XIX. Romans Moving Eastward — Ptolemy V — The Rosetta Stone — Philom-etor and Euergetes — Pergamos and Its Rival Library — Kleopatra Kokkeia and Her Sons — Revolt in Upper Egypt — Final Destruction of Thebes.
The kings of Antiokhos and Philip V paid no heed to the mandate from Rome, but continued their operations against Egypt with no abating of energy. It was virtually their challenge for a conflict which was to prove the destruction of both their realms. The Romans, rallying from the calamities of the war with Hannibal, prepared for new ventures with that quiet resolution and effective preparation which enabled them to become the overlords and arbiters of nations. They sought no help from alliances, but engaged in conflict, relying on themselves alone.
The Athenians had been members of the Akhaian League, which the kings of Egypt had largely sustained by contributions. They now sent an embassy to Alexandreia asking help against Philip. The Egyptian Council of State referred the matter to the Roman Senate and received instruction to leave the contest entirely to the Roman armies.
The Senate also sent a demand to Antiokhos that he should give up to the Roman people all the territory which he had taken from Egypt, declaring that it belonged to the Romans by the right of war. Upon receiving this message Antiokhos made peace, betrothing his daughter to Ptolemy, and setting apart the conquered provinces as her dower, to be delivered when the young king was old enough to be married.
Meanwhile affairs in Egypt had fallen into a deplorable condition. For a century and a half the country had been governed by Grecian rulers, entirely foreign and distinct from the native population, but they had made life and property safe, and suffered industry to enjoy a large share of its earnings. Now, however, the government afforded little protection, and its administration had become despotic and oppressive. The result of it was a general discontent which had developed into disaffection. Alexandreia itself became like a volcano, ready at any time to burst forth into destructive eruption, while the whole Delta was awake for active demonstration. Anarchy and violence prevailed over Northern Egypt.
The former kings had organized a military body of Egyptians, in its form and discipline similar to the famous Macedonian phalanx. It now revolted and fortified itself at Lykopolis. There it was besieged by the royal troops and capitulated on promise that the lives of the men would be spared. The king, however, paid no attention to his oath, and they were punished.
A second rebellion was headed by Skopas, who had commanded the Egyptian army against Antiokhos in Palestine. It was promptly crushed by the efficient measures of the minister Aristomenes. Not daring, however, to punish Skopas openly, the latter caused him to be immured in prison, where he died by poison.
Ptolemy was now fourteen, and the Council of State declared him of lawful age to reign. The ceremony of coronation took place at Memphis and was very imposing. The priests of Upper and Lower Egypt, including those engaged in the worship of the god-kings, took part in the proceedings, and the young king was invested with the pshent or double crown in the Temple of Ptah. After the crowning, the decree was promulgated of which the famous inscription on the Rosetta Stone was a copy. In it the numerous titles of royal distinction were given, and he was styled the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, the Son of Ra, the Living Image of Amun, the Beloved of Ptah, Ptolemy the Immortal, and Epiphanes the Most Gracious god. The names of the priests were also engraved, together with the command that worship should be performed to the statue of the king in all the temples, and that the image should be carried in all the religious processions. It was likewise ordered that a copy of the decree should be carved and put on every statue of the king, in the sacred or hieroglyphic characters, in the demotic or common writing, and in Greek.
The discovery of one of these inscriptions, the Rosetta Stone, by the French at the Fort St. Julien, has served through the efforts of Dr. Young and the Champollion brothers, to make the hieroglyphic and cursive writing, the ancient language and history of Egypt known to the modern world. Before them, all that was definitely understood was the folk-lore in the works of Herodotos and casual allusions in the historic literature of other countries. Even the Hebrew writings seemed to recognize little as pertaining to Egypt, except what occurred in northern districts. Since that period the woeful Hermetic prediction has been fulfilled: The Skyth, and the foreigner inhabit Egypt; fables alone remain of its former worship, which the men of the after-time have failed to comprehend, and words engraved in stone narrate the works of religion. But now, these words are becoming known, and from these inscriptions so long undecipherable, there has been disclosed a history and a religion so long unknown as to seem merely sacerdotal fiction.
