An Egyptian Princess (Chapter 4, page 1 of 14)

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Chapter 4

Five days after the evening we have just described at Rhodopis' house, an immense multitude was to be seen assembled at the harbor of Sais.

Egyptians of both sexes, and of every age and class were thronging to the water's edge.

Soldiers and merchants, whose various ranks in society were betokened by the length of their white garments, bordered with colored fringes, were interspersed among the crowd of half-naked, sinewy men, whose only clothing consisted of an apron, the costume of the lower classes. Naked children crowded, pushed and fought to get the best places. Mothers in short cloaks were holding their little ones up to see the sight, which by this means they entirely lost themselves; and a troop of dogs and cats were playing and fighting at the feet of these eager sight-seers, who took the greatest pains not to tread on, or in any way injure the sacred animals.

[According to various pictures on the Egyptian monuments. The mothers are from Wilkinson III. 363. Isis and Hathor, with the child Horus in her lap or at her breast, are found in a thousand representations, dating both from more modern times and in the Greek style. The latter seem to have served as a model for the earliest pictures of the Madonna holding the infant Christ.] The police kept order among this huge crowd with long staves, on the metal heads of which the king's name was inscribed. Their care was especially needed to prevent any of the people from being pushed into the swollen Nile, an arm of which, in the season of the inundations, washes the walls of Sais.

On the broad flight of steps which led between two rows of sphinxes down to the landing-place of the royal boats, was a very different kind of assembly.

The priests of the highest rank were seated there on stone benches. Many wore long, white robes, others were clad in aprons, broad jewelled collars, and garments of panther skins. Some had fillets adorned with plumes that waved around brows, temples, and the stiff structures of false curls that floated over their shoulders; others displayed the glistening bareness of their smoothly-shaven skulls. The supreme judge was distinguished by the possession of the longest and handsomest plume in his head-dress, and a costly sapphire amulet, which, suspended by a gold chain, hung on his breast.

The highest officers of the Egyptian army wore uniforms of gay colors,97 and carried short swords in their girdles. On the right side of the steps a division of the body-guard was stationed, armed with battleaxes, daggers, bows, and large shields; on the left, were the Greek mercenaries, armed in Ionian fashion. Their new leader, our friend Aristomachus, stood with a few of his own officers apart from the Egyptians, by the colossal statues of Psamtik I., which had been erected on the space above the steps, their faces towards the river.

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