A multitude of richly-dressed slaves under direction of the high-steward, busied themselves in handing these dishes to the guests, who, either standing around, or reclining on sumptuous seats, entertained themselves in conversation with their friends.
Both sexes and all ages were to be found in this assembly. As the women entered, they received charming little nosegays from the young priests in the personal service of the king, and many a youth of high degree appeared in the hall with flowers, which he not only offered to her he loved best, but held up for her to smell.
The Egyptian men, who were dressed as we have already seen them at the reception of the Persian embassy, behaved towards the women with a politeness that might almost be termed submissive. Among the latter few could pretend to remarkable beauty, though there were many bewitching almond-shaped eyes, whose loveliness was heightened by having their lids dyed with the eye-paint called “mestem.” The majority wore their hair arranged in the same manner; the wealth of waving brown locks floated back over the shoulders and was brushed behind the ears, one braid being left on each side to hang over the temples to the breast. A broad diadem confined these locks, which as the maids knew, were quite as often the wig-maker’s work as Nature’s. Many ladies of the court wore above their foreheads a lotus-flower, whose stem drooped on the hair at the back.
They carried fans of bright feathers in their delicate hands. These were loaded with rings; the finger-nails were stained red, according to Egyptian custom, and gold or silver bands were worn above the elbow, and at the wrists and ankles.
[This custom (of staining finger-nails) is still prevalent in the East; the plant Shenna, Laosonia spinosa, called by Pliny XIII. Cyprus, being used for the purpose. The Egyptian government has prohibited the dye, but it will be difficult to uproot the ancient custom. The pigment for coloring the eyelids, mentioned in the text, is also still employed. The Papyrus Ebers alludes to the Arabian kohl or antimony, which is frequently mentioned under the name of “mestem” on monuments belonging to the time of the Pharaohs.]
Their robes were beautiful and costly, and in many cases so cut as to leave the right breast uncovered. Bartja, the young Persian prince, among the men, and Nitetis, the Pharaoh’s daughter, among the women, were equally conspicuous for their superior beauty, grace and charms. The royal maiden wore a transparent rose-colored robe, in her black hair were fresh roses, she walked by the side of her sister, the two robed alike, but Nitetis pale as the lotus-flower in her mother’s hair.
Ladice, the queen, by birth a Greek, and daughter of Battus of Cyrene, walked by the side of Amasis and presented the young Persians to her children. A light lace robe was thrown over her garment of purple, embroidered with gold; and on her beautiful Grecian head she wore the Urmus serpent, the ornament peculiar to Egyptian queens.