The Library of History

Page 48

Page 48 but for sweet scenting of the Body also, and so deliver it to the Kindred of the Dead, with every Member so whole and intire, that no Part of the Body seems to be alter'd till it come to the very Hairs of the Eye-lids and the Eye-brows, insomuch as the Beauty and Shape of the Face seems just as it was before. By which Means many of the Egyptians laying up the Bodies of their Ancestors in stately Monuments, perfectly see the true Visage and Countenance of those that were buried, many Ages before they themselves were born. So that in viewing the Proportion of every one of their Bodies and the Lineaments of their Faces, they take exceeding great Delight, even as much as if they were still living among them. Moreover, the Friends and nearest Relations of the Dead acquaint the Judges and the rest of their Friends with the Time prefixt for the Funeral of such an one by Name, declaring that such a day he is to pass the Lake. At which Time forty Judges appear and sit together in a Semicircle, in a Place beyond the Lake; where a Ship (before provided by such as have the Care of the Business) is hal'd up to the Shoar, govern'd by a Pilot, whom the Egyptians call Charon. And therefore they say, that Orpheus seeing this Ceremony when he was in Egypt, invented the Fable of Hell, partly imitating them in Egypt, and partly adding something of his own; of which we shall speak particularly hereafter. The Ship being now in the Lake, every one is at Liberty by the Law to accuse the Dead before the Coffin be put aboard; and if any Accuser appears and makes good his Accusation, that he liv'd an ill Life, then the Judges give Sentence, and the Body is debarr'd from being buried after the usual Manner; but if the Informer be convicted of a scandalous and malicious Accusation, he's very severely punish'd. If no Informer appear, or that the Information prove false, all the Kindred of the Deceased leave off Mourning, and begin to set forth his Praises; but say nothing of his Birth (as is the Custom among the Greeks) because they account all in Egypt to be equally noble. But they recount how the deceased was educated from a Child, his Breeding till he came to Man's Estate, his Piety towards the Gods and his Justice towards Men, his Chastity and other Virtues, wherein he excell'd; and they pray and call upon the infernal Deities to receive the deceas'd into the Society of the Just. The common People take it from the other, and approve of all that is said in his Praise with a loud Shout, and set forth likewise his Vertues with the highest Praises and Strains of Commendation, as he that is to live for ever with the just in the Kingdom of JOVE. Then they (that have Tombs of their own) interr the Corps in Places appointed for that Purpose; they that have none of their own, build a small Apartment in their own Houses, and rear up the Coffin to the Sides of the strongest Wall of the Building. Such as are deny'd common Burial, either because they are in Debt, or convicted of some horrid Crime, they bury in their own Houses; and in After-times it often happens that some of their Kindred growing rich, pay off the Debts of the deceas'd, or get him absolv'd, and then bury their Ancestor with State and Splendour. For amongst the Egyptians it's a Sacred Constitution, that they should at their greatest Costs honour their Parents and Ancestors, who are translated to an Eternal Habitation. It's a Custom likewise among them to give the Bodies of their Parents in Pawn to their Creditors, and they that do not presently redeem them, fall under the greatest Disgrace imaginable, and are deny'd Burial after their Deaths. One may justly wonder at the Authors of this excellent Constitution, who both by what we see practis'd among the living, and by the decent Burial of the dead, did (as much as possibly lay within the Power of Men) endeavour to promote Honesty and faithful Dealing one with another. For the Greeks (as to what concern'd the Rewards of the Just and the Punishment of the Impious) had nothing amongst them but invented Fables and Poetical Fictions, which never wrought upon Men for the Amendment of their Lives, but on the contrary, were despis'd and laught at by the lewder Sort. But among the Egyptians, the Punishment of the bad and the Rewards of the good being not told as idle Tales, but every day seen with their own Eyes, all Sorts were warn'd of their Duties, and by this Means was wrought and continu'd a most exact Reformation of Manners and orderly Conversation among them. For those certainly are the best Laws that advance Virtue and Honesty, and instruct Men in a prudent Converse in the World, rather than those that tend only to the heaping up of Wealth, and teach Men to be rich.

Bibliotheca Historica

The first five books