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Ruins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) online

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a spot which he thought extremely well adapted for
the building of a city. lie, therefore, set about
drawing the plan of one ; in doing which he parti-
cularly marked out the several places where temples
and squares should be erected. The general execu-
tion he committed to the architect who had rebuilt
the temple of Diana at Ephesus (Dinocrates). This
city he called Alexandria, after his own name ; and
being situated with the Mediterranean on one side,
* Jose Almana. t Browne.


:m<l one of the branches of the Nile on tin 1 other, it
soon drew all the commerce. both of the ca>t and
west. It still remains, and is situate about four days'
journey from Cairo. The merehaadisei were un-
loaded at Port us Muris*, a town on the \\
coast of the Red Sea; whence they were brought njion
camels to a town of Thebais, called Copt, ami con-
veyed down the Nile to Alexandria, whither mer-
eliants from all parts resorted.

The trade of the East has at all times enriched
-those who carried it on. Solomon received from one
commercial voyage, no less a sum than three millions
two hundred and forty thousand pounds t. Tyre
afterwards had the trade. When the Ptolemies,
however, had built Berenice, and other ports on the
western side of the Red Sea, and fixed their chief
mart at Alexandria, that city became the most
flourishing of all the cities in the world. " Th
says Pridcaux, " it continued for many centuries
after ; and all the traffic which the western parts of
the world from that time had with Persia, India,
Arabia, and the eastern coasts of Arabia, was wholly
carried on through the Red Sea, and the mouth of
the Nile, till a way was discovered of sailing to those
parts by the Cape of Good Hope."

Alexander was buried}: in the city he had built ;
and as the sarcophagus in which he was placed h:i-
now become an object of great curiosity, by having
been taken from the French, at Alexandria, where it
was found in the mosque of St. Athana-ins and
placed in the British Museum, we shall give (from
If oil in) an account of his funeral ; for never had any
monarch one so magnificent !

Myo Honuot.

t Four hundred and fifty talents of gold. See 2 Chron. viii.18.
Thi, we may suppose, wa the gross sum received ; not the profit.

J A. M. 3685. Ant. J. C. 321. Diod. lib. xviii. p. G08, G10.


Alexander died at Babylon. Aridaeus, having
been deputed by all the governors and grandees of the
kingdom, to take upon himself the care of his obse-
quies, had employed two years in preparing every-
thing that could render it the most august funeral that
had ever been seen. "When all things were ready
for the celebration of this mournful ceremonial, orders
were given for the procession to begin. This was
preceded by a great number of pioneers and other
workmen, whose office was to make all the ways
practicable, through which the procession was to
pass. As soon as these were levelled, the magnificent
chariot, the invention and design of which raised as
much admiration as the immense riches that glittered
all over it, set out from Babylon. The body of the
chariot rested upon two alxetrees, that were inserted
into four wheels, made after the Persian manner;
the naves and spokes of which were covered with
gold, and the rounds plated over with iron. The
extremities of the axletrees were made of gold, re-
presenting the mouths of lions biting a dart. The
chariot had four draught-poles, to each of which were
harnessed four sets of mules, each set consisting of
four of those animals ; so that this chariot was drawn
by sixty-four mules. The strongest of those crea-
tures, and the largest, were chosen on this occasion.
They were adorned with crowns of gold, and collars
enriched with precious stones and golden bells. On
this chariot was erected a pavilion of entire gold,
twelve feet wide, and eighteen in length, supported
by columns of the Ionic order, embellished with the
leaves of acanthus. The inside was adorned with a
blaze of jewels, disposed in the form of shells. The
circumference was beautified with a fringe of golden
net- work ; the threads that composed the texture
were an inch in thickness, and to those were fastened


