of the pre-existing structure parts lie completely
outside the new plan, and so remain untouched, for instance
marriage observances. Others, like the marriage contract, fit in
so well that they are incorporated with scarcely a change. Yet
others had to be remodelled to harmonize with the new theology.
We have seen how kingship had to be reconciled with the new
conception of God. So had all beliefs and customs which were
associated with the old theology: they had to shed their
Thus the pig was so unclean to the Ancient Egyptians that
it never figures in texts or pictures of the Old Kingdom, and
in the days of Herodotus swineherds were not allowed to inter-
marry with the rest of the people. It was alleged that Set had
taken the form of a black pig in order to attack Horus. The
myth thus links the pig's uncleanness with a cosmological system
in which it was the vehicle of the Adversary. When that
Adversary became the Devil his vehicle perforce became evil.
When the old gods became obnoxious this uncleanness was not