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to the south-east, replaced that of Kom es Sultan about the time of the
Twelfth Dynasty, and narrowly escaped the fate of the first, under the rule
of the Ramessides. Nothing, in fact, but the sudden decline of the city,
saved the second from being similarly choked and buried.

[Illustration: Fig. 26. - Plan of second fortress at Abydos, Eleventh or
Twelfth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 27. - Walls of second fort at Abydos, restored.]

[Illustration: Fig. 28. - Façade of fort, from wall-scene, Beni Hasan,
Twelfth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 29. - Plan of main gate, second fortress of Abydos.]

[Illustration: Fig. 30. - Plan of south-east gate, second fortress of
Abydos.]

[Illustration: Fig. 31. - Plan of gate, fortress of Kom el Ahmar.]

The early Egyptians possessed no engines calculated to make an impression
on very massive walls. They knew of but three ways of forcing a stronghold;
namely, scaling the walls, sapping them, or bursting open the gates. The
plan adopted by their engineers in building the second fort is admirably
well calculated to resist each of these modes of attack (fig. 26). The
outer walls are long and straight, without towers or projections of any
kind; they measure 430 feet in length from north to south, by 255 feet in
width. The foundations rest on the sand, and do not go down more than a
foot. The wall (fig. 27) is of crude brick, in horizontal courses. It has a
slight batter; is solid, without slits or loopholes; and is decorated
outside with long vertical grooves or panels, like those depicted on the
stelae of the ancient empire. In its present state, it rises to a height of
some thirty-six feet above the plain; when perfect, it would scarcely have
exceeded forty feet, which height would amply suffice to protect the
garrison from all danger of scaling by portable ladders. The thickness of
the wall is about twenty feet at the base, and sixteen feet above. The top
is destroyed, but the bas-reliefs and mural paintings (fig. 28) show that
it must have been crowned with a continuous cornice, boldly projecting,
furnished with a slight low parapet, and surmounted by battlements, which
were generally rounded, but sometimes, though rarely, squared. The walk
round the top of the ramparts, though diminished by the parapet, was still
twelve or fifteen feet wide. It ran uninterruptedly along the four sides,
and was reached by narrow staircases formed in the thickness of the walls,
but now destroyed. There was no ditch, but in order to protect the base of
the main wall from sappers, they erected, about ten feet in advance of it,
a battlemented covering wall, some sixteen feet in height. These
precautions sufficed against sap and scaling; but the gates remained as
open gaps in the circuit. It was upon these weak points that besiegers and
besieged alike concentrated their efforts. The fortress of Abydos had two
gates, the main one being situate at the east end of the north front (fig.
29). A narrow cutting (A), closed by a massive wooden door, marked the
place in the covering wall. Behind it was a small _place d'armes_ (B), cut
partly in the thickness of the wall, and leading to a second gate (C) as
narrow as the first. When, notwithstanding the showers of missiles poured
upon them from the top of the walls, not only in front, but also from both
sides, the attacking party had succeeded in carrying this second door, they
were not yet in the heart of the place. They would still have to traverse
an oblong court (D), closely hemmed in between the outer walls and the
cross walls, which last stood at right angles to the first. Finally, they
must force a last postern (E), which was purposely placed in the most
awkward corner. The leading principle in the construction of fortress-gates
was always the same, but the details varied according to the taste of the
engineer. At the south-east gate of the fort of Abydos (fig. 30) the _place
d'armes_ between the two walls is abolished, and the court is constructed
entirely in the thickness of the main wall; while at Kom el Ahmar, opposite
El Kab (fig. 31), the block of brickwork in the midst of which the gate is
cut projects boldly in front. The posterns opening at various points
facilitated the movements of the garrison, and enabled them to multiply
their sorties.

[Illustration: Fig. 32. - Plan of the walled city at El Kab.]

