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in the reign of Ramises. It is said that twenty thousand men were employed in the cutting of it. Constantius, more daring than Augustus, ordered it to be removed to Rome. Two of these obelisks are still seen, as well as another of one hundred cubits, or twenty five fathoms high, and eight cubits or two fathoms in diameter. Caius Cesar had it brought from Egypt in a ship of so odd a form, that, according to Pliny, the like had never been seen.
Every part of Egypt abounded with this kind of obelisks. They were for the most part cut in the quarries of Upper Egypt, where some are now to be seen half finished. But the most wonderful circumstance is, that the ancient Egyptians should have had the art and contrivance to dig even in the very quarry a canal, through which the water of the Nile ran in the time of its inundation ; from whence they afterwards raised up the columns, obelisks, and statues, on "rafts, proportioned to their weight, in order to convey them into Lower Egypt. And as the country abounded every where with canals, there were few places to which those huge bodies might not be carried with ease ; although their weight would have broken every other kind of engine.
A PYRAMIDS is a solid or hollow body, having a large, and generally a square base, and terminating in a point.
9 Plin. l. xxxvi. c. 9. Rafts are pieces of flat timber put togetier, to carry goods on rivers. Herod. 1. ii. c. 124, &c. Diod. I. i. p. 39–41. Plin. lib. xxxvi. c. 12.
There were three pyramids in Egypt more famous than the rest, one whereof deserved to be ranked among the seven wonders of the world; they did not stand very far from the city of Memphis. I shall take notice here only of the largest of the three. This pyramid, like the rest, was built on a rock, having a square base, cut on the outside as so many steps, and decreasing gradually quite to the summit. It was built with stones of a prodigious size, the least of which were thirty feet long, wrought with wonderful art, and covered with hieroglyphics. According to several ancient authors, each side was eight hundred feet broad, and as many high. The summit of the pyramid, which to those who viewed it from below seemed a point, was a fine platform, composed of ten or twelve massy stones, and each side of that platform sixteen or eighteen feet long
M. de Chazelles, of the academy of Sciences, who went purposely on the spot in 1693, gives us the following dimensions : The side of the square base,
110 fathoms. The fronts are equilateral triangles,
and therefore the superficies of
12,100 sq. fath. The perpendicular height,
77 fathoms. The solid contents
313,590 cub, fath. One hundred thousand men were constantly employed about this work, and were relieved every three months by the same number. Ten complete years were spent in hewing out the stones, either in Arabia or Ethiopia, and in conveying them to Egypt ; and
Vide D.od. Sic.
twenty years more in building this immense edifice, the inside of which contained numberless rooms and apartments. There were expressed on the pyramid, in Egyptian characters, the sums it cost only in garlic, leeks, onions, and the like, for the workmen; and the whole amounted to one thousand six hundred talents of silver," that is, four million five hundred thousand French livres; from whence it was easy to conjecture what a vast sum the whole must have amounted to.
Such were the famous Egyptian pyramids, which, by their figure as well as size, have triumphed over the injuries of time and the Barbarians. But what efforts soever men may make, their nothingness will always appear. These pyramids were tombs ; and there is still to be seen, in the middle of the largest, an empty sepulchre, cut out of one entire stone, about three feet deep and broad, and a little above six feet long.' Thus all this bustle, all this expense, and all the labours of so many thousand men, ended in procuring a prince, in this vast and almost boundless pile of building, a little vault six feet in length. Besides, the kings who built these pyramids, had it not in their power to be buried in them, and so did not enjoy the sepulchre they had built. The public hatred which they incurred, by reason of their unheard of cruelties to their subjects, in laying such heavy tasks upon them, occasioned their being interred in some obscure place, to prevent their bodies from being exposed to the fury and vengeance of the populace.
* This last circumstance, which historians have taken particular notice of, teaches us what judgment
About $11,100,000. Strabo mentions the Sepulchre, lib. xvü. p. 808
» Dicd. lib. i. p. 40
we ought to pass on these edifices, so much boasted of by the ancients. It is but just to remark and esteem the noble genius which the Egyptians had for architecture; a genius that prompted them, from the earliest times, 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 deviating in the least from a noble simplicity, in which the highest perfection of the 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 subjects to satisfy their vain glory! They differed very much from the Romans, who sought to immortalize themselves by works of a magnificent kind, but at the same time of public utility.
* Pliny gives us, in few words, a just idea of these pyramids, when he calls them a foolish and useless ostentation of the wealth of the Egyptians kings : Regum pecunia otiosa ac stulta ostentatio; and adds that by a just punishment their memory is buried in obliva ion; the historians not agreeing among themselves about the names of those who first raised those vain monuments. Inter eos non constat à quibus factæ sint, justissimo casua obliteratis tantæ vanitatis auctoribus. In a word, according to the judicious remark of Diodorus, the industry of the architects of those pyramids is no less valuable and praiseworthy than the design of the Egyptian kings contemptible and ridiculous.
* Diod. l. xxxvi. cap. 12.
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,
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 showed the true meridian of that place. Now, as so exact a situation was in all probability purposely pitched upon by those who piled 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, in the poles of the earth or the meridians. This is M. de Fontenelle's remark in his eulogium of M. de Chazelles.
What Y has been said concerning the judgment we ought to form of the pyramids, may also be applied to the labyrinth, which Herodotus, who saw it, assures us was still more surprising than the pyramids. It was built at the most southern part of the Lake of Moeris, whereof mention will be made presently, near the town of Crocodiles, the same with Arsinoë. It was
y Herod. I. ï. c. 148. Diod. I. i. p. 42. Plin. l. xxxvi. c. 13. Strab. I. xvii. p. 811. VOL. I.