CHAPTER 3 WRITING AND LITERATURE

THE modern world has inherited from Ancient Egypt, as from Greece, in two different ways. In the first place there has been simple historical transmission, things of value having come down to us, to use the old Egyptian expression, 'son to son, heir to heir'. But secondly there has existed also a deferred mode of acquisition, in which Champollion and his successors have played for Egypt the same role as the scholars of the Renaissance played for Greece. Examination of the latter form of inheritance really resolves itself into the question: How far should we, judging by our own standards of value, be the poorer without the new knowledge and beauty accruing from Egyptological research? Obviously this is a very different question from that raised by the other kind of legacy, where the problem is of even greater interest, but unfortunately also of far greater difficulty. The task before us in this chapter is to treat the writing and literature of Pharaonic Egypt from both points of view, and it will be well to start with the more exacting of the two problems.

Elements of art, of law, and of religion may have passed straight from Egypt to Rome, there to join the broad stream of ancient culture that has descended to ourselves. As regards literature and writing, Rome has to be eliminated as an immediate point of contact, and in so far as there has been direct inheritance, the intermediaries will have been Palestine and Greece, in many cases doubtless both. The chances of an influence passing from Egypt to Greece via Crete do not seem particularly great. Classical scholars have not in the past taken very kindly to the idea of Hellenic dependence upon Egyptian civilization, but in one important case the debt is universally admitted, as will be seen from the following

-53-

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The Legacy of Egypt
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Note v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • Chapter 1 - The Calendars and Chronology 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Political Approach to the Classical World 17
  • Chapter 3 - Writing and Literature 53
  • Chapter 4 - Egyptian Art 80
  • Chapter 5 - Mechanical and Technical Processes. Materials 120
  • Chapter 6 - Science 160
  • Chapter 7 - Medicine 179
  • Chapter 8 - Law 198
  • Chapter 9 - Egypt and Israel 218
  • Chapter 10 - The Greek Papyri 249
  • Chapter 11 - Egypt and Romez 283
  • Chapter 12 - The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity 300
  • Chapter 13 - Egypt and the Byzantine Empire 332
  • Chapter 14 - The Contribution to Islam 348
  • Select Bibliography 368
  • Chapter 15 - The Legacy to Modern Egypt 369
  • Index 395
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