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Professor SCHLEGEL'S HISTORY OF THE
ELEPHANT AND SPHINX; with Classical and Oriental Remarks.
In undertaking to add my contributions to the history of the Elephant, I allude to its history in the most extended sense. For there is not only a natural history of the Elephant, of which the Antediluvian forms an important part, but also a political and a military; and from the impression which this has made on men's minds have also arisen a mythological, a generic, and a literary, The possession of the Elepbant as the strongest of all beasts of burden, has been the mean of increasing the activity of commerce, and augmenting the warlike power of states : in numberless wars, Elephants have been the allies of the human race in the South of Asia in every age, and for some centuries past in those countries which encompass the Mediterranean Sea. The art of taming the Elephant and breaking bim into the purposes of war, which we may call the masterpiece of man's bold ingenuity in the exercise of his dominion over the brute creation, was practised in India from an indefinitely remote antiquity :—there it was original and exclusively native. When a similar attempt was, afterwards, made in different countries of Africa, it arose from the instructions in the art, which they had received in India; it by no means originated in the natives of the land, who were deficient in adequate means and motives, but in the more polished people who had settled there.
In Natural History, the Indian Elephants have very generally been confounded with the African : not long since, however, a celebrated Naturalist accurately determined the essential difference
VOL. XXX. Cl. JI. NO. LX. O
between these two species of the same genus. The ancients, indeed, were aware that the Indian Elephant, at least in those regions which were accessible to them, surpassed the African in size, in strength, and in courage. The Indian Elephant was, in general, in higher repute, inasmuch as for thousauds of years he had been the territorial partner of men wlio koew how to tax his capabilities, and who possessed the most correct judgment not only relating to the beautiful, but also to the formidable productions of nature. The Indian mythology is the only one knowp to us, wherein the Elephant occupies an importaut post, and where a sort of apotheosis is partly conceded to him. In the architectural remains of India, we not only discover him frequently introduced in sculptures of basso and alto-relievo: but he is blended iu the whole of the decorations, and bears artificially formed masses of rock, as a colossal Caryatides. The ancient heroic poems celebrate him as the constant follower of kings and heroes. We may generally remark, that to the allegorical imagery of the poets colossal figures were continually present:-hence many favorite representations were derived, and proverbial expressions which betray an intimate acquaintance with, as it were, the rational properties of the animal :-in fact, a certain reverence is expressed in his manifold appellatives, which may have arisen from a conjecture of the rank, which the Elephant may have formerly possessed in another' state of our planet among the creatures that lived upon it. On the contrary, the African Elephant partly inhabits insearchable wildernesses; he scarcely accounts the Lion of the desert a more worthy opponent, than those weak beasts, whose miserable habitations he tramples under his feet, without even remarking it. The Indian Elephant is an Achilles, who has found his Homer : to the African, on the contrary, may be applied the complaint of Alexander the Great, that the deeds of heroes may be lost without the praise of the bard.
In our western part of the world, the Elephant was not early known, in general, but he was known in a far more luminous man
He was introduced to science by the deepest and acutest of observers to the art of war by the most noble of all conquerors ; and the knowlege of this distinguished animal, which is unique in his kind, for ever unites itself with the great names of Aristotle and Alexander. In subsequent centuries, also, when Elephants appeared in increased numbers on the theatre of the world's history, the mention of them (through what divine dispensation I know pot) is frequently combined with the memory of the most illustrious men, and the most brilliani events.
First of all, for the sake of beginning with the earliest of the
| The Antediluvian.
ancients, it is most worthy of remark (as it appears to me) that in the Egyptian remains, not even the smallest trace of an acquaintance with the Elephant appears, notwithstanding in a neighboring country, the upper Æthiopia, he ever has been and still is a native. We have subsequent accounts of the Elephant-hunts of the Ptolemies:- the prætors, whom Nero sent to explore Æthiopia, reported,' that they found traces of the Elephant just above Meroë. The Egyptian priests were very attentive to all the productions of nature, which might be useful or detrimental to mankind ; and we may reasonably conceive, that among the enormous buildings which they were continually undertaking, where the removal of huge masses of stone must have taken place by land, if they had such a beast of burden, they would have been able to have made good use of him, and to have easily supported bim with the superfluity of their corn. But, laying aside the possibility of taming the Élephant, how came it to pass, that they neglected to describe in sculpture so remarkable a colossal figure, if it was known to them, aud did not introduce it, as a suitable ornament for their temples and palaces ? that they did not take it as an emblem among their hieroglyphics? Egypt was fortunate in its scarcity of wild beasts;?
- the few which were there, were in many different ways represented in basso-relievo; not only the Crocodile and the Hippopotamus, but even those, which more rarely appeared, as the Wolf or Jackal. Among the Egyptian sculptures, the form of the Camelopardalis,y too true to be mistaken, is even discovered. This could only have been brought into Egypt as an exhibition; yet, indeed, it is more easily taught by the uncivilised inhabitants of inner Africa, than the formidable Elephant, totally unprovided as he is, with the means of rapid flight. There are not even any Lions in Egypt: the Lion-hunts, of which we have such 4 splendid representations, must, therefore, be supposed to have occurred in the Libyan territories: nevertheless, the Lion, either in his unmixed form, or in one coupled with that of other beasts, was a favorite object of ancient Egyptian sculpture. These Lions, as well as those on Diocletian's baths at Rome, are of such excellent workmauship, and their peculiar properties are executed in such masterly style, that they presuppose a peaceful and undisturbed observation of the babits of the animal on the part of the artist. Beyond doubt, therefore, the Egyptian kings maintained Lions in
1 Plin. Hist. Nat. l. vi. c. 19.
2 Herod. ij. c. 65.. 3 See the French description of Egypt, Antiquités, T. i. Planche 95. No. 7. This basso-relievo was found in a temple at flermonthis, just above Thebes, therefore, certainly, on a very old monument.
