Richard Lepsius.

Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai online

. (page 11 of 54)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the human body, in Ombos, differing very distinctly from
both the older Egj^ptian canons which I had before met
with in many examples. The second canon is closely con-
nected with the first, and oldest, of the time of the Pyra-
mids, from which it difiers only in being brought to greater
perfection, and being difi'erently applied. The foot, as the
unit, is the foundation of both, this taken six times, cor-
responded to the height of the body when upright ; but it
must be observed, from the sole of the foot, not as far as the
crown of the head, but only to the top of the forehead. That
portion from where the hair begins to grow on the upper
part of the forehead, to the crown of the head, did not come
into the calculation at all, and occupies sometimes three-
quarters, sometimes the half, sometimes still less of a fresh
square. The difference between the first and the second
canon chiefly rests on the position of the knee. In the
Ptolemaic canon, however, the division has itself been
altered. The body was no longer divided into 18 parts,
as in the second canon, but into 21^ parts, to the top
of the forehead, or into 23 parts, up to the crown of the
head. This is the division which Diodorus gives, in the
last chapter of his first book. In the lower part of the
body the proportions of the second and third canon remain
the same ; on the other hand, those of the upper part of the
body are essentially altered, the contours become altogether
more extravagant, and the previous beautiful simplicity and
chasteness of the forms, in which consisted both its grand
and peculiarly Egyptian character, yielded to the imperfect
imitation of an uncomprehended foreign style of art. The
proportion of the foot to the length of the body remains
the same, but the foot is no longer placed for the basis as

At AssuAN we were obliged to change our boat, on ac-
count of the Cataracts, and for the first time for six months

PlIILAE. 119

past, or longer, we bad the home enjoyment of heavy rain,
and a violent thunderstorm, which gathered on the fartlier
side of the Cataracts, crossed -with a mighty force the granite
girdle, and then, amidst the most violent explosions, rolled
down the valley as far as Cairo, and (as we have since heard)
covered it with floods of water, such as had been scarcely
remembered before. So we may say, with Strabo and
Champollion, " In our time it rained in Upper Egypt."
Eain is, indeed, so rare here, that our guards never remem-
bered to have beheld such a spectacle, and our Turkish
Kawass, who is in all respects perfectly acquainted with the
country, continued to leave his own tilings untouched ; while
we long before had been carrying our chests into the tents,
and having them better secured, he quietly repeated ahaden
moie, "never rain," a word which since then he has often
been compelled to hear, as he was thoroughly drenched, and
caught a violent, feverish cold, for which he was obliged to
wait patiently in Philae.

The situation of Philae is as charming as it is interesting
Dy its monuments. Some of the most delightful recollections
of our journey are associated with our eight days' residence
on this holy island. "We used to assemble before dinner,
after tlie scattered work of the day, on the elevated temple
terrace, which rises abruptly from the river, on the eastern
shore of the island ; we there watched the shadow of the
temple (which is in good preservation, and built of sharply
cut, deep-coloured glowing blocks of sandstone) steal over
the river, and mingle with the black volcanic masses of
rock, towering above each other, between which the golden
yellow sand pours into the valley like streams of fire. The
island appears only to have become holy to the Egyptians
at a late period, for the first time under the Ptolemies.
Herodotus, who during the rule of the Persians ascended as
far as the Cataracts, does not mention Philae at all ; it was
at that time inhabited by the Ethiopians, who were also in
possession of half of the island of Elephantine. The oldest
buildings now to be found upon the island were erected on


the soutliern point by N^ectanebus, tbe last king but two
of Egyptian origin, almost a hundred years after the journey
of Herodotus. There are no traces of earlier remains, not
even of any that were destroyed or built up into other build-
ings. Many older inscriptions are to be found upon the
large neighbouring island of Bigeh, named in hieroglyphics
Senmtjt. As early as the Old Monarchy, it was adorned
with Egyptian monuments ; for we have found a granite
statue of King Sesurtesen III. from the 12th Dynasty. The
little rocky island KoNOSSO, named in hieroglyphics Kekes,
also contains very old inscriptions, engraved upon the rock,
in which a new and hitherto wholly unknown King of the
Hyksos period is also named. Hitherto the hieroglyphic
name of the island of Philae was read Manlak. I have found
the name undoubtedly more than once written Hak ; hence
with the article, Philak became in the mouth of the
Greeks Philai. The sign which Champollion read " man,'*
in other groups changes into i, thence the expression I-lak,
P-i-lak, Memphitic Ph-i-lak, is now established.

