Richard Lepsius.

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

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pletely uninjured, and, placing it on two slabs composed of
smooth boards covered with skins, lipen, and paper, we raised
it from the narrow sepulchral cave, which is still half filled
with rubbish.

"We have also, to my great delight, got a fresh supply for
our plaster casts. A short time ago 5 cwt. of plaster ar-
rived, forwarded to us by M. Clot Bey, for which we had
sent an order to France, and I have found an Arab here, and
immediately taken him into my service, who has at least suf-
ficient knowledge to prepare the plaster and to make casts
from bas-reliefs.


Thehes, the 25th February , 1845.

"We have now been inhabiting our Theban Acropolis, on
the hill of Quma, above a quarter of a year, every one


busily employed ia his own way from moruing to evening, in
investigating, describing, and drawing the most valuable
monuments, taking paper impressions of the inscriptions,
and in making plans of the buildings ; we have not yet
been able to complete the Libyan side alone, where there
are at least twelve temples, five-and-twenty tombs of kings,
fifteen belonging to the royal wives or daughters, and a
countless number belonging to private persons, still to be
examined. Tlie eastern side, with its six-and-twenty sanctu-
aries, in a certain degree of preservation, will however de-
mand no less time, and yet, more has been done by previous
travellers and expeditions in Thebes itself, especially by the
French-Tuscan expedition, than in any other spot, and we
have everywhere only compared and completed their labours,
and not repeated them. "We are also far from imagining that
we have now by any means exhausted the infinite number
of monuments; whoever follows us with new information,
and with the results of more advanced science, will also find
fresh treasures, and gain fresh instruction from the same
monuments. I have always had a historical aim in view,
and this has especially determined my selection of the monu-
ments. Whenever I believed that I had attained what was
most essential for this end I was satisfied.

The river here divides the broad valley into two unequal
halves. On the west side it approaches close to the precipi-
tous Libyan range, which there projects ; on the eastern side
it bounds a wide fruitful plain, extending as far as Me-
damot, a spot situated on the border of the Arabian desert,
several hours distant. On this side stood the actual town of
Thebes, which seems to have been chiefly grouped round
the two great temples of Kaenae and Ltjqsoe, situated above
half an hour apart. Karnak lies more to the north, and
farther removed from the Nile; Luqsor is now actually
washed by the waves of the river, and may even formerly
have been the harbour of the city. The west side of the
river contained the necropolis of Thebes, and all the temples
which stood here referred more or less to the worship of the


dead ; indeed, all the inbabitants of tbis part, wbicb was
afterwards comprebended bj tbe Greeks under tbe name of
Me3j:noxia, seem to bave been principally occupied with
tbe care of tbe dead and tbeir tombs. Tbe former extent of
tbe Memnonia may be now distinguisbed by Qurna and
Medinet Habu, places situated at tbe nortbern and soutbern

A survey of tbe Tbeban monuments naturally begins
witb tbe ruins of Kaet^ak. Here stood tbe great royal
temple of tbe bundred-gated Thebes, which was dedicated to
Ammon-Ea, tbe King of tbe Grods, and to tbe peculiar local
god of the city of Amnion, so called after him (No-Ammon,
Diospolis). Ap, along with the feminine article Tap, from
which tbe Greeks made These, was the name of one par-
ticular sanctuary of Ammon. It is also often employed in
hieroglyphics in the singular, or still more frequently in tbe
plural (^'apu), as tbe name of tbe town; for which reason
the Greeks naturally, without changing tbe article along
witb it, generally used the plural e^^m. Tbe whole history
of tbe Egyptian Monarchy, after tbe city of Ammon was
raised to be one of the two royal residences in tbe land, is
connected witb this temple. All Dynasties emulated in tbe
glory of having contributed their share to the enlargement,
embellishment, or restoration of this national sanctuary.