largo bolls, whose sound was hoard toa^ivat di-taneo.
The external docorations wcro disposed into four
relievos. The first represented Alexander Crated in
a military chariot, with a splendid sceptre in his
hand, and surrounded, on one side, with a, troop of
Macedonians in arms; and on the other, with an
equal numher of Persians, armed in their manner.
These were preceded by the king's equerries. In tin-
second were seen elephants completely harn>
with a band of Indians seated on the fore part of
their bodies; and on the hinder, another hand of
Macedonians, armed as in the day of battle. The
third exhibited to the view several squadrons of
horse ranged in military array. The fourth repre-
sented ships preparing for a battle. At the entrance
into the pavilion were golden lions, that seemed to
guard the passage. The four corners were adorned
with statues of gold, representing victories, with
trophies of arms in their hands. Under the pavilion
was placed a throne of gold of a square form, adorned
with the heads of animals, whoso necks were encom-
passed with golden circles a foot and a half in
breadth ; to these were hung crowns that glitten d
with the liveliest colours, and such as were carried
in procession at the celebration of sacred solemnities.
At the foot of the throne was placed the coffin of
Alexander, formed of beaten gold, and half filled with
aromatic spices and perfumes, as well to exhale an
agreeable odour, as for the preservation of the corpse.
A pall of purple, wrought with gold, covered the
coffin. Between this and the throne the arms of that
monarch were disposed in the manner he wore them
while living. The outside of the pavilion was like-
wise covered with purple, flowered with gold. Tho
top ended in a very large crown of the same metal,
which seemed to be a composition of olive-branches.


The rays of the sun which darted on this diadem, in
conjunction with the motion of the chariot, caused
it to emit a kind of rays like those of lightning.
It may easily be imagined, that, in so long a pro-
cession, the motion of a chariot, loaded like this,
would be liable to great inconveniences. In order,
therefore, that the pavilion, with all its appendages,
might, when the chariot moved in any uneven ways,
constantly continue in the same situation, notwith-
standing the inequality of the ground, and the shocks
that would frequently be unavoidable, a cylinder was
raised from the middle of each axle-tree, to support
the pavilion ; by which expedient the whole machine
was preserved steady. The chariot was followed by
the royal guards, all in arms, and magnificently
arrayed. The multitude of spectators of this solem-
nity is hardly credible ; but they were drawn together
as well by their veneration for the memory of Alex-
ander, as by the magnificence of this funeral pomp,
which had never been equalled in the world. There
was a current prediction, that the place where
Alexander should be interred, would be rendered
the most happy and flourishing part of the whole
earth. The governors contested with each other,
for the disposal of a body that was to be attended
with such a glorious prerogative. The affection,
Perdiccas entertained for his country, made him
desirous that the corpse should be conveyed to jEge,
in Macedonia, where the remains of its kings were
usually deposited. Other places were likewise pro-
posed, but the preference was given to Egypt.
Ptolemy, who had such extraordinary and recent
obligations to the king of Macedonia, was determined
to signalise his gratitude on this occasion. He
accordingly set out with a numerous guard of his
best troops, in order to meet the procession, and

30 HI- INS >;

advanced as far as ^yria. When lit- had joined the
attendants on the funeral, lie prevented them from
interring the corpse in the temple of Jupiter Ainmon,
as they had proposed. It was therefore deposited,
first, in the city of Memphis, and from t!.
conveyed to Alexandria. Ptolemy raised a magnifi-
cent temple to the memory of this monarch, and ren-
dered him all the honours which were usually paid
to demi-gods and heroes by Pagan antiquity.

Freinsnemius, iji his supplement to Livy, relates,
after Leo the African*, that the tomb of Alexander
tho Great was still to be seen in his time, and that
it was reverenced by the Mohammedans, as the
monument, not only of an illustrious king, but of a
great prophet.

t The ancient city, together with its suburbs, was
about seven leagues in length ; and Diodorus informs
us that thenumber of its inhabitants amounted toabove
300,000, consisting only of the citizens and free-
men ; but that, reckoning the slaves and foreigners,
they were allowed, at a moderate computation. t->
be upwards of a million. These vast numbers of
people were enticed to settle here by the convenient
situation of the place for commerce ; since, besides
the advantage of a communication to the enst< m
countries by the canal cut out of the Nile into the
Red Sea, it had two very spacious and commodious
ports, capable of containing the shipping of all the
then trading nations in the world.

The harbour, called Portus Eunostus, lay in the
centre of the city ; thus rendering the ships secure,
not only by nature but by art. The figure of tliis
harbour was a circle, the entrance being nearly
closed up by two artificial moles, which left a pas-

Tbi author lived in the fifteenth century,
f EarJ of Sandwich.


sage for two ships only to pass abreast. At the
western extremity of one of these moles stood the
celebrated tower called Pharos. The ruins of it are
buried in the sea, at the bottom of which, in a calm
day, one may easily distinguish large columns and
several vast pieces of marble, which give sufficient
proofs of tire magnificence of the building in which
they were anciently employed.

. This light-house was erected by Ptolemy Phila-
delphus. Its architect was Sostratus of Cnidos ; its
cost was 1 80,000/. sterling, and it was reckoned one
of the seven wonders of the world*. It was a large
square structure built of white marble, on the top of
which a fire was constantly kept burning, in order
to guide ships by night. Pharos was originally an
island at the distance nearly of a mile from the
continent, but was afterwards joined to it by a
causeway like that of Tyre.

This Pharos was destroyed, and, in its stead, a

* Some have commended Ptolemy for permitting the architect
to put his name in the inscription which was fixed on the tower,
instead of his own. It was very short and plain, according to
the manner of the ancients. Sostralus Cnidlus Dexiphanii
F. Diis Servatoribus pro navigantibus, i. e., " Sostratus the
Cnidian, son of Dexiphancs, to the protecting deities, for the use
of sea-faring people." But certainly Ptolemy must have very
much undervalued that kind of immortality which princes are
generally very fond of, to suffer that his name should not be so
much as mentioned in the inscription of an edifice so capable of
immortalising him. What we read in Lucian, concerning this
matter, deprives Ptolemy of a modesty, which indeed would be very
ill-placed here. This author informs us that Sostratus, seeing the
king determined to engross the whole glory of that noble structure
to himself, caused the inscription with his own name to be carved
in the marble, which he afterwards covered with lime, and thereon
put the king's name. The lime soon mouldered away : and by that
means, instead of procuring the king the honour with which he had
flattered himself, served only to discover to future ages his unjust
and ridiculous vanity. IXOLUN.

32 Kl IV- <>! AM Ii:\T ( 1 I

si|ii:irv ca-tlr was built without t:i-te or ornament,
ami incapable of sustaining tin- fin.- of a single vend
of tlu line: at invent, in a space of two !<;,
walled round, nothing is to be seen but marble
columns lying in the dust, and sawed in pieces ; for
the Turks make inill-stones of them; together with
the remains of pilasters, capitals, obelisks, and moun-
tains of ruins heaped on eaeh other.

Alexandria had one peculiar advantage over all
others: Dinocrates, considering the great scarcity
of good water in this country, dug very spacious
vaults, which, having conununication with all parts
of the city, furnished its inhabitants with one of the
chief necessaries of life. These vaults were divided
into capacious reservoirs, or cisterns, which
filled, at the time of the inundation of the Nile, by a
canal cut out of the Canopic branch, entirely for that
purpose. The water was, in that manner, preserved
for the remainder of the year; and being refined l>v
the long settlement, was not only the clearest, but
the wholesomest of any in Egypt. This grand work
is still remaining ; whence the present city, though
built out of the ruins of the ancient one, still enjoys
the benefactions of Alexander, its founder.

A street*, two thousand feet wide, began at the
Marine gate, and ended at the gate of Canopus,
adorned with magnificent houses, temples, and public
edifices. Through this extent of prospect the eye
was never satiated with admiring the marble, the
porphyry, and the obelisks which were destined
hereafter to adorn Rome and Constantinople. This
street was indeed the finest the world ever saw.

Besides all the private buildings constructed with
porphyry and marble, there was an admirable temple
to Serapis, and another to Neptune ; also a theatre,


an amphitheatre, gymnasium, and circus. The mate-
rials had all the perfection which the experience of
one thousand years could afford ; and the wealth
and exertions, not only of Egypt but of Asia. The
place was extensive and magnificent ; and a succes-
sion of wise and good princes rendered it, by means
of Egyptian materials and Grecian taste, one of
the richest and most perfect cities the world has ever

The palace occupied one quarter of the city; but
within its precincts were a museum, extensive groves,
and a temple containing the sepulchre of Alexander. '

This city was also famous for a temple erected to
the God Serapis, in which was a statue which the
natives of Sinope (in Pontus) had bartered, in a,
season of famine, for a supply of corn. The temple
was called the Serapion ; and Ammianus Marcel-
linus assures us*, that it surpassed all the temples
then in the world for beauty and magnificence, with
the sole exception of the Capitol at Rome.

