BROADLY speaking we recover human history backwards. It is logical, therefore, that Egypt should have had to wait her turn for admission to the Legacy series, which is an attempt to assess our debt to phases of civilization earlier than our own. Now that turn has come Egypt can show, in her own way, as good a claim to it as her predecessors--a claim conceded alike by classical tradition and present-day opinion.

It may be that Egypt's contributions to our way of life are not alone sufficient to entitle her to an equal place with Greece and Rome, Israel and Islam, Medieval Europe and India, in an estimate of our indebtedness to past generations. It is probably true that, with the possible exception of our alphabet, nothing that can be traced directly to Egypt in our Western civilization is so obviously or so integrally a part of it as, for instance, Roman Law or Greek Philosophy or the Bible, and that nothing so practically concerns it as the Arabic language or Indian racial traditions; though in all but the last of these Egypt has had some part as contributor or transmitter. Yet Egypt has a unique quality which enables her to present to our judgement the best possible case for herself, a quality exhibited equally by the land itself and by the people who inhabited it, namely, a capacity for conservation exceeding that of any other country in the world.

This capacity is a matter of geography, and although in its immediate application it is by now almost a commonplace, its implications are not easily appreciated except at first hand. A soil which is sand except for the Delta and the river-banks, heated by a sub-tropical sun, with its surface continually shifted by wind, provides a perfect self-sealing medium. As rocks and ice have preserved for us the whole forms or vestigial evidence of vegetable and animal life from geological time, so


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The Legacy of Egypt


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