John L. (John Lawson) Stoddard.

John L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) online

. (page 11 of 12)
Online LibraryJohn L. (John Lawson) StoddardJohn L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 12)
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which is crowned with palm-trees and a little village. Then,
when the waters subside, the country clothes itself at once in
vegetation, and Mother Earth appears as young and beautiful
as when the Pyramids first gazed upon the wondrous scene.

No visit to Egypt is now complete which does not include
a journey on the Nile, at least as far as the

site of ancient " hundred-
hundred miles inland from
At present the tourist can

gated" Thebes, six
the Mediterranean,
choose between two


modes of travel on this river. One is by an excursion steamer,
which involves a tour of several weeks with a promiscuous
company; the other is by a "dahabiyeh," or private boat,
where one selects his own companions and is entirely inde-
pendent, a dragoman furnishing food, servants, and crew for
the entire journey. The great majority of Egyptian tourists
take the steamer, which is certainly swift, well-managed, com-
fortable, and less expensive than a private boat. On the other



hand, if time
and money are
of no particu-
lar considera-
tion, and if one
wishes to ar-
range his visits
to the different
ruins of the Up-
per Nile with
greater freedom
and with more
seclusion than
can be obtained
if he is traveling
by the schedule time of a crowded tourist-steamer, he would
do well to take a dahabiyeh. Certainly those who love read-
ing and tranquillity, and are interested in Egyptian history
and antiquities, need not fear the longer duration of the
journey occasioned by the use of a private boat. A fair





allowance being made for
individual tastes and
temperaments, I believe
it to be a fact that upon
no equal period of the
traveler's life will he
look back with more un-
alloyed enjoyment than
upon the weeks or months
passed in profound tran-
quillity and delicious
revery, gliding along the
golden rim of the Sahara,
which seems a well-nigh
endless avenue leading him back through a mirage of myths
and legends into the very dawn of history. What memories





recur to him, as his boat cleaves the current of this ruin-bor-
dered stream ! Its revelries, for example, upon how many did

Egypt's cloud-
less sun and lus-
trous moon look
down, when the
most fascinating
woman of anti-
quity, the ir-
resistible siren
of the Nile,
was wont to sail
upon the surface
ON THE NILE. of this same ma-

jestic stream, accompanied by Antony, in a gilded barge whose
perfumed sails swelled languidly with the breezes of the Orient.
Little did they
then anticipate
the tragic death-
scene that await-
ed them when
they should
have drained to
the dregs their
golden goblet of
life and love!

These and a
hundred other
incidents con-
nected with
Egyptian his-
tory are, on a
voyage like this, continually suggested to us by memory,
reading, and conversation; and are all emphasized in a most



charming and impressive way, whenever we land to inspect
at various points the awe-inspiring relics of antiquity. "He
who has once tasted the water of the Nile," says an Arab
proverb, "longs for it inexpressibly forevermore. "

It would exceed the scope of this volume to enumerate
all the ruined temples which the tourist passes in sailing up
the Nile. It is interesting, however, to observe that almost
all the columns of these ancient shrines terminate in the
sculptured bell of the lotus flower, an ornament that gives
lightness to these ponderous masses, and seems to be the

111, ,

appropriate coronation of the columnar stem. Many of these
chiseled lotus blossoms are just as perfect now as when they
left the sculptor's hand; and even when mutilated by some
vandal, their broken edges look like the crumpled petals of a
flower, still blooming on from century to century. It is fit-
ting that we should see Egypt's favorite blossom represented
in her temples, for the poets of antiquity sang of the far-
famed lotus that grew on the banks of the Nile, and claimed
that if the traveler ate of it he at once forgot home and kin-
dred, and lingered ever on this distant shore.

Next to the region of the Pyramids and Sphinx, the most
attractive part of Egypt is the site of Thebes, the principal

2 92


destination of all travelers who ascend the Nile. More than
four thousand years ago there lay here, as there lies to-day,
a mighty plain, cut by the Nile into two equal parts. Upon
this plain was an Egyptian city that must have been to the

ancient world
what Rome
was in the days
of Hadrian. It
so abounded
in stupendous
palaces and
temples, that
even their ruins
are to-day the
marvel of the
world, and
draw to them
admiring trav-
elers from ev-
ery land. One

of the most extraordinary of these structures is the temple
built by Rameses II, which was a ruin long before most of
the other ancient edifices of the world were reared. It was
demolished by the Persian conqueror, Cambyses, six centuries
before Christ, and only a few of its enormous columns are
now standing, though everywhere we see the pedestals of
many more. Some of its walls were supported by massive
statues thirty feet in height, which are now headless and
otherwise disfigured; and yet their folded arms still give to
them an air of grandeur and mystery, as if they were guard-
ing faithfully in their locked breasts the secrets of unnum-
bered ages.

Beside these standing giants, however, lies one whose
mere fragments dwarf them all. It is the overthrown statue





of King Rameses, the largest sculptured figure in the world.
This monster, once a solid block of beautifully polished gran-
ite, measures twenty-six feet across the shoulders, and its
weight, when entire, must have been nearly nine hundred
tons. Yet it was transported hither over a distance of one
hundred and fifty miles. It is alike difficult to understand
how such a colossus could have been quarried, brought hither,
or broken, as we now find it. An earthquake could hardly
have shattered it so completely. Such devastation could
only have been effected by the vandalism of man. Upon its
surface were inscribed the words "I am the king of kings.
If any one wishes to know how great I am, let him try to
surpass one of my works." But now, like Lucifer hurled
from Heaven, the mighty Rameses lies overthrown, and sev-
eral millstones
have been cut
from his head,
without percep-
tibly diminish-
ing the size.

A visit to
another portion
of the Theban
city revealed to
us the two co-
lossal figures
which photo-
graphic art has
made familiar to
the world. They
are both sadly mutilated, but seated as they are, and have
been for so many ages, in solitude and silence on this his-
toric plain, they look like the abandoned deities of the place,
whom grief has turned to stone. They do not, however,




before Christ ; and two
peror Septimius Severus

their restoration


explains the
mystery of the
voice which the
more northern
of these colossi,
called by the
Greeks the "Vo-
cal Memnon,"
was believed to
possess, since
every morning,
at sunrise, there
would issue from
it a peculiar
sound, which

really represent deities; they
are the statues of King Am-
unoph III, and were originally
placed here before the entrance
of his temple. Each of these
figures is a monolith, fifty-two
feet in height without the ped-
estal, and weighs about eight
hundred tons! It is true, they
do not look like monoliths now,
for one can see a multitude of
different blocks composing their
arms and shoulders. But both
were solid masses of stone till
they were riven by an earth-
quake shock twenty-seven years
hundred years later, the Roman Em-
clumsily restored them. This fact of





was interpreted as being a salutation
to the god of day. In the early years
of the Christian era this was deemed
so wonderful that Greek and Roman
travelers made a journey up the Nile
to look upon this statue and to hear
its "voice," with almost as much
interest as they felt in visiting the
Pyramids and the Sphinx.

For many years the usual ex-
planation of this phenomenon was
that of fraud. It was supposed that
a priest concealed himself in the
statue, and at sunrise, by striking
the stone with a metallic hammer, produced the sound which
awed into amazement the worshipers of old. But, on the
other hand it seems incredible that for two hundred years
priests could climb into this statue every night and climb
down again every day, and never be discovered. Obviously,
this colossus could not, like a chess automaton, be rolled away
occasionally from the stage, for it stood out boldly on the
plain, and could be watched continually by thousands. Nor
was its voice immemorial. The statue had stood here for
fifteen hundred years before it be-
vocal. It was only after its in-
jury by the earthquake that
its voice began to be heard. L
It then continued musical
for two hundred and twenty
years ; but as soon as it was
repaired by the Roman em-
peror, that is, as soon as its
crevices were filled with stone
and plaster, it became dumb





again, and has remained so ever since. It would seem con-
clusive, therefore, that the mysterious sound which puzzled
all antiquity, was due to the warmth of the rising sun acting
on the mass of cracked and sundered stone, which had been
thoroughly chilled and moistened with dew during the night,
a f ac t not without a parallel in some peculiar rock forma-
tions of the world.
On the opposite
bank of the Nile
to that on which
the Vocal Memnon
and his comrade
sit alone, stands
the most wonder-

- 1

ful of all the edi-
fices of old Thebes,
the temple of Kar-
nak. It forms, in
fact (with the ex-
ception of the Pyr-
amids), the largest
and most imposing
ruin, not only in
Egypt, but in the world. The approach to this was formerly
by an avenue nearly two miles long, lined with at least two
thousand colossal sphinxes, crouching side by side, fragments
of which are still discernible. Between them, so long ago as
the time of Joseph, passed with reverent tread unnumbered
worshipers, who must have been overwhelmed with awe by



the grandeur of this unrivaled vestibule. To-day Arab beg-
gars sun themselves here in the sand. Some one has said
that it is fortunate for these sphinxes that they are beheaded,
since they are spared the sight of the temple's degradation.
Beyond them one perceives, from a great distance, a solitary
portal. Beneath it giants might have passed, for it is seventy


feet in height. Compared to it, a man appears to be a pygmy.
Time seems to have favored certain portions of this ruined
shrine, and this is one of them; for, preserved in the wonder-
fully clear atmosphere of Egypt and the unvarying sunshine
of the Nile, it stands at present in its stately beauty almost
as perfect as when its lofty arch resounded to the murmur of
adoring thousands.




Passing through this
gigantic outer gate, we
paused with bated breath
before a glimpse of Kar-
nak itself. Who can ever
forget his first view of
this temple, whose walls
are eighty feet in height,
some of whose towers
reach an altitude of one
hundred and forty feet,
and whose vast area is a
mile and a half in cir-
cumference? Before us
was a wild confusion of
mammoth columns, cy-
clopean walls, and towering obelisks. It seemed to be a
ruined city, rather than a temple, reduced to chaos by an
earthquake. One feels that he is standing here upon a bat-
tlefield, where
Time has strug-
gled with the
products of hu-
man genius.
With whom
the victory has
rested, the mu-
tilated remains
upon the plain

Making our
way through
this bewildering




labyrinth, we approached one of the smaller avenues of Kar-
nak. How well preserved the columns are! And yet in point
of age they are as far removed in one direction from the birth
of Christ, as we are in the other. Despite their history of four
thousand years, these columns wear no ivied wreaths of age, and
had not the ruthless hands of iconoclasts been raised against
them, they would doubtless have remained intact to the pres-
ent day. One realizes here that the Egyptians built their

temples, not for centuries, but for ages. In fact, one of the
inscriptions on these walls states that the king Rameses con-
fidently counts upon the gods for help, because he has reared
to them "eternal mountains."

The columns, first met with as one approaches Karnak,
enormous though they are, sink to comparative insignifi-
cance, when we enter the main avenue of the temple. No
illustrations or statistics can give an adequate idea of the
majesty of such architecture as this. Yet in one hall alone
are no 'less than a hundred and thirty-four columns, some of



which are thirty-six feet in circumference and sixty-six feet
high, while many of the solid blocks which they support are
forty feet in length. The lotus flowers which crown them
are so vast that twelve men can, with outstretched arms, and
hands pressed finger-tip to finger-tip, barely enclose one of
their curving lips. What wonder that the Arabs declared
that the ancient Egyptians were giants, who had the power

of moving at
will cyclopean
masses of stone,
as by the mere
stroke of the en-
chanter's wand?
On entering
another shad-
owy aisle of Kar-
nak, we found
that conquerors
had sought to
overthrow some
of these mighty
pillars. In sev-
eral instances
the miscreant
vandals were
successful; but
one huge shaft

refused to fall, and, although started
from its foundation, it leans against its neighbor (one fancies
wearily and painfully), as though it were a giant's dislocated
limb. However, we can safely walk beneath this leaning column,
for it has been thus deflected since before the time of Christ.
Soulless indeed must be the traveler who can walk among
the ruins of Karnak without emotions too profound for words.





In the whole world there is no
temple that can be even re-
motely compared to it. It
must have been even more im-
pressive, when its vast aisles
were covered with a roof,
which, if we may judge from
other Egyptian ceilings that
remain, was probably painted
a deep blue, to represent the
cloudless sky of Egypt, and
glittered with a thousand
golden stars. Even now the
daylight, streaming down
through this forest of col-
umns, reveals to us pictorial
carvings twenty feet in height, with a multitude of sacred
characters, cut several inches deep into the solid stone, each

letter polished
to its entire
depth and col-
ored like mo-
saic. These are
not fanciful and
decorations, but
hymns of praise
to kings and
gods, as per-
fectly compre-
hended in those
times as Latin
sentences are




Until 1799, Egyptian hieroglyphics were a mystery, but
at the close of the eighteenth century these sacred writings
of past ages were made plain by the discovery of a tablet of
black basalt (called the " Rosetta Stone" after the town near
which it was found), which was dug out of the soil of the
Delta. Upon this stone, which is about four feet in height,
was inscribed in three languages a decree issued by the Egyp-
tian priesthood at Memphis, about two hundred years before

Christ. One of these lan-
guages was Greek, the
other two were, respect-
ively, the priestly and
the popular writing of
the Egyptians. By a
comparison of the known
Greek with the unknown
Egyptian characters, a
key was found by which
to decipher the priestly
symbols of the Pharaohs.
To Champollion, the dis-
tinguished French lin-
guist, is due unstinted
praise for this groat
work, without which the reading of the monuments of ancient
Egypt and even the comprehension of Egyptian history would
have been impossible. As is well known, the Rosetta Stone
now forms one of the most valued treasures of the British

Time, the destroyer, can apparently lay no hand on
sculptures such as these. They still remain, and will no
doubt remain for centuries to come, illumined tablets of his-
tory, as perfect as when they were beheld through clouds
of incense by the assembled worshipers of old.




In strolling through the immense area of Karnak's ruins,
we frequently discovered stately obelisks which were hewn
from the primitive volcanic granite nearly forty centuries
ago. One of these, which, as the inscription tells us, was
once surmounted by a little pyramid of gold, is ninety-two


feet high and eight feet square. Some of these monoliths
are prostrate, while others are erect; but whether prone or
perpendicular, amid these wonderful surroundings, and with
the secrets of past ages graven on their sides, they are unusu-
ally impressive memorials of the heroes of the past, and

" Like a right-arm lifted towards the sky,
Each obelisk makes oath their memory shall not die."



Though Karnak is the most stupendous ruin of Upper
Egypt, by far the loveliest is the island of Philae, encircled
by the glittering Nile. It is an uninhabited island now, only
twelve hundred feet in length and five hundred in breadth,

but the memories it awakens are like precious jewels in a
tiny casket, "infinite riches in a little room." This "Pearl
of the Nile," as it is called, now fringed with palms and
crowned with ruined temples, was formerly sacred to the god-
dess Isis, the mightiest of the Egyptian Trinity; and here
her worship was continued secretly, long after the decrees
of Christian emperors had elsewhere abolished the old faith
of Egypt.

For centuries before that time, however, the templed isle
of Isis was the resort of countless travelers and pilgrims, by
whom it was as much revered as is the Holy Sepulchre at
Jerusalem by the majority of Christians to-day; for this was



supposed to be the burial-place of Osiris, the husband of Isis;
and the most sacred oath of the Egyptians was the phrase,
"By him who sleeps in Philae."

At one extremity of this island is an exquisite little struc-
ture known as "Pharaoh's Bed." It is difficult to imagine
anything architecturally more beautiful than this graceful
pavilion, outlined against the glorious blue sky of Upper
Egypt. It is not, however, very ancient, as things go in
Egypt, having been built by the Roman emperor Tibe-
rius, about the time of Christ. How
Egypt dwarfs all lands and
ruins which we have pre-
viously called ancient !
In Britain we survey
with wonder its old
cathedrals, built six ffjy |f ^f'

'*&r : cen-


ago; in Italy
we are thrilled by
scenes reminding us
of Roman life and
customs eighteen
hundred years since;
in Athens we go
back still farther.

But here upon the changeless Nile, when once accustomed
to its antiquity, we find ourselves exclaiming lightly:
"Oh, this is merely Greek," or "That is as modern as the



3 io EGYPT

If the island of Philae is beautiful by day, by night it has
a fascination almost beyond the power of language to
describe. For when the moon threads these deserted ave-
nues with silver sandals; holding her pale light, here and
there, for us to note these sculptured chronicles of kings,


beautiful Philae rises once more in its splendor, its sculptures
speaking to us of the vanished Isis and Osiris, in that mys-
terious language of dead ages whose books were the temples
of the gods, the leaves of which were blocks of stone.

Most tourists on the Nile are content to go no farther
than the first cataract and Philae; but those who journey still
farther southward into Nubia are abundantly repaid by one


of the most awe-inspiring of Egyptian ruins, the temple of
Abou-Simbel. This edifice, which is cut for a distance of
three hundred feet into the rocky hillside by the river, is now
half-buried in drifts of shining sand. Beside it are four
statues of Rameses II, of such prodigious size, that the huge
door, although enormous in itself, seems small beside them.
This portal conducts the traveler into a subterranean hall,
where are still other monster statues, waiting with folded

arms through
the slow-moving
centuries, like
captive giants
whom only a ter-
rific earthquake
shock can liber-
ate. Torchlight
reveals an altar
where sacrifices
were offered to
the gods more
than three thou-
sand years ago.

One of the
exterior statues
is mutilated beyond recognition, but all of them represented
the same monarch. The position of the hands on the knees
is characteristic of most royal Egyptian statues, and is sym-
bolic of Rameses resting after his conquest of the then known
world. It is not strange that the Egyptians gave to him the
title, "King of Kings," for he was really the greatest con-
queror of antiquity, prior to the era of Greece and Rome.
He was apparently a favorite of fortune, living to the age of
eighty-seven, and ruling Egypt for no less than sixty-seven
years. It was his passion to erect magnificent temples, and




place in front of them some of those obelisks and statues
which, after all they have survived, are still the marvel of
the world. Nor were these ornamental works the only mon-
uments which Rameses bequeathed to Egypt, for he caused
the stony desert to be pierced in various places with artesian
wells; he finished a canal connecting the Mediterranean and
the Red Sea, more than three thousand years before De Les-

seps followed in his foot-
steps ; while, as a warrior,
he had conquered Syria
and seized upon the for-
tress of Jerusalem more
than a hundred years be-
fore the Israelites (led out
from Egypt during the
reign of his successor) set
foot upon the soil of Pal-

But to appreciate ade-
quately the vastness of
these statues at Abou-
Simbel, we should exam-
ine them singly. Each is
no less than sixty-six feet
high, and its forefinger is
a yard in length. If the
figure stood erect, it would
reach an altitude of nearly eighty-three feet. A group of
travelers standing on its lap looks like a swarm of insects
resting on its surface. The lower half of the leg measures
twenty feet from knee to heel. The destruction of one of
these statues was effected more than two thousand years ago
by foreign conquerors; but what a comment upon human
nature it is, that such sublime monuments, after enduring



for so many ages, should
now, without the excuse
of foreign conquest, be
disgracefully mutilated
by modern travelers, who
(itching for notoriety)
have placed upon these
ruins their names, and
those of the towns un-
fortunate enough to be
their birthplaces. Some
of these carvings, in let-
ters a foot in length, have
been actually filled in
with paint ! A few years
ago a traveler took a plas-
ter cast of one of the heads, and left
wash, which he had not the decency



it besmeared with white-
to efface. Alas! almost
all of Egypt's
unique treasures
have suffered
from the wanton
depredations of
man. Not long
ago a party of
tourists visited
the grand old
obelisk at Heli-
opolis, which was
already ancient
when Abraham
made his jour-
ney into Egypt,
and were found



knocking pieces out of it with an axe! When one hears of
such vandalism, one can agree with Douglas Jerrold, who,
while arguing that every kind of business had its pleasant side,
remarked: "If I were an undertaker, I know of several per-
sons whom I could work for with considerable satisfaction."


The most impressive view of Abou-Simbel is that which
reveals these seated statues from a distance, in profile.
Gigantic as their features are, they nevertheless possess a
serene, majestic beauty, which becomes marvelous when we
reflect that these colossal figures were hewn directly from the
face of the mountain. Surely such forms and features, cut
thus from the natural rock, were the work of men whose



genius was akin
to that of Mi-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11

Online LibraryJohn L. (John Lawson) StoddardJohn L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 12)