« AnteriorContinuar »
degradation to which the human species is reduced in this country, that the precaution serves only to produce abuses of a more revolting nature.'
'Female slaves, who could not boast of this advantage, were in general sold for 300 piastres; but if they have lived in a Frank family, and had learned to sew, wash, and wait at table, their value was estimated in the market at Cairo at 700 piastres.'-(p. 39.)
The mosques and churches, objects that usually catch the traveller's attention, possessed no charms apparently for Mr. Legh: he was unsaintly enough not to visit the Coptic church in which is the grotto where the Holy Family took refuge; nor did his curiosity tempt him into that of the Greeks with the miraculous pillar, to which if fools be bound they speedily recover their senses :-such a pillar, at this time, would be invaluable, if, without injury to the Greek church, it could be pulled down and transported to London or Paris!
On leaving Cairo for Upper Egypt, our travellers engaged an American, of the name of Barthow, who had resided many years in the country, to accompany them in the capacity of interpreter. They sailed on the 13th January, and their first landing was at the ruined village of Benihassen, where they visited the excavations which Norden ascribes to 'holy hermits, who made their abodes there.' The principal chamber is 60 feet in length, and 40 in height; to the south of it are 17 smaller chambers, and probably the like number to the north. Mr. Legh says, they found it difficult to follow Mr. Hamilton's descriptions of the paintings which cover the walls of the chambers. At Ashmounien, the site of the ancient Hermopolis, they partook of the enthusiasm with which Denon speaks of its splendid ruins; but Mr. Legh observes, that his delineation of them denotes the haste with which he travelled, for that the Winged Globe represented by him on the frieze, does not exist in the original. Indeed M. Denon is very little to be depended on where he does not copy from preceding travellers, or from the actual fragments carried away by the French. By his own account, he has drawn and described objects seen only in galloping past them, and at the best labouring under the horror of a hostile visit from the Arabs or the Mamelukes.
At Siout, which has succeeded to Girgeh as the capital of Upper Egypt, they fell in with their friend Burchardt, travelling as Shekh Ibrahim, on his way to the Great Oasis, where a tribe of Bedouins had lately established themselves, Ibrahim Bey, the eldest son of the Pashaw of Egypt, who was residing here as Governor of Upper Egypt, received them with civility and attention.
On the 28th, they reached Gaw-el-Kebir, the ancient Antæopolis, where the portico of the temple is still standing, and con
sists of three rows, each of six columns; they are eight feet in diameter, and, with their entablature, sixty-two feet high! situated in the midst of a thick grove of date trees. Mr. Legh thinks this venerable and gigantic ruin the most picturesque in Egypt,—the columns, architraves, and every part of the building are covered with hieroglyphics. At the farthest extremity of the temple is an immense block of granite, of a pyramidal form, twelve feet high and nine feet square at the base, in which is cut a niche, seven feet high, four feet wide, and three feet deep.
In visiting these temples and the villages along the banks of the Nile, our travellers were forcibly struck with the luxuriant fertility of the soil, as contrasted with the wretched state of poverty and misery of the inhabitants, who evidently laboured under the same arbitrary and oppressive exactions here as in Lower Egypt.
"The fields enriched by the Nile teem with plenty; the date trees here are loaded with fruit; cattle of every kind, poultry and milk, abound in every village; but the wretched Arab is compelled to live on a few lentils, and a small portion of bread and water, while he sees his fields plundered and his cattle driven away, to gratify the insatiable wants of a mercenary soldier, and the inordinate claims of a rapacious governor, After having paid the various contributions, and answered the numerous demands made upon him, not a twentieth of the produce of his labour falls to his own share: and without the prospect of enjoying the fruits of his toil, the fellah, naturally indolent himself, allows his fields to remain uncultivated, conscious that his industry would be but an additional temptation to the extortion of tyranny.'-(p. 42.)