The decree certainly recites the particulars of a moderate and excellent administration, the very reverse of the government of Ptolemy Philopator. Prisoners of state had been set free, religious worship maintained, the press-gang for the navy abolished, duties on exports lessened, and the temples enriched in accordance with the wishes of the pious grandfather of the king, "the god Euergetes."
This may all be true, but the minister Aristomenes, and not the king, deserved the credit. Ptolemy V soon began a vicious career, and when Aristomenes, at the reception of a foreign ambassador, awoke him while the man was speaking, he sentenced him to death by poison. When Ptolemy was eighteen years old, Antiokhos sent his daughter into Egypt, and ostensibly delivered the provinces of Hollow Syria, Judea and Phoenicia, to the Egyptian generals. He was hardly sincere, however, in the transaction. No sooner had the marriage taken place when he again took possession of the provinces. He had expected that his daughter would mold her husband to his purposes, but Kleopatra instead of this, became the sincerest and wisest of his advisers.
Antiokhos was at war with the Romans, Ptolemy sent to Rome a thousand pounds of gold and twenty thousand pounds of silver to help the Republic against the common enemy. The Roman Senate returned the gift with thanks.
Two years later there was another rebellion of the Egyptians. It was suppressed by the Greek troops employed by the king, the rebels laying down their arms on the promise of a free pardon. Ptolemy, however, caused the leaders to be brought to him at Sais, where they were bound to the wheels of his chariot, dragged around the walls of the city and afterward put to death. He then embarked for Alexandreia, where he celebrated a triumph.
All the foreign possessions of Egypt, except Cyprus and Libya, had been lost, and the Grecian cities left the alliance of Egypt for that of Rome. Antiokhos having died, Ptolemy contemplated making an expedition to recover the provinces. A general asking him how he expected to pay his troops, he replied that his treasure was the number of his friends. This gave the alarm that another "syntax" or contribution, would be imposed, and the apprehension was allayed by administering poison to the king. He died at the age of twenty-nine, having reigned twenty-four years, and left a navy without seamen, an army ready to revolt, a treasury empty, and a government everywhere out of order.
Two sons succeeded him. Both bore the name of Ptolemy, which now became a titular appellation like that of Caesar afterward at Rome. Kleopatra the mother was regent while they were under age, and displayed superior wisdom and ability. At the end of seven years, the elder son, Ptolemy VI, also known as Philometor, from his affection for his mother, was declared to be of age, and was crowned accordingly.
While Kleopatra lived, Egypt was kept at peace with her brother, Antiokhos Epiphanes, the Macedonian king of Syria; but after her death the effort was made to regain the provinces that had constituted her dower. Egypt had not a sufficient army or navy, and Antiokhos routed the Egyptian forces at Pelusium in a pitched battle. He then marched to Memphis, where he made a captive of his nephew, Ptolemy Philometor.
The younger brother was with their sister Kleopatra at Alexandreia. He immediately proclaimed himself king of Egypt, taking besides the designation of Ptolemy VII, the additional name of Euergetes. He is also known, however, as Physkon, "the pudding," from his huge size, a circumference of six feet. He sent ambassadors to Rome asking for help against Antiokhos. His advisers, however, were too much alarmed to wait for a reply. There were ambassadors at Alexandreia from Akhaia, Athens, Miletos and Klazomenas, and they were persuaded to go to Memphis to treat with Antiokhos. They were courteously entertained, but the king denied that his father had given the provinces as his sister's dowry. He immediately began a siege of Alexandreia, but was unable to reduce the city, and finally on the coming of an embassy from Rome with the command that he should desist from further hostilities, he returned to Syria. Euergetes was thus left king of the Greek population at Alexandreia, while Philometor at Memphis was king of the Egyptians.
Antiokhos meanwhile carried away from Egypt whatever treasure and valuable articles he could find. He also left a garrison at Pelusium, which enabled him to invade Egypt at a more convenient opportunity. Philometor was not slow to perceive that his uncle was only seeking to make Egypt a Syrian province. He speedily engaged in negotiations with his brother and sister, the latter of whom was most active and zealous to reconcile the two. It was agreed that the two brothers should reign jointly, and Philometor married Kleopatra.
