Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Ancient Egypt may be divided into three principal parts: Upper Egypt, otherwise called Thebais, which was the most southern part; Middle Egypt, or Heptanomis, so called from the seven Nomi, or districts it contained; Lower Egypt, which included what the Greeks called Delta, and all the country as far as the Red Sea, and along the Mediterranean to Rhinocolura, or Mount Casius. Under Sesostris, all Egypt be. came one kingdom, and was divided into thirty six governments, or Nomi; ten in Thebais, ten in Delta, and sixteen in the country between both.

The cities of Syene and Elephantina divided Egypt from Ethiopia, and in the days of Augustus were the boundaries of the Roman empire. Claustra olim Romani Imperii, Tacit. Annal. lib. ii. cap. 61.

CHAPTER I.

THEBAIS.

THEBES, from whence Thebais had its name, might vie with the noblest cities in the universe. Its hundred gates, celebrated by Homer,d are universally known, and acquired it the surname of Hecatonpylos to distinguish it from the other Thebes in Beotia. • It was equally large and populous; and, according to history, could send out at once two hundred chariots, and ten thousand fighting men at each of its gates. * The Greeks and Romans have celebrated its magnif. icence and grandeur, though they saw it only in its ruins ; so august were the remains of this city.

< Strab. I. xvii. p. 787.

d Hom. Il. i. ver. 381.

• Strab. 1. xvii. p. 816

f Tacit. Ann. 1. ü. c. 60.

5 In Thebes, now called Saïd, have been discovered temples and palaces which are still almost entire, adorned with innumerable columns and statues. One palace especially is admired, the remains whereof seem to have existed purely to eclipse the glory of the most pompous

edifices. Four walks, extending farther than the eye can see, and bounded on each side with sphinxes, composed of materials as rare and extraordinary as their size is remarkable, serve for avenues to four porticos, whose height is amazing to behold. Besides, they who give us the description of this wonderful edifice, had not time to go round it, and are not sure that they saw above half: however, what they had a sight of was astonishing. A hall, which in all appearance stood in the middle of this stately palace, was supported by one hundred and twenty pillars, six fathoms round, of a proportionable height, and intermixed with obelisks, which so many ages have not been able to demolish. Painting had displayed all her art and magnificence in this edifice. The colours themselves, which soonest feel the injury of time, still remain amidst the ruins of this wonderful structure, and preserve their beauty and lustre; so happily could the Egyptians imprint a character of immortality on all their works. Strabo, who was on the spot, describes a temple he saw in Egypt, very much resembling that of which I have been speaking.

The same i author, describing the curiosities of Thebais, speaks of a very famous statue of Memnon, the remains whereof he had seen. It is said that this statue, when the beams of the rising sun first slione

i

Lib. xvii. p 805.

p. 816.

& Thevenot's Travels.

27

VOL. 1.

upon it in the morning, uttered an articulate sound." And indeed Strabo himself was an earwitness of this; but then he doubts whether the sound came from the statue.

CHAPTER II.

MIDDLE EGYPT OR HEPTANOMIS.

MEMPHIS was the capital of this part of Egypt, Here were many stately temples, especially that of the god Apis, who was honoured in this city after a particular manner. I shall speak of it hereafter, as well as of the pyramids, which stood in the neighbourhood of this place, and rendered it so famous. Memphis was situated on the west side of the Nile.

Grand Cairo, which seems to have succeeded Memphis, was built on the other side of that river. The castle of Cairo is one of the greatest curiosities in Egypt. It stands on a hill without the city, has a rock for its foundation, and is surrounded with walls of a vast height and solidity. You go up to the castle by a way hewn out of the rock, and which is so easy of ascent, that loaded horses and camels get up without difficulty. The greatest rarity in this castle is Joseph's well, so called, either because the Egyptians are pleased with ascribing their most remarkable particulars too that great man, or because there is

Germanicus aliis quoque miraculis intendit animum, quorum præ. cipua fuere Memnonis saxea effigies, ubi radiis solis icta est, vocalen sonum reddens, &c. Tacit. Annal. I. ii. c. 61.

I Thevenot.

really such a tradition in the country. This is a proof, at least, that the work in question is very ancient; and it is certainly worthy the magnificence of the most powerful kings of Egypt. This well has, as it were, two stories, cut out of the rock to a prodi. gious depth. One descends to the reservoir of water, between the two wells, by a staircase, seven or eight feet broad, consisting of two hundred and twenty steps, and so contrived, that the oxen employed to throw up the water go down with all imaginable ease, the descent being scarce perceptible. The well is sup. plied from a spring, which is almost the only one in the whole country. The oxen are continually turning a wheel with a rope to which buckets are fastened. The water thus drawn from the first and lowermost well, is conveyed by a little canal into a reservoir, which forms the second well; from whence it is drawn to the top in the same manner, and then conveyed by pipes to all parts of the castle. As this well is supposed by the inhabitants of the country to be of great antiquity, and has indeed much of the antique manner of the Egyptians, I thought it might deserve a place among the curiosities of ancient Egypt.

* Strabo speaks of such an engine, which, by wheels and pullies, threw up the water of the Nile to the top of a vast high hill; with this difference, that, instead of oxen, one hundred and fifty slaves were employed to turn these wheels.

The part of Egypt of which we speak is famous for several rarities, each of which deserves a particular examination. I shall relate only the principal, such

m Lib. xvii. p. 807.

as the Obelisks, the Pyramids, the Labyrinth, the Lake of Moeris, and the Nile.

SECTION I.

THE OBELISKS.

Egypt seemed to place its chief glory in raising monuments for posterity. Its obelisks form at this day, on account of their beauty as well as height, the principal ornament of Rome; and the Roman power, despairing to equal the Egyptians, thought it honour enough to borrow the monuments of their kings.

An obelisk is a quadrangular, taper, high spire or pyramid, raised perpendicularly, and terminating in a point, to serve as an ornament to some open square; and is very often covered with inscriptions or hieroglyphics, that is, with mystical characters or symbols used by the Egyptians to conceal and disguise their sacred things, and the mysteries of their theology.

- Sesostris erected in the city of Heliopolis two obelisks of exceeding hard' stone, brought from the quarries of Syene, at the extremity of Egypt. They were each one hundred and twenty cubits high, that is, thirty fathoms, or one hundred and eighty feet.® The emperor Augustus, having made Egypt a province of the empire, caused these two obelisks to be transported to Rome, one whereof was afterwards broken to pieces. PHe durst not venture upon a third, which was of a monstrous size. It was made

* Diod. lib. i. p. 37. • It is proper to observe, once for all, that an Egyptian cubit, accord. ing to Mr. Greaves, was one foot nine inches and about three fourtda n! our measure.

p Plin. 1. xxxvi. c. 8. 9.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »