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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surface of the pyramid, a block of granite, having the
same direction as that of the passage of the first
pyramid, that of Cheops; and he now hoped that
he was not far from the true entrance. Next day
he removed some large blocks, and on the 2d of


March lie entered the tnie passage. :m <>]>< ning
feet high, an<l three feet ami a half wide, formed by
blocks of granite, and continued descending at an
angle of about twenty-six degrees to the length of one
hundred and four feet five inches, lined* all the length
with graniU'. From this passage he had to r< in.ive
the stones with wliich it was filled, and at its bottom
was a door or portcullis of granite, (fitted into a
niche also made of granite,) supported at the height
of eight inches by small stones placed under it.
Two days were occupied in raising it high enough
to admit of entrance. This door is one foot three
inches thick, and, with the granite niche, occupies
seven feet of the passage, where the granite work
unds, and a short passage, gradually ascending twenty-
two feet seven inches towards the centre, the descend-
ing commences ; at the end of which is a perpendicular
of fifteen feet. On the left is a small forced passage
cut in the rock ; and above, on the right, a forced
passage running upward, and turning to the north
thirty feet, just over the portcullis. At the bottom
of the' perpendicular, after removing some rubbish,
he found the entrance of another passage, which in-
clined northward. But, quitting this for the present,
he followed his prime passage, which now took a
horizontal direction ; and at the end of it, one hun-
dred and fifty-eight feet eight inches from the above-
mentioned perpendicular, he entered a chamber forty-
six feet three inches long, sixteen feet three inches
wide, and twenty-three feet six inches in height, for
the greater part cut out of the rock ; and in the
middle of this room he found a SARCOPHAGUS of gra-
nite, eight feet long, three feet six inches wide, and
two feet three inches deep inside, surrounded by large
blocks of granite, as if to prevent its being remoM d.
The lid had been opened, and he found in the interior
a few bones, which he supposed to be human ; hut


some of them having been since carried to England
by Captain Fitzclarence, who was afterwards in this
pyramid, and one of them (a thigh-bone) having,
on examination by Sir Everard Home, been found
to have belonged to a cow, it has been doubted whe-
ther any of them ever belonged to a human subject :
but such a suspicion is premature, and without any
solid foundation ; since it appears, from an Arabic
inscription on the west wall of this chamber, that
this pyramid was opened by architects named Ma-
homet El Aghar and Othman, and inspected in the
presence of the Sultan Ali Mahomet, the first Ugloch
(a Tartaric title, as Uleg Bey, &c.). The length of
time the pyramid remained open is not known ; and
it indeed appears to have been closed only by the fall
of portions of the structure, and by the collecting of
the sands of Libya. From this, and from the lid of
the sarcophagus having been opened, and the remains
of other animals being. also found in the same sarco-
phagus, as is stated in other accounts, such an opinion
does not even appear to be probable. On other parts
of the walls are some inscriptions, supposed by M.
Belzoni to be in Coptic.

" He now returned to the descending passage at the
bottom of the above-mentioned perpendicular. Its
angle is about twenty-six degrees. At the end of forty-
eight feet and a half it becomes horizontal, still going
north fifty-five feet; in the middle of which hori-
zontal part there is a recess to the east eleven feet
deep, and a passage to the west twenty feet, which
descends into a chamber thirty-two feet long, nine
feet nine inches wide, and eight and a half high. In
this room were only a few small square blocks of
stone, and on the walls some unknown inscriptions.
He now returned to the horizontal part and advanced
north, ascending at an angle of sixty degrees ; and in
this, at a short distance from the horizontal part, he


met with another niche, which had been formerly
furnished with a granite door, the fragments of which
were still there. At forty-seven feet and a half from
this niche the passagi- wa- tilled with large stones, so
as to close the entrance, which issues ou^ precisely at
the base of the pyramid. All the works below the
base are cut in the rock, as well as part of tho pas-
sages and chambers.

** By clearing away the earth to the eastward of the
pyramid, he found the foundation and part of the
walls of an extensive temple which stood before it at
the distance of forty feet, and laid bare a pavement
composed of fine blocks of calcareous stone, some of
them beautifully cut and in fine preservation. This
platform probably goes round the whole pyramid.
The stones composing the foundation of tho temple
are very large : one, which he measured, was twenty-
one feet long, ten high, and eight in breadth*."

The pyramid of MM LKIMIS is one hundred and
sixty-two feet in height, and two hundred and eighty
on each side of the base. " If," says Diodorus Sieulus,
" it is less in Size and extent than the otln r>. it in supe-
rior to them in the costliness of the materials and
excellence of the workmanship."

