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self under his flag. In speechless terror, Sabbathais, at the instiga-
tion of his Jewish interpreter, now took the turban from the head
of an official standing near, and placed it upon his own, thereby
indicating, as the interpreter declared, that his sole object had been
all along to embrace Islam or Mohammedanism, and to carry over
all the Jews with him. The sultan declared himself satisfied, and
honoured him with the title of Effendi, equivalent to Sir, giving
him an honorary post at the same time.

But, extraordinarily enough, the movement was far from having
reached its end. The most wonderful stories were circulated among
the believers. A supposititious man was supposed by some to have
embraced Islam, while the real Messiah had ascended to heaven.
Others believed that Islam was to form part of the new religion ;
and Sabbathais, countenancing this view, converted many Jews
to that faith. Nathan, one of his most enthusiastic disciples,
travelled about, and caused strife without end, even sanguinary
revolts. Many, however, had turned from him by this time, and
the voices of the rabbis and their excommunications began to tell
more forcibly. Finally, the grand vizier was persuaded to arrest
Sabbathais once more, and to send him to a prison in Belgrade,
where he died according to some, in consequence of poison, while
according to others he was executed in 1677, ten years after his
conversion to Mohammedanism.

It is very difficult to judge correctly of a character like his.
Even his worst enemies never had a word to say either against
his morality or against the extraordinarily brilliant powers of his
mind, and his erudition. Probably, he was a self-deceiver, whose
plans were not measured by the means at his command for their



RELIGIOUS IMPOSTORS.

execution. His death, however, was only the signal for the increase
of his sect, which even many of his former antagonists now joined,
and which now, for the first time, was developed into a proper
religious system that of the Sabbathaites or Sabbathians (Shebsen).
Among the succeeding apostles of the sect were Nehemiah, previ-
ously a bitter enemy of Sabbathais, and Nehemiah Hajun, who
flourished in the beginning of the eighteenth century. The latter
taught the dogma of the Trinity as part of the new faith ; and it
became a principle of this religion to accept and to modify itself to
the dominant creed of the country Islam in the East, Christianity
in the West. Remnants of the sect are said to be still in existence
in Poland and Turkey.

Of founders of sects in the nineteenth century, the most remark-
able is Joseph Smith, who originated the sect of the Mormons. A
full account of this wonderful movement is given in a previous
number of this series, The History of the Mormons, in vol. vi.
32





The Pyramids.




WONDERS AND CURIOSITIES OF ARCHITECTURE.

HE erection of structures for shelter, for worship, for
commemoration, or for any other useful or ornamental
purpose, is one of those branches of art in which man-
kind very early excelled. Hence it is that in Eastern

countries, from which, as a starting-point, we trace the

progress of civilisation, some of the noblest and most stupendous of
human erections are still to be found. Egypt, Syria, Persia, India,
and China had their pyramids, catacombs, walls, towers, and
temples long before Greece and Rome had being ; and though these
may be deficient in that taste and ornamental gracefulness which
make the Athenian structures models even to the present day, still
many of them possessed a vastness and grandeur of conception
which has stamped them as wonders to all following ages. When
science and art arose in Greece, and flowed onward along the
southern and western shores of Europe, even to our own remote
island, the genius of architecture displayed itself in another form ;
the semi-barbaric vastitude of the Oriental pile gave way to
chastened elegance and symmetrical compactness beauty of form
and skilful arrangement were substituted for mere magnitude and
expense of labour.

63 i



WONDERS AND CURIOSITIES OF ARCHITECTURE.



ANCIENT AND PAGAN ARCHITECTURE.

It may be convenient to separate into two groups the structures
taken as illustrative examples the one comprising those which are
either ancient or pagan, the other those which are either Christian
or modern.

PYRAMIDS AND MONUMENTS OF EGYPT.

