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The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Further Adventures of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle

Egyptian [mythology]

by Wilhelm Max Müller


A minor problem is the question of transliterating Egyptian words and names, most of which are written in so abbreviated a fashion that their pronunciation, especially in the case of the vowels, always remains dubious unless we have a good later tradition of their sound. It is quite as though the abbreviation "st." (= "street") were well known to persons having no acquaintance with English to mean something like "road," but without any indication as to its pronunciation. Foreigners would be compelled to guess whether the sound of the word were set, sat, seta, sola, etc., or este, usot, etc., since there is absolutely nothing to suggest the true pronunciation "street." A great part of the Egyptian vocabulary is known only in this way, and in many instances we must make the words pronounceable by arbitrarily assigning vowel sounds, etc., to them. Accordingly I have thought it better to follow popular mispronunciations like Nut than to try Newet, Neyewet, and other unsafe attempts, and even elsewhere I have sacrificed correctness to simplicity where difficulty might be experienced by a reader unfamiliar with some Oriental systems of writing. It should be borne in mind that Sekhauit and Uzoit, for example, might more correctly be written S(e)kh'ewyet, Wezoyet, and that e is often used as a mere filler where the true vowel is quite unknown.

Sometimes we can prove that the later Egyptians themselves misread the imperfect hieroglyphs, but for the most part we must retain these mispronunciations, even though we are conscious of their slight value. All this will explain why any two Egyptologists so rarely agree in their transcriptions. Returning in despair to old-fashioned methods of conventionalizing transcription, I have sought to escape these difficulties rather than to solve them.

In the transliteration kh has the value of the Scottish or German ch; h is a voiceless laryngeal spirant — a rough, wheezing, guttural sound; q is an emphatic k, formed deep in the throat (Hebrew p);' is a strange, voiced laryngeal explosive (Hebrew y); t is an assibilated / (German z); z is used here as a rather inexact substitute for the peculiar Egyptian pronunciation of the emphatic Semitic s (Hebrew It, in Egyptian sounding like ts, for which no single type can be made).

For those who may be unfamiliar with the history of Egypt it will here be sufficient to say that its principal divisions (disregarding the intermediate periods) are: the Old Empire (First to Sixth Dynasties), about 3400 to 2500 B.c.; the Middle Empire (Eleventh to Thirteenth Dynasties), about 2200 to 1700 B.c.; the New Empire (Eighteenth to Twenty-Sixth Dynasties), about 1600 to 525 B. c.

Pictures which could not be photographed directly from books have been drawn by my daughter; Figs. 13, 65 (b) are taken from scarabs in my possession.

Since space does not permit full references to the monuments, I have omitted these wherever I follow the present general knowledge and where the student can verify these views from the indexes of the more modern literature which I quote. References have been limited, so far as possible, to observations which are new or less well known. Although I have sought to be brief and simple in my presentation of Egyptian mythology, my study contains a large amount of original research. I have sought to emphasize two principles more than has been done hitherto: (a) the comparative view — Egyptian religion had by no means so isolated a growth as has generally been assumed; (b) as in many other religions, its doctrines often found a greater degree of expression in religious art than in religious literature, so that modern interpreters should make more use of the Egyptian pictures. Thus I trust not only that this book will fill an urgent demand for a reliable popular treatise on this subject, but that for scholars also it will mark a step in advance toward a better understanding of Egypt's most interesting bequest to posterity.


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