Antiokhos not long afterward renewed hostilities. Claiming Cyprus and the district around Pelusium, he led an army into Egypt, entered Memphis and marched toward Alexandreia. The Roman ambassadors met him here and commanded him to quit the country. He demurred, however, and Popilius, one of them, drew a circle around him with a stick, and told him that if he should cross that line without a promise to leave Egypt, it would be taken as a declaration of war against Rome.
On his way home Antiokhos marched to Jerusalem. A rumor of his death had induced Joshua or Jason, a high priest whom he had deposed, to attempt the regaining of his former authority. The disturbance which Jason created was now construed by the king as a rebellion and he stormed the city, massacring eighty thousand of the inhabitants without regard to age or sex and consigning as many more to slavery. He also plundered the temple and public treasury, and issued a decree prohibiting the Jewish worship. The Hebrew Scriptures were sought out and burned, and the Dionysiac orgies and mystic observances were made, with the approval of the high priest, the religion of the land. Two years later "they set up the Abomination of Desolation upon the altar, and builded idol-altars throughout the city of Judea." Swine were sacrificed in the temple, as at the death and resurrection of Adonis, and the goddess Salambo was also characteristically honored.
The death of Antiokhos took place four years afterward, and Judas Makka-baeos began a revolt. He reinstated the worship at the temple, made a new collection of the Hebrew Scriptures, and opened a friendly communication with the Jews of Alexandreia. Among the number was Onias, the son of the former high priest, whom Antiokhos had removed to make way for Jason. He had obtained permission from Philometor and Kleopatra to take possession of the temple-precinct of the goddess Sekhet at Leontopolis, and erect a new temple for the Jewish worship. The result was a breach between the Jews of the respective countries, and "they each altered the word of the Bible to make it speak their own opinions." (1) To this controversy the fact is largely clue that the Greek text which was prepared in Egypt differs very considerably from the Hebrew version.
War broke out between the two brothers, and Euergetes drove Philometor out of the kingdom. He went to Rome where he found his uncle Demetrios seeking to obtain Syria by the help of the Romans. The Senate soon determined that Philometor should reign over Egypt, and Euergetes in the Kyrenaika. Euergetes became a supplicant in his turn and procured from the Senate the addition of the island of Cyprus to his dominion. While in Rome he offered marriage to Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, but for her a throne had few temptations.
Philometor would not give up Cyprus; and the inhabitants of the Kyrenaika, hating Euergetes for his vices and cruelty, rose up in arms against him. He was barely able to put them down. He then went to Rome and imputed it all to his brother.
The Senate ordered the ambassadors of Philometor to leave Rome in five days, but barely gave authority to Euergetes to hire troops and fight the matter out. Several battles took place, in all of which Philometor was victorious, and at the last made his brother a prisoner. He then generously forgave him everything, replaced him on the throne of the Kyrenaika, promised him his own daughter, Kleopatra, in marriage, and after that sent him a gift of corn every year.
The coins of Ptolemy VI have his portrait on one side, and the eagle on the other, with the inscription in Greek, "Ptolemaios the mother-loving god."
His reign was marked by the notable men who flourished at the time. Among them were Bion the philosopher, Aristarkhos the grammarian, Pamphilos the physician, Hipparkhos the astronomer, Markhos the poet, and Hero the mechanic and inventor. To Aristarkhos we are indebted to the present copies of Homer, with the interpolations added, and the digamma omitted. Pamphilos wrote a treatise on medicine and medicinal plants, and also included charms and incantations adopted from the Hermetic books. Hipparkhos was the inventor of mathematical astronomy and gave a new direction to study and observation. Markhos, however, enjoyed most favor of all, for his "Dirge of Adonis." Yet Hero ought to have more admiration in modern times for his works on pneumatics and his discovery of the mechanical force of steam.
Monastic life had been a feature in sacerdotal discipline at the temples of Egypt for uncounted centuries. The children of priestly families were dedicated every year to spend their youth in such retirement. Monks thus abounded, and nuns were also numerous. To be wife to a god was to live a celibate. The monastic influence spread to other races, and in Northern Egypt was developed the sect of Therapeutse that Philo described, and perhaps the Essenes of Judea. The institution passed a few centuries later from the temple to the church, with various peculiarities. The sacred precinct of Serapis, had also its monks of the Greek race living in religious idleness. This aroused the jealousy of the native Egyptian celibates, who regarded them as interlopers and neglected no opportunity to revile and ill-treat them till they were obliged to ask the king to protect them.