The same system of fortification which was in use for isolated fortresses
was also employed for the protection of towns. At Heliopollis, at Sãn, at
Sais, at Thebes, everywhere in short, we find long straight walls forming
plain squares or parallelograms, without towers or bastions, ditches or
outworks. The thickness of the walls, which varied from thirty to eighty
feet, made such precautions needless. The gates, or at all events the
principal ones, had jambs and lintels of stone, decorated with scenes and
inscriptions; as, for instance, that of Ombos, which Champollion beheld yet
_in situ_, and which dated from the reign of Thothmes III. The oldest and
best preserved walled city in Egypt, namely, El Kab, belongs probably to
the ancient empire (fig. 32). The Nile washed part of it away some years
ago; but at the beginning of the present century it formed an irregular
quadrilateral enclosure, measuring some 2,100 feet in length, by about a
quarter less in breadth. The south front is constructed on the same
principles as the wall at Kom es Sultan, the bricks being bedded in
alternate horizontal and concave sections. Along the north and west fronts
they are laid in undulating layers from end to end. The thickness is
thirty-eight feet, and the average height thirty feet; and spacious ramps
lead up to the walk upon the walls. The gates are placed irregularly, one
in each side to north, east, and west, but none in the south face; they
are, however, in too ruinous a state to admit of any plan being taken of
them. The enclosure contained a considerable population, whose dwellings
were unequally distributed, the greater part being concentrated towards the
north and west, where excavations have disclosed the remains of a large
number of houses. The temples were grouped together in a square enclosure,
concentric with the outer wall; and this second enclosure served for a
keep, where the garrison could hold out long after the rest of the town had
fallen into the hands of the enemy.

[Illustration: Fig. 33. - Plan of walled city at Kom Ombo.]

[Illustration: Fig. 34. - Plan of fortress of Kùmmeh.]

[Illustration: Fig. 35. - Plan of fortress of Semneh.]

[Illustration: Fig. 36. - Section of the platform at A B, of the preceding
plan.]

The rectangular plan, though excellent in a plain, was not always
available in a hilly country. When the spot to be fortified was situate
upon a height, the Egyptian engineers knew perfectly well how to adapt
their lines of defence to the nature of the site. At Kom Ombo (fig. 33) the
walls exactly followed the outline of the isolated mound on which the town
was perched, and presented towards the east a front bristling with
irregular projections, the style of which roughly resembles our modern
bastions. At Kûmmeh and Semneh, in Nubia, where the Nile rushes over the
rocks of the second cataract, the engineering arrangements are very
ingenious, and display much real skill. Ûsertesen III. had fixed on this
pass as the frontier of Egypt, and the fortresses which he there
constructed were intended to bar the water-way against the vessels of the
neighbouring negro tribes. At Kûmmeh, on the right bank, the position was
naturally strong (fig. 34). Upon a rocky height surrounded by precipices
was planned an irregular square measuring about 200 feet each way. Two
elongated bastions, one on the north-east and the other on the south-east,
guarded respectively the path leading to the gate, and the course of the
river. The covering wall stood thirteen feet high, and closely followed the
line of the main wall, except at the north and south corners, where it
formed two bastion-like projections. At Semneh, on the opposite bank, the
site was less favourable. The east side was protected by a belt of cliffs
going sheer down to the water's edge; but the three other sides were well-
nigh open (fig. 35). A straight wall, about fifty feet in height, carried
along the cliffs on the side next the river; but the walls looking towards
the plain rose to eighty feet, and bristled with bastion-like projections
(A.B.) jutting out for a distance of fifty feet from the curtain wall,
measuring thirty feet thick at the base and thirteen feet at the top, and
irregularly spaced, according to the requirements of the defence. These
spurs, which are not battlemented, served in place of towers. They added to
the strength of the walls, protected the walk round the top, and enabled
the besieged to direct a flank attack against the enemy if any attempt were
made upon the wall of circuit. The intervals between these spurs are
accurately calculated as to distance, in order that the archers should be
able to sweep the intervening ground with their arrows. Curtains and
salients are alike built of crude brick, with beams bedded horizontally in
the mass. The outer face is in two parts, the lower division being nearly
vertical, and the upper one inclined at an angle of about seventy degrees,
which made scaling very difficult, if not impossible. The whole of the
ground enclosed by the wall of circuit was filled in to nearly the level of
the ramparts (fig. 36). Externally, the covering wall of stone was
separated from the body of the fortress by a dry ditch, some 100 to 130
feet in width. This wall closely followed the main outline, and rose to a
height which varied according to the situation from six to ten feet above
the level of the plain. On the northward side it was cut by the winding
road, which led down into the plain. These arrangements, skilful as they
were, did not prevent the fall of the place. A large breach in the
southward face, between the two salients nearest to the river, marks the
point of attack selected by the enemy.

