תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

foundation for it; and although we cannot credit the polite understanding and friendly footing between these animals, yet it is a very remarkable fact, that the great difficulty at present attending the shooting, or near approach to the reptile, is owing to the invariable presence of the Sicsac. As soon as the crocodile comes ashore to sleep, it is sure to be attended by the plover, who remains near it, either seated on the same bank, or wheeling above it in the air; and hence, in all probability, its name of Trochilus, from the Greek word Teoxos. Its note is peculiarly wild and startling, particularly on the approach of man, and by this means it gives warning to the sleeping monster. Its remaining in the vicinity of the crocodile may be to procure food either from its exuvies or the great number of flies and other insects that haunt and annoy it, the moment it appears on land; and this apparent sympathy between them may have given rise to the tales of Herodotus and Pliny.

L.-PAGE 254.

THE SCARABÆUS.

This creature offers another and still more striking example of the interest taken by the Egyptian priests in zoology. No animal formed a more important part, not only in the mysteries of their religion, but in their hieroglyphic writings, than did this. There is scarcely a monument in that country on which it is not either carved or painted. Seals, rings, necklaces, and amulets, formed of amethyst, green stone, cornelian, agate, and numberless other stones, as well as porcelain and common blue pottery ware, were carved into the form of this insect.

The animals I have figured in the text are a male and female Copris, one of the species of the Scarabeides, and which I am inclined to believe is the insect represented more frequently upon the Egyptian paintings than the Scarabæus Sacer. The male Copris differs from the female by the prominences in the form of horns on the head and corslet of the former. The Scarabæus Sacer is somewhat smaller, and without these horns, and both it and the Ateuchus-another beetle of the Scarabeides, are very common in that country-much more so than the Copris. The best proof, however, that can be offered as to this latter insect being the true mythological or symbolic beetle of the ancients is, that an embalmed Scarabee was found at Thebes, which Latreille pronounced to be the Copris Sabæus of Fabricius.

To enumerate the various surmises and conflicting opinions that have been set forth, accounting for the worship of this animal, would form a volume in itself. Like most of the other animals, it had in all likelihood many mystical meanings, the interpretations of which are to us still a secret. The most generally received opinions are, that it was emblematic

[blocks in formation]

of the sun, and also of the great reproductive power of the universe. It holds a conspicuous place in the representation of the zodiac at Denderah where it is supposed to mean the sign Cancer; or at least that the Greek sign of that creature was derived from it. Clemens Alexandrinus says— “ The oblique course of the heavenly bodies is represented by a snake, but that of the sun by a scarabee; because, shaping a piece of dung into a circular form, he rolls it backwards, his face being turned in a contrary direction to his course.” Plutarch says_“ The scarabee depositing his seed in a piece of dung made into a circular form, rolls it backwards, as the sun appears to turn the heavens round in a contrary direction, himself being borne from west to east.” Porphyry gives a like statement. That it does roll its ball backwards I have no doubt, and in that way it may be emblematical of the supposed annual course of the sun, from west to east, contrary to his diurnal course from east to west, as here stated; but I have seen them much more frequently in the position I have described at page 253 of this volume.

As Mr. Mure seems to have collected most of the opinions upon this topic, I here quote the following from his “ Dissertation on the Calendar and Zodiac of Ancient Egypt:"

Paoni (Cancer). “ The month of the sun by pre-eminence, that is, of the greatest height and brilliancy of the luminary, corresponding to our July; which season, the rapid approach of the Nile to its full tide, and the rise of the dog -star, rendered the most important and joyous of the year; hence its dedication by preference to the splendid orb itself, which influenced and reigned supreme over their calendar, as well as their mythology.

