« AnteriorContinuar »
together with the statues that ornament them, are all hewn out of the living rock.'
This excavated temple of Guerfeh Hassan reminds our travellers of the cave of Elephanta, on the little island of that name in the harbour of Bombay. Its resemblance, indeed, is singularly striking, as are in fact all the grand leading principles of Egyptian architecture to that of the Hindoos. They differ only in those details of the decorative parts, which trifling points of difference in their religious creeds seem to have suggested to each; but many even of the rites and emblems are precisely the same, especially those of the temples dedicated to Iswara, the Indian Bacchus. Indeed, in most respects, they are so much alike-they each partake so much of the same gigantic character, and delight so much in stupendous masses, conveying rather the idea of strength and solidity, than of elegance and proportion that the same identical workman might almost be supposed to have superintended the execution of them in both countries. In India and in Egypt the hardest granite mountains have been hewn down into the most striking if not the most beautiful fronts of temples, adorned with sculpture; in both countries solid masses of rock have been excavated into hollow chambers, whose sides are decorated with columns and statues of men and animals hewn out of the same rock, and in each country are found solid blocks of many hundred tons weight, cut from the living stone and lifted into the air. By whom and by what means these wonderful efforts have been accomplished is a mystery sunk too deep in the abyss of time ever to be resolved. To Greece none of them are indebted for any part of their architecture, but she has evidently taken many hints from them. Excepting at Alexandria and Antinoë nothing of Grecian architecture appears in Egypt. But we need only compare the monolithic temples of Nubia with those of Mahabalipoor, the excavations of Guerfeh Hassan with those of Elephanta, and the grottos of Hadjur Silcily, as described and delineated by Pococke, with the excavations of Ellora, to be convinced that these sacred monuments of ancient days derived their origin from the same source and that many of them were probably executed under the influence of the same directing mind. We may observe, by the way, that the ruins of Hadjur Silcily have not been sufficiently examined. The excavated chambers seen there by Mr. Hamilton were each 300 feet long by 100 broad; and he measured a single cubical block of stone whose side was eighteen feet. This enormous mass, exceeding 400 tons in weight, was supported by a small column of soft white stone three feet in diameter.
The temple of Kalaptshi, though in a state of great dilapidation, exhibits the remains of a magnificent building; and the plain of El
Umbarakat is strewed with ruins. At Sardab and Debodè are also many interesting ruins which are briefly described. On the second arrival of our travellers at Phile they observe that it is impossible to behold the profusion of magnificent ruins with which this island abounds, without feelings of admiration and astonishment:' at the same time it is avowed that the excavated temple of Guerfeh Hassan and the ruins of Dakki and Kalaptshi appeared to rival some of the finest specimens of Egyptian architecture.' These spe cimens of Ethiopian grandeur shew the fallacy of Denon's theory,that Phile being the entrepot of commerce between Ethiopia and Egypt, the Egyptians, desirous of giving to the Ethiopians a grand idea of their means and their magnificence, had raised a number of splendid edifices on the confines of their empire, at the natural frontier, marked out by Syene and the Cataracts.'