Between Cafr Saide, supposed to be the site of Chenobosscion, and Diospolis Parva, the modern How, our travellers observed, for the first time, some crocodiles basking on the sand banks in the river, the largest apparently about twenty-five feet long. Mr. Legh thinks Girgeh the limit below which they do not descend; and they appear to be most numerous between this place and the Cataracts. The superstitious natives, we are told, attribute the circumstance of crocodiles not being observed in the lower parts of the Nile, to the talismanic influence of the Mikkias, or Nilometer, at Cairo;-so says Niebuhr; but he adds, it may be ascribed rather to the culture and population on the banks of the river.
A fair wind wafted the travellers past the magnificent ruins of Dendera, Koptos, and Kous, and on the 7th February they landed on the plain of Thebes-Thebes, the city of an hundred gatesthe theme and admiration of ancient poets and historians-the wonder of every traveller in every age-'that venerable city, (as Pococke says,) the date of whose destruction is older than the foundation of most other cities'-and the extent of whose ruins, and the immensity of whose colossal fragments, still offer so many astonishing
nishing objects, that one is riveted to the spot, unable to decide whither to direct the step or fix the attention. These ruins extend from each bank of the Nile to the sides of the inclosing mountains: the objects which most powerfully attract the attention on the eastern side, are the magnificent Temple of Karnac, and the remains of the Temple of Luxor; the latter of which, Mr. Legh says, mark the southern extremity of the walls of the city on that side of the river; Pococke, however, found no signs of walls round Thebes.' On the opposite or western bank, are the Memnonium, the two colossal statues, and the remains of Médinet-Abou. The Necropolis, or celebrated caverns, known as the sepulchres of the ancient kings of Thebes, are excavations in the mountains, covered with sculptures and paintings, still in the highest degree of preservation. Of these, Mr. Legh gives no description, which indeed without engravings would have been of little use; but we are told that the hasty sketch of the ruins of Thebes, to be found in the Travels of Denon, and the minute description of the paintings with which Mr. Hamilton's book is enriched, may be consulted for the details of this wonderful spot. Mr. Hamilton has indeed given a most curious and interesting description of the paintings and sculptures of the ruins of Thebes; but as to Denon's sketches, we can only admire the ingenuity of the painter, who could contrive to catch the outline of so many objects while galloping through them; even though the complaisant enthusiasim of the French soldiers supplied him with their knees instead of a table, and whole corps formed to afford him shade from a burning sun:- -' delicate sensi❤ bility,' he exclaims, which makes me happy in being their companion, and proud in being a Frenchman!' His copies, however, of the paintings and hieroglyphics in the tombs of the kings' were taken more at his ease, and consequently are more correct than his 'hasty sketches.' But for the most ample, laborious, and accurate details of these ancient ruins, we are indebted to the learned and indefatigable Pococke; though enough still remains for future travellers to add to his descriptions: and we confess that we are rather disappointed to find that the united labours of Mr. Legh and Mr. Smelt could supply no more than oue little page for the plain of Thebes; and that one single measurement of the remnant of a statue of red granite, lying among the ruins of the Memnonium, 'whose dimensions across the shoulders were twenty-five feet,' was sufficient to satisfy their curiosity, surrounded as they were by whole colonnades of gigantic columns, some of them seventy feet high-by temples extending a mile in length-and by fragments of colossal statues, whose dimensions almost exceed belief. Nay we even fear that this single measure is taken from Denon, who mentions a huge fragment thrown down near the two Memnonian statues, which
'measured twenty-five feet across the shoulders;'-but as the French foot exceeds that of the English by nearly four-fifths of an inch, Mr. Legh, if he copied Denon, ought to have set down the measure at 263 English feet. He would have done well not to trust to any measurement or description but his own: where no two authors are found to agree, it is of the utmost importance to have the testimony of a third; and the apology is scarcely admissible for 'passing too hastily over places famous in antiquity,' because Mr. Hamilton, M. Denon, or any other traveller, however celebrated, has gone over them before. Were such a rule of conduct to be strictly followed, the reader must sit down contented with the single description of the first traveller, however inaccurate.
