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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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those remains of grandour and magnificence ; and it
is raised into indignation against the barbarians, who
KCCJ. t Browne.



RUINS OP ANCIENT CITIES. 39

dared to apply a sacrilegious hand to monuments,
which time, the most pitiless of destroyers, would
have respected." "So little," says Dr. Clarke, " are
we acquainted with these valuable remains, that not
a single excursion for purposes of discovery has yet
been begun ; nor is there any thing published with
regard to its modern history, excepting the observa-
tions that have resulted from the hasty survey, made
of its forlorn and desolated havens by a few travellers
whose transitory visits ended almost with the days
of their arrival*."

" On arriving at Alexandria," says Mr. Wilkinson,
" the traveller naturally enquires where are the
remains of that splendid city, which was second only to
Rome itself, and whose circuit of fifteen miles contained
a population of three hundred thousand inhabitants and
an equal number of slaves; and where the monuments
of its former greatness ? He has heard of Cleopatra's
Needle and Pompey's Pillar, from the days of his
childhood, and the fame of its library, the Pharos,
the temple of Serapis and of those philosophers
and mathematicians, whose venerable names contri-
bute to the fame of Alexandria, even more than the
extent of its commerce or the splendour of the monu-
ments, that once adorned it, are fresh in his recollec-
tion ; and he is surprised, in traversing mounds
which mark the site of this vast city, merely to find
scattered fragments or a few isolated columns, and
here and there the vestiges of buildings, or the
doubtful direction of some of the main streets."

Though the ancient boundaries, however, cannot

* A very curious instance is afforded by Bruce, who wrote an
account of Alexandria, and, literally, did not spend one entire day
in the city. He was at sea on the morning of the 20th of June,
1768, previously to his landing in Alexandria, ( see Bruce's
Travels, v. i. p. 7,) aud in the afternoon he left that city for
Rosetta. CLARKE.



40 RUINS OF ANCIENT CITII -.

bo determined, hoaps of rubbish an- on all si.l - >
visible ; whence every shower of rain, not to mention
the industry of the natives in digging, discover- pieer*
of precious marble, and sometimes ancient coins, and
fragments of sculpture. Among the last may bo
particularly mentioned the statues of Marcus Aurdins
and Scptimius Severus.

Tho present walls are of Saracenic structure. They
are lofty; being in some places more than forty feet
in height, and apparently no where so little as
twenty. These furnish a sufficient security against
the Bedouins, who live part of the year on the bank*
of the canal, and often plunder the cattle in tho
neighbourhood. The few flocks and herd*, which are
destined to supply the wants of the city, are pastured
on the herbage, of which the vicinity of the canal
favours the growth, and generally brought in at
night when the two gates are shut. " Judge," says
M. Miot, " by Volney's first pages, of the impression
which must be made upon us, by these houses with
grated windows ; this solitude, this silence, these
camels ; these disgusting dogs covered with vermin ;
these hideous women holding between their teeth the
corner of a veil of coarse blue cloth to conceal from
us their features and their black bosoms. At tho
.sight of Alexandria and its inhabitants, at beholding
these vast plains devoid of all verdure, at breathing
the burning air of the desert, melancholy began to
find its way among us ; and already some French-
men, turning towards their country their weary eyes,
let the expression of regret escape them in sighs ; a
regret which more painful proofs were soon to render
more poignant." And this rccals to one's recollection
the description of an Arabic poet, cited by Abulfeda
several centuries ago.

i 1 .. .-,..



niJINS OP ANCIENT CITIES. 41

" How pleasant are the banks of the canal of Alexandria;
when the eye surveys them the heart is rejoiced ! the
gliding hoatman, beholding its towers, beholds canopies
ever verdant ; the lovely Aquilon breathes cooling fresh-
ness, while he, sportful, ripples up the surface of its waters ;
the ample Date, whcBJ flexible head reclines like a sleeping
beauty, is crowned with pendent fruit."

The walls to which we have alluded present
nothing curious, except some ruinous towers ; and
one of the chief remains of the ancient city is a
colonnade, of which only a few columns remain ; and
what is called the amphitheatre, on a rising ground,
whence there is a fine view of the city and port.
There is, however, one structure beside particularly
entitled to distinction; and that is generally styled
Pompey's Pillar.

