An Ancient Egyptian Legend



Six dynasties of these early kings ruled Egypt in direct descent from Menes. To the last of these dynasties belongs the legend of Queen Nitokris, which our search among the monuments confirms at least to the extent that there was a sovereign of that name, probably a woman, and the first of her sex to rule as an independent sovereign. She, or he, was buried in the third great pyramid, the most expensive of them all, covered with slabs of a costly stone called syenite. Within it we have found a queen's body encased in a beautiful and delicate sarcophagus of soft blue stone.

The legend which later ages told of Nitokris was that she was a queen called for her beauty "the rosy-cheeked." Her husband the king, after only a year of marriage, was slain by an uprising of his nobles. Nitokris then seized the power for herself and pretended to forgive the assassins. Secretly, however, she built a subterranean chamber connected by a passage with the waters of the Nile. When the work was finished she invited all the guilty nobles to a feast in the new hall, and drowned them by letting in the Nile. After this she committed suicide by deliberately plunging into a great bin of feathers which suffocated her. Such was the legend in its barest form. Further fantastic additions to the tale declared Nitokris had been originally a courtesan, Rhodope, the name being a Greek translation of her established epithet, rosy-cheeked. While Rhodope was bathing, a vulture carried off her slipper and dropped it in the presence of the king. He, in true Cinderella-story fashion, vowed to find and wed the owner of the dainty slipper. Thus the courtesan became a queen, and afterward an independent sovereign. The modern Egyptian peasants say that the spirit of Nitokris still haunts her pyramid. The light-souled and uneasy ghost still lures people to destruction by her wooing. Those who meet her go insane in adoration of her beauty.






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