Charles Bucke.

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

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ground where remains are dug up, and which is
always overgrown with a kind of thistle, that seems to
thrive among the ruins. None of the fine marbles,
which are scattered so profusely at Alexandria, are
discoverable here ; whether it be that they were never
used, or were carried away to adorn other cities." *

But though the site of the city is not abso-
lutely known, certain it is, that many wonderful
erections in its neighbourhood denote its former
grandeur, power, and magnificence. These are the
Catacombs, the Sphinx, the lake of Moeris, and the

" The entrances into the Catacombs," says the
Earl of Sandwich, " where the inhabitants of the
neighbouring city of Memphis entombed their em-
balmed bodies, are near the last Pyramid of Sakara.
The greatest part of the plain of Sakara is hollowed
into subterraneous cavities, all cut out of the solid
rock ; not of a hard nature, but yielding to the
least violence. The entrances are many in number ;
and are in form a square of three feet, and about
twenty feet deep. The vaults contain embalmed
bodies, scattered in confusion, and many of them
broken in pieces. These have been taken out of their
chests or coffins ; and after having been ransacked
in search of any idol of value, which are frequently
found within the bodies, thrown aside by persons,
who would not be at the trouble of carrying them
away. The farther the recesses are penetrated, how-

* Alexandria may be supposed to have been partly built \rith
its ruins.

444 itnxs OF ANCIENT en

over, the bodies arc much more cut in-, ami every-
thing less disturbed. These subterraneous pa
are divided into many different chambers ; in the
sides of which are to be seen a multitude of perpen-
dicular niches, of sufficient height to contain the
bodies upright."

A little to the east of the second pyramid, is
the SPHINX, cut out of the same rock upon which the
pyramids are built. The length is about twenty -
five feet ; and its height, from the knees to the top
of the hand, thirty-eight feet.

" The sphinx," says Mr. Wilkinson, " stands
nearly opposite the south end of the pyramid
Cephren : between its paws were discovered an altar
and some tablets ; but no entrance was visible.
Pliny says, they suppose it the tomb of Amasis ;
a tradition which arose, no doubt, from the resem-
blance of the name of the king, by whose order the
rock was cut into this form. But one author has gone
farther, and given to Amasis the pyramids them-
selves. The cap of the sphinx, probably the pshent,
has long since been removed ; but a cavity in the
head, attests its former position, and explains the
mode in which it was fixed. The mutilated state
of the face, and the absence of the nose, have led
many to the erroneous conclusion, that the features
were African ; but by taking an accurate sketch of
the face, and restoring the Egyptian nose, any one
may convince himself, that the lips, as well as the
rest of the features, perfectly agree with the phy-
siognomy of a Pharaoh ; for the reader must be
aware, that this, and all other sphinxes, are emble-
inatic- representations of Egyptian kings."

Between the paws of the sphinx, a perfect tem-
ple was discovered, a few years ago, by the intrepid
traveller Belzoni, on clearing away the sand by which
it had been choked up for ages.


This figure was*, a few years ago, at an expense of
800 or 900^. (contributed by some European gentle-
men,) cleared from the sand which had accumulated
in front of it, under the superintendence of Captain

The noblest and most wonderful of all the struc-
turest or works of the kings of Egypt, was the lake
of Moeris ; accordingly, Herodotus considers it as
vastly superior to the pyramids and labyrinth. As
Egypt was more or less fruitful in proportion to the
inundations of the Nile ; and as, in these floods, the
first general flow or ebb of the waters were equally
fertile to the land ; King Moeris, to prevent these
two inconveniences, and correct, as far as lay in his
power, the irregularities of the Nile, thought proper
to call art to the assistance of nature ; and so caused
the lake to be dug, which afterwards went by his
name. This lake was several thousand paces long,
and very deep. Two pyramids, on each of which
stood a colossal statue, seated on a throne, raised
their heads to the height of three hundred feet,
in the midst of the lake, whilst their foundations
took up the same space under the waters ; a proof
that they were erected before the cavity was filled ;
and a demonstration that a lake of such vast ex-
tent, was the work of man's hands, in one prince's
reign. This is what several historians have related
concerning the Lake Mceris, on the testimony of the
inhabitants of the country. This lake had a com-
munication with the Nile, by a great canal, four
leagues long, and fifty feet broad. Great sluices
either opened or shut the canal and lake, as there
was occasion.

