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main channel of thought and feeling for each generation was marked out by the generation preceding it, and the stream for the most part flowed with a steady current."
The name given to the ancient Jewish system is theocratic education.
In Egypt we have, perhaps, the oldest civilization in the world. The great Pyramids, which indicate considerable intellectual development, were erected more than two thousand years before Christ. The ancients looked upon Egypt as a school of wisdom. Greece sent thither illustrious philosophers and lawgivers–Pythagoras and Plato, Lycurgus and Solon—to complete their studies. In the Scripture it is said, in praise of Moses, that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.”
At an early period Egypt made high attainments in the mechanic arts. Great perfection was reached in spinning and weaving; glass was manufactured, and some of the secrets of coloring it have baffled modern ingenuity; iron and steel, together with the common agricultural and mechanical implements made from them, were in use. Magnificent ruins still make a profound impression upon the beholder; while single specimens of art have been transported over distant seas to adorn the public places of great modern cities. The Temple of Karnak, from its massive forms and brilliant decorations, has been pronounced the most magnificent of man's architectural works.
The Egyptians were mild in disposition and gentle in manners. Like the people of India, they were divided into castes, the highest of which was composed of the priests. The priests possessed immense wealth and influence, were supported by the state, and held one third of the land free of tax. They were the chief representatives of learning, and the recognized intellectual leaders of the people. The military class ranked next to the priests. The rest of the population was divided into three general classes: the first included the farmers and boatmen; the second, the mechanics and tradesmen; the third, herdsmen, fishermen, and common laborers.
The position of the priests has been portrayed by Jahn with an interesting particularity. “The Egyptian priests,” he says, “ were a separate tribe, which was divided into three subordinate classes; and they performed not only the services of religion but the duties of all the civil offices to which learning was necessary. They therefore devoted themselves in a peculiar manner to the cultivation of the sciences. This learned nobility, so to speak, was strictly hereditary, and no one from another tribe could be received among its members. They studied natural philosophy, natural history, medicine, mathematics (particularly astronomy and geometry), history, civil polity, and jurisprudence. They were practicing physicians, inspectors of weights and measures, surveyors of land, astronomical calculators, keepers of the archives, historians, receivers of the customs, judges, and counselors of the king, who was himself a member of their tribe. In short, they—like Raguel, the priest of Midian, and Melchizedek, the priest
and king of Salem-formed, guided, and ruled the peo. ple, by establishing civil regulations, performing sacred services, and imparting religious instruction. They were liberally rewarded for the discharge of these important duties. They not only possessed large estates in land, which, if we may credit Diodorus Siculus, occupied a third part of Egypt; but they also received from the king a stated salary for their services as civil officers. However suspicious such an order may appear to many at the present day, it was admirably adapted to those times, and by means of it Egypt was raised far above all the nations of antiquity, both in regard to her civil institutions and her advancement in the sciences. Hence, even the Greeks in ancient times were accustomed to borrow their politics and their learning from the Egyptians.”
The foregoing facts prepare us for a better understanding of Egyptian education. This great interest was under the absolute control of the priests. The education of the lower classes was of the most elementary nature. The youth destined for business pursuits were commonly taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, while the rest learned from parents or relatives the manual occupation to be followed through life. The method of teaching arithmetic has been praised by Plato, and seems to have anticipated some of our modern methods, inasmuch as numbers were taught in the concrete by means of plays. There were two species of writing prevalent: the demotic, which seems to have been a hybrid between hieroglyphic and syllabic writing, was in use among the common people; while the hieratic, which was more purely hieroglyphic, was employed by the priests. The bark of the papyrus-reed, which grew
, in jungles along the Nile, was used instead of paper. The priestly and warrior castes enjoyed greater educational advantages. At Thebes, Memphis, and Heliopo
M lis, there were institutions for superior instruction which were open to these two classes. The course of study enibraced language, mathematics, geometry, astronomy, natural science, and religion, though the most advanced instruction was reserved for the priesthood alone. The annual overflow of the Nile, which destroyed landmarks in many cases, made a knowledge of mathematics, particularly of geometry, of high importance, and hence this subject received especial attention. Gymnastics and music were excluded from the general means of culture. “It is not the custom in Egypt,” says Diodorus," to learn gymnastics and music; it is believed that the former is dangerous to the youth, and that the latter is not only useless, but even hurtful, because it renders men effeminate." Yet in Chemnis gymnastics was taught, and music was employed in connection with religious services. A religious element was not wanting in Egyptian education. Reverence for the priesthood and religion, and regard for the usages handed down by tradition, were carefully inculcated.
The Egyptian system has been designated priestly education.
In the seventh century before Christ a change took place in the educational practice of Egypt. Under Psammetichus, elements of Greek and Phænician culture were introduced. He concluded treaties with the Grecian states, and opened his cities to foreign commerce. His children were taught in the Grecian sciences. The Greek language formed for a time a subject of study.
At a still later period Alexandria attained to great prominence, and became the center not only of trade but also of culture for the Mediterranean states. As its culture, however, was cosmopolitan rather than Egyptian, embodying Grecian and Jewish elements to a large extent, it does not here demand further notice.