Sidor som bilder

the last. The other is a kind of representation of a planisphere, in the ceiling of the small apartment, at the extremity of the temple, and round both a great number of hieroglyphics are seen.

Another such Zodiac, as it was pretended, is found at Esné, which the Egyptians called Sné, or Sná, where there was a magnificent temple consecrated to Ammon, the god, the creator of eternal light. This monument, like that of Dendéra, is represented as a specimen of the high perfection to which the Egyptians had carried architecture, and exhibited in its plan, distribution, and ornaments, one of the most beautiful models, equal in majesty and elegance to the most famed buildings of Greece.

This monument, like that of Dendéra, is of a modern date, and both belong to the period during which Egypt was a province of the Roman empire; because the hieroglyphics which surround them, and which hitherto have been considered as containing an astronomical legend, merely exhibit the names of some of the Roman emperors, such as Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius, Nero, Domitian, and others.

Besides these monuments, still existing in their original situation, there are others that, from time to time, the rapacious hands of conquerors and travellers have imported into different countries. The Roman emperors removed to Rome-not less than four obelisks, all of which are still to be seen in that ancient capital of the world. Mr. Bankes

removed the obelisk of Philo, which now graces the grounds of his estate in Wales. Belzoni opened one of the tombs belonging to the Pharaohs in the vale of Thebes, and brought to England the celebrated sarcophagus of white alabaster; he even removed the cover of the other sarcophagus, which contained the mummy of the Pharaoh Rameses Meiamon, and presented it to the university of Cambridge ; other travellers have procured and brought to this country, as well as to others, statues, papyries, inscriptions, mummies, and monuments of all sorts, which are found in several museums, and particularly in the British Museum, the Museum of Paris, the Museum of Turin, perhaps the richest of all, and the Vatican library; and, last of all, the French commission, sent by Napoleon to Egypt, has given so many accurate fac similies of most of the principal monuments still existing in Egypt, and brought over so many and various monuments of Egyptian antiquity, as to allow our learned men to become quite familiar with the characters, and, by dint of labour, with their subject and meaning.

Among these monuments, the most important one, indeed, which has produced the whole of the discoveries made in decyphering hieroglyphics, is the celebrated Rosetta stone, which, by the gallantry of our army, now decorates the British Mu

It is a huge broken stone, of black colour, discovered by the French in digging for the foundation of Fort St. Julian, near Rosetta, and it contains an inscription in three several languages,


or rather three different sets of characters; one in Greek, the second in hieroglyphics, and a third in a sort of running hand resembling the Hebrew letters, which were, in fact, the common characters of the country. It is this precious relic which has produced the greatest literary discovery of the age, perhaps the greatest of any age—our knowledge in the reading of the hieroglyphics. This I shall explain in my next Lecture. Another monument of great interest, and, without doubt, of equal importance to ascertain the history of Egypt, was brought to light by Mr. William Bankes, while endeavouring to obtain the accurate plan of the extensive ruins of Abydos. This ancient and formerly splendid city lies on the western coast of the Nile, between the 27th and 28th degree north latitude, and near the entrance of the great Oasis. On the wall of one of the lesser buildings, quite distinct from the principal pile, was found a legend, or a series of forty ovals, or rings, arranged in three long horizontal lines, each containing the mystic or honorary titles of the Pharaohs, who lived before Rameses the Great, whose name is the last, and fills the whole of the third line. These mystic titles, by their variety, evidently shew that they belonged to different Pharaohs, and have greatly assisted our antiquaries in ascertaining the order of succession to the throne of Egypt, which is found to correspond with the chronological canon

of Manetho. It is a great pity that a portion of the wall, on which this important monument is engraved, is in two places in ruin, so as to produce a mutilated legend; but as far as it goes, I have no hesitation to assert, that this genealogical table of Abydos is as important to history, as the Rosetta stone has been to the decyphering of hieroglyphics.

In considering these astonishing productions, we must really wonder how a nation, which was once so great as to erect these stupendous edifices, could so far fall into oblivion, that even their language and method of writing are unknown to us. But our wonder will increase, if possible, to a higher degree, when we take into consideration the materials which have been so modelled. They had only four sorts of stones in general use for sculpture; the sandy, the calcareous, the breccia, and granite; all, except the first, are very hard; and what is most singular, we do not know with what tools they were cut out. We know by experience that the tools of the present day will not cut granite without great difficulty; and Belzoni, who had made so many experiments on this stone, doubts whether we could give it the smoothness and surface we see in Egypt. On the calcareous stone, the figures have angles so sharp, that the best-tempered chisel of our time could not produce the like. It is so hard, that it breaks more like glass than stone. And yet, with these mate rials they have produced the most exquisite speci

mens of architecture and sculpture; for in both these arts their productions have a boldness of execution that has never been equalled by any other nation of the universe. The gigantic statues of Greece and Rome are but dwarfs and pigmies when compared to those of Karnac, Louqsor, Esné, Dendéra, and, indeed, of the whole of Egypt and Nubia. They had made besides considerable progress in several manufactures, to a degree which is really astonishing. Their linen manufacture had a perfection equal to our own. For in many of their figures we observe their garments quite transparent; and among the folding of the mummies Belzoni observed cloth quite as fine as our common muslin, very strong, and of an even texture. They had also the art of tanning leather, and staining it with various colours, as we do morocco; and actually knew the mode of embossing on it. Many specimens of the sort have been found with figures impressed on the leather quite elevated. The same must be said of their art in making glass, some of which was of a beautiful black colour, and so perfect as to resemble the natural obsidian. Of such glass was made the celebrated statue of Menelaus. This information we gather from Pliny, who makes use of this observation, to prove that the art of manufacturing glass was very ancient. Besides enamelling, the art of gilding was in great perfection among them, and they knew how to beat gold nearly as thin as ours; for Belzoni found many ornaments of the kind, and a leaf of

« FöregåendeFortsätt »