It was founded by their first king, tbe mighty SesuetesenI.,
under the 1st Tbeban Eoyal Dynasty, the 12th of Manetho,
between 2600 and 2700 B.C., and even now exhibits some
ruins in the centre of the building from that period, bearing
the name of this king. During the Dynasties immediately
succeeding, which for several centuries groaned under the
yoke of the victorious hereditary enemy, this sanctuary no
doubt was also deserted, and nothing has been preserved
which belonged to that period. But after tbe first king of
the 17th Dynasty, Amosis, in the I7th century B.C., had suc-
ceeded in his first war against tbe Hyksos, his two successors,
Amenophis I. and Tuthmosis I., built round the remains
of the most ancient sanctuary a magnificent temple, witb a


great many chambers round tlie cella, and with a broad
court, and pylones appertaining to it, in front of which Tut-
mosis I. erected two obelisks. Two other pylones, with con-
tiguous court-walls, were built by the same king, at a right
angle with the temple in the direction of Luqsor. Tut-
mosis III. and his sister enlarged this temple to the back
by a hall resting on fifty-six columns, besides many other
chambers, which surrounded it on three sides, and were en-
circled by one common outer wall. The succeeding kings
partly closed the temple more perfectly in front, partly
built new independent temples near it, and also placed two
more large pylones towards the south-west, in front of those
erected by Tuthmosis I., so that now four lofty pylones
formed the magnificent entrance to the principal temple on
this side.

But a far more splendid enlargement of the temple was
executed in the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries B.C. by
the great Pharaohs of the 19th Dynasty ; for Sethos I., the
father of Eamses Miamun, added in the original axis of the
temple the most magnificent hall of pillars that was ever
seen in Egypt or elsewhere. The stone roof, supported by
134 columns, covers a space of 164 feet in depth, and 320
feet in breadth. Each of the twelve central columns is 36
feet in circumference, and 66 feet high beneath the archi-
trave ; the other columns, 40 feet high, are 27 feet in circum-
ference. It is impossible to describe the overwhelming im-
pression which is experienced upon entering for the first
time into this forest of columns, and wandering from one
range into the other, between the lofty figures of ^ gods and
kings on every side represented on them, projecting some-
times entirely, sometimes only in part. Every surface, is
covered Avith various sculptures, now in relief, now sunk,
which were, however, only completed under the succes-
sors of the builder; most of them, indeed, by his son
Eamses Miamun. In front of this hypostyle hall was
placed, at a later period, a great hyp^thral court, 270 by
320 feet in extent, decorated on the sides only with colon-
nades, and entered by a magnificent pylon.


The principal part of the temple terminated here, com-
prising a length of 1170 feet, not including the row of
Sphinxes in front of its external pylon, nor the peculiar
sanctuary which was placed by Eamses Miamun directly
beside the wall farthest back in the temple, and with the
same axis, but turned in such a manner that its entrance was
on the opposite side. Including these enlargements, the
entire length must have amounted to nearly 2000 feet,
reckoning to the most southern gate of the external wall,
which surrounded the whole space, which was of nearl^y equal
breadth. Tlie later Dynasties, who now found the principal
temples completed on all sides, but who also were desirous
of contributing their share to the embellishment of this
centre of the Theban worship, began partly to erect separate
small temples on the large level space which was surrounded
by the above-mentioned enclosure-wall, partly to extend
these temples also externally.

The head of the 20th Dynasty, Eamses III., whose cam-
paigns in Asia, in the fifteenth century before Christ, were
scarcely inferior to those of his renowned ancestors, Sethos I.
and Kamses II., built a special temple, with a court of
columns and a hypostyle hall, above 200 feet long, which
now intersects, in a rather unsymmetrical manner, the enclo-
sure-wall of the external court in front ; and he founded, at
a little distance from it, a still larger sanctuary for the third
person of the Theban Triad, Chensu, the son of Ammon.
This last was completed by the succeeding kings of his
Dynasty, and the priest-kings of the 21st Dynasty, who added
to it a magnificent court of columns, with a pylon in front.
In the 22nd Dynasty we recognise Scheschenk I., the war-
like King Shishak of the Bible, who, about 970 B.C., con-
quered Jerusalem. His Asiatic campaigns are celebrated on
the southern external wall of the great temple, where, in the
symbolic form of prisoners, he leads 140 vanquished towns
and countries before Ammon. Among their names there is
one whicli, not without reason, is considered to be a designa-
tion for the kingdom of Judaea, as well as the names of
several well-known towns in Palestine.