Pompey's Pillar, says the author of Egyptian
Antiquities, " stands on a small eminence midway
between the walls of Alexandria and the shores of
the lake Mareotis, about three-quarters of a mile
from either, quite detached from any other building.
It is of a red granite ; but the shaft, which is highly
polished, appears to be of earlier date than the
capital or pedestal, which have been made to corre-
spond. It is of the Corinthian order ; and while some
have eulogised it as the finest specimen of that order,
others have pronounced it to be in bad taste. The
capital is of palm leaves, not indented. The column
consists only of three pieces the capital, the shaft,
and the base and is poised on a centre stone of
breccia, with hieroglyphics on it, less than a fourth
of the dimensions of the pedestal of the column, and
with the smaller end downward ; from which cir-
cumstance the Arabs believe it to have been placed
there by God. The earth about the foundation has



42 RUINS OP ANCIENT CI I

been examined, probably in the hopes of
treasures; and pieces of white marl >K-, (which i> ina
found in Egypt) have been discovered connected t.
the breccia above mentioned. It is owing, probably,
to this disturbance that the pillar has an inclination
of about seven inches to the south-west. This
column has sustained some trifling injury at the
hands of late visitors, who have indulged a pin 'rile
pleasure in possessing and giving to their fri
small fragments of the stone, and is defaced by being
daubed with names of persons, which would other-
wise have slumbered unknown to all save in their
own narrow sphere of action ; practices which cannot
be too highly censured, and which an enlightened
mind would scorn to be guilty of. It is remarkable,
that while the polish on the shaft is still perfect to
the northward, corrosion has begun to affect tin-
southern face, owing probably to the winds passing
over the vast tracts of sand in that direction. The
centre part of the cap-stone has been hollowed out,
forming a basin on the top ; and pieces of iron
still remaining in four holes prove that this pillar was
once ornamented with a figure, or some other trophy.
The operation of forming a rope-ladder to ascend
the column has been performed several times of late
years, and is very simple : a kite was flown, with a
string to the tail, and, when directly over the pillar,
it was dragged down, leaving the line by which it
was flown across the capital. With this a rope, and
afte5jvards a stout hawser, was drawn over ; a man
then ascended and placed two more parts of the hawser,
all of which were pulled tight down to a twenty-
four- pounder gun lying near the base (which it was
said Sir Sidney Smith attempted to plant on the top) ;
small spars were then lashed across, commencing



RUINS OP ANCIENT CITIES. 43

from the bottom, and ascending each as it was
secured, till the whole was complete, when it
resembled the rigging of a ship's lower masts. The
mounting this solitary column required some nerve,
even in seamen ; but it was still more appalling to
see the Turks, with their ample trowsers, venture the
ascent. The view from this height is commanding,
and highly interesting in the associations excited by
gazing on the ruins of the city of the Ptolemies,
lying beneath. A theodolite was planted there, and
a round of terrestrial angles taken ; but the tremulous
motion of the column affected the quicksilver in
the artificial horizon so much as to preclude the
possibility of obtaining an observation for the latitude.
Various admeasurements have been given of the
dimensions of Pompey's Pillar ; the following, how-
ever, were taken by a gentleman who assisted in the
operation above described :

Feet In.

Top of the capital to the astragal (one stone) 10 4
Astragal to first plinth (one stone) 67 7

Plinth to the ground . . . . 20 11



Whole height 98 10
Measured by a line from the top 99 4



It will be remembered, however, that the pedestal of the column
does not rest on the ground,

Its elevation being ....

The height of the column itself is therefore

Diagonal of the capital ' . . . .

Circumference of shaft (upper part)
(lower part)

Length of side of the pedestal;

Shaw says, that in his time, in expectation of
finding alarge treasure buried underneath, a great part




44 urixs IT

of the foundation, consisting of several fragments of
different sortsof atom- and marble, had In < n removed ;
so that the whole fabric rested upon a block of whiti-
marble scarcely two yards square, which, upon
touching it with a key, sounded like a bell.

All travellers agree that its present appellation is
a misnomer; yet it is known that a monument of
some kind was erected at Alexandria to the memory
of Pompey, which was supposed to have been found
in this remarkable column. Mr. Montague thinks it
was erected to the honour of Vespasian. Savary
calls it the Pillar of Severus. Clarke supposes it to
have been dedicated to Hadrian, according to his
reading of a half-effaced inscription in Greek on the
west side of the base; while others trace the name of
Diocletian in the same inscription. No mention
occurring of it either in Strabo or Diodorus Siculus,
we may safely infer that it did not exist at that
period ; and Dcnon supposes it to have been erected
about the time of the Greek Emperors, or of the
Caliphs of Egypt, and dates its acquiring its present
name in the fifteenth century. It is supposed to
have been surmounted with an equestrian statue.
The shaft is elegant and of a good style ; but the
capital and pedestal are of inferior workmanship,
and have the appearance of being of a different
period.

