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36 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

 

what nature has here gratuitously provided. True it is that the annual layer, contrary to popular belief, is exceedingly thin, aggregating only about four and a half inches in a century; but, notwithstanding the small amount of matter actually deposited, the soil of the valley, lying for so long a period under the fertilizing water, comes forth after each inundation fresh and fecund as though still warm from creation. Such a soil no cultivation can exhaust no abuse destroy. The cooling of the air by the immense body of water which rolls through the valley, and the

complete saturation of the earth with the flood in the very crisis of summer, when all the circumjacent countries are burned to a crisp, constitute the two essential advantages which Egypt has immemorially enjoyed. To these facts she owes her preeminence in ancient history. Notwithstanding her rainless climate, and the gleaming blue of her cloudless skies, Egypt, nourished and sustained, watered and cooled, by the munificence of her solitary river, offered to the primitive race of men the most luxuriant and beautiful home of all the habitable globe.

 

CHAPTER II-THE PEOPLE.

THE origin of the ancient Egyptians is involved in the same obscurity that clouds the early history of most races. One by one the ancient peoples emerge from the shadows but the source of their emergence is hidden in the vapor and mist of the dawn. Races, like men, have no recollection of their own infancy and childhood.

It is now generally agreed that at a very remote period an aboriginal population, feeble in numbers and prowess, was displaced in Egypt by bands of immigrants from Asia; that these immigrants belonged to a white race, and that they were not Semites or Negroes. It appears that the incursive tribe came in full force, and that the invaders were not modified to any considerable degree by the influence of the original population of the country. The early inhabitants of the Nile valley and of the district drained by Its tributaries were as clearly distinguished from the well-known Nigritian types of Africa as were any of the white peoples of Asia.

The motives for the coming of these white Asiatics into North-eastern Africa were the same which usually induce tribal migrations namely, overcrowding in the original seats of the tribe, the predatory and adventurous impulse, and those strange cosmic influences which draw all the tendrils of animal and vegetable life towards the West. The law appears to be world-wide in its operation.

Be this as it may, there is no reason to doubt that the immigrant tribes that peopled Egypt were thrown into that country by the same impulses which in successive ages carried into Europe the Celtic, the Hellenic, and the Teutonic races; and the influence of the aborigines in forming the new nationality of Egypt was not greater than that of the primitive peoples north of the Mediterranean upon the in- vaders of those countries. Doubtless the principal motive which impelled the Asiatic bands towards Egypt was conquest, and the course of their movements from the lower part of the valley southward is distinctly marked. The record of their advances through Lower, Middle and Upper Egypt is unmistakable, and the evidence thus afforded gives a complete refutation to the theory that the ancient inhabit- ants of the country were the descendants of the Ethiopians. On the contrary, it is definitely established that the valley of the Nile and the greater part of the northern coast of Africa, as far south as the hill-country of Abyssinia, were settled by a people who in color, language, and institutions were wholly different from the black races of the interior.

It is probable, therefore, that the ancient Egyptians were, ethnically considered, a branch of that Cushite family of Asiatic