The later years of Philometor were disturbed by treachery. After he had defeated his brother in Cyprus he made Arkhias governor of the island. It now came to his ears that Demetrios had plotted against him and that he had agreed to give up the island to Syria. At the discovery of this treachery, Philometor united with the kings of Pergamos and Kappadokia in favor of Alexander Balas who claimed the throne of Syria as a son of Antiokhos Epiphanes. The allies were successful and Demetrios fell in battle. The new monarch of Syria conferred upon Jonathan, the brother of Judas Makkabseos, the office of high priest of Judea, with full civil authority, making him "a duke and sharer of his dominion." Two years afterward the nuptials of Alexander were celebrated with the Princess Kleopatra, the daughter of Philometor, and Jonathan was an honored guest of the two kings at Ptolemais.
Three years now passed, when the prince Demetrios came from Krete to recover the throne of Syria. Philometor hastened from Egypt to the help of Alexander, but at Ptolamais he learned of the plot of Ammonios to assassinate him. Alexander would not punish the offender and Philometor at once turned against him. He took away his daughter and offered her in marriage to Demetrios as the surety of his alliance. Demetrios accepted the proposal. Ptolemy marched to Antioch and was immediately proclaimed king of Syria. He declined in favor of Demetrios, and the two kings now joining their forces in battle utterly routed the army of Alexander. The defeated prince escaped into Arabia, where he was immediately put to death and his head sent to Ptolemy.
But the days of Ptolemy Philometor had also come to their end. His horse had thrown him during the battle, fracturing his skull. The surgeons were about to remove the fragments when the head of Alexander was brought to him. But it was no time for triumph; the king expired during the operation. He was forty-two years old.
Demetrios treated the Egyptian troops with contumely and they now returned home in disgust.
Thus fell the last of the worthy kings of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. In character and action he was another Ptolemy Soter. He began his reign with his country overrun by foreigners and torn by civil war, and he restored and maintained it in order and peace. He was brave, gentle and superior to selfish ambition. When his brother, who had intrigued and fought against him, fell into his power, he forgave him; when the crown of Syria, which would have given him dominion of the East, was placed on his head, he refused it; and during the thirty-five years of his reign he never inflicted the penalty of death.
His queen, Kleopatra, immediately proclaimed his son, Ptolemy Eupator, king of Egypt, but Euergetes hastened to Alexandreia, to take possession of the throne. The mob supported his pretensions; but the generals of the army, both of them Jews, Onias, the founder of the new Hebrew temple, and Dositheos, upheld the queen and royal prince. Euergetes was about to seek his revenge upon the Jewish population, but Thermits, the Roman ambassador, interposed. It was stipulated by him that Euergetes should be king and should marry Kleopatra. The nuptials were celebrated accordingly, but the young prince was murdered the same day. Alexandreia was delivered over to the soldiery and the Jews were in imminent danger of general massacre. So many of the better inhabitants left the city that it was in danger of being depopulated.
The next year he was crowned at Memphis, and soon afterward he put away his wife and married her daughter, Kleopatra Kokkaia. These acts aroused the attention of the Roman senate. Thermits was called home to account for his conduct and was accused by Cato, the censor, of having received bribes and betrayed the queen of Philometor. Scipio Africanus, the younger, was sent to Egypt with two other ambassadors to arrange the affairs of the kingdom.
Meanwhile the Romans had recognized the endeavors of the Makkabsean princes to emancipate Judea. The Senate transmitted a command to Demetrios II and to Ptolemy Euergetes to make no war upon the Judeans. Jonathan the high priest had been assassinated, and Simon the statesman of the family, had now succeeded. Demetrios accordingly issued a decree acknowledging the entire independence of Judea. Money was now coined at Jerusalem, and legal papers were dated from the first year of Simon the high priest. But no additions were made to the Sacred Writings, which Judas Makkabaeos had collected. The "Canon" was closed, as the Aramaic dialect now used was considered profane and not suitable for a standard book. The books which had been written at Alexandreia, "the Apocrypha," being in Greek and often permeated with the Platonic philosophy, were never acceptable to the Judean and Babylonian Hebrews. The treatise on "Wisdom" by Jesus the son of Sirakh, was completed in his reign and added to the Alexandreian collection.