In respect to the inscription on this pillar, there
are two different readings: It must, however, be
remembered, that many of the letters are utterly
illegible.

TO niOCLF.TIA.VU8 AUGUSTUS,

MOST ADORABLK BUPRROR,

THE TUTELAR DEITY OF ALEXANDRIA,

PONTIUS, A PREFECT OF EGYPT,

CONSECRATES THIS.



RUINS OP ANCIENT CITIES. 45

Dr. Clarke's version is

POSTHUMUS, PREFECT OF EGYPT,
AND THE PEOPLE OF THE METROPOLIS,

[honour] TO THE MOST REVERED EMPEROR,

THE PROTECTING DIVINITY OF ALEXANDRIA,
THE DIVINE HADRIAN AUGUSTUS.

Now, since it is known that Hadrian lived from
A. D. 76 to 130, it seems clear that Pompey has no
connexion with this pillar, and that it ought no longer
to bearhis nainc. Some writers, however, are disposed
to believe that the inscription is not so old as the
pillar, and this is very likely to be the case.

This celebrated pillar has of late years been several
times ascended. The manner, as we have before stated,
was this : " By means of a kite, a strong cord was
passed over the top of the column, and securely fastened
on one side, while oneman climbed up the other. When
he had reached the top, he made the rope still more
secure, and others ascended, carrying with them
water of the Thames, of the Nile, and of one of the
Grecian Islands : a due supply of spirits was also
provided, and thus a bowl of punch was concocted ;
and the healths of distinguished persons were drunk.
This ascent was made when the British fleet was in
Egypt, since which time the ascents have been
numerous ; for, according to Mr Webster, the crew
of almobt every man-of-war which has been stationed
in the port of Alexandria have thought the national
honour of British tars greatly concerned in ascending
the height of fame, or, in other words, the famous
height which Pompey's pillar affords. It is not
unnsual for a party to take breakfast, write letters,
and transact other matters of business on this very
summit ; and it is on record that a lady once had
courage to join one of these high parties."

Besides this there are two obelisks. The first is of



46 in INS or AM ir.vr < nirs.

granite, and is called Cl, -upatra's Needle, luit it has
1'tcunu 1 nearly certain that it was removed hither
from Ileliopolis, and it is now, therefore, regarded a*
the obelisk of Thothmes III. Its fallen companion
also hears tin- name of Thothmes, and, in the lateral
lines of Remeses II, the supposed Scsostris. One of
these is still upright on its base ; the other is thrown
down and almost entirely buried in the sand. " The
former," says Sonnini, " shows what the hand of man
can do against time; the other what time can do
against the efforts of man."

They are both of red granite. According to a survey
made by Dr. Clarke, the base of the prostrate one
measures seven feet square, and the length is sixty-
six feet. They are both eovered with hieroglyphics
cut into the stone to the depth of two inches. These
two monumentsserved to decorate one of the entrances
to the palace of the Ptolemies, the ruins of which are
contiguous*.

Nothingt, however, which remains in the vicinity
of Alexandria attests its greatness more satisfac-
torily than the catacombs on the coast, near the
Necropolis. Their size, although remarkable, is not
so striking as the elegant symmetry, and proportion
of the architecture in the first chamber, which is of
the best Greek style, and not to be equalled in any
other part of Egypt.j They are at a short distance

* After the English were in possession of Alexandria, m sub-
scription was opened by the military and naval officers for the
purpose of removing the prostrate obelisk to England. With the
money so raised they purchased one of the vessels, sunk by the
French in the old port of Alexandria : this was raised, and prepared
for the reception of the obelisk. The French had already rlcarcd
: v. :i\ the heaps of rubbish which enveloped it, and the English
tuiued il round, and found it in a fine state of preservation. It was
moved towards the vessel, when an order arrived from the Ad-
miralty, prohibiting the siilorsfrom being employed at this work.
No further attempts have been made to remove this fine monu-
ment to Europe. ANON. f Wilkinson. J Sonnini.



