The Library of History

Page 49

Page 49 And now its necessary for us to speak of the Legislators of Egypt, who establish'd such Laws as are both unusual elsewhere, and admirable in themselves. After the ancient way of living in Egypt, which was (according to their own Stories) in the Reigns of the Gods and Demigods; they say that Mnevis, a Man of an heroic Spirit and famous in his Generation for a commendable Life, was the first that instituted written Laws, feigning that he receiv'd them from Mercury, and that from them would accrue great Benefit and Advantage to the publick. The same Device Minos us'd among the Grecians in Creet, and Lycurgus among the Lacedemonians; The first pretending he had them from Jupiter, and the other from Apollo. This Contrivance, its said, has been made use of amongst diverse other Nations, who have reapt much Advantage by observing such Laws. For its reported, that among the Aramaspi, Zathrausles pretended he receiv'd his Laws from a good Genius; and that Zamolxis amongst the People call'd the Getes patroniz'd his by Vesta; and among the Jews, that Moses alledg'd the God call'd I AO to be the Author of his. And this they did either because they judg'd such an Invention (which brought about so much Good to Mankind) was wonderfully commendable and of a divine Stamp; or that they concluded the People would be more observant out of a reverend Regard to the Majesty and Authority of those who were said to be the Lawmakers. The second Lawmaker of Egypt, they say, was Sasyches, a very wise and prudent Prince, who added to the former, and made excellent Laws also relating to the Honour and Worship of the Gods. He's reported to have found out Geometry, and to have taught the Art of Astronomy. The third who they cry up is Sesostris, who not only excell'd all the Kings of Egypt in his warlike Atchievments, but fram'd Laws for Military Disciplin among the Egyptians, and put every thing in due Order relating to Military Affairs.

The fourth Lawmaker they say was King Bocchoris; a wise and prudent Man, he establish'd every thing that concern'd the Kings, and prescrib'd exact Rules and Laws for the making of Contracts. He was so wise and of so piercing a Judgment in his Decisions, that many of his Sentences for their Excellency are kept in Memory to this very day. He was (they say) of a very weak Constitution of Body and extraordinary covetous.

After him King Amasis imploy'd himself in the framing of Laws for the Directions of the Nomarchi in their several Governments, which reduc'd all the Provinces of Egypt into due Order. It's said, he was a most wise, just and good Man, for which he was advanc'd to the Throne by the Egyptians, tho' he was not of the Blood-Royal. 'Tis repored, that when the Eleans were about to celebrate the Olympick Games, and sent their Embassadors to him to advise them how they might manage those Sports most justly, he answer'd, That the way to do that was for none of the Eleans to be Parties in the Contest.

Polycrates, the petty King of Samos, entred into a League of Friendship with him: But when he heard how Polycrates opprest his own Subjects, and injur'd Strangers that came into his Country, he sent Embassadors to him to advise to Moderation; but not being able to persuade him, he at length sent a Letter to him to let him know he dissolv'd and renounc'd the League that was betwixt them, saying, He was not willing forthwith to be involv'd in Grief and Sorrow, for that he perfectly foresaw the miserable. Fall that would presently overtake one who govern'd so tyrannically. He was greatly admir'd, they▪ say, by the Grecians both for his kind and gentle Disposition, and for that what he said, shortly after befel Polycrates.

Darius, the Father of Xerxes, is said to be the sixth who made Laws for the Government of the Egyptians. For with Hatred and Abhorrence of the Impiety Cambyses his Predecessor for his prophaning of the Temples in Egypt, he made it his Business to approve his reverend Regard towards the Gods, and his Kindness towards Men; for the familiarly convers'd with the Egyptian Priests, and learnt their Theology, and acquainted himself with the Things and Transactions recorded in their Sacred Registers, whereby he came to understand the Heroic Spirits of the Ancient Kings, and their Kindness towards their Subjects, which caused him to imitate them in the like, and upon that Account he was so highly honour'd amongst them, that while he was alive he gain'd the Title of a GOD, which none of the other Kings ever did; and when he was dead, the People allow'd him all those Ancient Honours due and accustom'd to be done to the former Kings of Egypt after their Deaths. And these are the Men (they say) who compos'd the Laws of Egypt that are so celebrated and cry'd up amongst other People.

Bibliotheca Historica

The first five books