Ptolemy Soter made this city the metropolitan
seat of arts and sciences. He founded the museum,
the most ancient and most sumptuous temple ever
erected by any monarch, in honour of learning ; he
filled it with men of abilities, and made it an asylum
for philosophers of all descriptions, whose doctrines
were misunderstood, and whose persons were perse-
cuted ; in whose unfeigned tribute of grateful praise
he has found a surer road to everlasting renown,
than his haughty nameless predecessors, who pre-
tended to immortality, and braved both heaven and
corroding time by the solid structure of their py-

He founded also a library, which was consider-
ably augmented by Ptolemy Philadelphia, and by
* Lib. xxii. c. lt>.


the magnificence of his successors, was at length in-
creased to 700,000 volumes.

In Cwsar's time, part of this library, that portion
which was situated in the quarter of the city called
the Hruchion, was consumed by fire ; a conflagration
which caused the loss of not fewer than 4UO,000

This library, a short time after, received the in-
crcnse of 200,000 volumes from Pergamus; Antony
having given that library to Cleopatra. It was
afterwards ransacked several times ; but it was still
a numerous and very celebrated library at the time
in which it was destroyed by the Saracens, viz. A.D.
642 ; a history of which we shall soon have to relate.

The manner in which this library was originally
collected, may be judged of, in no small degree, by
the following relation : All the Greek and other
books that were brought into Egypt were seized and
sent to the Museum, where they were transcribed by
persons employed for that purpose ; the copies were
then delivered to the proprietors, and the originals
were deposited in the library. Ptolemy Evergetes, for
instance, borrowed the works of Sophocles, Euripides,
and jEschylus, of the Athenians, and only returned
them the copies, which he had caused to be transcribed
in as beautiful a manner as possible ; and he likewise
presented them with fifteen talents, equal to fifteen
thousand crowns, for the originals, which he kept.

On the death of Cleopatra, Egypt was redu. 1
into a province of the Roman empire, and governed
by a prefect sent from Rome. Alexander founded the
city in 3629 ; and the reign of the Ptolemies, who
succeeded him, lasted to the year of the world 3974.

The city, in the time of Augustus, must have been
very beautiful ; for when that personage entered it,
he told the natives, who had acted against him, that


he pardoned them all ; first, out of respect to the
name of their founder ; and, secondly, on account of
the beauty of their city. This beauty and opulence,
however, were not without their corresponding evils ;
for Quintilian informs us, that as Alexandria im-
proved in commerce and in opulence, her inhabitants
grew so effeminate and voluptuous, that the word
Alexandrine became proverbial, to express softness,
indelicacy, and immodest language.

Egypt having become a province of Rome, some
of the emperors endeavoured to revive in it a love of
letters, and enriched it by various improvements.
The emperor Caligula was inclined to favour the
Alexandrians, because they manifested a readiness
to confer divine honours upon him. He even con-
ceived the horrid design of massacring the chief
senators and knights of Rome (A.D. 40), and then of
abandoning the city, and of settling at Alexandria; the
prosperity and wealth of which in the time of Aurelian
was so great, that, after the defeat of Zenobia, a
single merchant of this city undertook to raise and
pay an army out of the profits of his trade !

The rapid rise of the power of the Moslems, and
the religious discord which prevailed in Egypt, levelled
a death-blow at the grandeur of this powerful city,
whose prosperity had been unchecked from the time
of its foundation ; upwards of nine hundred and
seventy years. Amrou, the lieutenant of Omar, king
of the Saracens, having entered Egypt, and taken
Pelushmi, Babylon, and Memphis, laid siege to
Alexandria, and after fourteen months carried the
city by assault, and all Egypt submitted to the yoke
of the Caliphs. The standard of Mahomet was planted
on the walls of Alexandria A. D. 640. Abulfaragius,
in his history of the tenth dynasty, gives the follow-
ing account of this catastrophe : John Philoponus, a

36 itriNs or \\< i! \ i n \i:<.

famous Peripatetic philo6opber, being at Alexandria
when the city was taken l>y the Saracens, ad-
mitted to familiar intercourse with Amrou, the Arabian
general, and presumed to solicit a gift, inestimable in
his opinion but contemptible in that of the barbarians
and this was the royal library . Animu was inclined
to gratify his wish, but bis rigid integrity scrupled
to alienate the least object without the Caliph's ecu-
sent, lie accordingly wrote to Omar, whose well-
known answer was dictated by the ignorance of a

