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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/800

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

EDUCATION IN ANCIENT EGYPT.
By F. C. H. WENDEL, A. M., Ph. D.

THE first state to recognize the necessity of education was ancient Egypt. The period referred to here is from 4000 b. c. to the time of Christ; but it is only of about fifteen hundred years of this period—2530-1000 B.C.—that we know the educational conditions. But education here was not popular education. The ancient Egyptians had no care of the populace; they educated only their officials. The government consisted of the departments of state, treasury, and justice. Each of these departments had its own schools, in which young men were trained for the work of the department; but it is only of the treasury schools that we know anything, and of these we do not know any details. Besides these department schools of the general government, there was a number of department schools in the various nomes into which Egypt was divided.[1] These schools did not purpose to give their pupils a liberal education, but merely to train up competent officials, and in this they succeeded admirably. The efficiency of the various departments is traceable, to a great extent, to the excellent training their officials received in these schools.

It is a significant fact that all boys, rich or poor, of lofty or humble birth, were received into these schools. In the earliest times, boys born on the same day with the prince royal were educated together with him; but in later times this custom was stopped, possibly because the prince royal attended the same department schools as those of humbler parentage. No distinction of castes existed, and no discrimination was made, either by the teachers or the government, between scribes (i.e., students or officials) of lofty birth and those of humbler antecedents. It is true that in ancient Egypt, as everywhere else, influence went a great way after a young man had entered the actual service of the government; but it is equally true that specially efficient officials of lowly birth advanced step by step to the highest offices in the gift of the government. All, the rich as well as the poor, advanced step by step from the lower offices to the higher, the prince royal being compelled to go through the same course of training and to advance through the same offices as the laborer's son, though, of course, his progress was more rapid, and in the end he

  1. Egypt was not always what it appears in historic times, a political whole; on the contrary, we have abundant proof that it was for a long while divided into two nations, the north and south countries, which were by Mena, about 4000 B.C., united under one scepter, much as Sweden and Norway are to-day. Each of these two countries, again, was a composite product, the resultant of the union of various small districts which we are accustomed to call nomes. These nomes retained all through antiquity a certain autonomy, having their own governments modeled after the general government, and their hereditary rulers.