[Illustration: Fig. 37. - Syrian fort.]

[Illustration: Fig. 38. - The town-walls of Dapür.]

[Illustration: Fig. 39. - City of Kadesh, Ramesseum.]

[Illustration: Fig. 40. - Plan of the pavilion of Medinet Habu.]

[Illustration: Fig. 41. - Elevation of pavilion, Medinet Habû.]

New methods of fortification were revealed to the Egyptians in the course
of the great Asiatic wars undertaken by the Pharaohs of the Eighteenth
Dynasty. The nomadic tribes of Syria erected small forts in which they took
refuge when threatened with invasion (fig. 37). The Canaanite and Hittite
cities, as Ascalon, Dapur, and Merom, were surrounded by strong walls,
generally built of stone and flanked with towers (fig. 38). Those which
stood in the open country, as, for instance, Qodshû (Kadesh), were enclosed
by a double moat (fig. 39). Having proved the efficacy of these new types
of defensive architecture in the course of their campaigns, the Pharaohs
reproduced them in the valley of the Nile. From the beginning of the
Nineteenth Dynasty, the eastern frontier of the Delta (always the weakest)
was protected by a line of forts constructed after the Canaanite model. The
Egyptians, moreover, not content with appropriating the thing, appropriated
also the name, and called these frontier towers by the Semitic name of
_Magdilû_ or Migdols. For these purposes, or at all events for cities which
were exposed to the incursions of the Asiatic tribes, brick was not deemed
to be sufficiently strong; hence the walls of Heliopolis, and even those of
Memphis, were faced with stone. Of these new fortresses no ruins remain;
and but for a royal caprice which happens to have left us a model Migdol in
that most unlikely place, the necropolis of Thebes, we should now be
constrained to attempt a restoration of their probable appearance from the
representations in certain mural tableaux. When, however, Rameses III.
erected his memorial temple[3] (figs. 40 and 41), he desired, in
remembrance of his Syrian victories, to give it an outwardly military
aspect. Along the eastward front of the enclosure there accordingly runs a
battlemented covering wall of stone, averaging some thirteen feet in
height. The gate, protected by a large quadrangular bastion, opened in the
middle of this wall. It was three feet four inches in width, and was
flanked by two small oblong guard-houses, the flat roofs of which stood
about three feet higher than the ramparts. Passing this gate, we stand face
to face with a real Migdol. Two blocks of building enclose a succession of
court-yards, which narrow as they recede, and are connected at the lower
end by a kind of gate-house, consisting of one massive gateway surmounted
by two storeys of chambers. The eastward faces of the towers rise above an
inclined basement, which slopes to a height of from fifteen to sixteen feet
from the ground. This answered two purposes. It increased the strength of
the wall at the part exposed to sappers; it also caused the rebound of
projectiles thrown from above, and so helped to keep assailants at a
distance. The whole height is about seventy-two feet, and the width of each
tower is thirty-two feet. The buildings situate at the back, to right and
left of the gate, were destroyed in ancient times. The details of the
decoration are partly religious, partly triumphal, as befits the character
of the structure. It is unlikely, however, that actual fortresses were
adorned with brackets and bas-relief sculptures, such as we here see on
either side of the fore-court. Such as it is, the so-called "pavilion" of
Medinet Habu offers an unique example of the high degree of perfection to
which the victorious Pharaohs of this period had carried their military
architecture.

Material evidence fails us almost entirely, after the reign of Rameses III.
Towards the close of the eleventh century B.C., the high-priests of Amen
repaired the walls of Thebes, of Gebeleyn, and of El Hibeh opposite Feshn.
The territorial subdivision of the country, which took place under the
successors of Sheshonk, compelled the provincial princes to multiply their
strongholds. The campaign of Piankhi on the banks of the Nile is a series
of successful sieges. Nothing, however, leads us to suppose that the art of
fortification had at that time made any distinct progress; and when the
Greek rulers succeeded the native Pharaohs, they most probably found it at
much the same stage as it was left by the engineers of the Nineteenth and
Twentieth Dynasties.


[3] At Medinet Habû.




3. - PUBLIC WORKS.


