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