The two priests' Dynasties mentioned above, which fol-
lowed immediately after the Eamessides, were no longer of
the Theban race, but proceeded from towns in Lower Eg}-pt.
The power of the Monarchy sank with this change ; and after
the short 23rd Dynasty, from which period there are still
some remains in Karnak, a revolution seems to have occurred.
The present lists of authors name only one king of the 24th
Dynasty, who has not yet been re-discovered on the Egyptian
monuments. In his reign the invasion of the Ethiopians
occurred, who, from the 25th Dynasty, Schabak and Tah-
EAKA (the So and Tirhaka of the Bible), reigned in Egypt at
the commencement of the seventh century B.C. These kings
came, indeed, from Ethiopia, but governed completely in the
Egyptian manner, and they did not neglect to worship the
Egyptian god-kings. Their names are found on several
smaller temples of Karnak, and on a splendid colonnade in
the great court in front, which seems to have been first
placed there by Tahraka. According to historical accounts,
this last king returned of his own accord to Ethiopia, and
left the Egyptian kingdom to its native rulers.

The dispossessed Saitic Dynasty now returned to the
throne, and once more, in the seventh and sixth centuries,
developed all the splendour of which this country, as rich
in internal resources as in external power, was capable of
producing under a powerful and wise sceptre. It opened
for the first time a peaceful intercourse between foreign
countries and Egypt ; Greeks settled amongst them, com-
merce flourished, and a new and enormous amount of wealth
was accumulated, such as before had only been attained by
the spoils of war and tribute. But this was only an artificial
height of glory ; for the pristine vigour of the nation had
long been broken, and even art gave more signs of luxury
than of intrinsic value. The last flourishing period of the
nation soon passed away. The country could not withstand
the advancing storm of the Persians. In the year 525 it
was conquered by Cambvses, and trodden down with barbaric
fanaticism. Many monuments were destroyed, and not a


single sanctuary nor wall was erected during this period;
nothing at least has been preserved to our time, not even
from the long and milder government of Daeius ; one temple
only in the Oasis of Kargeh, or at least sculptures with his
name, having been discovered from that period. Under
Darius II., exactly one hundred years after the commence-
ment of the Persian rule, Egypt became, indeed, once more
independent, and we then again find the names of the native
kings in the temples of Karnak ; but after three Dynasties had
succeeded each other in rapid succession, during the space of
sixty-four years, it feU a second time under the dominion of
the Persians, who soon afterwards, in the year 332, lost it
by the conquest of Alexander of Macedon. Since then the
country was reduced to the necessity of getting habituated
to foreign rulers, it had lost its independence jfor ever, and
passed from one hand to another, the succeeding ruler always
worse than the preceding, down to the present day.

Under the Macedonians and G-reeks, Egypt still possessed
sufl&cient vigour to retain its religion and institutions in the
manner that had been carried down from ancient times.
The foreign princes in all respects took the place, and fol-
lowed in the footsteps of the ancient Pharaohs. Karnak bears
testimony to this. 'W^'e here find the names of Alexak"dee
and Philip AEiDyEus, who preceded the Ptolemies in re-
storing that which had been destroyed by the Persians.
Alexander rebuilt the sanctuary behind the great temple ;
Philip that to the front : the Ptolemies added sculptures to
it — restored other parts, and even erected entirely new
sanctuaries, at no inconsiderable expense, though no longer,
indeed, on the grand scale of the Eg}'ptian classic style of
the olden times. Even the last epoch of declining Eg}^t,
that of the Soman dominion, is still represented in Karnak
by a series of representations which were executed under
C^SAE Augustus.

Thus this remarkable spot, which, in the course of twenty-
five hundred years, had increased from the small sanctuary in
the centre of the large temple to a complete city of temples,


situated on a level space a quarter of a geographical mile in
length, and above 2000 feet in breadth, presents both an
almost uninterrupted thread of events, and an interesting
scale of measurement for the history of the whole of the
!N'ew Egj-ptian Monarchy, from its origin in the Old Mo-
narchy down to its decline under the Eoman dominion. The
appearance[or non-appearance of the Dynasties and individual
kings in Eg)'ptian history is almost uniform with the repre-
sentation of them in and round the temple of Karnak.

