Earliest Egypt

A History of Egypt from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905), Chapter III, pp. 25-50


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EARLIEST EGYPT 33

lunar month altogether and substituted for it a conventional month of thirty days. Its devisers were thus the first people to perceive that a calendar must be an artificial device, entirely divorced from nature save in the acceptance of the day and the year. They therefore divided the year into twelve of these thirty day months, and a sacred period of five feast-days, intercalated at the end of the year. The year began on that day when Sirius first appeared on the eastern horizon at sunrise, which in our calendar was on the nineteenth of July.' But as this calendar year was in reality about a quarter of a day shorter than the solar year, it therefore gained a full day every four years, thus slowly revolving on the astronomical year, passing entirely around it once in fourteen hundred and sixty years, only to begin the revolution again. An astronomical event like the heliacal rising of Sirius, when dated in terms of the Egyptian calendar, may therefore be computed and dated within four years in terms of our reckoning, that is, in years B. C. This remark-able calendar, already in use at this remote age, is the one introduced into Rome by Julius Ca sar, as the most convenient calendar then known, and by the Romans it was bequeathed to us. It has thus been in use uninterruptedly over six thousand years. We owe it to the men of the Delta kingdom, who lived in the forty third century B. C.; and we should notice that it left their hands in much more convenient form, with its twelve thirty-day months, than after it had suffered irregular alteration in this respect at the hands of the Romans.

The kingdom of Upper Egypt was more distinctively Egyptian than that of the Delta. It had its capital at Nekheb, modern El Kab, and its standard or symbol was a lily plant, while another southern plant served as the ensign of the king, who was further distinguished by a tall white crown, white being the colour of the Southern Kingdom. Its treasury was therefore known as the "White IIouse." There was a royal residence across the river from Nekheb, called Nekhen, the later Hieraconpolis, while corresponding

1 Julian.



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