We have made a valuable discovery in the court of the
great Temple of Isis, of two lilingual decrees of the Egyp-
tian priests, that is to say, drawn up in the Hieroglyphic
and Demotic characters ; they are tolerably rich in words,
and one of them contains the same text as the decree of the
E^tsetta stone. I have, at least, up to the present moment,
compared the last seven lines, which correspond with the
inscription of Eosetta, not only in their contents, but also
in the length of each single line ; the inscription must be
copied before I can say more about it ; at all events, it is no
inconsiderable advantage to Egj^tian pliilology, if only a
portion of the fragmentary decree of Eosetta can, through
this, be completed. The whole of the first portion of the
Eosetta inscription which precedes the decree, is here want-
ing. Instead of this, there is a second decree beside it,
which refers to the same Ptolemy Epiphanes ; in the intro-
duction, the " Portress of Alexander," i. e. the town of
AJsxandria, is mentioned for the first time, on the menu-

I>'SCEirTIOJ^S AT PnilAE. 121

ments which have hitherto become known. Both decrees
conclude, like the Eosetta inscription, with the intention to
set up the inscription in Hieroglyphic, Demotic, and Greek
characters. Nevertheless, the Greek is wanting here ; un-
less, perhaps, it was \\Titten down in red, and rubbed out
when Ptolemy Lathyrus cut his hieroglyphic inscriptions
over the earlier ones.*

The hierogl}^hic succession of the Ptolemies, which ap-
pears here, begins again with Philadelphus ; whereas, in the
Greek text of the Eosetta inscription, it begins with Soter.
Another very remarkable fact is, that Epiphanes is here
called, the son of Ptolemy Philopator and Cleopatra, while,
by the historical accounts, the only wife of Philopator was
Arsinoe, and she is besides so named iu the Eosetta inscrip-
tion, and on other monuments. She is also certainly called
Cleopatra in one passage of Pliny, but this might have been
considered a mistake of the author, or of the manuscript, if
a hieroglyphic, and, indeed, an official document did not
even now present the same change of names. There are
now, therefore, no longer any grounds to place the mission
by the Eoman Senate of Marcus Atilius, and Marcus Acilius
to Egypt, to negotiate a new alliance on account of the
Queen Cleopatra, who is mentioned by Livy, under Ptolemy
Epiphanes, as is done by Champollion Pigeac, instead of under

♦ The first news of the discovery of these important inscriptions,
which had not been noticed by tlie French-Tuscan expedition, excited
some surprise. Simultaneously with the more exact description of
them in the Prussian Gazette, a short English notice of them appeared,
in which the discovery of a second copy of the Eosetta inscription was
mentioned, and, indeed, in Meroe. More recently, when M. Ampere
had brought an impression of the inscription to Paris, the learned
academician, M. de Saulcy, denied that the decree had anything to do
with the Rosetta mscription, and felt himself obliged to ascribe it to
Ptolemy Philometor, I therefore took an opportunity to point out
more accurately, in two letters to H. Letronne (Rev. Archeol., vol. iv.,
p. i., &c., and p. 240, &c.), as well as in an essay, in the Papers of
the German Oriental Society (vol. i., p. 264, &c.), that the document
in question had been drawn up in the 21st year of Ptolemy Epiphanes,
and that it contained a repetition of the actual decree of the Rosetta
inscription, which referred to Cleopatra, who had meanwhile been
elevated to the throne.


Ptolemy Philopator as other authors relate. We must
rather assume now, either that the wife and sister of Philo-
pator bore both names, which, indeed, even then would not
quite remove the difficulties ; or that the project mentioned
by Appian, of a marriage between Philopator and the Syrian
Cleopatra, who afterwards became the wife of Epiphanes,
was carried into effect after the murder of Arsinoe, though
the authors give us no account of it. Here, naturally, I
am without the means of making this point perfectly clear.*

The multitude of Greek inscriptions in Philae is incalculable,
and it will interest Letronne to hear, that on the base of the
second obelisk, which still exists in its original place and posi-
tion, of which only a portion has travelled with the other obelisk
to England, I have found the remains of a Greek inscription,
written in red, difficult indeed to decipher, which, perhaps, was
at one time also gilt, similar to the two last discovered upon
the base in England. I have already written to Letronne, that
the hieroglyphic inscriptions of the obelisk, which, together
with the Greek one of the base, I myself copied in Dorset-
shire, and which I afterwards published in my " Egyptian
Atlas," have nothing to do with the Greek inscription, and
were not even set up simultaneously ; but it still remains a
question, whether the inscription of the second base was
not in connexion with that of the first ; the correspondence
of the three known inscriptions certainly appears exclusively
confined to themselves.

