Page images
PDF
EPUB

dominion of the Romans. Octavius Cæsar reduced it into the form of a Roman province, and appointed Cornelius Gallus, the friend of Virgil, to whom the tenth eclogue is inscribed, the first prefect governor; and so it continued to be governed by a prefect, or viceroy sent from Rome; or from Constantinople, when, after the division of the Roman empire, it fell to the share of the eastern emperors. It continued without much variation to be a province of the Roman empire 670 years, from the reign of Augustus Cæsar to that of the emperor Heraclius.

It was while Julius Cæsar was making war upon the inhabitants of Alexandria, that the famous library founded by the Ptolomies, which had been enlarged and improved by their successors, until it amounted to the number of seven hundred thousand volumes, was partly destroyed by fire. This loss, of four hundred thousand volumes, was in some measure repaired by the Pergamean library, consisting of two hundred thousand volumes, which Anthony presented to Cleopatra; and by the addition of other books afterwards; so that this latter library was reckoned as famous, and as numerous, as the other was; but by the direction of the Saracen Emperor Omar, it was destroyed and burnt. Egypt before this was frequented by learned foreigners,

for the sake of this library, and produced several learned natives; but after this, it became more and more a base kingdom; and sunk into greater ignorance and superstition.

Mahometanism was now established there instead of Christianity; and the government of the Caliphs and Sultans continued till about the year of Christ 1250. About this time it was, that the Mamalukes usurped the royal authority. The word in general signifies a slave bought with money, but is appropriated to those Turkish and Circassian slaves, whom the Sultans of Egypt bought very young; trained up in military exercises; made them their choicest officers and soldiers; and by them controlled their subjects, and subdued their enemies.

"

These slaves, perceiving how necessary and useful they were, grew at length insolent and audacious, slew their sovereigns, and usurped the government to themselves. Their government began with Sultan Ibeg in the 648th year of the Hegira, an epoch commencing from the day that Mahomet was forced to escape from Mecca; and this government continued for 267 years, or until the year of Christ 1517.

At that time, Selim, the ninth emperor of the Turks, conquered the Mamalukes; hanged their last Sultan Tumanbal before the gates of Cairo;

put an end to their government: caused five hundred of the chief Egyptian families to be transported to Constantinople, as likewise a great number of Mamalukes' wives and children, besides the Sultan's treasure, and other immense riches; and annexed Egypt to the Othman empire; whereof it hath continued a province from that day to this.

We see how Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, and Egypt, the great adversaries and o, pressors of the Jews, have been visited by Divine vengeance. Not that we conceive the Supreme Disposer of events punished these nations only for the sake of the Jews; they were guilty of other flagrant sins, for which the prophets denounced the Divine judgments upon them. Egypt, in particular, was severely threatened. Isaiah chap. xxix. xxx. xxxi. xxxii. And the Egyptians have generally been more wretched, as they have been more wicked, than other nations. Ancient authors describe them every where as a faithless and fallacious nation, very ignorant; yet have they a natural cunning, artifice, and falsehood; their words pass for nothing either in relations, promises, or professions of friendship; such men are evidently born not to command, but to serve and obey'.

[ocr errors]

Modern travellers do not give any more favourable account of their condition. Volney says, vol. I. page 190: "At Cairo itself, the stranger, on his arrival, is struck with the universal appearance of wretchedness and misery. The crowds which throng the streets, present nothing to his sight but rags and disgusting nudities. Every thing he sees or hears, reminds him he is in the country of slavery and tyranny. Nothing is talked of but intestine troubles, the public misery, pecuniary extortions, bastinadoes and murders. There is no security for life or property."

Of Alexandria, he says: "A stranger reflects on the narrow streets, the low houses, which though not calculated to admit much light, are still more obscured by the lattice work; the meagre and swarthy appearance of the inhabitants, who walk barefoot, without other clothing than a blue shirt fastened by a leathern girdle ; while the universal air of misery in all he meets, and the mystery which reigns around their houses, point out to him the rapacity of oppression, and the distrust attendant on slavery. Wherever knowledge has no object, men will do nothing to acquire it, and their minds will continue in a state of barbarism. Such is the con

dition of Egypt." Sonnini in his travels, a translation of which was published by Hunter in 1799, says: "In fact, the mass of the people, in no place, could be more barbarous than at Cairo. And our countrymen, who were so lately on the: expedition in Egypt, confirm these accounts as to the present abject state of the country.”

In Colonel Wilson's history is the following description: "All language is insufficient to give a just idea of an Egyptian village; but those who have been in Ireland may best suppose the degree, when an Irish hut is described as a palace, in comparison of an Arab's stye; for it can be called by no other name. Each habitation is built of mud, even the roof, and resembles in shape an oven: within is only one apartment, generally about ten feet square; here then a whole family eat and sleep, without any consideration of decency or cleanliness, being, in regard to the latter, worse even than the beasts of the field, who naturally respect their own tenements."

Representations so wretched and degrading as we have now adduced, bring again into view the prophecy of Ezekiel, which we have cited respecting Egypt: "It shall be the basest of the kingdoms, neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations."

« PreviousContinue »