Higher up the river than Karnak, where the stream,
which has been divided by the fertile island of Gredideh, re-
unites, rises even now to view a second bright point of the
ancient city, the temple of Luqsoe. One of the most
powerful Pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty, Amenophis III.,
who had only built a side temple in Karnak, and had added
but very little to the principal temple, here erected a so
much the more splendid sanctuary to Ammon, which the
great Eamses enlarged still more by a second magni-
Hcent court in front, in the direction of Karnak. Por,
although a good half hour distant from it, this temple must
also be regarded as belonging to the space dedicated, from
ancient times, to the great national sanctuary. This is
proved by a circumstance which otherwise would be difficult to
explain : that the temple, though situated close to the bank,
has its entrance, contrary to custom, away from the river, and
directed towards Karnak, with which it was, besides, imme-
diately connected by colonnades, series of rams, and artifi-
cially-constructed roads.

The ruins on the eastern bank terminate with Luqsor,
The moEuments of icestern Thebes offer still greater variety,
as here the subterranean dwellings and palaces of the dead
are added to those above ground. At one time an uninter-
rupted series of the most splendid temples extended from
Qurna as far as Medinet Habu, which nearly occupied the
whole of the narrow strip of desert between the cultivated
land watered by the Nile and the foot of the mountain range.
The immense field of the dead spreads out immediately


behind tbese temples, where the sepulchral caves, like the
cells of bees, close beside each other, are either dug in the
rock of the plain, or hewn in the adjacent hills.

Qurna is situated on the angle of the Ljbian range, pro-
jecting farther forward towards the river. As the moun-
tains here suddenly retreat towards the west, they form a
great mountain caiildron, the front part of which, where it is
separated by low hills from the valley, is called El Asasif. Be-
hind, it is closed in by lofty, steep escarpments of rock, which
display their beautiful stone to the mid-day and morning sun.
These precipitous declivities of the limestone range, which,
owing to their solid and uniform texture, are particularly
adapted for the finest sculptures of the rock-tombs, seem to
have been produced by the gradual removal of a bed of clay
beneath them, from the wearing effects of exposure to the
weather, and thus the overhanging masses are deprived of
their foundation.

In this rock-creek are situated the onost ancient tombs,
and they belong to the Old Monarchy. Their entrances
may be seen from a distance, high up in the rocks lying to the
north, exactly beneath the vertical precipice which rises from
the steep hills of rubbish to the summit of the mountain
ridge. Their external site, and the road up, bounded by low-
stone walls leading to the entrances in a steep and straight
line of several hundred feet from the valley, reminded me
directly of the tombs of Benihassan, which belong to the
same period. They date from between 2500 and 3000 B.C.,
under the kings of the 11th and 12th Manethonic Dynasties,
the first of which laid the foundation of the mighty power of
Thebes, and made the to^vn the seat of the government they
had rendered independent of Memphis ; the second elevated
it to be the capital of the Monarchy of the whole country.

These grottoes, of which there are some of a similar age in
the adjacent hills in the foreground, generally descend, in an
oblique angle, deep into the rock, but they have neither
paintings nor inscriptions; it was only the stone sarco-
phagi on which peculiar diligence was bestowed. These are


usually formed of the finest limestone, and are sometimes
above nine feet long; they have inscriptions, and are de-
corated with colours, both internally and externally, in the
elaborate and pure style of that period, very elegantly,
though with a certain degree of parsimony. We are bring-
ing away with us one of these sarcophagi, as I mentioned
once before. A few days ago it was safely carried down
into the plain, after the pit, which had long been com-
pletely filled with rubbish, had been cleared, and part of the
solid rock itself had been cut through, to obtain a shorter
exit for it. The occupant of the tomb was the son of a
prince, and himself bore the dynastic appellation of the 11th
Eoyal Dynasty, namely, Xentef.

In the outermost angle of this rock-cove is situated the
most ancient temple-building of "Western Thebes, which be-
longs to the period of the New Egyptian Monarchy, at the
commencement of its glory. One street, above 1600 feet
long, adorned on either side with colossal rams and sphinxes,
led from the valley in a straight line to an outer court, then,
by means of a flight of steps to another, whose front wall was
adorned with sculpture, and had a colonnade before it, and
finally, beyond, by a second flight of steps to a granite gate in
good preservation, and to the last temple court, which was
surrounded on both sides with beautifully decorated halls
and chambers, and terminated behind with a broad fa9ade,
placed along the precipitous rock. Another granite gate, in
the centre of this fa9ade, leads at length to the innermost
temple-chamber, which was hewn into the rock, and had a
lofty, stone-vaulted roof, out of which again opened several
smaller niches and chambers, at the sides and the back. All
these chambers were covered with the most beautiful sculp-
tures, with variegated colours on a grey ground, executed in
the finished style of that period. This grand structure, be-
side which stood other series of buildings, now destroyed,
seems to have been originally connected with the river, by a
street intersecting the whole valley, and beyond, with the
great temple of Karnak, which lies exactly in the same


direction ; I liave no doubt that it was witH this object that
the narrow rock-gate was first artificially cut through the
hills in front, across which the temple-street enters into the
lower plain. It was a Queen, Numt Amen, the elder sister
of Tuthmosis III., who accomplished this bold plan of a
structural connection between the two sides of the valley,
the same who had erected the two greatest obelisks in front
of the temple of Karnak. She never appears on her monu-
ments as a woman, but in male attire ; we ouly find out her
sex by the inscriptions. No doubt at that period it was
illegal for a woman to govern; for that reason, also, her
brother, probably still a minor, appears at a later period as
ruler along witli her. After her death, her Shields were
everywhere converted into Tuthmosis Shields, the femiuine
forms of speech in the inscription were changed, and her
names were never adopted in the later lists along with the
legitimate kings.

There are two peculiar temples, both erected on the
border of the desert by Tuthmosis III., who completed the
work of his royal sister during the long period that he sat
alone upon the throne. Of these, the northern one can
now only be recognised by its ground plan, and by the re-
mains of its brick pylon ; the southern one, on the other
hand, at Medinet Habu, is still in good preservation; and
judging by some sculptures, the oldest part of the building
might perhaps have belonged to an earlier Tuthmosis, and
have only been completed by him. His second successor,
Tuthmosis IV., also built a temple, which has now almost

He was followed by Amenophis III., in whose brilliant
and long reign the temple of Luqsor was built. To him
are inscribed the two giant Colossi, far out in the fertile
plain, near Medinet Habu, which once stood at the gates of
a great temple-building, but whose remains are now for the
most part buried beneath the crops of the annually accumu-
lating soil of the valley. Perhaps, also, a connecting street,
corresponding with that to the north, once led from this


point across the valley to Luqsor, on the opposite side. Of
the two Colossi, the one situated to the north-east was the cele-
brated sounding statue, which the G-reeks connected with
their charming legend of the beautiful Memnon, who every
morning at sunrise greeted his mother, Aurora, while she
moistened him with her tears of dew for his early heroic death.
This myth, as Letronne has shown, was only composed at a late
period ; because the actual phenomenon of clear tremulous
tones produced by the springing of small particles of the stone
when it became rapidly warm after being cooled during the
night, did not become strikingly evident till fragments of
the statue had partly fallen inwards upon itself, having been
previously split by an earthquake which happened in the year
B.C. 27. The phenomenon of cracking and sounding stones in
the desert and among great fields of ruins, is not unfrequent
in Egypt ; but the nature of the hard flinty conglomerate
of which this statue is composed, is peculiarly favourable to
it, as is further proved by the innumerable large and small
cracks now penetrating in all directions portions of the
statue, which were described even as late as the Grreek
period, and consequently were then uninjured. It is also
remarkable how, even now, several of the pieces that have
split off, and are only hanging loose, sound as clear as
metal if they are struck, while others beside them remain
perfectly dumb and without sound, according as they are
more or less moistened by their reciprocal positions. The
numerous Greek and Eoman inscriptions which are engraved
upon the statue, and which intimate the visits of strangers,
especially if they have been so fortunate as to hear the
morning greeting, first commence in the time of Nero, and
extend down to the time of Septimius Severus, from which
period we may probably date the restoration of the original
monolithic statue. Since this restoration of the upper por-
tion in single blocks, the phenomenon of the sounding tones
seems, if not to have entirely ceased, yet to have become less
frequent and less striking. The change of Amenophis (who
even then, as the inscriptions inform us, was not forgotten)



into Memnon was probably chiefly occasioned by tbe name
of this entire western portion of Thebes, Memnonia, which

Online LibraryRichard LepsiusLetters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai → online text (page 22 of 54)