Richard Lepsius.

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

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standing, but not in the centre of the almost square rect-
angle, which, by their appearance, they seem to have originally
occupied. They rose at an angle of 64°, therefore, with a
much steeper inclination than Pyramids usually do. Their
present height, which, however, seems to have been originally
the same as it is now, only amounts to twenty-three feet, to
which, nevertheless, must be added, a pecidiar and somewhat
projecting base of seven feet. A small excavation convinced
me that the lowest layer of stone, which only reaches four
feet beneath the present ground, was founded neither on
sand nor on rock, but upon Nile mud, which more especially
render the great antiquity of these buildings very doubtful.
At least it is to be inferred from this that they did not
stand in the lake, which, if it encircled them, must have had
a remarkable curve outwards to the north-west.

"We had been riding hitherto on the line of separation
between the ancient bottom of the lake and the adjacent


district. The former is bare and sterile, since the land, at
the present day, lies so high that it cannot be overflowed.
On the other hand, the broad tract of land enclosing the
ancient lake, forms by far the most beautiful and most fertile
part of the Faium. AVe now traversed this district, while
we left the capital of the province, Medinet el Faium, with
the mounds of the ancient Ceocodilopolis on our left,
and rode by Selajin and Fidimin, to Agamieh, where we spent
tlie night. The next morning, near Bischeh, we reached
the limits of this continuous garden-land. Here we entered
a new region, forming a striking contrast to the former,
by its sterility and desolation, enriching it like a girdle, and
separating it from the crescent-shaped Birqet-el-Qorn,
situated in the lowest and most distant part. About mid-
day we reached the lake. The only boat which was to be
had, far and wide, conveyed us in an hour and a half across
the expanse of water, encircled all around by the desert, to
an island lying in the centre of the lake, called Geziret-el-
Qorn. We, however, found nothing on it worthy of notice,
not even a trace of a building, so towards the evening we

The next morning we re-crossed the lake in a more north-
erly direction, and landed on a small peninsula of the oppo-
site sliore, which rises at once 150 feet, to a plateau of the
Libyan Desert, commanding the whole Oasis. AYe then
ascended, and about an hour distant from the shore, in the
midst of the inhospitable desert, devoid of water and vegeta-
tion, we found the extensive ruins of an ancient town, which
on earlier maps is named Medinet Nimrud. They were
utterly unacquainted with this name here ; the place was
only known by the designation of Dimeh. On the following
day, the 7th July, the regular plan of these ruins, with the
remains of its temple, was noted down by Erbkam, who had
spent the night here with Abeken. There are no inscriptions
on the temple, and whatever sculptures we found, were
placed in this remarkable building at a late period. It was



probably intended only as a military station, against in-
vasions from Lybia into tbe rich country of the Eaium.

On the 8th July we went in our boat to Qase Qeetjn,
an old town on the southern end of the lake, with a temple
of late date, and in excellenc preservation, but with no in-
scriptions, the plan of which was taken on the following day.
Prom this place we followed the southern frontier of the
Oasis, by Neslet, as far as the ruins of Medinet Madi, on
Lake Gthaeaq, near which the ancient dams of Lake Moeris
projected from the north, and on the 11th July we again
arrived at our camp on the ruins of the Labyrinth. "We
found all well, including Frey, whom we had left indisposed,
and whose repeated attacks of illness, probably produced by
the climate, cause me some anxiety.

To-morrow I am thinking of going to Cairo with Abeken
and Bonomi, to hire a boat for our journey south, and to
prepare everything that is requisite for our final departure
from the neighbourhood of the capital. We shall take four
camels with us for the transport of the monuments which
we have collected in the Faium, and strike into the shortest
road, namely, from here by Tamieh, which we did not touch
at, on our journey round, and thence across the desert
heights which separate this part of the Faium from the
Nile valley ; we shall then descend into it by the Pyramids
of Dahschur, and thus hope to reach Cairo in two days and
a half.


Cairo, the Uth August, 1843.
I EEGEET to say that I received such uncomfortable
accounts of the state of Frey's health, soon after our arrival
in Cairo, that Abeken and Bonomi at length determined
to go to our camp, and to bring him in a litter which
they took with them, from the Labyrinth to Zani on the
Nile, and thence by water to this place. As soon as Br.


Pruner had seen him, he pronounced that the only advisable
course was to let him immediately return to Europe. The
liver complaint, under which he was found to be suffering,
ijs incurable in Egypt, and as it had already made great pro-
gress, he left us yesterday at mid-day. May the climate of
home soon restore our friend's strength, who is both amiable
and full of talent, and is a great loss to us all.