When it is considered, that the object of this
work was the advantage and comfort of a numerous
people, all must agree, with M. Savary, that Mceris,

Malte-Brun. f Kollin.


who constructed it, perfonm <1 a far more glorious
work than either tlu> l;t)>yrinth or the pyramids.

At present, this lake is of a much smaller extent :
but this by no means proves that Herodotus and
other writers were deceived in their calculations ; for,
considering the revolutions to which Egypt has been
subject for a series of two thousand years, it might
have undergone still greater changes.

For the period of nearly one thousand two hun-
dred years, since which Egypt has fallen into the
hands of barbarous nations, they have either de-
stroyed, or suffered to perish, the chief part of this
lake, and the canal belonging to it. The Moercotis
is dried up, the canal of Alexandria is no longer
navigable, and the Moeris is only fifty leagues in
circumference. " If," says an enlightened writer,
*' the Canal of Joseph was cleared out, where the
mud is raised up to a vast height ; if the ancient
dykes were re-established ; and the sluices of the
canals of Tamich and Bouch restored ; Lake Moeris
would still serve the same purposes. It would pre-
vent the devastation of the too great swellings of the
rivers, and supply the deficiency of those that are
inadequate. We should see it, as on former occa-
sions, extending itself from Nesle and Arsinoe, to
the Lybian mountains, and offering to astonished
travellers what is no where else to be seen ; a sea
formed by the hand of man."

The annihilation of Memphian palaces and temples
indeed is almost compensated by the existence of the
pyramids, which alone are sufficient to engage the
attention of mankind. The three largest are situated
at Gees, or Ghcsa, and named from their founders,
CHEOPS, CHEPHREN, and MVCERINES; of these only
we shall speak.

1. That of CHEOPS, the largest, is four hundred
and forty-eight feet in height, and seven hundred


and twenty-eight on each side of the base : that is,
forty feet higher than St. Peter's, at Rome; and
one hundred and thirty-three feet higher than St.
Paul's, in London.

This pyramid, like the rest, was built on a rock,
having a square base, cut on the outside as so many
steps, and decreasing gradually quite to the summit.
It was built with stones of a prodigious size, the
least of which were thirty feet, wrought with
wonderful art, and covered with hieroglyphics.
According to several ancient authors, each side
was eight hundred feet broad, and as many high.
The summit of the pyramids, which, to those who
viewed it from below, seemed a point, was a fine
platform, composed of ten or twelve massy stones,
and each side of that platform sixteen or eighteen
feet long.

It is also remarkable that the four sides of this,
and indeed of all the pyramids, face the cardinal
points. The inside contained numberless rooms and
apartments. There were expressed on the pyramid,
in Egyptian characters, the sums it cost only in
garlic, leeks, onions, and the like, for the workmen ;
and the whole amounted to sixteen hundred talents
of silver ; from whence it was easy to conjecture what
a vast sum the whole must have amounted to.

Herodotus ascribes this pyramid to Cheops, a tyran-
nical and profligate sovereign. He barred the avenues
to every temple, and forbade the Egyptians to offer
sacrifice to their gods ; after which he compelled the
people at large to perform the work of slaves. Some
he condemned to hew stones out of the Arabian
mountains, and drag them to the banks of the Nile ;
others were stationed to receive the same in vessels,
and transport them to the edge of the Libyan Desert.
In this service a hundred thousand men were em-
ployed, who were relieved every three months. Ten


years were spent in the hard labour of forming the
road on which these stones were to be drawn, a
work of no less difficulty and fatigue than tin- trr-
tion of the pyramid itself. This causeway is five
stadia in length, forty cubits wide, and its grrutot
height thirty-two cubits; the whole being composed
of polished marble, adorned with the figures of ani-
mals. Ten years were consumed in forming this
pavement, in preparing the hill on which the pyra-
mids are raised, and in excavating chambers under
the ground. The burial-place which he intended for
himself, he contrived to insulate within the building,
by introducing the waters of the Nile. The pyramid
itself was a work of twenty years ; it is of a square
form, every side being eight plethra in length and as
many in height. The stones are very skilfully
cemented, and none of them of less dimensions than
thirty feet. Such is the account of Herodotus.