The chief temple of the island was dedicated to Isis. She
is called by preference " The Lady of Philek." Osiris was
only debs (Tvuvaos, which has its peculiar hieroglyphic expres-
sion, and he is only sometimes exceptionally called " Lord of
Philek ;" on the other hand, he was " Lord of Ph-i-ueb, i. e.
Abaton, and Isis, who was there o-vwaos, is only exceptionally

* The name Cleopatra, instead of Arsinoe, in the hieroglyphic in-
scription, appears solely to rest on an error of the writer, which was
avoided in the demotic inscription, for here Arsinoe stands correctly.
The hieroglyphic text of the inscription of Rosetta is also less correct
than the demotic.


called "The Lady of Ph-i-ueb." Even from this, we may
infer, that the famous tomb of Gsiris, on his own island of
Phiueb, was not upon Philek. Both places were expressly
designated by their determinatives as Islands. There is,
therefore, no question that the Abaton of inscriptions and
authors was not a particular place upon the island of Philae ;
it was itself an iiland. Diodorus and Plutarch both say so,
in distinct terms, as they place it irpbs ^ikais. Diodorus ex-
pressly designates the island with the tomb of Osiris, as a
peculiar island, which, on account of this tomb, was called
Upuv nediov, '* the sacred plain." This is a translation of
Pn-i-UEB, or Ph-ih-ueb (for the h is also found in the
hieroglyphics), in the Coptic tongue c|)-iA2-oVHii, Ph-iah-
T7EB, " the sacred field." This sacred plain was an Abaton^
inaccessible except to the priests.

On the Gth of November we left tlie enchanting island,
and began our Etiiiopian journey. Even in Debod, the next
temple we came to towards the south, in hieroglyphics called
Tahet (in Coptic, perhaps, TA ABHT), we found the sculp-
tures of an Ethiopian king, Aekamen the Eegamenes, of the
authors, wlio reigned at the same time as Ptolemy Phila-
delphus, and probably was in very friendly relations with
Egypt. There is great confusion in the French work on
Champollion's expedition (I have not got Eosellini at hand).
Many sheets which belong to Dakkeh are attributed to
Debod, and vice versa : we collected nearly sixty Grreek in-
scriptions in GrERTASSi. Letronne, who knew them, through
Gau, has perhaps already published them ; I am eager to
learn what he has made out of yojuoi, whose priests play an
important part in these inscriptions, as also out of the new

gods, ^povTTTi^is and HovpaeTrpovj/is.

The Inscriptions of Talmis offer a new instance how in-
correctly the Egyptian names were often comprehended by
the G-reeks, who name the same god Mandiilis, who in the
hieroglyphic language was distinctly called Meeuli, and was
the local god of Talmis. It is striking that the name of
Talmis, which is frequently found in this temple, never ap-


pears in the rock-temple of Bet el TJalli, certainly of much
older date, which is situated in its immediate neighbourhood.
Dekdite, also had a peculiar protecting patron, the god
Petisi, who never appears anywhere else, and has also the
surname of Peschir Tenthur ; Champollion's sheets are here,
also, in wonderful disorder, since the representations and in-
scriptions are erroneously combined. *

The Temples of Gteep Hussen and Sebua are especially
worthy of notice, because Eamses Sesostris, by whom they
were built, appears here both as a contemplative divinity
and worshipping himself as such, with Phtha and Ammon,
the two chief divinities of this temple. In the first, he is
even one time called " Euler of the Grods."

Champollion has already remarked, with justice, that in-
deed all the temples of the Ptolemies, and of the Eoman
emperors in jS'ubia, were only restorations of former sanc-
tuaries, which, in more ancient times, had been erected by
the Pharaohs of the 18th and 19th Dynasties, and had been
destroyed by the Persians. Thus also the Temple of Psel-
OHis was first built by Tuthmosis III. Besides the scat-
tered fragments of stone belonging to this first building,
which, however, was not dedicated to Thoth, as Champollion
believes, but to Horns, and thus at a later period altered its
destination; we have found others, like^vise, of Sethos I.
and Menephthes. It also appears that the axis of the first
plan wa« not parallel with the river, like the later one, but
similar to almost all other temples, its entrance was towards
the river.