The whole of this interesting country is crowded with monuments
of the gigantic architecture of former times and of different ages ;
among the most ancient, and by far the most stupendous of which
are the Pyramids. These colossal erections, to which there is no
parallel in other countries, are situated on a rocky tract at the foot
of those mountains which form the western boundary of the valley of
the Nile. They are about thirty in number, and are scattered along
a tract of nearly seventy miles in length commencing with those of
Gizeh, near Cairo, and ending with a small group a little below
Feshu. The principal group occurs near the place where stood the
ancient city of Memphis, and consists of four nearly entire pyramids,
with a number of smaller ones in a state of dilapidation. The four
faces exactly correspond to the four cardinal points. The most
northern, commonly known as the ' Great Pyramid,' is the largest ;
its perpendicular height being little short of 500 feet, and its base
covering more than eleven acres of land. The base forms a square,
whose side is 733 feet ; and as the length of the sloping side
upwards is about equal to that of the base, each face may be
regarded in a general way as an equilateral triangle. It must not
be supposed, however, that these structures are smooth-sided, sharp-
pointed, mathematical pyramids ; for the summits are not now
entire, and the sides, whatever may have been their original condi-
tion, consist in reality of a number of steps formed by the successive
layers of stone. The steps in the Great Pyramid are variously
estimated at from 207 to 212, the length of some of the blocks
forming them being not less than thirty feet. The size of the blocks
is unequal, but they have all right angles, that they may fit closely
together. The external layers have neither mortar nor cramps ;
but in the body of the Pyramid a kind of cement is used, com-
posed of lime, sand, and clay. The only foundation is the surface
of the subjacent rock, which is about eighty feet above the level of
the ground annually overflowed by the Nile.

Respecting the purpose of these erections numerous conjectures
have been offered ; but the opinion generally entertained is, that
they were erected by the ancient kings of Egypt as private mauso-
leums or tombs. This idea is so far supported by the fact, that the



WONDERS AND CURIOSITIES OF ARCHITECTURE.

larger pyramid, near Memphis, has interior chambers, in_ one of
which is a marble sarcophagus, supposed to have contained the
ashes of the monarch who completed the structure. It is necessary
to mention, however, that Mr Piazzi Smyth published, in 1864, a
large volume on purpose to develop a theory that the Great Pyramid
was built as a universal standard of weights and measures.* The
passages and chambers of this pyramid, which are walled and




Section of Great Pyramid of Gizeh (from Vyse's Pyramids of Gizeh}.

D, debris and remains of casing ; Q, queen's chamber ; K, king's chamber ; O, outer
casing line ; S, N, air channels ; W, well ; Sub., subterranean apartment.

covered with polished marble and granite, are of a curious and
intricate kind (see cut). They have been entered and explored by
various travellers.

* Since the above was %vritten, Mr Piazzi Smyth has published a second work concerning
the Great Pyramid, in which he gives some measurements recently obtained by Mr Inglis.
It is found that the base of the pyramid is not a perfect square, the lengths of the four sides
being respectively 9120, 9114, 9102, and 9104 English inches. Of course, such small devia-



nypotneses concerning tne proportions 01 tne pyramid, (i.j mat tne perimeier 01 me oase
equals six times the vertical height; (2.) That the perimeter of the base is to the vertical
height as the circumference of a circle to the radius ; (3.) That the vertical height, the
sloping height from the middle of one side of the base, and the length of one side are in the
ratio of 4, 5, 6; (4.) That each face of the pyramid equals in area the square of the vertical
height. Colonel James, in 1867, found that the rise at the four angles is in the ratio of 9
vertical to 10 horizontal ; and that the length of each side of the base equals 360 Egyptian
cubits.



WONDERS AND CURIOSITIES OF ARCHITECTURE.

The Egyptian pyramids, as has been stated, are of different ages ;
but those we have described are considered by Sir Gardner Wilkin-
son to be the most ancient, and to have been built by Suphis, and
his brother Sensuphis, about 2120 years before the Christian era.
But whatever was the time of their erection, or by whom erected,
'there can be no doubt of their being amongst the earliest, as they
are unquestionably the most stupendous, monuments of human
architecture. Diodorus Siculus asserts that the building of the
Great Pyramid occupied about twenty years, and that three hundred
and sixty thousand men were employed in its construction.

