In ancient Egypt

better than anything, the meditation on death instructs man on his destiny and prompts him to seek the means of accomplishing it. This is why the tomb or the coffin “master” or “mistress of life” and why the wise Ani invites us to think of the final ends to lead a virtuous life and prepare for death; because “Death does not surprise the wise”, or, like Ani s ‘expressed, long before La Fontaine: “There are no surprises for those who do well.” one end to the other of the valley of the Nile, one does not lose sight of the double mountain into which the necropolises sink: the thought of death hardly leaves the Egyptians during their life; but it does not darken it. With them, it encourages the epicurean to new pleasures, the sage to new virtues. Long in advance, they take care of their grave; but they decorate it with attractive subjects. They see in life something else and better than a preparation for death; but they strive to secure an image and a continuation of life in death. We can affirm that they regard life as the supreme good, but on condition that human life is completed by being perpetuated by the participation in the life of the immortal gods. Placing themselves at the antipodes of Buddhist thought, it is “second death”, it is the final disappearance, it is the annihilation, which they regard as the supreme evil and the most appalling punishment. They guarded against it by mummification and magical rites; but to increase the effectiveness of these remedies, they resorted to the guarantees of morality. Indeed, if the virtues found, on earth and during life, sanctions very appreciated in the favors of the king, for example, the esteem and the affection of the contemporaries, the stability of the fortune, the very prolongation of the life , we hoped for more. A good burial and the perpetuity of the name prolonged on earth the same order of sanctions. The protection of the gods, which we already saw exercised during life, produced all its effects beyond death. Doubtless, the spectacle of life and death provoked objections from the skeptic, not only on the solidity of human grandeur and the perpetuity of pleasures, but also on the reality of virtues, on divine providence and on the expectation of future remuneration. However, these absolute doubts, expressed in the Songs of the Harpist or by the Koufi Jackal, aroused little echo. Almost without exception, the Egyptians shared their beliefs and their hopes between the various paradises and the various blessed destinies that their ancestors and their sages promised them. However on this subject, their imagination was displayed with fruitfulness. ” extract from Introduction to the study of moral ideas in ancient Egypt, by Jules Baillet, former student of the École Normale Supérieure, former member of the Archaeological Mission of Cairo

26 thoughts on “In ancient Egypt”

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