Amrou wrote thus to his master, " I have taken
the great city of the West. It is impossible for me to
enumerate the variety of its riches and beauty; I
shall content myself with observing, that it contains
4000 palaces, 4000 baths, 400 theatres or places of
amusement, 12,000 shops for the salcof vegetable food,
and 40,000 tributary Jews." He then related what
Philoponus had requested of him. " If these writings
of the Greeks," answered the bigoted barbarian, his
master, " agree with the Koran, or book of God,
they are useless, and need not be preserved ; if they
disagree they are pernicious, and ought to be de-
stroyed." This valuable repository, therefore,
devoted to the flames, and during six months the
volumes of which it consisted supplied fuel to the.
four thousand baths, which gave health and cleanli-
ness to the city. " No complaint," says a celebrated
moralist (Johnson), " is more frequently repeated
among the learned, than that of the waste made by
time among the labours of antiquity. Of those who
once filled the civilised world with their renown
nothing is now left but their names, which are left
only to raise desires that never can be satisfied, and
sorrow which never can be comforted. Had all the
writings of the ancients been faithfully delivered down


from age to age, bad the Alexandrian library been
spared, and the Palatine repositories remained unim-
paired, how much might we have known of whicli
we are now doomed to be ignorant, how many labo-
rious inquiries and dark conjectures, how many
collations of broken hints and mutilated passages
might have been spared ! We should have known
the successions of princes, the revolutions of empires,
the actions of the great, and opinions of the wise, the
laws and constitutions of every state, and the arts by
which public grandeur and happiness are acquired
and preserved. We should have traced the progress
of life, seen colonies from distant regions take pos-
session of European deserts, and troops of savages
settled into communities by the desire of keeping what
they had acquired ; we should have traced the pro-
gress and utility, and travelled upward to the original
of things by the light of history, till in remoter times
it had glimmered in fable, and at last been left in
darkness." " For my own part," says Gibbon, " I
am strongly tempted to deny both the fact and the
consequences." Dr. Drake also is disposed to believe,
that the privations we have suffered have been occa-
sioned by ignorance, negligence, and intemperate
zeal, operating uniformly for centuries, and not
through the medium of either concerted or accidental

The dominion of the Turks, and the discovery of
the Cape of Good Hope, in 1499, completed its ruin;
and from that time it has remained in decay. Its large
buildings fell into ruins, and under a government
which discouraged even the appearance of wealth,
no person would venture to repair them, and mean

* See his observations on the supposed conflagration of the
Alexandrian library, with a commentary on the 5th and 6th sec-
tions of the first chapter of the tenth book of Quiutilian.


habitations were constructed in lieu of them, on tin-
>;i-t. Since that dismal epoch Egypt has, c-> n-
tury after century, sunk deeper and deeper into a
of perfect neglect and ruin. In recent times, however,
it has boon under the immediate despotic rule of M'-
hemet Ali, nominally a pasha of the sultan of Con-
inople, and a man apparently able and willing
to do much towards restoring civilisation to the place
of his birth.

The remains, in the opinion of some, have been
greatly magnified. One writer*, for instance, t
" The present state of Alexandria affords a scene of
magnificence and desolation. In the space of two
leagues, inclosed by walls, nothing is seen but the
remains of pilasters, of capitals, and of obelisks, and
whole mountains of shattered columns and monu-
ments of ancient art, heaped upon one another, :unl
accumulated to a height even greater than that of
the houses." Another writer t says, " Alexandria
now exhibits every mark by which it could be recog-
nised as one of the principal monuments of the mag-
nificence of the conqueror of Asia, the emporium of
the East, and the chosen theatre of the far-sought
luxuries of the Roman triumvirs and the Egyptian

According to Sonnini, columns subverted and
scattered about ; a few others still upright but
isolated; mutilated statues, fragments of every species,
overspread the ground which it once occupied. " It
is impossible to advance a step, without kicking, if I
may use the expression, against some of its wrecks.
It is the hideous theatre of destruction the most
horrible. The soul is saddened on contemplating

Online LibraryCharles BuckeRuins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) → online text (page 3 of 36)