The vices and cruelty of the king made his government intolerable to the Egyptians. The public money was used for his pleasures, while the soldiers were left unpaid. Hierax, the general, was able for a time to restrain them, but finally an uprising took place at Alexandreia; the mob set fire to the royal palace and forced the king to flee to Cyprus. Kleopatra, the repudiated queen, was seated on the throne. Upon the celebration of her birthday, Euergetes placed the head, hands and feet of their son in a box and sent it to be delivered to her in the midst of the feast.
Civil war followed. The army of the queen was defeated on the Syrian frontier. Kleopatra sent for help to her son-in-law, Demetrios II, but he was called home by a rising in Antioch. The Egyptians, however much they hated a tyrant, hated worse the peril of becoming subjects of the king of Syria.
Kleopatra fled to her son Ptolemy and son-in-law Demetrios II, at Antioch, and Euergetes regained the throne of Egypt. Affairs in Syria at this time were greatly complicated, and Euergetes took advantage of the opportunity. Demetrios had been once driven from Antioch by Tryphon, and afterward became a prisoner to the Parthians. While in captivity he married the daughter of the Parthian king, at which his queen, the daughter of Philometor, was exasperated and became the wife of Antiokhos Sidetes, his brother, who was occupying his throne. After the death of Antiokhos in battle, Demetrios returned to Antioch, but now his arrogance and cruelty were so intolerable that his subjects asked Euergetes to give them another king, of the Seleukid family. He chose for them, Alexander Zebina, a native of Alexandreia, pretending that he had been acknowledged by Antiokhos Sidetes. Demetrios was defeated, and coming to Ptolemais, where Kleopatra his former queen was in authority, she refused to let him come into the city. He went to Tyre where he was put to death by the governor; for which act Tyre was released from her dependence.
Euergetes soon found that the new king of Syria was no longer subservient to him, and that he must make his peace with the queen Kleopatra. She was invited home and her regal rank fully acknowledged.
Euergetes then married his daughter Trypheena to Antiokhos Gryphos, the son of Demetrios II, and the daughter of Philometor, and aided him to expel Alexander and seat himself on the throne of Syria. This prince having offended his mother she prepared a bowl of poison for him, but he was aware of her purpose and forced her to drink it herself.
Ptolemy Euergetes had been a pupil of Aristobulos a Jew of the School of Aristotle, and of Aristarkhos the editor of Homer, and besides, he was himself an author and lover of learning. He would discourse till midnight upon a point of history or a verse of poetry. But the learned men, few of whom were natives, left Egypt to teach in other countries. As the taking of Constantinople operated to diffuse knowledge over Europe and bring about the Renaissance, so the cruelty of Ptolemy VII spread learning over all the region of the Mediterranean, by driving to it the philosophers, geometers, physicians, and scholars of every kind.
A rival School and Library came into existence. At Pergamos in Mysia was a temple of Æsculapios, which was among the most celebrated in the world. Multitudes came to it for healing and diversion. Kings Attalos and his son Eumenes II conceived the notion of founding a library and school of philosophy which should rival Alexandreia. The concourse of scholars from Egypt aided the purpose. Two hundred thousand volumes were collected, when the jealousy of Euergetes was aroused, and he attempted to put a stop to it by prohibiting the export of papyrus. It did not stop the enterprise, but necessitated the procuring of another material for writing. The copyists now made use of prepared skins of sheep, which thus acquired the name of "Charta Pergamene," or parchment. The ambition of the monarchs was gratified; Pergamos became a seat of science and the arts, and so continued till foreign conquest put a stop to it. Ptolemy Euergetes reigned twenty-nine years after the death of Philometor. He was a disagreeable spectacle, diseased in body, walking on crutches and compelled to wear a loose robe on account of his unwholesome accumulation of flesh. At his death he bequeathed the kingdom of Egypt to his widow, Kleopatra Kokkeia, and to the one of his two sons whom she might select. There were also three daughters who now began their part in history — Kleopatra, who had been already married to their older brother; Tryphaena, the wife of An-tiokhos Gryphos, the king of Syria, and Selene.