A permanent network of roads would be useless in a country like Egypt. The
Nile here is the natural highway for purposes of commerce, and the pathways
which intersect the fields suffice for foot-passengers, for cattle, and for
the transport of goods from village to village. Ferry-boats for crossing
the river, fords wherever the canals were shallow enough, and embanked dams
thrown up here and there where the water was too deep for fordings,
completed the system of internal communication. Bridges were rare. Up to
the present time, we know of but one in the whole territory of ancient
Egypt; and whether that one was long or short, built of stone or of wood,
supported on arches or boldly flung across the stream from bank to bank, we
cannot even conjecture. This bridge, close under the very walls of Zarû,[4]
crossed the canal which separated the eastern frontier of Egypt from the
desert regions of Arabia Petraea. A fortified enclosure protected this
canal on the Asiatic side, as shown in the accompanying illustration (fig.
42). The maintenance of public highways, which figures as so costly an item
in the expenses of modern nations, played, therefore, but a very small part
in the annual disbursements of the Pharaohs, who had only to provide for
the due execution of three great branches of government works, - namely,
storage, irrigation, mining and quarrying.

[Illustration: Fig. 42. - Canal and bridge, Zarû, Karnak.]

[Illustration: Fig. 43. - Cellar, with amphorae.]

[Illustration: Fig. 44. - Granary.]

The taxation of ancient Egypt was levied in kind, and government servants
were paid after the same system. To workmen, there were monthly
distributions of corn, oil, and wine, wherewith to support their families;
while from end to end of the social scale, each functionary, in exchange
for his labour, received cattle, stuffs, manufactured goods, and certain
quantities of copper or precious metals. Thus it became necessary that the
treasury officials should have the command of vast storehouses for the safe
keeping of the various goods collected under the head of taxation. These
were classified and stored in separate quarters, each storehouse being
surrounded by walls and guarded by vigilant keepers. There was enormous
stabling for cattle; there were cellars where the amphorae were piled in
regular layers (fig. 43), or hung in rows upon the walls, each with the
date written on the side of the jar; there were oven-shaped granaries where
the corn was poured in through a trap at the top (fig. 44), and taken out
through a trap at the bottom. At Thûkû, identified with Pithom by M.
Naville,[5] the store-chambers (A) are rectangular and of different
dimensions (fig. 45), originally divided by floors, and having no
communication with each other. Here the corn had to be not only put in but
taken out through the aperture at the top. At the Ramesseum, Thebes,
thousands of ostraka and jar-stoppers found upon the spot prove that the
brick-built remains at the back of the temple were the cellars of the local
deity. The ruins consist of a series of vaulted chambers, originally
surmounted by a platform or terrace (fig. 46). At Philae, Ombos,
Daphnae,[6] and most of the frontier towns of the Delta, there were
magazines of this description, and many more will doubtless be discovered
when made the object of serious exploration.

[Illustration: Fig. 45. - Plan of Pithom.]

[Illustration: Fig. 46. - Store-chambers of the Ramesseum.]

[Illustration: Fig. 47. - Dike at Wady Gerraweh.]

