In this volume the myths and legends of ancient Egypt are embraced in a historical narrative which begins with the rise of the great Nilotic civilization and ends with the Græco−Roman Age. The principal deities are dealt with chiefly at the various periods in which they came into prominence, while the legends are so arranged as to throw light on the beliefs and manners and customs of the ancient people. Metrical renderings are given of such of the representative folk songs and poems as can be appreciated at the present day. Heliopolis, "the city of the sun", is called On in the Bible. It was there that Moses was educated, and became"mighty in word and in deed". Joseph had previously married, at On, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, a priest of the sun temple, the site of which, at modern Matarieh, is marked by an erect obelisk of greaterantiquity even than the "Needle". Near by are a holy well and a holy tree, long invested with great sanctity by local tradition. Coptic Christians and native Mohammedans still relate that when Joseph and Mary fled with the infant Christ into Egypt, to escape the fierce King Herod, they rested under the tree, and that Mary washed in the well the swaddling clothes of the holy child. When "Cleopatra's Needle" was erected at On, which is also called Beth−shemesh , "the house of the sungod", in the Hebrew Scriptures, the priests taught classes of students in the temple colleges. For about thirty centuries the city was the Oxford of Egypt. Eudoxus and Plato, in the course of their travels, visited the priestly professors and heard them lecture. As ancient tradition has credited Egypt with the origin of geometry, Euclid, the distinguished mathematician, who belonged to the brilliant Alexandria school, no doubt also paid a pilgrimage to the ancient seat of learning. When he was a student he must have been familiar with our "Needle"; perhaps he puzzled over it as much as some of us have puzzled over his problems.
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