National Geographic : 1941 Oct
User-het Entertains COMPLACENT in his assurance of a blessed immortality, the ancient Egyptian was unawed by the prospect of death. His hearty version of the motto, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die," was said, as it has always been intended to be said, carelessly and cheerfully. His talent for enjoying the good things of this life was enormous, and his often elaborate parties were rollicking affairs indeed. Prodigious consumption of spiced wine and beer featured these banquets, and guests were urged repeatedly to drink long and deeply. Rich and heavy perfumes filled the ban quet hall, and garlands and bouquets of fresh flowers were everywhere to be seen. Brightly painted wine jars, and cups, bowls, and vases of gold, silver, and alabaster added a note of gaiety and opulence. Music was provided by orchestras of thinly clad girls, playing the double reed pipe, the three-stringed lute, the six stringed lyre, and the twenty-two-stringed harp, and beating out the time on big rectangular tambourines. As the feasts, formal and decorous at the outset, gathered momentum, the tinkly rhythms increased their tempo, and the dancers passed from slow, dignified posturings to wilder and more exciting movements, often culminating inaseries of leaps, somersaults, backflips, and hand-springs. All the while an armyofbutlers and serving girls cir culated among the guests, plying them with food ofevery description, flavoring theirdrinks with spices poured out of little silver pitchers, supplying them with fresh garlands and fresh cones of perfume,rearranging their elaborate, but often disordered clothing, and helping them inother ways. At the end of the partysome oftheparticipants had to be assisted, or even carried,totheir homes; but this was re garded as a compliment tothe hospitality ofthehost. Urging his master to make themost ofthefleeting hour, a harper at such an ancientEgyptian feast once sang: "Put unguent and fine oil together tothynostrils, And garlands and lotusflowers onthebody ofthybe loved, As she sitteth beside thee. Set singing and music before thyface. Cast all evil behind theeand bethink thee ofjoy, Until that day comethwhen onereacheth port In the land that lovethsilence."