This eBook was produced by David Widger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author’s ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]
By Georg Ebers
THE HISTORICAL ROMANCES OF GEORG EBERS
A ROMANCE OF ANCIENT EGYPT
Translated from the German by Clara Bell
Thou knowest well from what this book arose.
When suffering seized and held me in its clasp
Thy fostering hand released me from its grasp,
And from amid the thorns there bloomed a rose.
Air, dew, and sunshine were bestowed by Thee,
And Thine it is; without these lines from me.
In the winter of 1873 I spent some weeks in one of the tombs of the
Necropolis of Thebes in order to study the monuments of that solemn city
of the dead; and during my long rides in the silent desert the germ was
developed whence this book has since grown. The leisure of mind and body
required to write it was given me through a long but not disabling
In the first instance I intended to elucidate this story—like my
“Egyptian Princess”—with numerous and extensive notes placed at the end;
but I was led to give up this plan from finding that it would lead me to
the repetition of much that I had written in the notes to that earlier
The numerous notes to the former novel had a threefold purpose. In the
first place they served to explain the text; in the second they were a
guarantee of the care with which I had striven to depict the
archaeological details in all their individuality from the records of the
monuments and of Classic Authors; and thirdly I hoped to supply the
reader who desired further knowledge of the period with some guide to his
In the present work I shall venture to content myself with the simple
statement that I have introduced nothing as proper to Egypt and to the
period of Rameses that cannot be proved by some authority; the numerous
monuments which have descended to us from the time of the Rameses, in
fact enable the enquirer to understand much of the aspect and arrangement
of Egyptian life, and to follow it step try step through the details of
religious, public, and private life, even of particular individuals. The
same remark cannot be made in regard to their mental life, and here many
an anachronism will slip in, many things will appear modern, and show the
coloring of the Christian mode of thought.
Every part of this book is intelligible without the aid of notes; but,
for the reader who seeks for further enlightenment, I have added some
foot-notes, and have not neglected to mention such works as afford more
detailed information on the subjects mentioned in the narrative.
The reader who wishes to follow the mind of the author in this work
should not trouble himself with the notes as he reads, but merely at the
beginning of each chapter read over the notes which belong to the
foregoing one. Every glance at the foot-notes must necessarily disturb
and injure the development of the tale as a work of art. The story
stands here as it flowed from one fount, and was supplied with notes only
after its completion.
A narrative of Herodotus combined with the Epos of Pentaur, of which so
many copies have been handed down to us, forms the foundation of the
The treason of the Regent related by the Father of history is referable
perhaps to the reign of the third and not of the second Rameses. But it
is by no means certain that the Halicarnassian writer was in this case
misinformed; and in this fiction no history will be inculcated, only as a
background shall I offer a sketch of the time of Sesostris, from a
picturesque point of view, but with the nearest possible approach to
truth. It is true that to this end nothing has been neglected that could
be learnt from the monuments or the papyri; still the book is only a
romance, a poetic fiction, in which I wish all the facts derived from
history and all the costume drawn from the monuments to be regarded as
incidental, and the emotions of the actors in the story as what I attach
But I must be allowed to make one observation. From studying the
conventional mode of execution of ancient Egyptian art—which was
strictly subject to the hieratic laws of type and proportion—we have
accustomed ourselves to imagine the inhabitants of the Nile-valley in the
time of the Pharaohs as tall and haggard men with little distinction of
individual physiognomy, and recently a great painter has sought to
represent them under this aspect in a modern picture. This is an error;
the Egyptians, in spite of their aversion to foreigners and their strong
attachment to their native soil, were one of the most intellectual and
active people of antiquity; and he who would represent them as they
lived, and to that end copies the forms which remain painted on the walls
of the temples and sepulchres, is the accomplice of those priestly
corrupters of art who compelled the painters and sculptors of the
Pharaonic era to abandon truth to nature in favor of their sacred laws of
He who desires to paint the ancient Egyptians with truth and fidelity,
must regard it in some sort as an act of enfranchisement; that is to say,
he must release the conventional forms from those fetters which were
peculiar to their art and altogether foreign to their real life. Indeed,
works of sculpture remain to us of the time of the first pyramid, which
represent men with the truth of nature, unfettered by the sacred canon.
We can recall the so-called “Village Judge” of Bulaq, the “Scribe” now in
Paris, and a few figures in bronze in different museums, as well as the
noble and characteristic busts of all epochs, which amply prove how great
the variety of individual physiognomy, and, with that, of individual
character was among the Egyptians. Alma Tadelna in London and Gustav
Richter in Berlin have, as painters, treated Egyptian subjects in a
manner which the poet recognizes and accepts with delight.
Many earlier witnesses than the late writer Flavius Vopiscus might be
referred to who show us the Egyptians as an industrious and peaceful
people, passionately devoted it is true to all that pertains to the other
world, but also enjoying the gifts of life to the fullest extent, nay
sometimes to excess.
Real men, such as we see around us in actual life, not silhouettes
constructed to the old priestly scale such as the monuments show us—real
living men dwelt by the old Nile-stream; and the poet who would represent
them must courageously seize on types out of the daily life of modern men
that surround him, without fear of deviating too far from reality, and,
placing them in their own long past time, color them only and clothe them
to correspond with it.
I have discussed the authorities for the conception of love which I have
ascribed to the ancients in the preface to the second edition of “An
With these lines I send Uarda into the world; and in them I add my thanks
to those dear friends in whose beautiful home, embowered in green, bird-
haunted woods, I have so often refreshed my spirit and recovered my
strength, where I now write the last words of this book.
Rheinbollerhutte, September 22, 1876.
TO THE FIFTH GERMAN EDITION.
The earlier editions of “Uarda” were published in such rapid succession,
that no extensive changes in the stereotyped text could be made; but from
the first issue, I have not ceased to correct it, and can now present to
the public this new fifth edition as a “revised” one.
Having felt a constantly increasing affection for “Uarda” during the time
I was writing, the friendly and comprehensive attention bestowed upon it
by our greatest critics and the favorable reception it met with in the
various classes of society, afforded me the utmost pleasure.
I owe the most sincere gratitude to the honored gentlemen, who called my
attention to certain errors, and among them will name particularly
Professor Paul Ascherson of Berlin, and Dr. C. Rohrbach of Gotha. Both
will find their remarks regarding mistakes in the geographical location
of plants, heeded in this new edition.
The notes, after mature deliberation, have been placed at the foot of the