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Saturday, March 15, 2014

fayum art is greek. arab look greek and roman

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semblance of one of them to Pescennius Niger, the pseudo-Caesar who opposed Septimius Severus. I agree with Maspero as to the period of their origin.

Although these busts are among the latest forms

of image attached to mummies, they have eyes inserted made of talc, just as may be seen in the earliest statues of the time of the pyramids. These give them, I may say, an intrusively living expression—barbaric, indeed, to the taste of the Greeks and Romans. The beard, too, applied to the finished head is anti-Greek; and a little scene represented on the back both of No. 97 Graf collection (Fig. 2) and of one presented to the Louvre by M. Bouriant, decisively marks these busts as Egyptian and as heathen. It shows the mummied corpse lying down, with a female figure kneeling at the head and feet. This is the familiar scene, occurring a thousand times in the Book of the Dead and elsewhere, of Isis and Nephthys—the Greater and the Lesser—uplifting their voices as wailing women by the bier of Osiris, their husband and brother, to express their anguish and call him back to earth. The text of their lament is best preserved on a papyrus at Berlin of the time of the Persian dominion. On these busts the wailing goddesses are represented in the old Egyptian style, but in a manner which betrays little concern for the old canon; and the hieroglyphics over the heads of the figures, which are always to be seen in genuine Egyptian work, are here absent. As a work of art this little picture is worthless, but it proves that the busts on which it occurs were wrought by heathen for heathen, who, as has been said, may have lived at the end of the second century after Christ, and were magnates among the residents in the oasis.

In these busts again the physiognomy shows that they belonged to various nationalities, for one is of the Greek type, another Roman, and a third Semitic; a fourth might be classed as a half-breed in whose veins flowed a mixture of Egyptian and Roman blood. Nor need this surprise us when we remember that the oases, colonized from Egypt at a very early date, and conquered and exploited by the Persians,* became Hellenic under the Ptolemies, and were protected and fortified by the Romans as commercial stations and used as places of exile for political offenders. They were, too, headquarters of the caravan trade, in which the Phoenicians early took a prominent part, and we might therefore expect to find them peopled by a variety of mixed races.

Their beautiful temples continued to be devoted to the old Egyptian cult till Christianity usurped its place. Hellenic influence had already infused into it a strong Greek element, and the spirit of the times had introduced magic and mysticism of every kind. These circumstances fully account for the character of the busts recently dug out of the soil. To us their great interest lies in the proof they afford that the desire to decorate the body of the dead with some image of the living was generally prevalent in the GraecoEgyptian communities. They also demonstrate that those whose care it was to fulfill that desire, and who were entombed in the form of portrait mummies, were heathen; at any rate, such as had been the subjects of the later Lagides or who had lived in Romanized Egypt and the oases of the Libyan Desert.

Hence, as it is amply proved that so considerable a number of portrait mummies were undoubtedly ex

* The principal temple in the Great Oasis—Chargeh. or in old Egyptian Heb—was founded by the Persian King Darius I, and restored for the first time by Darius II.

ecuted by and for idolaters, the theory that any Christian would ever have allowed a corpse to be thus prepared is entirely excluded.

Two portrait mummies at Bulak, which I formerly regarded as Christian, I now agree with A. Ermann in pronouncing to be heathen.

The Second Century Before Christ Considered As The Period Ok The PortraitMummies.

Proved by reference to records of the earliest Greek mummies, by thehistory of art, and by circumstantial evidence from the pictures themselves,especially No. {Graf collection).

If, then, these portraits are of heathen workmanship, the question now arises as to the century in which Hellenic Greeks first adopted the practice of having their dead prepared for the tomb in the form of mummies.

This must have been at a period when, as we may conclude from other circumstances and evidence, the amalgamation of Hellenes and Greeks had so far advanced that Hellenic culture could accommodate itself to Egyptian customs. It might be safe to assume this to have been in the third century before Christ; it is at any rate quite certain to have been in the second. We must in the first instance confine our attention to the portrait mummies; and it is of great importance to the determination of the earliest date when they can have been painted to note that undoubted records exist of Greekcorpses having been prepared as mummies in the second century before Christ. Prof. U. Wilcken, of Breslau, has published documents of that period which prove the fact to a demonstration.*

As it can thus be shown beyond dispute that so far back as in the second century before Christ many Greeks were entombed in the Egyptian manner and embalmed by Egyptian paraschites (eviscerators), not alone in Alexandria but even in Upper Egypt, at Thebes and in small towns (Turin papyrus No. 8), we may very well suppose that the oldest of these portraits dates from the same period. Some of the finest are of such workmanship that we may ascribe them to the time of the Ptolemies, when the full flower of Alexandrian art was but just beginning slowly to fade, rather than to the date of the decadence under Roman rule after the Christian era. A glance at the history of art confirms the probability of the date assigned to the oldest of the portraits, namely, the second century before Christ.

Greek mummies such as are found in the Fayum can hardly have been made under the three first Ptolemies (b. C. 323 to 222), for it was not till the time of Ptolemy II Philadelphus ( + 247 B. C.) that the worship of Serapis was generally recognized as a cult destined to reconcile the religious prejudices of the Greeks and Egyptians, or that the Jewish community at Alexandria had accommodated itself to Greek habits and views. It may well be supposed that a Hellenized and free-thinking Israelite of that time, speaking Greek, studying Greek philosophy, named after some

* Jahrbuch des K. deutschen archaologischen Instituts, Band iv, 1889, pt. i, p. 5.

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