Images de page
PDF
ePub

but at a greater diftance: then you fee New Alexandria, with its minarets, and above that city, far off, appears the column. of Pompey, a moft royal monument. You may alfo difcern feveral hills, and fome other towers. At length the view terminates with a large fquare building, which ferves for a magazine of powder, and joins to the mole.

As foon as Mr. Norden and his companions were landed, they paffed through the new city towards the obelisk, over ruined walls, and on one fide of it faw another that had long fince given way, and is now almoft entirely buried. The obelisk still remaining upright, and which to this day is called Cleopatra's Obelifk, fhews the place where stood the palace of that Queen, called alfo the palace of Cæfar; but there are no remains of that magnificent building now to be feen. Cleopatra's obelisk is fituated in the middle between the new city and the leffer Pharillon. Its base, part of which is buried, is twenty foot above the level of the fea. Between this monument and the port is a thick wall, flanked on each fide the obelisk with a large tower; but the wall is decayed in fuch manner as to be of an height equal to the base of the obelifk. The inner part of the wall is no more than ten feet diftant from the obelifk, and the outward about four or five from the fea. Before the wall facing the port, lies an infinite quantity of broken pieces of columns, and friefes, and other parts of architecture of divers kinds of marble, fome of granite and verd antique. On the land-fide, and behind the obelifk, is a large plain, which has been fo often turned over and examined, that the earth looks as if it had paffed through a fieve. The obelifk itself is of one entire piece of granite. The weftfide is the best preserved, the north next, but the east hath fuffered greatly, and the fouth fo much, from the injuries of time and weather, that the hieroglyphics on that fide are scarce distinguishable; which may be the reason why the Roman Emperors did not tranfport this obelisk to Rome, tho' it was nearer than the reft. The obelisk thrown down feems to have been broke; but by all that appears, it had the same hieroglyphics, in the fame order with that which stands.

Some antient authors report, that, in their time, thefe obelisks ftood in Cleopatra's palace, but as they do not fay fhe made them, it is probable, these monuments are more antient than the city of Alexandria, and that they were brought from fome other part of Egypt to adorn her palace. This conjecture is the more likely to be true, as we know, that those Egyptian monuments, whofe antiquity is of no higher date than

the

the building of Alexandria, are not infcribed with hieroglyphics, the use and meaning of which had, even then, been long forgotten.

As our Author has added fome remarks concerning obelisks at the end of this volume, we shall give an account of them here, that our readers may have what relates to this fubject entire, and by itself.

Their magnitude, duration, decoration, and form, justly entitle them to a place among the most valuable monuments of antiquity. One reason for their duration, is, the hardnefs of the granite they are generally formed of:-maffes of which, equal to the dimenfions of the largest obelisks, being rarely met with, greatly enhances their value.

They are peculiar to Egypt: and if found in other places, have been tranfported thence. They are of different heights, but have the fame form, only fome have loft their fummits. They are not all made of the fame fubftance, nor by the fame hand, but for the most part they are of granite. They are to be feen in all parts of Egypt. The firft our Author faw was at Alexandria, and the laft at an ifland now called Giefiretell-heiff, which feems to have been the Phile of the antients. Each confifts of one fingle piece of ftone; the pedestal is a cube, exceeding the breadth of the obelisk two or three feet. The pedestal, and even a part of the obelisk, are now, generally, under-ground. Our Author faw two obelisks in the ifland of Giefiret-ell-heiff, the one of white marble, ftanding, but without hieroglyphics; the other of granite, on the ground, with a range of hieroglyphics upon each fide. The fummit of the firft, which terminates the colonade of the weftern gallery, is broken off. It is eight feet in the fquare, and fixteen high. The fecond is the fame in the fquare, but twenty-two feet high. It feems to be more modern than any Mr. Norden had occafion to view, or at leaft was better preferved. Among the ruins round Effouaen, there is one without hieroglyphics, which is broken in two. Each fide is three feet broad; as to the heighth, it could not be measured, great part of it being buried in the fand. At Lukorcen, which is confidered as part of antient Thebes, there are two obelisks, each fide measuring fix feet four inches and a half, their height in proportion. That towards the, caft is higheft. Both ftand in the front of thofe fuperb ruins fo much admired in that place; and, no doubt, thefe obelisks furpafs every thing of the kind. Near to Carnac are feen the reft that belong to thofe at Lukoreen: they are four in number, perfect, ftand

ing where they were firft placed. Before the great hall near Carnac, as you enter, are two other obelisks, ftanding, and placed in a diagonal line, of the fame fize, and equal beauty, with those at Lukoreen: no doubt there were two more in this place, but they are gone. Before a small temple are also two obelisks, lefs than the former, about eleven or twelve feet high, and a foot and an half broad. They are granite, but fo fine, as almost to equal porphyry; and are ornamented with hieroglyphics, which, in divers colours, represent, for the most part, thofe figures mutually embracing each other. Amongst the ruins at Carnac are feen many large blocks of a whitish ftone, which had formerly been obelisks of an amazing fize. Thefe, like the reft, were originally of one stone, and broke by falling. They are covered with hieroglyphics, painted, and adorned with various figures, in compartments, which have a fine effect. Near to Matareen, a village not far from Grand Cairo, is an obelisk yet ftanding, well proportioned, and as high as that of Cleopatra at Alexandria; but the hieroglyphics, tho' very fine, are not equal to thofe at Carnac and Lukoreen. Of this at Matareen, as well as of thofe at Alexandria, our Author has given us designs, taken on the spot, and well engraved.