The irrigation system of Egypt is but little changed since the olden time.
Some new canals have been cut, and yet more have been silted up through the
negligence of those in power; but the general scheme, and the methods
employed, continue much the same, and demand but little engineering skill.
Wherever I have investigated the remains of ancient canals, I have been
unable to detect any traces of masonry at the weak points, or at the
mouths, of these cuttings. They are mere excavated ditches, from twenty to
sixty or seventy feet in width. The earth flung out during the work was
thrown to right and left, forming irregular embankments from seven to
fourteen feet in height. The course of the ancient canals was generally
straight: but that rule was not strictly observed, and enormous curves
were often described in order to avoid even slight irregularities of
surface. Dikes thrown up from the foot of the cliffs to the banks of the
Nile divided the plain at intervals into a series of artificial basins,
where the overflow formed back-waters at the time of inundation. These
dikes are generally earth-works, though they are sometimes constructed of
baked brick, as in the province of Girgeh. Very rarely are they built of
hewn stone, like that great dike of Kosheish which was constructed by Mena
in primaeval times, in order to divert the course of the Nile from the spot
on which he founded Memphis.[7] The network of canals began near Silsilis
and extended to the sea-board, without ever losing touch of the river, save
at one spot near Beni Sûef, where it throws out a branch in the direction
of the Fayûm. Here, through a narrow and sinuous gorge, deepened probably
by the hand of man, it passes the rocky barrier which divides that low-
lying province from the valley of the Nile, and thence expands into a
fanlike ramification of innumerable channels. Having thus irrigated the
district, the waters flow out again; those nearest the Nile returning by
the same way that they flowed in, while the rest form a series of lakes,
the largest of which is known as the Birket el Kûrûn. If we are to believe
Herodotus, the work was not so simply done. A king, named Moeris, desired
to create a reservoir in the Fayûm which should neutralise the evil effects
of insufficient or superabundant inundations. This reservoir was named,
after him, Lake Moeris. If the supply fell below the average, then the
stored waters were let loose, and Lower Egypt and the Western Delta were
flooded to the needful height. If next year the inundation came down in too
great force, Lake Moeris received and stored the surplus till such time as
the waters began to subside. Two pyramids, each surmounted by a sitting
colossus, one representing the king and the other his queen, were erected
in the midst of the lake. Such is the tale told by Herodotus, and it is a
tale which has considerably embarrassed our modern engineers and
topographers. How, in fact, was it possible to find in the Fayûm a site
which could have contained a basin measuring at least ninety miles in
circumference? Linant supposed "Lake Moeris" to have extended over the
whole of the low-lying land which skirts the Libyan cliffs between Illahûn
and Medinet el Fayûm; but recent explorations have proved that the dikes by
which this pretended reservoir was bounded are modern works, erected
probably within the last two hundred years. Major Brown has lately shown
that the nucleus of "Lake Moeris" was the Birket el Kûrûn.[8] This was
known to the Egyptians as _Miri, Mi-ûri,_ the Great Lake, whence the Greeks
derived their _Moiris_ a name extended also to the inundation of the Fayûm.
If Herodotus did actually visit this province, it was probably in summer,
at the time of the high Nile, when the whole district presents the
appearance of an inland sea. What he took for the shores of this lake were
the embankments which divided it into basins and acted as highways between
the various towns. His narrative, repeated by the classic authors, has
been accepted by the moderns; and Egypt, neither accepting nor rejecting
it, was gratified long after date with the reputation of a gigantic work
which would in truth have been the glory of her civil engineers, if it had
ever existed. I do not believe that "Lake Moeris" ever did exist. The only
works of the kind which the Egyptians undertook were much less pretentious.
These consist of stone-built dams erected at the mouths of many of those
lateral ravines, or wadys, which lead down from the mountain ranges into
the valley of the Nile. One of the most important among them was pointed
out, in 1885, by Dr. Schweinfurth, at a distance of about six miles and a
half from the Baths of Helwan, at the mouth of the Wady Gerraweh (fig. 47).
It answered two purposes, firstly, as a means of storing the water of the
inundation for the use of the workmen in the neighbouring quarries; and,
secondly, as a barrier to break the force of the torrents which rush down
from the desert after the heavy rains of springtime and winter. The ravine
measures about 240 feet in width, the sides being on an average from 40 to
50 feet in height. The dam, which is 143 feet in thickness, consists of
three layers of material; at the bottom, a bed of clay and rubble; next, a
piled mass of limestone blocks (A); lastly, a wall of cut stone built in
retreating stages, like an enormous flight of steps (B). Thirty-two of the
original thirty-five stages are yet _in situ_, and about one-fourth part of
the dam remains piled up against the sides of the ravine to right and left;
but the middle part has been swept away by the force of the torrent (fig.
48). A similar dike transformed the end of Wady Genneh into a little lake
which supplied the Sinaitic miners with water.

Most of the localities from which the Egyptians derived their metals and
choicest materials in hard stone, were difficult of access, and would have
been useless had roads not been made, and works of this kind carried out,
so as to make life somewhat less insupportable there.

[Illustration: Fig. 48. - Section of dike at Wady Gerraweh.]

In order to reach the diorite and grey granite quarries of the Hammamat
Valley, the Pharaohs caused a series of rock-cut cisterns to be constructed
along the line of route. Some few insignificant springs, skilfully
conducted into these reservoirs, made it possible to plant workmen's
villages in the neighbourhood of the quarries, and also near the emerald
mines on the borders of the Red Sea. Hundreds of hired labourers, slaves,


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Online LibraryGaston Camille Charles MasperoManual of Egyptian Archaeology and Guide to the Study of Antiquities in Egypt → online text (page 3 of 21)