At the Temple of Koete the entrance door alone is in-
scribed with hieroglyphics, and those of the worst style.
Tet even this small amount was sufficient to inform us that
the sanctuary was dedicated to Isis, who is named " The
Lady of Kerte." Here also we discovered some blocks that
had been used in later buildings, which had escaped the
notice of former travellers; they belonged to an ancient
temple, erected by Tuthmosis III., and the foundation waUs
may still be recognised.


lu HiEEASTKAMiNos we reaped the last harvest of Greek
inscriptionB. As far as this place Greek and Eoman tra-
vellers were protected by the garrison of Pselchis, and by
another strong position Mehendi, which is not given on the
maps, but was situated some hours to the south of Hier-
asykarainos. Peimis seems only to have had a temporary
garriflon after the campaign of Petronius. Mehekdi, whose
name, indeed, seems only to designate in Arabic the build-
ings, the fortress, is the best preserved Eoman camp that I
have ever seen. It lies upon a tolerably steep eminence,
and from that commands the river, and a small valley, which
passes upwards from the river, to the south side of the
fortress ; the car»avan road, also, here branches off into the
desert, and does not redescend to the river till near Medik.
The wall of the town encloses a square, which, towards the
east, passes down the hill a short way, and measures 175
paces from north to south, and 125 from east to west. Four
comer towers, and four central towers, spring up at regular
intervals from the walls ; among the last, those lying to the
north and south were also the gates, which, for greater
security, did not lead straight into the town, but with a
bend. Tlie southern gate, and all the southern portion of
the fortress, which encompassed about 120 houses, are in
excellent preservation. Immediately behind the gate you
enter a straight street, sixty-seven paces long, which, with
but little interruption, is still completely arched over ; several
narrow side streets lead off on both sides, and are also, as
well as aU the houses of that whole portion of the town,
covered over ^yiih. arched roofs, made of Nile bricks. The
street leads to a somewhat large open place in the middle of
the town, near to which was situated, upon the highest point
of the ridge of the rock, the largest, and best built house,
doubtless that of the commander, with a semi-circular niche
at the eastern end. The walls of the town are built out of
unhewn stones; the gate alone, which supports a well-
constructed Eoman arch, is built of sharply-cut square
stones, amongst which several built into it, have sculptures


of the genuine Egyptian style, although of late date; a
proof that before the erection of the fortress, there was an
Egyptian or Ethiopian sanctuary, probably a chapel to Isis.
We discovered a head of Osiris, and two heads of Isis, in one
of which we could still recognise the red-marked proportion
square of the third canon.

The last monument that we visited, before our arrival in
Korusko, was the Temple of Ammon in AVadi Sebua (the
Lion Valley), so called from the row of Sphinxes, which are
now scarcely visible above the sea of sand which has buried
nearly the whole temple, as far as it stood out alone. Even
the western portion of the temple, hewn in the rock, is fiUed
up high with sand, and we were compelled to summon the
whole crew of our boat to open an entrance into this part
of it. "We here encountered a new and very peculiar com-
bination of divine and human nature, in a group of four
divinities. The first of which was called " Phtha of Eamses,
in the house of Ammon;" the second, Phtha, with other
customary surnames ; the third, Eamses, in the house of
Ammon; the fourth, Hathoe. In another inscription,
"Ammon of Eamses, in the house of Ammon," was named.
It is difficult to explain this combination.*

I was no less astonished to find a posterity of King
Eamses-Miamun in the outer court of this Temple of

* Such designations appear eren at an earlier period. Thus, in
Thebes, an " Ammon of Tuthmosis (III.)" is mentioned. It thereby
appears tliat one of the kings named was designated for the newly-
established worship of these gods. Ramses II. dedicated three great
rock-temples in Lower Nubia, at Derr^ Gerf Hussen, and Sebua, to
the three greatest gods of Egypt, Ra, Phtha, and Ammon (See my
Memoir on the earliest Cycle of the Egyptian Gods, in the papers of
the Academy of Berlin, 1851), and named the places founded there
simultaneously after the same gods, accordingly in Greek Heliopolis,
Hephaistopolis, and Diospolis. The same Eamses founded a fourth
powerful and fortified position, Abusimbel, and called it after himself
Eamessopolis, or the Fortress of Ramessopolis, as he also founded
two towns in the Delta, and called them after his own name. Now it
is, undoubtedl}-, with reference to these new worships, that the gods
there adored were named Ammon of Ramses, and Phtha of Ramses.
The king himself was Avorshipped along with those gods, in these par-
ticular rock-temples, especially in that of Abusimbel.