The other architectural monuments of Egypt which have attracted
the attention of after-ages are the Great Sphinx, the labyrinth of
Arsinoe, the reputed musical statues of Memnon, the hieroglyphical
obelisks of Luxor, the catacombs of Thebes, the obelisks known as
Cleopatra's Needles, and the Pillar of Pompey. The Great Sphinx,
though sadly mutilated, is still to be seen about sixty yards to the
south-east of the Great Pyramid already described. This enormous
figure which is intended to represent the body of a lion with the
breasts and head of a woman is cut out of the solid rock, and seems
to have been formed as a monument in connection with the inunda-
tion of the Nile, which takes place when the sun passes from Leo to
Virgo. Its huge recumbent body, about sixty feet in length, and its
outstretched fore-legs, are almost entirely buriedjn sand and rubbish ;
but the neck and head rise above the wreck the latter being twenty
'feet high and, though much mutilated, still possessing a consider-
able degree of feminine beauty.

Of all the labyrinths of antiquity, that of Arsinoe was the largest
and most costly ; those of Crete and Lemnos being mere imitations,
and not one-hundredth part of its dimensions. It was so extra-
ordinary that Herodotus, who partly explored its chambers, declares
it to be even more wonderful than the Pyramids. It was situated
near the city of Crocodiles, or Arsinoe, a little above the lake Mceris,
and is reputed to have been the conjoint work of the twelve kings
among whom Egypt was at that time divided. It seems to have
been designed as a pantheon, or universal temple of all the Egyptian
deities which were separately worshipped in the provinces. It was
also the place for general assembly of the magistracy of the whole
nation ; for those of all the provinces met here to feast and sacrifice,
and to judge causes of great consequence. For this reason every
province had a hall or palace appropriated to it the whole edifice
being thus divided, according to Herodotus, into twelve, though
Pliny makes the number sixteen, and Strabo even so many as
twenty-seven. The former authority tells us that the halls were
vaulted, and had an equal number of doors opposite to one another,
six opening to the north and six to the south, all encompassed by
the same wall; that there were 3000 chambers in this edifice 1500
in the upper part, and as many under ground ; and that he viewed



WONDERS AND CURIOSITIES OF ARCHITECTURE.

every room in the upper part, but was not permitted by those who
kept the palace to go into the subterranean part, because the
sepulchres of the holy crocodiles, and that of the kings who built the
labyrinths, were there. He reports that what he saw seemed to
surpass the work of man ; so many exits by various passages, and
infinite returns, afforded a thousand occasions of wonder. He passed
from a spacious hall to a chamber, and from thence to a private
cabinet ; then again into other passages out of the cabinets, and out
of the chamber into the more spacious rooms. All the roofs and
walls within were lined with marble, and adorned with hieroglyphic
sculpture. The halls were surrounded with pillars of white stone,
finely polished.

Of the other monuments above mentioned, we can only shortly
advert to the so-called ' Pillar of Pompey,' situated about a quarter
of a league from the southern gate of Alexandria. It is composed of
red granite, apparently brought from the quarries of Upper Egypt.
What renders it particularly wonderful is, that the shaft and the
upper member of the base are of one piece, 90 feet long, and 9 feet
in diameter ! The base, which is a square block of marble, rests on
two layers of stone, bound together with lead. The whole column is
114 feet high, beautifully polished, and only a little weathered on
the eastern side. ' Nothing can equal,' it has been said, ' the
majesty of this monument. Seen from a distance, it overtops the
town, and serves as a signal for vessels ; and on a nearer approach,
it produces an astonishment mingled with awe. One can never be
tired with admiring the beauty of the capital, the proportions of the
shaft, and the extraordinary simplicity of the pedestal ; although the
latter has been rather damaged by the instruments of travellers, who
were anxious to possess a relic of this antiquity ; and one of the
volutes of the capital was immaturely brought down, in 1781, by
some English captains, who reached the summit by a rope-ladder,
carried thither by the ingenious device of flying a kite, to the string
of which the ropes were attached.'