A few days ago, I purchased some Ethiopian Manuscripts
for the Library at Berlin, from a Basque, Domingo Lorda,
who has lived a long time in Abyssinia, and accompanied
D'Abadie on several journeys. He bought them, probably,
for a small sum, in a convent situated on the island of
Thana, near Gorata, one day's journey from the sources of
the Blue Nile, whose inhabitants were brought to a state of
great distress by locusts. The one contains the history of
Abyssinia, from Solomon to Christ, and is said to come from
Asum, and to be between five and six hundred years old.
This first part of the Abyssinian history, called Kebre
Negest, " the Fame of the Kings," is said to be far more
rare than the second, Tarik Negest, " the History of the
Kings ;" but this manuscript also contains at the end a list of
the Ethiopian kings since the time of Christ. The largest
manuscript, adorned with many great pictures in the By-
zantine style, and by what I learn about it from Lieder,
almost unique in its kind, contains chiefly the histories of
saints. The third contains the still valid Canones of the
Church, complete. I hope that it will be an acceptable pur-
chase for our Library.*

* The same Domenico Lorda again travelled that year to Abyssinia, .
and sent six other Abyssinian manuscripts to Herr Lieder from thence,
who showed them to me on my return to Cairo. These, also, on my
suggestion, were afterwards obtained for the Koyal Library. By
M. Lorda's account they contain :

A. Abuscher — Almanacco perpetuo Civilc-Ecclesiastico-Storico.

B. Sktta Negiiest— Codice dell' Imperadore Eeschias.

C. JusEPH — Storia Civile, ed Ecclesiastica. (?)

D. Beraan — Storia Civile, ed Ecclesiastica.

E. Philkisius e Marisak— Due Opere, in un volume, che trat-
tano della Storia Civile.

F. SiNODDS — Dritto Canonico.



The purchases for our journej are also now completed ; a
convenient boat is hired, which will save us from the great
difficulties of a land journey, since this, more especially during
the impending season of inundation, could scarcely be accom-


Thebes, the \Bth October, 1843.
On the 16th August I went from Cairo to the Faium,
from which our camp broke up on the 21st. Two days later
we sailed away from Beni-suee, and, sending the camels
back to Cairo, only took the asses with us in our boat, as, on
considering the matter more attentively, we found that the
land journey, originally contemplated by me along the range
of the hdls some distance from the river on the western
side, was quite impracticable during the inundation, and on
the eastern bank would have been partly too fatiguing, and
partly devoid of objects of interest to us on account of the
proximity of the desert frontier on that side, beyond which
there is nothing for us to explore. We have, therefore, only
made excursions from the boat, sometimes on foot, some-
times on asses, principally to the eastern hills, which are
easily reached ; but on the western bank, also, we have
visited the most important points.

The very day after our departure from Beni-suef we found
a small rock-temple in the neighbourhood of the village of
SuRARiEH, unnoticed by earlier travellers, not even men-
tioned by "Wilkinson, which, as early as the 19th Dynasty,
was dedicated by Menephthes, the son of Eamses Miamun,
to the Egyptian Yenus (Hathor). Farther on are several
groups of tombs, which had also hitherto received scarcely
any notice, although, from their extreme antiquity, they are
peculiarly interesting. The whole of Middle Egypt, judging
by the tombs which have been preserved, seems to have
principally flourished during the Old Monarchy, before the

SU-T. 101

invasion of the Ilyksos, not only during the 12tli Dynast^',
to which the renowned tombs of Benihassan, Siut, and
Berscheh belong, but even as early as the 6th. We have found
groups of tombs, of considerable size, from this early period,
which belonged to towns whose names even are no longer
known in the later Egyptian geography, because they had
probably been destroyed by the Hyksos. We remained the
longest time in Benihassan, namely, sixteen days. Hence
the season has now arrived, which we must not lose for our
journey south. In the following places, therefore, notes
alone were taken, and paper impressions of a most impor-
tant kind ; for instance, in El Amarna, in Siut, in the vene-
rable Abydos, and in the more recent, but not on that
account less magnificent, Temple of Dendera, which is
almost in perfect preservation. In Siut we visited the
Governor of Upper Egypt, Selim Pascha, who for several
months past has been working an ancient alabaster quarry,
which had been re-discovered by the Bedouins, between
Berscheh and Gauata.

The town of Siut is beautifully built and in a charming
situation, especially when viewed from the steep rock on the
western bank of the valley close behind it. The view of the
overflowed Xile valley from these heights is the most beauti-
ful wliich we have yet seen, and, at the same time, extremely
characteristic of the inundation season, in which we are now
travelling. From the foot of the steep rock, a small dam over-
grown with sont-trees,* and a bridge, leads across to the town,
which lies like an island in the boundless sea of inundation.
The gardens of Ibrahim Pascha, extending on the left, form
another island, green and fresh, covered with trees and brush-
wood. The town, with its fifteen minarets, rises high above
the mounds of rubbish of the ancient Lycopolis. A still larger
dam leads- from it to the Nile, and, towards the south, other
long dams may be seen, like floating threads drawn across the
mass of waters. On the other side the Arabian chain of mouu-

* Sont, or Acacia, ^limosa Nilotica. — Sir G. Wilkinson. — Tr.


tains approach tolerably near, by vrliich the valley becomes
closed in, forming a picture which can be easily surveyed.

"We have been in the royal city of Thebes since the 6th
October, Our boat landed us first, under the walls of Luqsor,
at the most southern point of the Theban ruins. The strong
current of the river has here encroached to within such a
short distance of the old temple that it is itself even in
considerable danger. I endeavoured to obtain a view over
the ruins of Thebes, from the summit of the temple, in order
to compare it with the image that I had formed of it from
maps and descriptions. The distances, however, are too great
to make a good picture. You look upon a wide landscape,
in which the scattered groups of temples stand forth as single
points, and can only be recognised by one who has a previous
knowledge of the subject. Towards the north, at the dis-
tance of a short hour, rise the mighty Pylones of Kaenak,
which of itself formed a town of temples altogether gigantic
and astonishing. TTe spent the succeeding days in taking a
cursory survey of them. On the other side of the river, at
the foot of the Libyan range, are the Memnoxia, once an
uninterrupted series of splendid buildings, unrivalled among
the monuments of antiquity. Even now the temples of
Medinet Habu, with their high mounds of rubbish, are
distinguishable in the distance, at the southern end of this
series, exactly opposite to Luqsor ; and at the northern end,
an hour from that point dovrn the river, the temple of
QuR^^AH, which is in good preservation ; between them both
stands the temple of Eamses Miamun (Sesostris), abeady of
gi-eat celebrity, from its description by Diodorus. Thus the
four Arabian places, Karnak, and Luqsor on the eastern side
of the river, Quruah, and IMediuet Habu on the western,
form a great square, which measures on every side about
half a geographical mile, and gives us some notion of the
magnitude of the most splendid portion of ancient Thebes.
How far the remaining inhabited portion of the City of a
Hundred Gates extended towards the east, north, and south,
it is difficult to discover now, because all that in the lapse of


time has not maintained its origuial position, has gradually
disappeared beneath the annually increasing rise of the soil
of the lower plain by the inundation.

No one ever inquires here about the weather, for one day-
is exactly like the other, serene, clear, and hitherto not too
hot. AVe have no momiag or evening red, as there are
neither clouds nor vapours ; but the first ray of the morning
calls forth a world of colours in the bare and rugged lime-
stone mountains closing in around us, and in the brownish
glitterinf^ desert, contrasted with the black, or green-clothed
lower phiin, such as is never seen in northern countries.
There is scarcely any twilight, as the sun sinks down at
once. The separation of night and day is just as sudden as
that between meadow and desert ; one step, one moment,
dindes the one from the other. The sombre brilliancy of
the moon and starlight nights is so much the more refreshing
to the eye which has been dazzled by the ocean light of day.
The air is so pure and dry, that except in the immediate
vicinity of the river, in spite of the sudden change at sunset,
there is no fall of dew. We have almost entirely forgotten
what rain is, for it is above six months since it last rained
with us in Saqiira. A few days ago we rejoiced, when, towards
evening, we discovered some light clouds in the sky to the
south-west, which reminded us of Europe. Nevertheless, we
do not want coolness even in the daytime, for a light \vind is
almost always blowing, which does not allow the heat to
become too oppressive. Added to this, the Nile water is
pleasant to the taste, and may be enjoyed in great abundance
without any detriment.

The clay water-bottles (Qulleh) are invaluable to us ; they
are composed of fine, porous Nile mud, which allows the
water to ooze through them continually ; the evaporation of
this, as soon as it appears on the warm surface, as is well
known, produces cold, and thus, by this simple process, the
bottles are constantly kept cool in the hottest period of
the day. The drinking-water, on that account, is usually
cooler than it is in Europe during the summer. We princi-


pally live upon poultry, and, as a change, we occasionally
kill a sheep. There are very few vegetables. Every meal
is concluded by a dish of rice. For dessert we have the
most beautiful yellow melons, or juicy red water-melons.
The dates also are excellent, but not to be had everywhere.
I have at length, to the great joy of my companions, learned
to smoke a Turkish pipe, which keeps me a quarter of an hour
in perfect Icef: by this word the Arabs designate their easy
repose, their comfort; for as long as one '' drinks" the blue
smoke of the long pipe from the shallow bowl, so easily
overset, it is impossible to leave one's position, or to under-
take anything else. AYe have a convenient costume — loose
trousers of light cotton stuff, and over them a wide long
tunic, with short wide sleeves. Besides this I wear a broad,
turned-up, grey felt hat, as a European badge, which keeps
the Arabs in proper respect. We eat, according to the
custom of the country, on a low round table, not a foot high,
sitting on cushions, with our legs folded under us. This
position has become so convenient to me, that I even write
in it, sitting on my couch, the letter portfolio on my knees,
as a support. Above me is spread out a canopy of gauze
to keep off the flies — this most shameless plague of Egypt
during the day — and the gnats during the night. In other
respects, we suffer fiir less from vermin here, than in Italy.
"We have not yet been bit by scorpions and serpents, but in
return there are very malignant wasps, which have frequently
stung us.

We shall only remain here till the day after to-morrow,
and shall then travel towards the south without stopping.
We shall wait for our return to devote as much time and
labour as the treasures in this spot demand. At Assuan, on
the frontiers of Egypt, we shall, for the first time, change
our mode of transport, and send back oiu' great boat, in
which we already feel quite at home. On the other side of
the cataracts we shall take two smaller boats for our journey



Korusko, the 20th Aovember, 1843.*
OuE joumej from the Faiura, through Eg}'pt, was neces-
sarily very much hastened owing to the advanced season. "We
have, therefore, rarely remained longer at a place than was
requisite for a hasty survey, and have chiefly confined our-
selves, during the past three months, to keeping an exact
register of what exists, and to increasing our important col-
lection of impressions upon paper of the most interesting

On our rapid journey as far as Wadi Haifa, we have col-
lected from three to four hundred impressions, or exact
copies, of Greek inscriptions alone. They often confirm Le-
tronne's acute conjectures, but also not unfrequently cor-
rect the unavoidable mistakes of such a difficult work as his.
In the inscription from which, without any foundation, it
was proposed to settle the position of the town of Akoris, his
conjecture, I2IAI AOXIAAI, is not verified : L'Ii6te had read
MOXIAAI, but it is MQXIAAI, and before EPQEQS, not


The dedicatory inscription of the Temple of Pselciiis (as
it is given in the inscription, in accordance with Strabo, in-
stead of Pselcis) is almost as long again as Letronne assumes
it to be, and the first line does not end witli KAE0nATPA2,
but with AAEAH2, so that we must probably restore it
thus :

'Ynep QaaiXiCDS YlToXefiaiov /cat ^aa-iXia-crTjs

KXeonaTpas Trjs dbeX(pT)s
Oeiov Evfpy€To)v.f . . .4,

* This letter, addressed to Alexander von Humboldt, has been already
printed in the Prussian Gazette, Berlin, 9th Feb., 1844.

t " Dedicated to King Ttolemy and Cleopatra, his sister, benevolent
deities." — Tr.

X The emendation, aStX^f)?, in this inscription, which dates from
the thirty-fifth year of Euergetes (b.c. 136), is of importance in
certain chronological determinations of that period. Letronne (Rec.

106 geeee: iirscEiPTioisrs.

At the end of the second line TQIKAI, therefore, is con-
firmed. The surname of Hermes, "^hich follows in the third
line, however, has been nAOTnNOYa>l (ai) differing from the
writing in other later inscriptions, where he is called
nAYTN0Y$I2. The same surname is also not unfrequently
found in hieroglyphics, and then sounds Tut en Pnuhs, that
is to say, Thoth of, or Lord of Uvov.-^, a town, the site of
which is still uncertain. I have already met with this Thoth
in temples of earlier date, where he frequently appears beside
the Tliotli of ScJwiun, i. e. Hermopolis Magna. In the po-
pular language it was called Pet-Pnuls ; from this, it became

The interesting problem about the owner of the name,
EvTrdifop, which Letronne endeavours to solve in a new
manner, by means of the inscriptions on the obelisk of Philae,
appears to be decided by tlie hieroglyphic inscriptions, where

des Inscr., vol. i., p. 33 — 56) assumed that Cleopatra III., the niece and
second wife of Euergetes II., was here meant. Hence alone he con-
cluded that this king, in the oflScial documents written before his ex-
pulsion, in the year 132 e.g., only joined the name of his wife, Cleopatra
III., to his own, and therefore he fixed the date of all the inscriptions,
in which both the Cleopatras, the sister, and the (second) wrfe are
named after the king, in the period after the return of Euergetes (127
— 117), e.g. the inscriptions on the obelisk of Philffi (Rec, vol. 1., p.
333). In this determination of the time, he is followed by Franz (Corp.
Inscr., vol. iii., p. 285), who, for the same reason, fixes the date of the
inscriptions (c. i., no. 4841, 4860, 4895, 4896) between b.c. 127 and 117,
although he was already aware of my correction of the inscription of
Pselchis (c. i., no. 5073).

It is indeed singular that only one Cleopatra is mentioned in the
inscription of Pselchis; but as it is Cleopatra II., the first wife of the
king, who he always distinguishes from his second wife by the appel-
lation of sister; it cannot thence be concluded that from the very
commencement of his second marriage he expressly excluded all men-
tion of the latter in the documents. This also is confirmed in the most
distinct manner by two Demotic Papyri belonging to the royal museum,
in which both Cleopatras are mentioned, although the one papyrus is as
early as the year b.c. 141, the other, a duplicate, is from the year b.c.
136. All inscriptions which, according to Letronne (Rec. des Inscr.,
tome i., no. 7, 26, 27, 30, 31) and Pranz (Corp. Inscr., vol. iii., no.
4841, 4860, 4895, 4896), from the reasons stated, date between the
years b.c. 127 and 117, may, therefore, still be placed, with equal
probability, in the years 145 to 132.

GEEEK I>^SCHIPT10:!fS. 107

the same circumstances recur, but lead to other conjec-
tures.* I have found several very perfect series of the
Ptolemies, the longest down to Xeos Dionysos, and his con-

* Compare Letronne, Recueil des Inscriptious Grecques de
I'Egypte, tome i., p. 365, &c. Ptolemy Eupator is not mentioned by
authors. He was introduced for the first time among the predecessors
of Soter II., who were worshipped as divinities, in a Greek papyrus
[in Leyden*], which was composed in the reign of Soter II., in the
year b.c. 105, and he was inserted between Philometor and Euergetes.
Bockh, who published the Papyrus (1821), referred the surname of
Euergetes to Soter II. and his wife, and considered Eupator to be a siu*-
name of the deified Ecergictes II. In the sameyear, ChanipoUion Figeac
also wrote about this papyrus, and endeavoured to prove that Eupator
was the son of Philometor, who was killed by Euergetes II., on his
ascent to the throne. Tiiis view was assented to at a later period by St»
Martin, Bockh, and Letronne (Rech. pour ser Ii I'Hist. dc I'Eg., p. 124).
Meanwhile, the name of Eupator was discovered in a second papyrus
from the reign of Soter II., as well as in the letter of Numenius on
the Pliilensic obelisk of H. Bankes, from the time of Euergetes II. In
both inscriptions the name of Eupator was mentioned; it did not, how-
ever, follow, but preceded Philometor, and therefore could not signify
his son. Letronne now conjectured (Recueil des Inscr., vol. i., p.
365) that Eupator was another surname of Philometor. But then it
would not have been kol 6eov Evirdropos /cut 6eov ^^iXoixrjTopoSf
but Koi 6(ov 'EvnaTopos tov kol ^tXofirjTopos. In a letter to Letronne,
of the 1st Dec, 1844, from Thebes, which is printed in the Revue
Archeol., vol. i., p. 678, &c., I communicated to him that I had also
found the name of Eupator in several hieroglyphic inscriptions, and
indeed always before Philometor. Tlie same reason which I had em-
ployed against Letronne's explanation of the Greek name (the pas-
sage is not printed along with it in the Revue), namely, the simple
repetition of the Oeov, did not even permit us in the hieroglypliic list
to consider Eupator another surname of Philopator. He nmst have
been a Ptolemy who, for a short time at least, was acknowledged as
king, but who is not mentioned by authors; and, indeed, according to

Online LibraryRichard LepsiusLetters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai → online text (page 9 of 54)