The sign of this season on the Greek zodiac is a crab; an unmeaning emblem as referred to Egyptian mythology. But on the greater number of Egyptio-Greek astronomical monuments, we find the scarabee, instead of the crab, as the emblem of the solstitial month ; and it is hardly necessary to observe, that the scarabee is the symbol of the sun, or On, in his noblest capacity, as Lord of the universe, first source and origin, and continual preserver of the created world. In this respect the scarabee was a representative not only of the solar orb itself, but, by analogy, of certain deities of distinguished rank, whose loftier attributes comprehended those of the brilliant Lord of the physical world; as of Phtha, the Demiurgus or creative power, whom the Greeks identified with their Hephæstus or Vulcan, probably as combining with his other properties that of god of fire. In the ancient astronomical picture on the tomb of the kings, the scarabee, with the red disk of the sun in his claws, occupies a conspicuous place among the zodiacal emblems. The same insect also occurs in an astrological gem of Count Pahlen's collection, accompanying Libra and Scorpio; and we seem to have further curious evidence that it was the original symbol of this division of the ancient Egyptian zodiac, in the circumstance that the cypher of the same division, still in vulgar use, is apparently but

[blocks in formation]

an abbreviated form of the hieroglyphic 'Scarabee ;' the hieratic contraction of which contains precisely the same elements, under trifling varieties of arrangement, as the modern sign—namely, two curves or hooks placed transversely. The Greeks, in adopting the zodiac, may either have mistaken the insect for a crab, to which, on some of the monuments, it bears a close enough resemblance; and on the gems of Abraxas, the scarabee, crab, and other shell-fish are frequently confounded; or possibly, as they did not attach the same veneration as the Egyptians to its symbolic character, they may have converted the reptile of the land into the reptile of the sea, as a figure more congenial to their ideas and taste, as a maritime people. There is, however, in one respect, a remarkable enough analogy between the two symbols, which may tend still further to show that the one is the Egyptian original; the other the Greek copy. Classical authors have asserted that the crab was chosen to represent the solstice, because of the correspondence of its proverbially retrogade motion to the sun's course about the tropic; an interpretation which has been adopted by the greater number of modern expositors.” In the ruins of the temple marking the site of the Ombite nome, Hamilton describes a sụn as worshipped under the mysterious emblems of the crocodile and the beetle. Dr. Young conceives that the scarabæi represented in the zodiac at Denderah, have more of a mythological than an astronomical interpretation; and this brings us to the second type under which this curious creature was adored—that of reproduction. But in this character it may likewise have reference to that under which we first considered it, for its rolling the ball containing its eggs, where after a time they are hatched, may be symbolic of the vivifying or generative power of the luminary. Another cause assigned for this reproductive symbol is, that it is one of the first animals that appear on the subsidence of the inundation; but the very extraordinary instinct and apparent foresight of the animal in providing for the continuance of the species, and the marvellous care and solicitude it exhibits in the formation of the nidus or womb that it constructs, in which to deposit its eggs, and then to assist in their incubation in the manner I have described, were all no doubt attended to in the days of its deification, and formed the grounds of its sacred character. According to De Peau, it would appear that the scarabæus was held sacred in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa even before Egypt was peopled, if we are able to draw the line of distinction between the date of the inhabiting of these two countries. In the holy cricket of Madagascar, we can perceive traces of the beetle worship of Egypt; and a similar reverence for some of this tribe of insects is evinced by the Hottentots, and other southern Africans.

[blocks in formation]

Being the substance of a Paper read before the Royal Irish Academy, May, 1839.

THERE are few subjects possessing a greater degree of interest than the study of the arts and manufactures of the ancients. They are not only useful and instructive to the scholar and the antiquary, by explaining much of the obscurity existing in the writings of ancient classic authors, as well as by elucidating the manners and customs, and state of society of our ancestors, but because they afford a practical lesson to the manufacturer and the artizan in the present day.