After this account of thefe obelisks, or leffer pyramids, our readers will forgive us if, inftead of following our Author in his defcription of Alexandria at prefent, we infert here the remarks he has made upon the great pyramids.

They stand at the feet of thofe high mountains, which mark the course of the Nile, and divide Egypt from Lybia. They are usually fuppofed to be antient fepulchres, differing in fize, and conftructed of various materials. Some are open, others in ruins, and the greatest part of them shut: all have fuffered fome injury or other. They could not all have been erected at the fame time: the immenfe quantity of materials necessary for such a work, must have rendered it impoffible. Befides there is great difference in the workmanship, fome being more magnificent than others. They are certainly of the remoteft antiquity, fince the time they were built was not known when the Grecian philofophers travelled into Egypt. It fhould feem that they were raised before the invention of hieroglyphics: characters fo ancient, that no history, extant, afcertaineth the time of their invention, and whose meaning was loft fo long ago, as when the Perfians conquered Egypt. Can it be fuppofed that the Egyptians, who made fo free a ufe of hieroglyphics, fhould not have left one character, either within, or on the outfide of, these vaft monu

ments

ments, or on the temples of the fecond and third pyramids, if any fuch characters were then in ufe? but none appear in these immenfe ruins: had there been any, furely fome veftiges of them would ftill remain. Thus argues Mr. Norden. However, it is to be observed, that Vanfleb, who was very diligent in his obfervations on the pyramids, which he went to visit four feveral times, contradicts our Author, and fays, "J'ay trouvé "fur quelques-unes (des pyramides) des characteres hieroglyfiques; mais le peu de temps que nous y fûmes, ne me per"mit pas de les copier." p. 137. Relation d' Egypte.

The present inhabitants afcribe these vaft works to a race of giants, concerning whom, fuch of our readers as delight in romances, may find many fanciful ftories related by Murtadi, tranflated into French, from the Arabic, by Monf. Vattier. But the abfurdity of fuppofing thefe monuments to have been the work of giants, appears from the narrow entrance into the caverns from whence the ftone for building them was taken; and the paffages within the pyramids are so narrow, that a man of a moderate fize, in our days, has difficulty enough to pafs them, crawling on his belly. Befides, the urn and farcophagus, in the largest pyramid, give us no great idea of the extraordinary fize of the inhabitants of those remote times.

The principal pyramids are fituated to the fouth-east of Gizé, a town lying on the western bank of the Nile, and as many writers pretend, that the city of Memphis was built there, they are generally called the pyramids of Memphis. There are four which deferve particular notice: they stand in a diagonal line, about 400 paces diftant from each other. Their fides correfpond exactly with the four points of the compafs. The foundation is on a rock covered with fand, in which, and upon the pyramids themselves, are found shells, fome of which, for their colours, are preferred to agate; and at Cairo they make of them fnuff-boxes, and handles for knives. The out-fide of the great pyramid is, for the most part, made of large ftones, cut out of the rocks that are along the Nile, where the shafts or caverns from whence they were taken, are to be feen at this day. These ftones are fhaped like prifms, but not of equal fize. That they have been fo well preserved, for fo long time, is more owing to the climate, where rains seldom fall, than to any natural and extraordinary hardness in the ftone itself. No cement was used in joining the ftones on the out-fide; but within, where the ftones are irregular, mortar has been used, as may be evidently difcerned on entering the fecond paffage of the firft pyramid.

When

When the waters are at their greatest height, you may go in boats from Old Cairo, to the rock upon which the pyramids are built. The entrance is on the north fide, and leads to five different paffages fucceffively; which running up and down, and on the level, proceed to the fouth, and end in two chambers, one in the middle of the pyramid, and the other lower down. All thefe paffages, except the fourth, are of an equal fize, or three feet and an half fquare. They are lined on every fide with large pieces of white marble, extremely fmooth; little holes have been cut, that those who enter may keep their footing, but if they mifs a step, there is no stopping till they return to the bottom. Some think, that these paffages were filled with stones, after the pyramid was built, and the work finifhed; and it is certain the end of the fecond paffage hath been closed, for there remain ftill to be seen, two fquare blocks of marble, which ftop the communication with the firft paffage. But, in truth, the entrance is too narrow for us to fuppofe, that a number of large ftones, fufficient to ftop up all the other paffages, could be conveyed thro' this. When you arrive at the end of the two firft paffages, you meet with a refting-place, to the right of which is an opening for a fmall paffage, or pit, in which you find nothing but Bats, and another refting-place. The third paffage leads to a chamber of a middling fize, the half of it filled with ftones, taken from a wall to the right, to open another paffage, which terminates at a little distance in a nich. This chamber is vaulted in the manner of a pent-house, (en dos-d' ane) cafed on every fide with granite, now much obfcured by the fmoke from the flambeaux, carried in to light those who visit these apartments. Having returned by the fame way, you climb up to the fourth paffage, which has a way raised above the level on either fide. It is very high, and vaulted, as the chamber mentioned above. The fifth paffage leads to the upper chamber. In the middle of the paffage is a small apartment, fomething higher, but not broader, than the passage itself. The ftone is cut on each fide, more easily to convey what was necessary to shut up the entrance to the chamber, which, like the former, is cafed with large pieces of granite. On the left hand is a large urn or farcophagus, of granite, plain, without any ornaments, and in the form of a parallelopipedon. It is very well cut, and when struck with a key, founds like a bell. To the north of this urn, or coffin, is feen a very deep hole, made after the pyramid was built: for what purpofé is not known. It is moft probable, however, that it was occafioned by fome cavity underneath; for it should feem as if the pavement fell of itself,

« PrécédentContinuer »