A French philosophe is never at a loss for a reason.—The fact is, that the resistance of the brave inhabitants of Philæ put an end to the hopes and the progress of the French general in Nubia, and all the grapes that grew beyond it turned instantly sour. Our travellers, however, have convicted at least, though probably not con vinced, M. Denon of his error :-But even what they have seen and described shrinks into nothing, when compared with the discoveries of Mr. Banks, a précis of which has been received by his father. This gentleman pushed on as far as the second Cataract, beyond which no modern European, with the exception of Shekh Ibrahim, had proceeded, nor any before him reached. Bruce saw nothing of the Nile from Syene till he crossed the Tacazze, near its junction with the main stream of the Nile, in the 18th parallel of latitude. Poncet has given his route from Moscho to Kortie, through Dongola; but these places are farther to the southward: besides, Poncet disdained to look at any thing but gold and silver and precious stones, and Christian churches and apostolic miracles. All beyoud Ibrîm, therefore, to the cataract of Genâdal, may be considered as new ground. Mr. Banks appears to have examined minutely those numerous ruins of which Messrs. Legh and Smelt took but a rapid glance; he discovered a great number of extraordinary excavations in the mountains, and of colossal statues, compared with which even the gigantic fragments of the Memnonium and Luxor appeared but as pigmies. To give some idea of the immensity of those wonderful productions of early art, he states that, having mounted upon the tip of the ear of a statue which was buried up to the shoulders in sand, he could just reach to the middle of its forehead; that the length of its head, from the chin upwards, was twelve feet, the parts in good proportion and well cut: allowing, therefore, seven heads for the length of the whole figure, its height, if in a standing posture, must have been equal to eighty-four feet; a height far exceeding that of the supposed
Statue of the King of Kings,' which Denon says was twenty-five feet across the shoulders, and which he calculates to have been seventyfive feet in height. Several colossal statues besides this were seen by Mr. Banks of forty feet in height, placed generally as if to guard the monumental excavations in the mountains. In one place the side of the mountain had been cut away so as to form an extensive perpendicular surface, which was afterwards chisseled out into columns with capitals, entablature, and an over hanging cornice, forming the front of a magnificent temple; the whole face covered with deep-cut hieroglyphics in the highest state of preservation. The proposal of Alexander's architect to cut Mount Athos into a statue of that conqueror, however extravagant it may appear to us, would be less so to him who designed and superintended the execution of the temples, tombs and statues of the Nubian mounains. Mr. Banks, we understand, has brought away copies of a multitude of inscriptions and paintings, which not only represent the mysteries of a lost religion, but of the wild animals still existing on the continent of Africa, and among them the camelopardalis, who is seen over-topping all the rest. Mr. Banks thought that one of the animals resembled the Unicorn, except, indeed, which is rather unlucky, that it had two horns. He has also procured from the ruins of Thebes and other places several rolls of the papyrus, and mummies without number. Such, we believe, is pretty correctly the substance of Mr. Banks's communication, which is certainly of a most important and interesting description. There would appear to be little or no obstruction on the part of the natives, to the progress of travellers as was formerly the case. Mr. Legh bears testimony to their peaceable, obliging and inoffensive conduct.
During the whole of this interesting journey, we had found the matives universally civil, conducting us to the remains of antiquity without the least suspicion, and supplying us with whatever their scanty means would afford. It is true they viewed us with curiosity, and, seemed astonished at our venturing among them; and at Kalaptshi they asked our guide "How dare these people come here? Do they not know that we have 500 muskets in our village, and that Douab Cacheff has not the courage to come and levy contributions?"—p. 97.
He describes the men as having lively features, a sleek and fine skin, and teeth beautifully white; their colour, though dark, full of life and blood; their persons remarkably thin, which he thinks may be owing to the heat of the climate and to their scanty means of subsistence. Their hair is sometimes frizzled out at the sides and stiffened with grease, so as perfectly to resemble the extraordinary projection on the head of the sphinx. The Bicharé, a tribe of Arabs, Mr. Hamilton tells us, wear their hair in this manner;
and, he observes, that this dress is the original of that extraordinary projection.' The women are horribly ugly, and seem to pass at once from childhood to old age. The children go naked, the boys wearing round the waist a small cord only, and the girls a sort of fringe, made of thin strips of leather, matted together with grease-precisely the Hottentot apron. Their principal food seemed to consist of lentils, sour milk, and water, which they were always ready to share with the travellers. The condition of those, by whose labour the mighty masses of the pyramids were reared, mountains cut down or excavated, and colossal statues formed, was probably not better than that of the modern Nubianssuch works could only have been accomplished by men who fed on food as cheap as the lentils and sour milk of the Arabs-the slaves of some despot, himself the slave of a crafty and tyrannical priesthood, We have no reason to doubt Herodotus when he says that 100,000 men were employed by Cheops in quarrying stones in the Nubian mountains and conveying them down the Nile, for building a bridge which occupied ten years, and erecting a pyramid, the labour of twenty years, on which an inscription in Egyptian characters set forth that the sum of 1,600 talents of silver had been expended in onions and garlick for the workmen.
