Guest Lecturer: Hattem Massouba
Part of the fun of having a blog is that you can get many different people sharing their ideas on how they see the world. I was fortunate to have Hattem Hassouba share his article that he posted on Academia.edu. The article is conversational in style, and brings up Egyptians of political, philosophical, and literary note, and makes an interesting premise that the Romans were waiting for a goddess such as Isis to fill something lacking in their own society.
Mr. Hassouba studied Economics and Political Sciences at Cairo University. He lives in Cairo, Egypt.
The following article was posted by permission of the author.
The Essence of Egypt
by Hattem Hassouba
After a brief review of Egyptian history in particular, and world history in general, I will try to reach to a proper and an appropriate definition to the word “ Egypt”.
Before I start, I am obliged to admit that I won’t add much, to the contributions of the great men of science and thought, like the late Gamal Hemddan; the geographer, Selim Hassan; the archaeologist, Hussein Moeness; the historian, Salama Mussa; the philosopher-historian, Tawfik Al Hakim; the philosopher-novelist, Taha Hussein; the philosopher-novelist, Muhammad Hussein Heikal; the philosopher diplomat, Ahmad Lotfy Al Sayed; the father of Egyptian Liberalism, and many others of worth. And if you find me claiming that I added to them, please don’t continue reading the following lines. My thoughts took me back to a debate which took place in 1994 between myself and the late Dr. Milad Hanna, the philosopher architect, about a historical fact of ancient history, this debate took place during a lecture he delivered at the Institute of Diplomatic Studies to junior cadets of the foreign service.
This historical fact is : Rome worshipped Isis, but the debate didn’t develop into discussing the root causes behind Rome’s adherence to the cult of Isis. The Queen of the Egyptian ancient pantheon. Allow me to share with you my personal interpretation of this historical fact :Who is Isis ? The ideal mother, the faithful-loving wife, the reincarnation of Mother Nature, the power of magic, the symbol of fecundity and fertility, the savior of the oppressed, the beacon that guides the astray, the muse of poets and artists, the forgiver of sinners, not only that; but also the goddess of wealth and the aggrandizer of the rich class’ wealth and assets, as long as they stick to the righteous path and benevolence to the poor. In other words Isis is the personification of tenderness, cuddling, security, safety, wealthand fecundity. A personification of the narrow, yet fertile valley, which hugs and sculpts, the features, the genes, the sinues and the traditions of the Egyptian nation.
Why did Rome establish a temple for Isis in Campus Martius? And why particularly Campus Martius; the military training camp and barracks, named after Mars, the Roman god of war? What has Isis got to do with war? Campus Martius is located on the low-lying plain between the river Tiber and the Quirinal Hill in the city of Rome. The temple for Isis is from around the time of Emperor Caligula (12AD-41AD), who was considered as one of Rome’s most successful generals and one of her most beloved public figures, in spite of his late insanity and tyrannical way of rule. Caligula was the third Roman emperor after Augustus and Tiberius.
I found out that the answer to the above mentioned questions is a lot easier than I thought. Simply put, it is nostalgia for, and yearning to, tenderness and passion. The Roman society was basically a militaristic-expansionist society, who survived by means of perpetual war, thus perpetually living under stress as well as brutal and harsh conditions, it even resorted to violence and blood-shed in leisure and sports. Not denying of course that they were great engineers and legislators. So it could be logically deduced, from a psychological perspective, that, as human beings, the Romans must have yearned to experience a bit of tenderness and passion.
On the other hand, when the Roman invading legions collided with other cultures and civilizations, they discovered that most of the deities and holy figures of these cultures and civilizations were mostly gods of war and brutality who had to be placated by means of blood-shed and human sacrifice until they become fully satiated, from the perspective of those who believed in them, the only exception to these cultures and civilizations was to be found in Egypt. Only in Egypt, did the Romans find the meaning tenderness and passion, personficated in Isis the Goddess of all sublime human emotions. Not just that, even Sekhmet the goddess of war, was also a goddess of motherhood and child-birth. Nowhere else in the vast Romans empire could such deities be found. For the first time in its history the Roman mind finally came to taste the flavor of tenderness , love and passion, and this happened on Egyptian sacred soil. Even further, in spite of the fertility of the soil of the soil of the Italian peninsula, and many other regions and provinces of the Roman empire, Rome didn’t feel entirely secure, from the perspective of alimentary security, until it annexed Egypt, the granary of the world, which was self-sufficient in grain production from the dawn of its history until 1965.In spite of being occupied militarily, Egypt occupied the thought , the beliefs, and the creed of its occupying powers, she also endowed them with her style of attire, her unique architectural designs, her system of administration, and most important of all she gave them the answer to a long perplexing question : Is there an after Life ? Moreover, Egypt was the cradle of Greek civilization, philosophy and thought. Thus, the cradle of the whole western civilization, but that’s another story, sufficient it is to say that she was the principal chapter of the first recorded history scroll in the world, Histories,written by the father of recorded history; Herodotus.
Egypt was the main target of every empire builder , the core of his imperial glory, the means of his survival, and part and parcel of his development. In this context, I urge you to read about the impact of Egyptian cotton on British Textile Industry, The bedrock of the Industrial Revolution, during the Victorian era, the zenith of British imperial might and glory. Read about the cause behind the architectural boom in Constantinople in the 16th century, it was the work of Egyptian masons and builders who were forcedly relocated there to add to the glory of the fledgling Ottoman Empire. Take a look at contemporary Paris, almost a third of its landmarks, sites, monuments and museum exhibitions is Egyptian, and ask yourself this question: Why did one of France’s greatest leaders was nicknamed “THE SPHINX”; the late president Francois Mitterand. One more thing before I conclude, take a look at the impact of the simple, yet majestic, architectural designs of the late innovated architect Dr. Hassan Fathy, in the United States, Greece, and the Gulf countries. A unique style inspired by the Nubian one, which could have saved us ages of accumulated ugliness and pollution had it been adopted since its inception.
This is the meaning of the word “Egypt”, and I again I frankly confirm that I haven’t added anything new to what have been written before by the above mentioned geniuses.