It was a family distinguished for the hatred between its several members, the brothers detesting each other, the sisters rivals to one another to the utmost, and the mother feared and unloved by them all. The dragon's teeth of hate had been sown, and now began to yield a harvest of armed men, with war, rapine and murder.
The queen desired to place her younger son, Ptolemy Alexander, upon the throne as her colleague. The Alexandreians, always inflammable and ready for any uprising, compelled her to appoint the other. She made it a condition, however, that he should divorce his wife Kleopatra, with whom he was contentedly living, and marry Selene, the younger sister. She had given him the name Philometor after her father, but he is better known in history as Lathyros, from the print of a leaf of vetch upon his face, made in honor of Osiris. At his coronation, however, he took the name of Ptolemy Soter II. Despite his designation of Philometor or "mother-loving," he was always on hostile terms with the queen; they lived apart hating each other.
Kleopatra, the repudiated wife, set out to revenge herself upon her family. She married Antiokhos Kyzikenos the son of Antiokhos Gryphos, who was endeavoring to win the kingdom of Syria from Gryphos, her sister's husband. She raised an army in Cyprus to help him, but they were defeated, and the city of Antioch captured. Kleopatra fled to the temple of Apollo and Artemis for asylum, but Tryphsena insisted that she should be put to death. Gryphos demurred, both at the cruelty and the sacrilege, but she was inexorable. Kleopatra, at her command, was murdered as she clung around the statue of the goddess. But Tryphsena reaped as she had sown. In another battle, Kyzikenos was victorious, and avenged his wife by putting the sister herself to death.
A war broke out in Palestine which brought the animosity of the Egyptian queen and her son Lathyros into open conflict. Johanan Hyrkanos the son of Simon was high priest and had again made Judea an independent state. He besieged Samaria, and Kyzikenos, who had come to the aid of the Samaritans, had been defeated by his sons. Lathyros the former husband of Kleopatra then sent a force of six thousand Egyptians with whom Kyzikenos ravaged Judea.
The establishment of an independent government at Jerusalem had served to enhance the prestige of the Jews living in Egypt. The queen had accordingly made Hilkiah and Hanan her confidential advisers, and commanders of her army. They were the sons of Onias, the founder of the new temple, and were descended in direct line from the former high priests in Judea. They induced her to engage in direct action against the invasion of Judea by Lathyros. She was now able to displace him from the throne of Egypt, and to make his brother, Ptolemy Alexander, king in his place. She also took from him his wife Selene and her two children, and appointed him king over Cyprus.
Open hostilities promptly broke out between them. Jonathan, or Alexander Jannseos, as he is generally called, had become king of Judea, and led an army against Ptolemais. Lathyros came from Cyprus and drove him back, finally routing him in a pitched battle. Kleopatra immediately marched an army into Palestine, upon which Lathyros led his forces directly toward Egypt. Hilkiah the Egyptian general hastened to intercept him and defeated him, but fell himself in the conflict. Ptolemais surrendered to Kleopatra and in her exultation, she proposed to annex Judea. Hanan, however, dissuaded her, and she made a treaty of alliance with Alexander Jannseos.
She now turned her attention to Syria and gave her daughter Selene in marriage to the king Antiokhos Gryphos, aiding him with her army. Meanwhile, Ptolemy Apion, king of the Kyrenaika, died, bequeathing his kingdom to the Romans. He was a son of Euergetes, and had been more or less supported by them in his dignities. The Senate then declared the country free, meaning that it had become separate from Egypt, and under Roman protectorship.
Ptolemy Alexander became impatient of his subjection to his mother. She had preferred him before his brother Lathyros, because he was more flexible and compliant with her will. He dared not attempt a contest with her openly, and his only course was to escape from her power. Kleopatra was apprehensive of the result of conflict with both sons, and sent messengers to him with glowing promises, to persuade him to return. Of course her confidence in his subserviency was shaken, and he knew that she would procure his death. He sought to foil her by counter-plotting, and was the more successful of the two. Kleopatra was murdered immediately after his arrival in Egypt, having reigned twenty-eight years.