In the voyage of our travellers down the Nile they revisited many of the spots which they saw but transiently on their passage up the river, and, among others, Koum Ombos, where they looked in vain for the inscription mentioned by Mr. Hamilton on the cornice of one of the temples; an inscription from which that author infers that some of the temples are not of so high a date as is generally given to them, but rather to be attributed to the Ptolemies. We searched,' says Mr. Legh, more than an hour, with his book in our hands.' We are rather surprized at this, as the inscription is none of the shortest; the place is distinctly pointed out; and the letters, Mr. Hamilton says, are nearly three inches in length.'
They also landed a second time at Thebes, and visited the 'gates of the kings,' and the excavated mountains. They likewise descended into one of the mummy pits that abound in the neighbourhood; but it would be difficult, Mr. Legh says, 'to convey an adequate idea of the disgusting scene of horror we had to encounter.' A narrow hole, nearly filled up with rubbish, led to a small room about fifteen feet by six, beyond which was a larger chamber with two rows of columns; the walls covered with paintings; and at the farther end, two full length statues, dressed in very gay apparel, with the figures of two boys on one side and of two girls on the other.
The whole of this chamber was strewed with pieces of cloth, legs, arms, and hands of mummies, left in this condition by the Arabs, who visit
visit these places for the purpose of rifling the bodies, and carrying off the bituminous substances with which they have been embalmed. From the chamber above described, two passages lead into the interior and lower part of the mountain, and we penetrated about the distance of a hundred yards into that which appeared the largest. Slipping and crawling amongst the various fragments of these mulitated bodies, we were only able to save ourselves from falling by catching hold of the leg, arm, or skull of a mummy, some of which were lying on the ground, but many still standing in the niches where they had been originally placed.' (p. 108.)
On their arrival at Siout, they received the unwelcome intelligence that the plague had made its appearance at Alexandria; to ascertain the truth of which, they dispatched a courier to Cairo ; and in the mean time landed at Manfalout, to examine some mummy pits in the desert, near the village of Amabdi, of which they had heard an extraordinary account from a Greek whom they met with at Thebes, of the name of Demetrius. He told them, that in pursuing some fugitives, they were suddenly observed to disappear. On coming to the place, they found a pit which he and some others descended; at the bottom were fragments of mummies of crocodiles scattered about, but no fugitives to be seen. This story raised the curiosity of our travellers, and they determined to visit those subterraneous chambers, in which the sacred crocodiles had been interred, and which Herodotus was not permitted to see. The party consisted of Mr. Legh, Mr. Smelt, the American interpreter, an Abyssinian merchant of the name of Fadlallah, and three of their boat's crew, Barâbras, whom they had brought from the Cataracts. Having wandered about four hours in search of Amabdi, they at length observed four Arabs cutting wood. These people shewed an unwillingness to give them any information-talked of danger-and were heard to mutter that-if one must die all must die':-this, however, did not deter the party from proceeding. The story of this adventure is so well told, and is so painfully interesting, that, though rather long, no apology will be required for giving it in Mr. Legh's own words,
'We were bent on going, and the Arabs at last undertook to be our guides for a reward of twenty-five piastres. After an hour's march in the desert, we arrived at the spot, which we found to be a pit or circular hole of ten feet in diameter, and about eighteen feet deep. We descended without difficulty, and the Arabs began to strip, and proposed to us to do the same; we partly followed their example, but kept on our trowsers and shirts. I had by me a brace of pocket pistols, which I concealed in my trowsers, to be prepared against any treacherous attempt of our guides. It was now decided that three of the four Arabs 'should go with us, while the other remained on the outside of the cavern. The Abyssinian merchant declined going any farther. The