4 Description de l’Egypte, Antiquités, T. ii. Plancbe 9, on the Royal Palace at Thebes.
their menageries. Why then not the Elephant likewise, as a foreign and amazing curiosity, if he had been accessible by them?
On all points, it is agreed, that the alluvial soil of Egypt was a deposit of the Nile; and probably we must acknowlege this soil to bave been so old, as to have kept equal pace with the geogenetical' development of the land. So, in proportion as the under channel or valley of the hill emerged from the morass, by means of the continued alluvies of the river, the population of the country appears to have followed, in precisely the same degree. But, as to the geographical point, from whence we must imagine the formation of Egypt properly so called to have commenced, opinions are greatly divided. Many critics may choose to trace the whole up to Æthiopia ; but, I confess, that I can assent to no such an idea. It is apparent from many circumstances, that the boundary of the Egyptians on the side of the Æthiopians was extremely confined. We must in this case presume, that they had neighbors, and totally forgot their civilisation, notwithstanding there was no such an insurmountable chasm between the two places to have occasioned it, which in a people, who so carefully preserved their ancient traditions, can in no way be believed. In my opinion, their ignorance of the Elephant throws no unimportant weight into the scale of arguments, which may be produced on both sides.
Much earlier than the Elephant himself, ivory was known as a costly spoil won froin the dead animal, in those lands, within whose territory our ancient history of the world is circumscribed. Accordingly, of this I discern a vestige even in the geography of Egypt; I allude to the name of the city Elephantine, which was situated in an island on the Nile, over against Syene. It is clear, that all the Greek names of Egyptian cities before the time of Alexander the Great originated with the Ionians, who had settled in Egypt under Psammetichus, or with the race of interpreters who sprang up in consequence of this settlement; and we may boldly assert, that the Greek name expressed the sense of the original: yet I am persuaded that we must not understand Elephantine as the city of Elephants, (what could these bave had to do with a rocky islet on the Nile ?) but as the city of Ivory. Nothing is more natural, than that the inhabitants of upper Æthiopia came as far as ibis southern limit, to exchange their Elephauts' teeth for other ware. The acute Bochart ? imagives
Geogenischen entwickelung des Landes. 2 Hierozvic. I. ii. c. 23. “Sed olim utrosque (Æthiopes et Ægyptios) aut alterutros elephantum phil appellasse, ex eo mihi suspicio est, quod Phila urbs in Ægypti et Æthiopiæ confiniis, ex Herodoto et Plinio videtur eadem esse cum aliorum Elephantine.”
Elephantine to be one and the same place as Philæ, as if this had been its name in a former Egyptian translation. Hence, therefore, it would incontestably seem, that the Elephant, or at least ivory, bore, as in Egypt, a widely-extended name in the East, to wbich I shall, in the sequel, retrace it. Herodotus merely calls Philæ the city Elephantine : Strabo, who had travelled through this region, accurately distinguishes the two : Elephantine lay below the cataracts, Philæ above them, a hundred stadia farther on the land side, also, in an island on the Nile. However, it is not improbable that both places, on account of a similar appropriation, as staple marts of the Æthiopian trade, bore one and the same
The Æthiopians could descend the Nile as far as Philæ, where they must have unladed their wares on account of the Cataracts, and brought them by land to Elephantine, where, again, they might have shipped them. It is also conceivable, that the Ionians named the city which lay the nearest to them in their own language, but left to the rarely frequented Philæ its Egyptian name. Jomard,” in his excellent description of Elephantine, supposes with Bochart, that the names of Philæ and Elephantine are synonymous in Egyptian and Greek, and that as a general title they designated the whole island-group of the Cataracts. He attempts by very sensible arguments to show, that Herodotus intended by the city Elephantine the Philæ of Strabo. The intricate passage in Pliny 3 is rather favorable than opposed to this opinion; consequently, Bochart is correct to a certain degree.
We must not in this place forget to observe, that the word élégas, which the Romans derived immediately from the Greeks, and the nations of modern Europe from them, does by no means originally signify in Greek the Elephant, but simply, Ivory. In which last sense it frequently occurs in Homer, and once in Hesiod; from whence it is proved, that ivory bad long been well known to the Greeks of this period, i. e. from 800 to 900 years before our æra. They 4 understood the art of dressing and turning it. The Mæonians and Carian women dyed it here and there with purple, for the sake of increasing the effect of its glossy whiteness; and thus ornamented it was used as the cheek-part of horse-harness. The nuptial couch of Ulysses, and the chair of
'Through the never to be sufficiently praised labors of the French savans, every one may now ascertain the situation of both places and their remains, as accurately as if he had been on the spot. Refer to the topographical chart of the course of the Nile in the neighborhood of the Cataracts. Descr. de l'Egypte, Antiquités, T. i. Pl. 30, and the description in the first volume of the text.
? Descr. de l'Egypte, Antiquités T. i. c. 3. §. 6.
5 II. iv. 141 seq.