Ptolemy Alexander gained little by his matricide. He had been the puppet of his mother for twenty years, and he now reigned alone a single season. He had no qualities that awoke love or even respect. He was the most vicious of all the Ptolemies, and was utterly debilitated by disease and sensuality. He walked on a crutch like his father, yet at his feasts he would rise from the couch and dance with his companions. The Alexandreians became disgusted, and rose up in fury against him, while his soldiers refused to obey his orders. He made his escape by sea to Lykia, but when crossing to Cyprus, was met by an Egyptian fleet and killed in battle.
Lathyros was then invited by the Alexandreians to return to Egypt and occupy once more the throne. He had exhibited few comparatively of the faults that so conspicuously characterized his family, he had successfully resisted his mother, and he had never invaded the country with a hostile army.
The Egypt of the Delta, so largely peopled by inhabitants of different races. European and Asiatic, accepted him at once, but the Egyptians of the South, of purer race and indigenous custom, rebelled. They had been subject to their Greek masters for two and a half centuries, and had patiently borne political servitude and heavy taxation; but under the administration of Kleopatra Kokkeia, there had been developed an overbearing tyranny even less endurable than what had been before experienced. The revolutions at Alexandreia seemed now to offer some opportunity for successful revolt.
It proved a terrible delusion. During the three years that followed, Ptolemy Lathyros marched his armies from the north against the insurgent cities. The conflict was hard-fought. The native Egyptians were making a hard struggle in behalf of their religion, their homes, their personal freedom. They fought with the energy of a desperate people. The temples in every city were so many castles which had been hard to assail and easy to defend. But they had been built to resist the warlike operations of former periods, and were not equal to the later devices of Grecian warfare. For three years the devoted people contended, perished by thousands and thousands. They yielded slowly to the greater skill and numbers. One by one the revolting cities were taken, and then the conquerors tore away the massive walls of the temples, in order that they might never again serve as fortresses for defense. Ruin everywhere marked the presence of the Greek mercenaries. Civil war is always more cruel, more destructive, more diabolic than the conflicts of nations. Ptolemy Lathyros now inflicted on Thebes and the other revolting cities a destruction, such as no other conqueror, however savage in his temper, had ever ventured upon.
The Memnonium which Amunhetep had constructed so elaborately in honor of his royal master; Karnak, where Thothmes and his successors had so abundantly bestowed their treasures to embellish it as an imperishable monument; the remains of palaces and temples show to the present day the terrible devastation which a king of Egypt wrought upon his people. The wide acres still covered with these remains exhibit the former greatness of the Southern metropolis and indicate the prodigious force employed for its overthrow.
Thebes never again appeared upon the pages of history. "The City," the glorious place where Amun-Ra, the Occult Source and Creator, was honored, existed no more.
"I have seen," says the Caledonian monarch Fion-Gael, "I have seen the walls of Balclutha, but they were desolate. The fire had resounded in the halls, and the voice of the people is heard no more. The stream of Klu was removed from its place by the fall of the walls. The thistle shook there its lonely head, the moss whistled to the wind. The fox looked out from the windows, the rank grass waved above his head. Desolate is the dwelling of Moina; silence is in the house of her fathers."
Such, likewise, is the story of the Great City of the South. Thebes had seen the childhood of what we call Ancient History; it began its career at a period of which the very record has crumbled from hoary age. Cities like Babylon, Nineveh, Palmyra and Baal-bek were built, flourished fell and perished from human memory; but Thebes was standing before them all in the full glory of age. Now, now, what is left? From generation to generation it has laid waste; it is a resort of dragons and a court for owls. Lilith herself rests there, it has become her abode. From it has been cut off the name and remnant, son and nephew; and it has been swept by the besom of the destroyer. The Arab pitches his tent where once stood the palace of Thothmes and Sethi; the pillars of Karnak are slowly giving way, but they are still waiting to tell their tale to those who shall call us "the ancients."
1. Samuel Sharpe: "History of Egypt," x, 25. (return to text)