RUINS OF ANCIENT CITIES. 47

from the canal, and are galleries, penetrating a pro-
digious way under ground, or rather into the rock.
They are supposed to have been at first the quarries,
which furnished stones for the construction of the
edifices of Alexandria ; and, after having supplied the
men of that country with the materials of their habi-
tations, while they lived, are themselves become their
last abode after death. Most of these subterraneous
alleys are in a ruinous state. In the small numbej
of those which it is possible to penetrate, are seen,
on both sides, three rows of coffins, piled on each
other. At the entrance of some of these galleries
there are separate apartments, with their coffins ;
reserved, no doubt, for the sepulture of particular
families, or of a peculiar order of citizens. These
catacombs frequently serve as retreats for the jackals,
which abound in this part of Egypt, prowling in
numerous squadrons, and roaming around the habita-
tions of man. These pernicious animals are not afraid
of advancing close up to the walls of the city. Nay,
more ; they traverse its enclosure during the night ;
they frequently spring over it by the breaches made
in the walls ; they enter the city itself in quest of
their prey, and fill it with bowlings and cries. Dr.
Clarke says, that nothing so marvellous ever fell
within his observation*. Of the singular suburb
styled the Necropolis or " city of the dead," nothing
remains. But about sixty yards east of some excava-
tions called the " Baths of Cleopatra," there is a little
bay, about sixty yards deep, with an entrance so
nearly blocked up by two rocks, that a boat only
can obtain accesst. At the bottom of this bay, in
the steep slope of the shore, there is a small h'ole,
through which it is difficult to pass : a passage of

* He'gives a full description of thera Part iv. p. 285, 4to.

f Sat. Mag.



48 KU1NS 01- \.\< ir.vr < i i

about thirty fwt leads to the first hall, in \\hieh the
visitor can stand upright; on the right and loft ;uv
small square chambers, much filled up with sand, the
ceiling and cornice supported l>y pilasters. The former
is vaulted, and covered with a crystalized cement, on
which are traced, in red, lines obviously forming geo-
metrical configurations on the subject of astronomy.
A sun is represented in the middle of the vault. Tin-
upright sides contain vaulted niches ; the hall is
about twenty yards square. From this a door, in the
opposite side, leads to a larger hall, but the sand fills
it up from the floor to the ceiling at the further end,
so tliat its dimensions cannot be ascertained. Two
small chambers, as before, are excavated on two sides
of tins also ; in the right-hand one there is an opening
in the wall, leading to a vast corridor, thirty-six feet
long and twelve broad, half choked up, three wells
in the roof having probably served to admit the
rublisb. This leads to another fine apartment, with
a portico on each of its four sides, three of which
have pilasters and cornice, richly carved ; the other
parts of the wall are left quite plain, but there are
lines traced on the vaulted ceiling, indicating that it
was intended to have been cut into panels, with
roses in the centres. From this chamber you enter
a beautiful rotunda, on the left, which appears to be
the principal object of the excavation ; it is seven
yards in diameter, and about five high ; it is regularly
ornamented with pilasters supporting a cornice, from
which springs the cupola of the ceiling ; nine tombs,
decorated like those first described, are seen around
it. The bottom is level with the sea; the water
filters through, and is found a short distance below
the floor. This place is quite free from sand, so that
the whole of it can be seen ; and the cflect, when
illuminated by many torches, the light of which is



RUINS OF ANCIENT CITIES. 49

reflected from the cement, is very grand. The
chamber preceding the rotunda also affords access to
another corridor, leading to various apartments,
presenting similar appearances to those already de-
scribed. In one of them there is the springing of a
brick-arch running round it, intended, apparently, to
support a gallery ; beneath is a hole, about half a
yard square, which is the entrance to a winding
passage ; but it is impossible to penetrate it far on
account of the sand and water. It is conjectured to
have served for some religious mystery, or for some
imposition of the priests on the common people.
Through the centre portico of another chamber,
similar to that before described, but left unfinished,
like many other parts of this magnificent tomb, an
apartment is entered, each side of which has three
ranges of holes for the reception of embalmed bodies,
and pits of various dimensions are dug in the floors
of several of the rooms. There is a great symmetry
in the arrangement of all the apartments, so that the
plan of the excavation is regular. It was probably
intended for a royal cemetery, the bodies of the
sovereigns being deposited in the rotunda, and the
other chambers serving as places of burial for their
relatives, according to their rank ; and two large side
chapels, with collateral rooms, being appropriated to
the religious ritt's of the Goddess Hecate ; as is
rendered probable by the crescents which ornament
various parta of the place. Whatever was its des-
tination, like all the other cemeteries of Egypt it has
been ransacked at some remote period, and the bodies
of its tenants removed."