Pococke bears testimony to the correctness of Diodorus, in his description of Thebes and the stupendous temples of Karnac and Luxor; Mr. Hamilton, however, thinks him little entitled to the praise of accuracy. Among the ruins of Luxor, Pococke measured a statue of one single stone sixty feet high; but he found no traces of the statue of Osymandyas, whose foot (said to be 10% feet long) bore this inscription:-I am the king of kings, Osymandyas-if any one would know how great I am, and where I lie, let him exceed the works that I have done.' Whether the prostrate fragment mentioned by Mr. Legh was a part of this statue, or of that of Memnon, or neither, is left for the speculation of future travellers. Denon, who pronounces all the descriptions hitherto given of those wonderful monuments to have tended to confuse rather than illustrate, seems to think that it belonged to the statue of Memnon, and that all the travellers for the last 2,000 years have been deceived in the object of their curiosity; as appears from the inscriptions. These are cut into the legs of the northernmost of two colossal figures, found in the midst of the plain near MédinetAbou, in a sitting posture; they are in various languages, and record the names of many illustrious travellers of antiquity, who had come thither to hear the sounds emitted by the statue when struck by the first rays of the sun; at the same time attesting the fact. These inscriptions have been copied with great labour by Dr. Pococke, and some of them are to be found in Mr. Hamilton's Egyptiaca,' where it is observed that the author looked in vain for the name of Strabo, who has given, from personal inspection, a particular account of the Memnonian statue, which, in spite of the attestations, Cambyses is said to have previously thrown down. Denon, however, following Herodotus and Strabo, maintains that the two sitting figures are the mother and son of Osymandyas. Of the difficulty arising from the numerous testimonies on the leg of the supposed Memnon, he easily gets rid: In the age of Hadrian, (he says,) enlightened by the beams of philosophy, Sabina,
the wife of this emperor, who was herself a learned woman, (a Roman précieuse we suppose,) was desirous, as well as the savans who accompanied her, to hear those sounds which no cause, physical or political, could any longer produce: but the pride of perpetuating their names, by inscribing them on antiquities of this kind, was sufficient to give rise to the first names; and the very natural desire of associating himself to this species of renown, would induce every succeeding traveller to add his own; such is, without doubt, the cause of those innumerable inscriptions of names, of all dates, and in all languages.'
Norden also seemed to think, that the huge fragment of a colossal statue must have been a part of the vocal statue of Memnon: and because, says this honest Dane in the simplicity of his heart, 'that most authors have related the wonder of Memnon's statue rendering a sound at the rising of the sun,-to satisfy my curiosity, I struck the remains of this colossal figure with a key; but, being all solid, I found it as dumb as any block of granite buried in the earth.' Our present travellers passed upwards with a fair wind from Thebes, reserving the examination of the ancient towns of Esné, Eleithias, Etfou (Apollinopolis Magna) and Koum Ombos, for their return; and on the 11th February reached Essouan, having performed a journey of 600 miles from Cairo, on the thirtieth day from their departure-a rate of travelling not exactly calculated for examining fully and accurately so interesting a country; but as no part of their object appears to have been that of making drawings, or collecting subjects of natural history, the mind probably had become to a certain degree sated with the constant succession of temples resembling each other in the plan and execution, and differing chiefly in magnitude. This seems to have been the case with Denon's feelings, who exclaims rather petulantly among the ruins of Thebes, 'Still temples, nothing but temples! no walls, quays, bridges, baths, or theatres!' He searched, he says, in vain, for a single edifice of public utility or conveniencehe found nothing but temples, whose walls were covered with obscure emblems, and with hieroglyphics, which attested the ascendancy of the priesthood.
At Essouan there was no Turkish garrison; and an Arab Shekh was governor of the town. From him they learned that the difficulties encountered by former travellers beyond the Cataracts, from the disturbed state of Nubia, no longer existed; that the Mamelukes were at a great distance, and the Barâbras at peace with the Pashaw of Egypt. Pococke, Niebuhr, Browne, Hamilton, were all stopped at the Cataracts. Norden is the only European who ventured above them, and the aga of Essouan endeavoured to dis