Pliny and Diodorus Siculus agree in stating that
not less than three hundred and sixty thousand men
were employed in the work *.

The London and Birmingham Railway is unquestionably the
greatest public work ever executed, either in ancient or modern
times. If we estimate its importance by the labour alone which has
been expended on it, perhaps the Great Chinese Wall might com-
pete with it ; but when we consider the immense outlay of capital
which it has required, the great and varied talents which have
been in a constant state of requisition during the whole of its pro-
gress, together with the unprecedented engineering difficulties,
which we are happy to say are now overcome, the gigantic work of
the Chinese sinks totally into the shade.

It may be arousing to some readers, who arc unacquainted with
the magnitude of such an undertaking as the London and Binning,
ham Railway, if we give one or two illustrations of the above asser-
tion. The great pyramid of Egypt, that stupendous monument
which seems likely to exist to the end of all time, will afford a com-

After making the necessary allowances for the foundations,
galleries, &c., and reducing the whole to one uniform denomina-
tion, it will be found that the labour expended on the great pyramid


The pyramid next in size was erected by Cephrenus,
and is thence called CEPHREN : he was the son
of Cheops. These two princes, who were truly
brothers by the similitude of their manners, seem
to have striven which of them should distinguish
himself most, by a barefaced impiety towards the
gods, and a barbarous inhumanity to men. Cheops
reigned fifty years, and his son Cephrenus fifty-
six years after him. They kept the temples shut
during the whole time of their long reigns, and
forbade the offering of sacrifices under the severest

was equivalent to lifting fifteen thousand seven hundred and thirty -
three million cubic feet of stone one foot high. This labour was
performed, according to Diodorus Siculusby three hundred thousand,
to Herodotus by one hundred thousand men, and it required for its
execution twenty years.

If we reduce in the same manner the labour, expended in con-
structing the London and Birmingham Railway, to one common
denomination, the result is twenty-five thousand million cubic feet
of material (reduced to the same weight a* that used in constructing
the pyramidj lifted one foot high, or nine thousand two hundred and
sixty-seven million cubic feet more than was lifted one foot high in
the construction of the pyramid ; yet this immense undertaking has
been performed by about twenty thousand men in less than five years.

From the above calculation have been omitted al! the tunnelling,
culverts, drains, ballasting, and fencing, and all the heavy work at
the various stations, and also the labour expended on engines, car-
riages, wagons, &c. These are set off against the labour of drawing
the materials of the pyramid from the quarries to the spot whero
they were to be used a much larger allowance than is necessary.

As another means of comparison, let us take the cost of the
railway and turn it into pence, and allowing each penny to lie one
inch and thirty-four hundtedths wide, it will be found that these
pence laid together, so that they all touch, would more than forma
continuous band round the earth at the equator.

As a third mode of viewing the magnitude of this work, let us
take the circumference of the earth in round numbers at one hundred
and thirty million feet. Then, as there are about four hundred
million cubic feet of earth to be moved in the railway, we see that
this quantity of material alone, without looking to any thing else,
would, if spread in a band one foot high and one foot broad, more
than three times encompass the earth at the equator. LECOUST.



penalties. On the other hand, they oppressed their
subjects, by employing them in the most grievous
and useless works ; and sacrificed the lives of number-
less multitudes of mm, merely to gratify a senseless
ambition of immortalising their names by edifices of
an enormous magnitude and a boundless expense. It
is remarkable, that those stately pyramids which have
so long been the admiration of the whole world, were
the effect of the irreligion and merciless cruelty of
those princes.