Of Mycerinus historians write in the following
manner : lie was the son of Cheopa, but of a cha-
racter opposite to that of his father. So far from
walking in his steps, he detested his conduct, and
pursued quite different measures. He again opened
the temples of the gods, restored the sacrifices, did all
that lay in his power to comfort his subjects, and
make them forget their past miseries ; and believed
himself set over them for no other purpose but to
exercise justice, and to make them taste all the bless-
ings of an equitable and peaceful administration. Mr
heard their complaints, dried their tears, eased their
' Mouthljr Magazine.


misery, and thought himself not so much the master as
the father of his people. This procured him the love
of them all. Egypt resounded with his praises, and
his name commanded veneration in all places.

"Men," sajfs one writer, ''have very justly reckoned
these prodigious masses of earth and stone among the
"wonders of the world ; nevertheless their use appears
to us very trivial, or is unknown. The Egyptians
seem to have been more desirous of exciting wonder,
than of communicating instruction." " The most
probable opinion respecting the object of these vast
edifices," says another writer, " is that which com-
bines the double use of the sepulchre and the temple,
nothing being more common in all nations than
to bury distinguished men in places consecrated by
the rites of divine worship. If Cheops, Suphis, or
whoever else was the founder of the Great Pyramid,
intended it only for his iomb, what occasion, says
Dr. Shaw, for such a narrow sloping entrance into it,
or for the well, as it is called, at the bottom ; or for
the lower chamber with a large niche or hole in the
eastern wall of it; or for the long narrow cavities in
the sides of the large upper room, which likewise is
incrusted all over with the finest marble; or for the
two ante- chambers and the lofty gallery, with benches
on each side, that introduce us into it ? As the whole
of the Egyptian theology was clothed in mysterious
emblems and figures, it seems reasonable to suppose
that all these turnings, apartments, and secrets in
architecture, were intended for some nobler purpose ;
for the catacombs or burying-places are plain
vaulted chambers hewn out of the natural rock;
and the deity rather, which was typified in the
outward form of this pile, was to be worshipped

*' If thoughtlessness should condemn the im-


mense and apparently u-ele<> labours of ancient
pt," says a third, " so are they easily condemned,
under the use of the ever-acceptable term tyranny,
the ever-ready word of him wh<> almses all tin- ]
which he can command. Yet he who would eat
must labour: it is the unvarying law, not of Cl
alone, but of human society ; the bond by which it
is held together. The soil of Egypt was the possession
of its singular government, and the labour of tho
people was the only manner in which they could
demand or acquire a share of the produce : it was
the only mode in which they ought to have possessed
their portions. There is reason to believe that the
soil had appropriated all the labour applicable- to it ;
and commercial industry, as it then was, had pro-
bably done the same. An artificial invention to
occupy labour became, therefore, imperiously neces-
sary ; and through this was Egypt peopled to an
extent which seems to have been very ureat. The
bearing of this fact on other cases, when 1 , under a
general law pervading all creation, conditions of
labour have been attached to possession, must be
obvious ; and though tyranny had been the imme-
diate cause, even thus does the Deity often direct the
wickedness of man to his own good ends."

" I should, however," says a fourth, (Manpertuis,)
"havebeen much better pleased had the kings of Egypt
employed the millions of men who reared these pyra-
mids in the air, in digging cavities in the earth of a
depth answerable to the marvellous we find in the
works of those princes." " There have been many
opinions expressed by learned men as to the object
of these structures," says a fifth. One is, that
they were the granaries of Joseph. This may be
confuted by the sinallness of the rooms, and the
time required in building. Another, that they were


observatories; which is accusing the builders of great
absurdity, since the neighbouring rocks were better
calculated for the purpose. The Arabians generally
think that they were built by king Saurid, before
the Deluge, as a refuge for himself and the public
records from the Flood ; but this opinion requires no
answer. Josephus, the Jewish historian, who wrote
A. D. 71, ascribes them to his countrymen, during
the captivity in Egypt. As sun-dials, they would
have failed. Shaw and Bryant, who wrote in the
middle of the last century, believed them to be
temples, and the stone chest, a tank for holding
water used for purification. ,Pauw, who lived at
the same time with Shaw and Bryant, considers the
Great Pyramid as the tomb of Osiris ; and that Osiris
having fourteen tombs for various parts of his dis-
membered body, fourteen pyramids must have been
devoted to them, and the annual funeral mysteries
connected with his death and resurrection. But the
greater number of writers, ancient and modern, be-
lieve it to be the tomb of Cheops, the alleged builder.
Improving on this notion, Maillet (1760) supposed
that the chambers were built for the purpose of shut-
ting up the friends of the deceased king with the
dead body ; and that the holes on each side of the
central chamber of the Great Pyramid were the means
by which they were to be supplied with food, &c :
an opinion which would have appeared sufficiently
ludicrous, if it had not been exceeded by that ex-
pressed by an old Moulah to Buonaparte, when in
Egypt (1799), that the object was to keep the buried
body undecayed, by closely sealing up all access
to the outward air. Another ingenious theory
ascribes them to the shepherd kings, a foreign pas-
toral nation which oppressed Egypt in the early times
of the Pharaohs. However, this is, after all, but con