Like all the other distinguished nationsof antiquity,
Egypt, after .a lengthened period of civil power,
military glory, and dignified learning, suffered a
series of reverses of fortune, and finally sank into a
state of poverty and barbaric ignorance. Modern



50 in Dfl <>r \M-II:\T CITIF.S.

Cairo roso upon the mins of Alexandria, and has
been enriched with it* spoils; since thither have been
conveyed, at various times, not fewer than forty thou-
sand columns of granite, porphyry, and marble ;
erected in the private dwellings and modules. Its
decay doubtless was gradual, hut fifteen centuries,
during which it has declined, have evinced its ancient
opulence hy the slowness of its fall.

In respect to its modern condition, among heaps
of rubbish, and among fine gardens, planted with
palms, oranges, and citrons, are seen some churches,
mosques, and monasteries, with three small clusters
of dwellings*.

NO. IX. AMISU8.

THIS city was founded hy a colony from Miletus
and Athens, who preserved their independence till
they were conquered by the Persians. They suc-
ceeded in maintaining their liberties under Alexander.

During a war with Mithridates, king of Pontus,
Lucullus, the Roman general, laid strong siege
to this town ; and while so engaged, his troops
murmured against him : " Our general," said they,
" amuses himself with sieges, which, alter all, are not
worth the trouble he bestows upon them." When
Lucullus heard this, he replied : " You accuse mo
of giving the enemy time to augment his army
and regain his strength. That is just what I want.
I act in this manner for no other purpose ; in
order that our enemy may take new courage, and
assemble so numerous an army as may embolden
bim to expect us in the field, and no longer fly before
us. Do you not observe, that he has behind him

Piodorns Siculns; QnintiMnn; Aininiaiiiix Mnrrclliniis ;
Abulftuagf ns ; Pridmnx ; Rollin; Shaw; Harris; Giblmu ; John-
son : Drake ; Savsry ; Sonnini ; Sandwich ; Rec j Miot ; Clarke ;
Wilkinson; Browne; Parker; Knight.



RUINS OF ANCIENT CITIES. 51

immense solitudes .and infinite deserts in which it is
impossible for us to come up with or pursue him ?
Armenia is but a few days march from these deserts.
There Tigranes keeps his court, that king of kings,
whose power is so great, that he subdues the Par-
thians, transports whole cities of Greeks into the
heart of Media, has made himself master of Syria
and Palestine, exterminated the kings descended from
Selcucus, and carried their wives and daughters into
captivity. This powerful prince is the ally and son-
in-law of Mithridates. Do you think, when he has
him in his palaces, as a suppliant, that he will
abandon himself, and not make war against us?
Hence, in hastening to drive away Mithridates, we
shall be in great danger of drawing Tigranes upon
our hands, who has long sought pretexts for de-
claring against us, and who can never find one more
specious, legitimate, and honourable, than that of
assisting his father-in-law, and a king, reduced to
the last extremity. Why, therefore, should we serve
Mithridates against ourselves ; or show him to whom
he should have recourse for the means of supporting
the war with us, by pushing him against his will,
and at a time, perhaps, when he looks upon such a
step as unworthy his valour and greatness, into the
arms and protection of Tigranes ? Is it not infinitely
better, by giving him time to take courage and
strengthen himself with his own forces, to have only
upon our hands the troops of Colchis, the Tiba-
renians, and Cappadocians, whom we have so often
defeated, than to expose ourselves to have the ad-
ditional force of the Armenians and Medes to con-
tend with ? "

Lucullus soon after this marched against Mith-
ridates, and in three engagements defeated him.
Mithridates, however, escaped, and almost imme-
diately after sent commands to his two sisters and

E2



52 RUINS OF AXflF.XT CITIES.

his two wiv.-s that they should die; he being in
great fear that they would fall into tin- li;m<ls of tin-
enemy. Their history is thus related : "When the
officer, whose name was Bacchidcs, arrivt d \\licre
they were, and had signified to the princesses the
orders of their king, which favoured them no further
than to leave them at liberty to choose the kind of
death they should think most gentle and immediate;
M on i ma taking the diadem from her head, tied it



Online LibraryCharles BuckeRuins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 36)