The magnificent prospect from the top of this pyra-
mid has been described by the French traveller, Savary,
who visited Egypt in 1770, in glowing terms. A ftcr
occupying seven hours in ascending to its summit,
" the morning light," says he, " discovered to us every
moment new beauties: the tops of gilded minaret <,
and of date-tree and citron groves, planted round the
villages and hills ; anon the Jierds left the hamlets ;
the boats spread their light sails, and our eyes followed
them along the vast windings of the Nile. On the
north appeared sterile hills and barren sands ; onthe
south, the river and waving fields, vast as the ocean ;
to the west, the plain of Fayum, famous for its roses :
to the east, the picturesque town of Gizeh, and the
towers of Fostat, the minarets of Cairo, and the castle
of Saladin, terminated the prospect. Seated on the
most wonderful of the works of man, as upon a
throne, our eyes beheld by turns a dreadful desert ;
rich plains in which the Elysian fields had been ima-
gined ; villages ; a majestic river ; and edifices which
seemed the work of giants. The universe contains no
landscape more variegated, more magnificent, or more

The ancients knew little of the interior structure
of these giant piles.* Herodotus, who lived 445
years before Christ, merely speaks of an entrance
* Saturday Mgin+,


leading to the interior, by hearsay from the priests,
who informed him that there were secret vaults be-
neath, hewn out of the natural rock. Strabo, who
lived after the Christian era, only describes a single
slanting passage which led to a chamber in which
was a stone tomb. Diodorus Siculus, who lived
forty-four years before Christ, agrees with this ; and
Pliny, who lived A. D. 66, adds, that there was a
well in the Great Pyramid, eighty cubits deep.
This is all the ancients have said about the in-

" The Egyptian priests, indeed, assured Aristides,
a Greek traveller about two centuries before Christ,
that ' the excavations beneath were as great as the
height above.' And Ebn Abd Alkokim, an Arabic
writer of the ninth century, says, that the builders
1 constructed numerous excavated chambers, with
gates to them, forty cubits under ground.' Other
Arabian writers say, that these chambers contain
chests of black stone, in which were deposited the
sacred archives of king Saurid, who built the pyra-
mid. Many discoveries (perhaps a burial-place
under ground) obviously remain to be made.

" The same Arab historian, Alkokim, gives an ac-
count of the opening of this building under the
Caliphate, from which time it has remained in the
condition seen and described by all modern travellers,
to the time of the Italian traveller Caviglia, who
made a discovery of a new chamber and passages
about ten years ago. ' After that, Almamon the
Caliph (A.D. 820) entered Egypt, and saw the Pyra-
mids: he desired to know what was within, and
therefore would have them opened. He was told it
could not possibly be done. He replied, I will have
it certainly done. And that hole was opened for
him, which stands open to this day, with fire and
vinegar. Two smiths prepared and sharpened the

G G 2


iron and engines, which they forced in : and there
was a great expense in the ojM-nin^ it ; and the thick-
ness of the wall was found to In- twenty cubits.
"Within they found a square well, and in the square
of it there were doors : every door of it opened into
a house (or vault), in which there were dead bodies
wrapped up in linen. Towards the upper part of
the pyramid, they found a chamber, in which was a
hollow stone ; in it was a statue of stone, like a man,
and within it a man, upon whom was a brca-t-
plate of gold, set with jewels, and on him were written
characters with a pen, which no man can explain.'

" Greaves, an Englishman, who visited the Great
Pyramid in 1648, described the passages thus open-
ed, and then open, very accurately, and suspected
that at the bottom of a well in the pyramid was
the passage to those secret vaults mentioned by
Herodotus ; but he made no new discovery. Davi-
son, who visited it in the middle of the eighteenth
century, discovered some secret chambers and pas-
sages connecting the largest gallery with the central
room, and an apartment four feet high over it. He
descended the well 155 feet, but found farther pro-
gress blocked up. Caviglia was the first to discover
the above suspected passage. After much trouble
in clearing the narrow opening at the end of the first
or entrance gallery of the pyramid, he found that it
did not terminate at that point, as hitherto supposed,
but proceeded downwards to the distance of two
hundred feet. It ended in a doorway on the right,
which was found to communicate with the bottom of
the well. But the new passage did not terminate
here : it went beyond the doorway twenty-three
feet, and then took a horizontal direction for twenty-
eight more, where it opened into a spacious cham-
ber immediately under the central room.

" This new chamber is twenty-seven feet broad, and


sixty-six feet long. The floor is irregular ; nearly
one half of the length from the eastern, or entrance
end, being level, and about fifteen feet from the
ceiling ; while, in the middle, it descends five feet
lower, in which part there is a hollow space bearing
all the appearance of the commencement of a well,
or shaft. From thence it rises to the western
end, so that there is scarcely room between the
floor and the ceiling to stand upright.

" On the south of this chamber is a passage hol-
lowed out, just high and wide enough for a man to
creep along upon his hands and knees, which con-
tinues in the rock for fifty-five feet, and then sud-
denly ends. Another at the east end commences
with a kind of arch, and runs about forty feet into
the solid body of the pyramid.

Mr. Salt, the late intelligent British Consul to
Egypt, was so struck by this discovery, as to ex-
press his belief that the under-ground rooms were
used for ' the performance of solemn and secret

" As to the second pyramid of Gizeh, the ancient*
knew less about it than they did of the first. Hero-
dotus says it has no under-ground chambers, and
the other ancient authorities are silent. But the
enterprising Belzoni found its entrance, in the north
front, in 1818, and discovered, at the same time, that
it had been previously forced open by the Arabian
Caliph, Ali Mehemet, A. D. 78;?, more than a thou-
sand years before. After forcing an entrance, and
advancing along a narrow passage, one hundred
feet long, he found a central chamber, forty-six feet
long by sixteen wide, and twenty-three high, cut out
of the solid rock. It contained a granite sarcophagus,
(a tomb,) half sunk in the floor, with some bones in
it, which, on inspection by Sir Everard Home, proved
to be those of a cow. An Arabic inscription on the


walls implies that it had been opened in the presence
of the Snltan AH Mehemet*."

This pyramid was, as has Ixvu ulrcadv said, openr<l
by Belzuni. "We shall select another account of
this enterprise.

" According to Herodotus, (whose information
has generally been found correct,) this pyramid was
constructed without any internal chambers'. .M.
Belzoni, however, believed the fact might be other-
wise ; and baring reasons of his own for commencing
bis operations at a certain point, he began his laboura,
and with so much foresight as actually to dig di-
rectly down upon a forced entrance. But, even after
this success, none but a Belzoni would hare had the
perseverance to pursue the labour required to perfect
the discovery. It was by attending to the same
kind of indications, which had led him so successfully
to explore the six tombs of the kings in Thebes, that
he was induced to commence his operations on tlto
north side.

" He set out from Cairo on the 6th of February,
1818,wenttotheKaiaBey,andgained permission ; the
Bey having first satisfied himself that there was no
tilled ground within a considerable distance of Gbiza.
On the 1 Oth of February he began with six labour-
ers in a vertical section at right angles to the north
side of the base, cutting through a mass of stones
and lime which had fallen from the upper part of the
pyramid, but were so completely aggregated toge-
ther as to spoil the mattocks, &c. employed in the
operation. He persevered in making an opening
fifteen feet wide, working downwards, and uncover-
ing the face of the pyramid. During the first week
there was but little prospect of meeting with any-
thing interesting ; but on the 17th, one of the Arabs

Saturday Magazine.


employed called out with great vociferation that In-
had fotind the entrance. He had, in fact, come upon
a hole into which he could thrust liis arm and a
djerid six feet long. Before night they ascertained
that an aperture was there, about three feet square,
which had been closed irregularly with a hewn stone.
This being removed, they reached a larger opening,
but filled with rubbish and sand. M. Belzoni was
now satisfied that this was not a real, but a forced
passage. Next day they had penetrated fifteen feet,
when stones and sand began to fall from above ; these
were removed, but still they continued to fall in large
quantities, when, after some more days' labour, he
discovered an upper forced entrance, communicating
with the outside from above. Having cleared this,
he found another opening running inward, which
proved, on further search, to be a continuation of the
lower horizontal forced passage, nearly all choked up
with rubbish. This being removed, he discovered,
about half way from the outside, a descending forced
passage, which terminated at the distance of forty
feet. He now continued to work in the horizontal
passage, in hope that it might lead to the centre, but
it terminated at the depth of ninety feet ; and he
found it prudent not to force it further, as the stones
were very loose over-head, and one actually fell, and
had nearly killed one of the people. He therefore
now began clearing away the aggregated stones and
lime to the eastward of the forced entrance ; but by
this time his retreat had been discovered, and he
found himself much interrupted by visitors.

" On the 28th of February he discovered, at the

Online LibraryCharles BuckeRuins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) → online text (page 35 of 36)