KonrsKO. 127

Ammon, consisting of a hundred and sixty-two cliildren,
represented with their names and titles, most of which,
indeed, were scarcely legible, as they are very much de-
stroyed; others are covered with rubbish, and at present
could only be estimated by the distances of the spaces.
Hitherto, only twenty-five sons and ten daughters of this
great king were known. He did not take the two legiti-
mate wives which appear upon the monuments simulta-
neously, but the one after the death of the other. To-day
we had a visit from the old, blind, but powerful and rich
Hassan Kaschef, of Derr, who formerly was independent
regent of Lower Nubia; he had no less than sixty-foiu*
wives, of whom forty-two still remain ; twenty-nine sons
and seventeen daughters are still living. He has, probably,
never taken the trouble to reckon how many of them he has
lost, but by the usual proportion here, he must have had
about four times the number of those living, therefore about
two hundred children.

KoEUSKO is an Arabian place, in the centre of the land of
the Nubians, or Barabra (plural of Berberi), which includes
the Nile valley from Assuau to beyond Dongola. They are
an intelligent and honest race ; peaceful, but of a disposition
anything but slavish, with well-formed bodies, and a skin of
a light, reddish-brown colour. The occupation of Korusko
by the Arabs of the race of the Ababde, who inhabit the
whole of the eastern desert from Assuan as far as Abu
Hammed, is explained by tlie important situation of the
place, being the commencement of the great caravan road,
which leads direct to the province of Berber, and cuts off
the great- western curvatiire of the Nile.

The Arabic tongue — in which we have now learnt, at
least to give orders and to ask questions, indeed, also to
carry on a little conversation of civilities, or on the news of
the day — had become so familiar to our ears in Egypt, that
the Nubian language attracted us, even by its novelty. It
is divided, as far as I have been hitherto able to learn, into


a northern and a southern dialect, which meet near Ko-
rusko.* The language has a distinct character from the
Arabic, even in its first elements in the system of conso-
nants and vowels. It is much more euphonous, as it has
hardly any accumulation of consonants, no hard guttural
sounds ; it has little sibilance, and many simple vowels, dif-
ferinof more distinctlv from one another than in the Arabic,
and generally parted by a consonant, thus again avoiding an
efieminate accumulation of vowels. It has no accordance,
either with the Semitic languages or with the Egyptian, in
any part of the grammatical forms, or the radical words,
much less with our own, and therefore surely belongs to the
original African tongue, without any immediate connexion
with the present language of the Ethiopian-Egj-ptian race,
although the people may have been often comprehended by
the ancients under the name of Ethiopians, and were, per-
haps, less strangers to them by descent. They are not a
trading people, and therefore can only reckon up to twenty in
their own language ; they borrow the higher decades from the
Arabic language, yet they use a peculiar word for one hundred
— vmil. The grammatical distinction between the genders
exists almost solely throughout the language in the personal
pronouns when they stand alone ; they make a distinction be-
tween " he" and " she," but not between " he gives" and " she
gives." They conjugate more by additional actual flexions, as
in our languages, than by alteration of accent, and change of
vowel, as in the Semitic. They form the ordinals by the addi-
tion of ^V^ ; the plural, by igi ; they do not possess a dual. The
connexion of the pronouns with the verb is both prefix and
afilx, but it is simple and natural ; they distinguish between
the present and the preterite ; they express the future by a
particle; they have also a peculiar form for the passive
voice. The root of the negation is m, usually succeeded by

* Compare passages in Letters XXIV., XXVI., XX VIII. A grammar
and vocabulary of the Nuba language, as well as a translation of the
Gospel of St. Mark into the Nubian tongue, is ready for publication.


an n; perhaps tlie only agreement more than accidental
with the roots of most other languages. Their original
wealth of ideas is very limited. They have, indeed, peculiar
words for the sun, the moon, and the stars ; but they borrow
terms from the Arabic for time, year, month, day, and hour ;
water, sea, and river, are all essi ; but it is remarkable that
they designate the Nile by a particular word — Tossi. They