In the same reign, according to Strabo, the Asiatic Greeks obtained a settlement at Naucratis, the ancient emporium of Egypt; and the communication, once begun, rapidly increased, until in the subsequent time of Amasis (B. C. 569) we find the Ionians, the Dorians, the Aeolians of Asia, and even the people of Aegina and Samos , building temples and offering worship amid the jealous and mystic priestcrafts of the Nile. This familiar and advantageous intercourse with a people whom the Greeks themselves considered the wisest on the earth, exercised speedy and powerful effect upon their religion and their art. In the first it operated immediately upon their modes of divination and their mystic rites - in the last, the influence was less direct. It is true that they probably learned from the Egyptians many technical rules in painting and in sculpture; they learned how to cut the marble and to blend the colours, but their own genius taught them how to animate the block and vivify the image. We have seen already, that before this event, art had attained to a certain eminence among the Greeks - fortunately, therefore, what they now acquired was not the foundation of their lore. Grafted on a Grecian stock, every shoot bore Grecian fruit: and what was borrowed from mechanism was reproduced in beauty . As with the arts, so with the SCIENCES; we have reason to doubt whether the Egyptian sages, whose minds were swathed and bandaged in the cerements of hereditary rules, never to swell out of the slavery of castes, had any very sound and enlightened philosophy to communicate: their wisdom was probably exaggerated by the lively and credulous Greeks, awed by the mysticism of the priests, the grandeur of the cities, the very rigidity, so novel to them, of imposing and antique custom. What, then, was the real benefit of the intercourse? Not so much in satisfying as in arousing and stimulating the curiosity of knowledge. Egypt, to the Greeks, was as America to Europe - the Egyptians taught them little, but Egypt much. And that what the Egyptians did directly communicate was rather the material for improvement than the improvement itself, this one gift is an individual example and a general type; - the Egyptians imparted to the Greeks the use of the papyrus - the most easy and popular material for writing; we are thus indebted to Egypt for a contrivance that has done much to preserve to us - much, perhaps, to create for us - a Plato and an Aristotle; but for the thoughts of Aristotle and Plato we are indebted to Greece alone: - the material Egyptian - the manufacture Greek.
XI. The use of the papyrus had undoubtedly much effect upon the formation of prose composition in Greece, but it was by no means an instantaneous one. At the period on which we now enter (about B. C. 600), the first recorded prose Grecian writer had not composed his works. The wide interval between prose in its commencement and poetry in its perfection is peculiarly Grecian; many causes conspired to produce it, but the principal one was, that works, if written, being not the less composed to be recited, not read - were composed to interest and delight, rather than formally to instruct. Poetry was, therefore, so obviously the best means to secure the end of the author, that we cannot wonder to find that channel of appeal universally chosen; the facility with which the language formed itself into verse, and the license that appears to have been granted to the gravest to assume a poetical diction without attempting the poetical spirit, allowed even legislators and moralists to promulgate precepts and sentences in the rhythm of a Homer and a Hesiod. And since laws were not written before the time of Draco, it was doubly necessary that they should he cast in that fashion by which words are most durably impressed on the memory of the multitude. Even on Solon's first appearance in public life, when he inspires the Athenians to prosecute the war with Megara, he addresses the passions of the crowd, not by an oration, but a poem; and in a subsequent period, when prose composition had become familiar, it was still in verse that Hipparchus communicated his moral apothegms. The origin of prose in Greece is, therefore, doubly interesting as an epoch, not only in the intellectual, but also in the social state. It is clear that it would not commence until a reading public was created; and until, amid the poetical many, had sprung up the grave and studious few. Accordingly, philosophy, orally delivered, preceded prose composition - and Thales taught before Pherecydes wrote . To the superficial it may seem surprising that literature, as distinct from poetry, should commence with the most subtle and laborious direction of the human intellect: yet so it was, not only in Greece, but almost universally. In nearly all countries, speculative conjecture or inquiry is the first successor to poetry. In India, in China, in the East, some dim philosophy is the characteristic of the earliest works - sometimes inculcating maxims of morality - sometimes allegorically shadowing forth, sometimes even plainly expressing, the opinions of the author on the mysteries of life - of nature - of the creation. Even with the moderns, the dawn of letters broke on the torpor of the dark ages of the North in speculative disquisition; the Arabian and the Aristotelian subtleties engaged the attention of the earliest cultivators of modern prose (as separated from poetic fiction), and the first instinct of the awakened reason was to grope through the misty twilight after TRUTH. Philosophy precedes even history; men were desirous of solving the enigmas of the world, before they disentangled from tradition the chronicles of its former habitants.