Travel impressions X

Tells the Critias of  Plato that the legislator Solon obtained the fabulous myth of Atlantis through the priests of Sais,  though it was not the only one, most probably the inventor of the Timocracy (name certainly appropriate at last in spanish:  Timo=scam), took note of the existing legal code in the Egypt from Psametik, inspired directly on the  reforms of Bocchoris, though the latter was not unknown in the Greek world since the laws of Charondas of Catania. At that time, Thales of Miletus,  Ionian from Phoenician origin, made available to Europeans, the scientific and philosophical knowledge that he learned in Egypt and Mesopotamia, becoming the father of two distinct lines of thought that strongly influenced the cultural development of the world through two of his disciples, first Anaximander, eminently empirical as well as his master and on the other hand, the much more famous and so mystical as to give rise to a new religious current, Pythagoras, whom Herodotus suggests that his theory of “metempsychosis” was learned in Egypt, although Egypt’s official theology never contemplated the phenomenon of transmigration of souls, perhaps Herodotus just  misinterpreted the Egyptian taste for wrapping every living soul. Egyptian influence reached all orders of knowledge, in a greater or lesser extent,  in architecture, the Greek peristyles are copies of the Egyptian ones and the Doric columns as those of certain Egyptian temples, have got sixteen grooves. As for a possible relationship between the Egyptian religion, and the Greek one, Herodotus himself has no qualms in saying that the Greek pantheon was taken from Egypt, calling each god always with the name of its Greek counterpart and godly he refusing  to provide, in more than one occasion,   details that could have represented a desecration, an unfortunate attitude that has snatched to scholars, valuable information on certain aspects of the Egyptian customs.

Some people argued at the time, the magical character of some Egyptian rites and manners, undoubtedly had reasons for it, the known wax doll, who is punched to cause harm to the person represented, and that we now automatically associate it to the Caribbean’s voodoo,  really was a resource that was used even by the  pharaohs, since the time of Ramses. Moreover, the intricate system of partnerships between divinities was not always well understood by people, among which proliferated, especially in this times, certain fetishism: there was who promised to feed  lavishly the animals that symbolized the gods invoked, if his demands was met, and especially who buried animals  mummies in the  sacred places as a homage to the god it represented.

Moreover, the noble scientific discipline, known today as “chemistry”,  born from the dark art of Alchemy,  penalized in the past, it takes its name from ancient Egyptian: kemi, Kmt “the land of black soil, Egypt, from where arose the most famous physicians of antiquity, who knew all sorts of potions, effective remedies and of course, fulminant  also poisons, elaborated according to a  studied ritual in which did not lack spells and incantations. In Sais is known that there was a medical school, where students without resources could attend,  through grants and from which they emerged turned into true specialists in ophthalmology, orthopedics, etc.

It has misinterpreted too enough of the Egyptian religion, it has liked to see as a sign of stupid zoolatry, the new mode of representing, in some cases, to the gods at this time, when they began to be shown keeping the traditional animal head, but now with falcon’s body instead of human body. In reality this is a new evolution of official theology, in trying to achieve a syncretism between the solar cult and popular mystical movements around Osiris, Isis and Horus. If Horus was represented with a falcon’s head, implying that it was an aspect of Ra, so, the rest of the gods were represented with a falcon body in order to imply that they only were emanations of Ra.

Memphite Clergy had got rid of the Theban formula of  Amon-Ra, integrating this concept in the ancient god Atum (actually disappears from the royal cult of Amon), therefore, Ra is no longer the conscience of chaos, now is Atum himself (Atum-Ptah), who exists from the beginning , fully conscious and who appears as the creator of all things, so that Ra is but only one aspect of Ptah, who is also simultaneously, Osiris, as regenerative principle and redeemer of mankind.

The rise of the cult of the sacred ox, is an international phenomenon, covering the entire Mediterranean basin and Asia, in Egypt symbolizes the living form in which Ptah manifested: Apis, born of a sunbeam and a calf that is the goddess Nut in appearance cow, symbolize to Ra, lord of creation and life, is living testimony to the creative power of Ptah and is revered in his lifetime as the “Sun living” and after his death, after embalming, will be linked to Osiris, and worshiped as Osiris-Apis (Serapis), also according to the same formula, Ptah is during the day, Ra, the sun Creator, and at night, Osiris, which clears the way to eternal life.

The syncretism developed in Memphis, like in its time, those of Thebes or Heliopolis,  again look for the conjunction of the social basis and clergy under the protection of the monarchy, which also needed popular support because, having completely destroyed feudalism, he created to himself powerful enemies among the wealthy old oligarchy, those not accepted very good, the loss of their aristocratic privileges.

When the Delta was pacified and rebuilt the administrative building, Psamtik used  his army, composed primarily of Greek mercenaries and Asian, in regaining control over Nubia, reconquer Palestine and ultimately, however absurd it may seem, trying to support Assyria which by then succumbed at the hands of the Medo-Persians and Babylonians, however the latter gave such a beating in Harran to the Egyptian army, who had to leave by feet and leaving Assyria  to its own fate. Psamtik played this role not by friendship or gratitude, but because experience had shown him that they needed a friendly state, at Mittani style, beyond the Orontes if it is wanted to impose a sustainable  hegemony on Phoenician and Syrian provinces.