jecture. The utmost uncertainty exist* in all that
concerns these gigantic, unwieldy, ami mysterious
buildings. Their builders, orighl, date, and pur-
poses, are entirely lost in the night of ages. As
the sides of all the pyramids face the cardinal points,
and of course gire the true meridian of the places
win IB they are situated, it would seem that their
builders had made some progress in scicntijic know-
ledge ; and the buildings themselves, under all cir-
cumstances, notwithstanding their plain exterior,
clearly show the advanced state of art in those very
early times.

When the traveller approaches * those vast monu-
ments of human labour, the imagination seems to
burst, as it were, the bands of ages, and the mind
appears as if it had lived a thousand years. When
the French were at Thebes, the whole army stopped
among the ruins, and clapped their hands with delight:
and when Buonaparte was about to engage the Mame-
lukes, who were advancing with loud cries, superbly
accoutred, he called out to his army, " Behold !
Yonder are the Pyramids; the most ancient of the
works of men. From the summits of those monu-
ments forty ages are now beholding us.". The bat-
tle which ensued laid all Egypt at the feet of the
French general.

We shall finish this account by selecting a passage
from Rollin : " Such were the famous Egyptian
Pyramids, which, by their figure as well as size,
have triumphed over the injuries of time and the
barbarians. But what efforts soever men may make,
their nothingness will always appear. These pyra-
mids were tombs ; and there is still to be seen in the
middle of the largest, an empty sepulchre, cut out of
one entire stone, about three feet deep and broad, and
* Harmonic* of Nature.*


a little above six feet long *. Thus all this bustle,
all this expense, and all the labours of so many
thousand men, ended in procuring a prince, in this
vast and almost boundless pile of building, a little
vault six feet in length. Besides, the kings who
built these pyramids had it not in their power to be
buried in them, and so did not enjoy the sepulchre
they had built. The public hatred which they in-
curred, by reason of their unheard-of cruelties to their
subjects, in laying such heavy tasks upon them,
occasioned their being interred in some obscure place,
to prevent their bodies from being exposed to the
fury and vengeance of the populace.

" This last circumstance, which historians have taken
particular notice of, teaches us what judgment we
ought to pass on these edifices, so much boasted of
by the ancients. It is but just to remark and esteem
the noble genius which the Egyptians had for archi-
tecture ; a genius that prompted them from the
earliest times, and before they could have any models
to imitate, to aim in all things at the grand and
magnificent, and to be intent on real beauties, with-
out deviating in the least from a noble simplicity, in
which the highest perfection of the art consists. But
what idea ought we to form of those princes, who
considered as something grand, the raising, by a mul-
titude of hands and by the help of money, immense
structures, with the sole view of rendering their
names immortal, and who did not scruple to destroy
thousands of their subjects to satisfy their vain-glory!
They differed very much from the Romans, who
sought to immortalise themselves by works of a
magnificent kind, but, at the same time, of public utility.

" Pliny gives us, in few words, a just idea of these
pyramids, when he calls them a foolish and useless
Strabo mentions the sepulchre, lib. xvii. p. b08.

4f>4 IM INS MI- \N( ir.vr en ;

ostentation of tin- wraith of tin- K^yptian kings
Rtguin 1',-i'itn'nr utioxti ,tf nt/tlta vstrtitiith, anl
adds, that, l>y a just punishment, their memory is
buried in oblivion."*

Herodotus; Diodorus ; Stial><> ; 1'linv ; Plutarch; Ani.m;
Quintui Ctirtius ; Rollin ; Mnupcrtuit ; Montague; Maillot;
Pocockc; Shaw; Savary ; Nonlcn ; Sandwich; Browne; Dcnon ;
Bclzoni ; Salt ; Clarke ; Wilkinson ; Lccouut.



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