The exact origin of the art of dyeing, or the precise period when it was discovered, is still involved in obscurity. Like most other arts, it must be referred to a period far beyond the date of any authentic record upon the subject; but authors generally agree in assigning it to Egypt. It is, however, remarkable that, in the pictorial language of the Egyptians, we do not find a single instance of the actual manufacture illustrated, although dyes similar to the Tyrian were common among them. I do not allude to the dyes obtained from the preparations of copper, with which their different porcellaneous substances were stained, but to those used in the dyeing of linen or woollen fabrics.

If such were an art peculiar to Egypt, and not obtained from other places, as Tyre, and the coast of Phænicia, (to which opinion I am inclined,) and which places were, we know, in great commercial intercourse with the Egyptians, the secret was in possession of the priests, who were unwilling to make it known.

The fables related of the discovery of the Tyrian dye, are too well known to require insertion here.

Pliny, the naturalist, who must himself have witnessed the process, has given a lengthened and a detailed account of it in his ninth book, from chapter xxxvi. to lxi. inclusive; from which, as it is the only such account in existence, I shall give a few extracts in the translation of Dr. Holland, merely substituting a somewhat plainer idiom for the quaint language of 1634. Of late years it has been too much the fashion, not only to decry the deficiencies, but totally to discredit the assertions of this celebrated author. True it is, that his writings contain many fabulous, many miraculous accounts; but such, it should be remembered, were the popular or vulgar errors of his day, such as, in times to come, another generation shall discover in our own systems. Pliny, like too many writers of the present day, gave insertion to a mixture of parole evidence, and actual personal knowledge

[blocks in formation]

and observation--and it requires some discrimination to draw the line of distinction between the two. We quote the following :

CHAP. XXXVI.

* THE NATURE OF PURPLE FISHES AND THE MUREX OR BURRET.

wax.

“Purples live ordinarily seven years. They lie hidden for thirty days' space, about the dog-days, like as the murices or burrets do. They meet together by troops in the spring, and by rubbing one against the other, they gather and yield a clammy substance and moisture, in the manner of

The murices do the like. But that beautiful colour so much in request for dyeing fine cloth, the purples have in the midst of the neck and jaws. And nothing else it is, but a little thin liquor within a white vein; and that it is which maketh that rich, fresh, and bright colour of deep red purple roses. As for all the rest of this fish it yieldeth nothing. Fishers strive to get them alive, for when they die they cast up and shed that precious tincture and juice, together with their life. Now the Tyrians when they light upon any great purples, they take the flesh out of their shells, for to get the blood out of the said vein, but the lesser they press and grind in certain mills, and so gather that rich humour which issueth from them. The best purple colour in Asia is this thus gotten at Tyros. But

Africa, within the island Meninx, and the coast of the ocean, by Getulia ; and in Europe, that of Laconica. This is that glorious colour, so full of state and majesty, that the Roman lictors with their rods, halbards, and axes, make way for ; this it is which graceth and setteth out the children of princes and noblemen ; this makes the distinction between a knight and a councillor of state ; this is called for and put on when they offer sacrifice to pacify the gods ; this giveth a lustre to all sorts of garments. To conclude, our generals in the field, and victorious captains in their triumphs, wear this purple in their mantles, interlaced and embroidered with gold. No marvel, therefore, if purples be so much sought for, and men are to be held excused if they run a-madding after purples.

“But how should the other shell-fish, called Conchylia, be so dear and high-priced, considering the tincture of them carries so strong and stinking a savour; so sullen and melancholy a colour, inclining to a blue or watchet, and resembling rather the angry and raging sea in a tempest ?

“Now, if I should lay a straw here, and proceed no further in this discourse of purples and such like, surely our luxurious and riotous spend. thrifts would think they had great wrong, and were defrauded of their right; they might, I say, complain of me, and condemn me of idleness and negligence. Therefore, I care not much to put my head within the dyer's shops and work-houses, that like as every man, for the necessity of this life, knows how the price of corn goes ; even so our fine folks and brave dandies, who take such pleasure and delight in these colours may be perfect,

« הקודםהמשך »