While the author goes on to praise the architectural precision of the construction, there is a clear moral message in the passage.
Figure 10 (page 87). This image conveys the size and impressiveness of the pyramids, as well as the desolation of the surrounding desert.
|Figure 11 (page 107). This obelisk is all that remains of a temple complex.|
Besides the pyramids one of the most enduring symbols of ancient Egypt is the Obelisk. The word obelisk is taken from the Greek obeliskos which is the diminutive of the Greek word obelos for needle. The monument ends with a pyramid atop a tall thin four sided shaft. In antiquity they were made from a single piece of stone. They are supposed to symbolize the sun god Re. During the reign of the "heretic" king Ankhenaten it was said to be a petrified ray of the sun disk. Many ancient Egyptian monuments can be found in Rome, and modern examples grace many other cities as well.The ruler Ursutasen in The Story of Nations is now known as Sensuret I, the second pharaoh of the 12th dynasty who ruled from 1971 - 1926 BC. He is well known for his building programs throughout Egypt and Nubia, including the temple of Re-Atum in Heliopolis. This city was the center of the cult of the sun. He erected two obelisks there. One remains and is the oldest example standing in Egypt. As Rawlinson states, the ruler issued a decree to build the temple:
The author of this book clearly has sympathy for the temple complex. Yet he did find that the construction of the temple complex, while technically astounding, was in some way immoral. It appears that the pyramid was regarded as a personal monument, and therefore indicative of vanity. In contrast a temple, at least to some degree, could be appreciated as public, at least to a Victorian understanding of the concept. Yet to the average inhabitant of ancient Egypt it is likely that both structures would have been appreciated in the same light. It is doubtful if just anyone would be able to gain access to the temple. In contrast, the burial chamber of the pyramid would be more democratic, as it would not be accessible to anyone. To the ancients the Pharaoh was a connection between humans and gods, and it probably appeared natural that he should be honored. Indeed, it is almost certain that the average ancient Egyptian felt considerable national pride in the fact that the ruler was so powerful. Whatever the case for social mores in antiquity, however, scholars cannot but color their writings with their personal prejudices that must be influenced by the social conventions of the time.The story of Abraham going to Egypt is given detailed treatment in this book. To escape a famine Abraham travels to Egypt, but he disguises the relationship with his wife and we read in the Bible that the ruler took Abraham's wife as his wife. This is clearly a dubious decision on the part of Abraham, but as the book states this, "...is a craft not unnatural in the Oriental, but certainly far from commendable" (p. 127). This action brought plagues upon the house of the ruler, and when the Pharaoh discerned the cause:
The last part of this passage is in italics because the author notes that this was not the only entrance of the Hebrews into Egypt. The story of Abraham did not apply to one person or a small household alone, but to wider movements of peoples.Ussher notes that the date of the famine was 1921 BC,(10) a date that fits in within the range found by modern scholarship. This date is not noted specifically by Rawlinson. Some archaeologists suggest, on the basis of surveys, that there were many settlements in cultivable valleys along the route of travel to Egypt in the 21st century BC, but that by the 19th century BC they were abandoned and generally not rebuilt in later periods.(11) Modern scholarship suggests that the time of the patriarchs should be placed in the early second millennium BC, or the Middle Bronze Age. Willian Foxwell Albright suggests that: