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very first, and before they could have any models to imitate, to aim in all things at the grand and magnificent ; and to be intent on real beauties, without swerving ever so little from a noble simplicity, in which the highest perfection of art consists. But what idea ought we to form of those princes, who considered as something grand, the raising by a multitude of hands, and by the help of money, immense structures, with the sole view of rendering their names immortal ; and who did not scruple to destroy thousands of their subiects to satisfy their vain glory. They differed very much from the Romans, who
fought to immortalize themselves by works of a magi nificent kind, but which at the same time were of
PLINY gives us in few words, a just idea of these Lib 36. pyramids, when he calls them a foolish and useless cap. 12. oftentation of the wealth of the Egyptian kings; ". Regum pecuniæ otiofa ac stulta ostentatio. And adds, that by a juft punishment their memory is buried in oblivion; the historians not agreeing among themselves about the names of those who first raised those vain monuments. Inter eos non conftat a quibus fačtae fint, justissimo cafu obliteraris tantæ vanitatis au&toribus, In a word, according to the judicious remark of Diodorus, the more the industry of the architects of these pyramids is valuable and praise. worthy, the more the attempt of the Egyptian kings is contemptible, and deserves censure.
But what we should most admire in these ancient monuments, is, the true and standing evidence they give of the skill of the Egyptians in astronomy; that is, in a science which seems incapable of being brought to perfection, but by a long series of years, and a great number of observations. M. de Chazelles, when he measured the great pyramid in question, found that the four sides of it were turned exactly to the four quarters of the world ; and consequently shewed the true meridian of that place. Now, as so exact a fi..
tuation, was in all probability purposely pitch'd upon by those who pild up this huge mass of stones, above three thousand years ago ; it follows, that during so long a space of time, there has been no alteration in the heavens in that respect, or (which amounts to the same thing) to the poles of the earth or the meridians. This is M. de Fontenelles remark in his elogium of M. de Chazelles.
Sect. III. The LABYRINTH. Herod.1.2. UXH AT has been said concerning the judgment C..148; Vy we ought to form of the pyramids, may also Diod. 1. 1. ha P. 42.
“ be applied to the labyrinth, which Herodotus, who Plin. 1. 36. saw it, assures us was still more surprising than the C. 13. pyramids. It was built at the most southern part of Strab. 17. the lake of Mæris, whereof mention will be made p. 311.
presently, near the town of Crocodiles, the same with
In order to visit the rooms and halls of the laby.
And as the Cretan labyrinth of old,
Involv'd the weary feet without redress, ,
Not far from thence he gravd the wond'rous maze;
· Virg. I. v.
* Ut quondam Creta fertur labyrinthus in alta i
Parietibus textum cæcis iter ancipitemque !
1. vi. v.27, &c.
-j.Sect. IV. The lake of MOERIS.
THE noblest and most wonderful of all the Herodia
1 structures or works of the kings of Egypt, was c. 149: the lake of Mæris; accordingly, Herodotus consi- Strab.l.17. ders it as vastly fuperior to the pyramids and laby-P.:787;
- Diod. 1. 1. rinth. As Egypt was more or less fruitful in propor- di 47. tion to the inundations of the Nile ; and as in these Plin. 1. 5. floods, the too general flow or ebb of the waters were c.9.
Pomp.. equally fatal to the lands ; king Maris, to prevent Melaka these two inconveniences, and correct, as far as lay in his power, the irregularities of the Nile, thought proper to call art to the assistance of nature; and to caused the lake to be dug, which afterwards went by his name. This * lake was about three thousand fix hundred ftadia, that is, about one hundred and eighty French leagues, and three hundred feer deep. Two pyramids, on each of which stood a colossal ftatue, seated on a throne, raised their heads to the height of three hundred fedt, in the midst of the lake, whilst their foundations took up the same space under the water; a proof that they were erected before, the cavity was filled, and a demonstration that;a lake of such vast extent was the work of man's hands,
* Vide Herod and Diod. Pliny agrees almost with them...
in one prince's reign. This is what several historians have related concerning the lake Mæris, on the testimony of the inhabitants of the country. And the bishop of Meaux, in his discourse on univerfal history, relates the whole as fact. With regard to my self, I will confefs, that I don't see the least probability in it. I possible to conceive, that a lake of an hundred and eighty leagues in circumference, could have been dug in the reign of one prince? In what manner, and where, could the earth taken from it be conveyed ? What should prompt the Egyptians to lose the surface of so much land ? By what arts could they fill this vast tract with the superfluous waters of the Nile? Many other objections might be made. In my opinion therefore, we ought to follow Pomponius Mela, an ancient geo. grapher; especially as his account is confirm'd by feveral late travellers. According to that author, this
lake is but twenty thousand paces, that is, feven or Mela L. ĻI. eight French leagues, in circumference. Mæris, ali- '
quando campus, nunc lacus, viginti millia passuum in ! circuitu patens. ..
This lake had a communication with the 'Nile, by a great canal, four leagues long *, and fifty foot broad. Great Nuices either opened or shut the canal and lake, as there was occasion. :The charge of opening or shutting them, amoun. ted to fifty talents, that is, fifty thousand French crowns. The fishing of this lake brought the monarch immense fums; but its chief use related to the overflowing of the Nile. When it rose too high, and was like to be attended with fatal consequences, the sluices were open'd; and the waters, having a free passage into the lake, cover'd the lands no longer than was necessary to enrich them. On the contrary, when the inundation was too low, and threatned a famine ; a sufficient quantity of water, by the help of drains, was let out of the lake, to water the lands,
* Eighty-four Stadia.