The days of the Assyrian empire ended when it was in full swing, was a huge wallop, first it fell Assur and a little later, Nineveh in 612.  In fact the once fearsome Assyrian army was defeated because, by then no longer exist yet, the troops had been being replaced with asian effectives, according were dying the indigenous ones, until finally, almost the entire Assyrian army was composed of troops extracted from the conquered countries, far less motivated than the originals. The assyrian territory was divided, by mutual agreement, the North and East to the Mede Cyaxares, South and West to Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, meanwhile after fifty-six long years of reign,  Psamtik I died, who, having rescued Egypt from  the deep decline in which they were immersed, left his son Necho, an independent country, reorganized, rich and prosperous.

Necho continued Psamtik policy, trying to help the remnants of the Assyrian troops which had proclaimed king to Assuruballit, and still trying to break into the area but Nabopolassar fell on them, crushing them before they could receive reinforcements Egyptians, leaving the border on the Orontes, so nevertheless, for three years Egypt regained the dimensions of the reign of Thutmose III, until Nebuchadnezzar, who would later be the successor of Nabopolassar, just before ascending the throne, won in Carchemish to the Egyptian army, chasing after, but ultimately Necho could reject the Babylonian troops and even take over Gaza,  protecting its access to the Phoenician cities which still remained independent. Shortly after Necho organized a pompous procession, composed of himself and a large representation of delegates from the temples of the country, carrying bouquets for the goddess of Byblos on the part of the Egyptian gods, a gesture of support for the egyptian party, in the phoenician city. From this moment the truth is that  Babylon let to Egypt in peace and vice versa, both states were dedicated to cultivate their respectives commercial differentiated channels: overseas, greek islands and Lydia,  the egyptians;  mainland, Lydia and India, the babylonians, which together led to world of this time, in general, to a new era of prosperity.

The ancient Egyptian monarchs did not  abandon commitment to open access to the Indian Ocean from the Nile through the Red Sea, Necho sent from the Red Sea, an expedition led by Phoenician sailors, with the intention of surrounding  Africa, a purpose that was fulfilled after three years, despite the reluctance of the own Herodotus, our source of information about it, who considered it was impossible for the sun to stay on the right after rounding Cape of  Good Hope, comment through  which, today we can assume that those intrepid Phoenicians really had to sail around Africa.

Psamtik II, the successor of Necho, as he had done before, attempted to retake control of Syria, without success, so it focused its efforts on ensuring the province of Kush, pushing further south to the remains of the Nubian dynasty and putting in operation  again the gold mines. Even had time in their barely six-year reign, to strengthen maritime commercial relations with Phoenicians, independents since the fall of Nineveh, and with Greeks, as evidenced by the fact that the tyrant of Corinth  did put the name Psamtik to his own son. On the death of the third pharaoh of the Saite dynasty, succeeded him Apries, who returned to provoke confrontation with Babylon, encouraging the revolt of Zedekiah in Jerusalem, which was brutally repressed by Nebuchadnezzar, who did order the Biblical deportation of Jews to Babylon. it seems that during the captivity the deportees were not enslaved, but who were treated with clemency, many became landowners, on the other hand Jewish worship was filled with winged angels, commons in local culture and was imbued with Messianic ideas from  Persian Zoroastrianism which had begun to enter the area.

Nebuchadnezzar, tired perhaps of Egyptian interference in Palestine, did prepare an invasion of Egypt by sea, using the Tyrian fleet, a threat that the Egyptians avoided, undergoing a sea blockade to the Phoenician city for thirteen long years, a period of  time that Babylon did use in securing its position in Palestine, it is conceivable that it could be a Nebuchadnezzar’s strategy to keep the Egyptians entertained and away  from Syria rather than a real attempt at invasion.

Despite having been prevented the invasion, the fruitless policy of confrontation  did  not brought any prestige to the monarchy, which on the other hand, was being  by then challenged in almost any part of the known world, indeed  at the entire Greek area had been abolished and replaced by republics and democratic governments  curiously called “tyranny” and  the phenomenon began to reproduce in the Phoenician cities.

At that time, in the Greek colony of Cyrene, did occur the uprising of the native Libyan population, overwhelmed by the avalanche of Greeks that were arriving to the city, besides were seeing then that neighboring Phoenician colony of Carthage, which for more than 250 years had kept a small size, was growing exponentially at the expense of the land of the indigenous population, surpassed by the massive influx of Phoenicians. Apries getting  out in defense of the Libyan people thought he saw an opportunity to revive the prestige of the monarchy by appealing to xenophobic sentiments circulating among the Egyptian people, who was very sensitive against the flood of Greek merchants, who ran up and down the Nile and the unclean settlements of Carian and Ionian mercenaries who were staying in the vicinity of some major cities, despite of the Greeks were  enriching  them and protecting their cities besides freeing egiptian citizens from military service, however  Apries  decided to organize an expedition of conquest to Cyrene, consisting of Egyptian soldiers, obviously unable to use the mercenaries, who would had refused to fight against their countrymen, but the campaign was a failure and as Herodotus tells:

“The Egyptians blamed him and rebelled, because they believed that their king had deliberately exposed them to a certain danger to perish in large number, in order to prevail over the remaining population.

The surviving troops revolted, and Apries sent to stop them to the general Amasis, who nevertheless joined the mutineers, letting  himself appoint King. After he defeated to Apries and  his Greek mercenaries, he forced him to appoint him as co-regent. Three years after, the deposed king tried it again with an army of Greek soldiers  but was again defeated, and although apparently  Amasis does not want to do it, the truth is that Apries was released to the population, who strangled him. Amasis ordered that he was buried with full military honors at the temple of Neith, with his ancestors.