« PredošláPokračovať »
composed. No country could produce a second to her, though Italy, France, and England, have produced singers, of whom, perhaps, it would have been said, "the force of nature could no farther go ;” and if the illustrious Angelica Catalani had been silently immured in a nunnery, and her transcendent powers known only to her cloistered sisters, their innocence or credulity would, in all probability, have deemed them rather the work of inspiration, than one of those unattainable gifts which nature bestows on her own peculiar favourites.
EMBALMING AMONG THE EGYPTIANS.
The Egyptians, of all nations of antiquity, are most deserving of our attention. To this wise and ingenious people, who made such advances in arts and sciencé, in commerce and legislation, succeeding nations have been indebted for whatever institutions civilize mankind and embellish human life. The priesthood of this very religious people, to whom knowledge was exclusively confined, being wholly free from anxiety about secular matters, as they were provided for by the state, devoted themselves to the service of the community. Their time was divided between the performance of their sacred duties and the improvement of the mind. Study was their business, the good of the people was their sole object, and whatever could contribute to the political or moral welfare of their country, was pursued with a zeal worthy of imitation in Christian societies. It is not then surprising that they made such amazing progress in physic and other occult sciences. And though the art of embalming, as practised by them, is now obsolete, and the medicated herbs which they used, may not now be ascertained, yet we may gather, from the custom, what study and attention they employed in discovering the virtues of simples, though the science of medical chemistry was probably unknown at that early period. The art of embalming the dead was peculiar to the Egyptians; they alone knew the secret of preserving the body from decay. In the Pentateuch, we find that, when Abraham and Isaac died, they were simply buried; but Jacob, and afterwards Joseph, were embalmed, because those two Patriarchs died in Egypt. This mysterious trade descended from father to son, as an hereditary and sacred privilege: the embalmers were held in high repute, conversed with the priests, and were by them admitted into the inner parts of the temples. Embalming may have been practised in Asia, but as there is not any authority forthis presumption, it may be inferred, that the custom prevailed among the Chaldeans, on account of the proximity of their country to Egypt, and the similarity of pursuits and doctines; an intercourse, no doubt, subsisted between these two philosophical nations from the earliest ages. After the death of Alexander the Great, the Egyptians and Chaldeans were ordered to dress the body in their own way, (curt. lib. subfin.) but this event was many hundred years after the times when Egypt flourished under the Pharaohs. The washing and dressing of the body, alluded to by Greck and Roman writers, was merely an external application of unguents, performed with facility and dispatch, not for the purpose of preserving the corpse, but in honour of the deceased. The ceremony among the Egyptians was sacred and solemn, and the process tedious, intricate, and expensive. In the patriarchal history, the sacred writer tells us, that forty days were employed in preparing the body of Jacob for sepulture. And Joseph commanded his servants, the physicians, to embalm his father, and the physicians embalmed Israel, Gen. 1, 2. And here it is to be observed, that the officers, called physicians, did not profess the art of curing ; for physic, (as it is vow called) was not, at that time, a professional pursuit; not a word is said of physicians being called in during Jacob's sickness. Besides, the Hebrew word is rendered in the septuagint, by those who prepare the body for burial; it is true, the author of the Pentateuch does not particularise this ceremony, but Herodotus, and Diodorus, are clear and diffuse in every thing relative to this interesting country. The Egyptians believed that the soul was immortal, or rather, that it was eternal ; they imagined that it not only was not subject to death, but that it had existed from all eternity, having neither beginning nor end; they thought that as it was immaterial, it was increate, and as it was increate, that it was a part of the divine spirit, divinæ particula aure, and co-existent with that being from whom it emanated. In order to substantiate this doctrine, they asserted that the soul had been in a state of pre-existence, and at the dissolution of the outward man, it passed into various states ; and after a circuit of three thousand years, it returned to re-animate the human body. Pythagorus first transplanted this dogma from Egypt into Greece, and, though no works of that philosopher are now extant, yet we may gather, from later writers, the essential tenets of the Pythagorean sect. Plato, after the death of Socrates, inculcated the same principle, in order to validate the primary tenet of the Socratic school-the immortality of the soul. Virgil has shown himself very sedulous in propagating the same doctrine among the Romans. These two nations were of opinion, that death separated the soul from the body; they were, therefore, no longer concerned about the perishable part of man; and being enlightened by the rays of rational philosophy, through the mists of error and superstition, they looked forward to a future state as a reward for the virtuous, and a punishment for the damned. The Egyptians, on the contrary, were more solicitous to preserve the material part from putrefaction and injury, conceiving that the soul was inseparable from its body, so long as the latter was free from corruption. Inspired by this superstition, they studied and put in practice every means of preserving the human frame: they applied to the study of natural history to discover the virtues of simples, and provided buildings of the greatest magnitude and durability, as depositories for the dead, which still remain the most stupendous monuments of human labour in the world. That the pyramids were built as sepulchres for the kings, there appears no reason to doubt,—this is fully testified by modern travellers. Besides, Diodorus
says expressly, that Chemnis and Cephron constructed them for this purpose. The principal care of the Egyptians was turned to the preserving the dead; they looked upon their houses as temporary dwellings, but to their cemeteries, they gave the name of the eternal mansions. Among the three modes of embalming, that adopted by the rich was very tedious in its process, and expensive in its preparation. As soon as a man of any consideration died, the relations of the deceased, after the most violent expressions of grief, sent for the embalmer, who carried away the corpse. The first part of the operation was to extract the brains through the nostrils, with a crooked instrument of iron; for the more ready performanee of which, the medium septum of the nose was cut away; the vacuities were then filled up with perfumes and aromatic composition. After this, the body was opened with much ceremony; for this purpose the priest made a mark on the left side, just above the hip, to shew how far the incision was to be made. A particular officer made an opening with a very sharp Ethiopian stone. As soon as the people saw this, they pelted him with stones, and pursued him with maledictions ; for the Egyptians looked with abhorrence upon any one who offered violence to a human body, either dead or alive. The embalmer then inserted his hand, and drew out all the viscera, except the heart and kidneys, while the bowels were washed with odours. The entrails were not restored to the abdomen, but, from a religious motive, they were thrown in the Nile. Afterwards the belly was filled with cinnamon, myrrh, and other odoriferous drugs ; and then the orifice of the