Life in Ancient Egypt

By Adolf Erman; H. M. Tirard | Go to book overview
WINE PARTY UNDER THE NEW EMPIRE. The host and hostess are the scribe of the King Ḥaremḥeb, and his wife Ese; the guests are the chiefs of the mercenaries of his majesty (after Wilk., i. Pl. xi. = Perrot, 796).

CHAPTER XI
RECREATION

As a nation advances towards the higher stages of civilisation, there are many pursuits which, though no longer necessary as in past times for the maintenance of life, do not nevertheless fall into oblivion. Though exercised more rarely, they appear to give purer pleasure than before, and with the absence of constraint the hard work of former ages becomes a delight and a sport. When we first obtain a glimpse of the Egyptians, centuries had probably elapsed since they had been obliged to spear fish or to kill birds with a throw-stick in order to obtain food. Yet in later times these two arts were pursued with far greater pleasure than net-fishing or bird-snaring. Similar instances are to be found in the history of all people and all ages.

It stands to reason however that these old crafts could only be exercised later by those who cared little what they gained by them. In the Egypt of historical times nets and snares were used when fish and geese were really needed, and the spear and the throw-stick were employed only by wealthy men or men of rank for amusement rather than for use. This kind of recreation seems to have been confined to the aristocracy, and it was even thought to be the particular privilege of these great men,--the master alone might be a sportsman, the servant's duty was to occupy himself in more useful ways. This view of the matter, which is familiar to us from the feudal customs of the Middle Ages, seems to have been general in Egypt, for as a rule the great men, when spearing fish or killing birds with the throw-stick, are always represented in their most honourable costume, in the royal skirt,1 and even with the royal beard.2 This sport in the marshes was not in their opinion an indifferent matter, it was a precious privilege, a princely right.

____________________
1
O. E.: L. D., ii. 60; Berlin, 1118, 119. M. E.: L. D., ii. 130. N. E.: L. D., iii. 9 e; Wilk., ii. 107.
2
L. D., ii. 130.

-234-

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