STRUCTURES OF SYRIA AND PERSIA.

In the region comprehended by these names a region which is
generally considered as the cradle of mankind arose some of the
most magnificent cities, temples, and monuments which the world
has yet beheld. The wasting hand of time, and the devastations of
war, have long since laid most of them in ruins ; the very sites of
some of the most renowned are even matter of doubt ; their history,
mingled with not a little of fable, is all that remains. Among these,
Babylon holds a prominent place its walls, towers, and hanging-
gardens having been considered as the noblest of the seven ancient
wonders of the world. As an example of the decisive instead of the
critical way of treating such subjects two or three centuries ago, we

s



WONDERS AND CURIOSITIES OF ARCHITECTURE.

shall quote the description of Babylon from Time's Storehouse, pub-
lished in 1619 : 'This city was surrounded, like a quadrangle, with
walls 87 feet thick, 360 feet high, and about 60 English miles in cir-
cumference. These were built with lime and cement made into large
bricks, which bound together like pitch, and grew so solid by time,
that six chariots might easily drive abreast on the top. This wall
was encompassed with a vast ditch filled with water, and lined with
bricks on both sides ; and as the earth dug out made the bricks, we
may judge of the size by the height and thickness of the walls.
There were one hundred gates round the wall, twenty-five on each
side, all of solid brass ; between every two of these gates were three
towers, and four more at the four corners, and each of these towers
was ten feet higher than the walls : in all, there were 250 towers.
The Euphrates flowed through the middle of the city from north to
south, over which there was a bridge 1 100 yards long, and 30 feet
wide ; on each end of the bridge was a palace of vast magnificence,
which communicated with each other by a tunnel under a channel
of the river. Added to this, ancient historians tell us of the hanging-
gardens built in Babylon upon arches and towers, wherein grew
trees of great height. There are said to have been five of these,
each containing about four English acres, consisting of terraces one
above another, as high as the wall of the city. The ascent from
terrace to terrace was by steps ten feet wide, and was strengthened
by a wall surrounding it on every side twenty-two feet thick ; and
the floors on each of them were laid in this order : first, on the tops
of the arches, a bed or pavement of stones, sixteen feet long and
four feet broad ; over this a layer of reed, mixed with earth, and
over this two courses of brick, and over these thick sheets of lead,
and on these the earth or mould, which was so deep as to give root
to the largest trees. Upon the uppermost of these terraces was
a reservoir, supplied by an engine with water from the river
Euphrates.'

The celebrated Tower of Babel, originally built in the plains of
Shinar, but afterwards enclosed as a part of Babylon, was carried
on, according to Scriptural chronology, 2247 years before Christ.
Its altitude is said to have been about 843 feet (being 343 feet
higher than the loftiest of the Pyramids of Egypt), and its circum-
ference at the base 8430 feet admeasurements conventionally
repeated, but for which there is no authentic record.

Ecbatana, the capital of Media, was also of immense magnificence
being eight leagues in circumference, and surrounded with seven
walls, in form of an amphitheatre, the battlements of which were
painted of various colours, and gilded. Nineveh, according to
Diodorus, was sixty miles in circuit ; the walls, which were defended
by 1500 towers, were 100 feet high, and so broad, that three chariots
could go abreast on them. A flood of light has been thrown upon
the history and art of Nineveh and Assyria, within the last few

6



WONDERS AND CURIOSITIES OF ARCHITECTURE.

years, by the researches of Layard and Botta ; some of the mar-
vellous sculptures at the British Museum were brought from the
walls of the ruined palaces in those regions. Persepolis was another
city, of which all historians speak as being one of the most ancient
and noble of Asia. There remain the ruins of one of its palaces,
which measured 600 paces in front, and still displays the relics of
its ancient grandeur. Tyre, Baalbek, and Palmyra were likewise
famous cities of antiquity the temple of the sun in the latter being
regarded, in its day, as one of the most gorgeous of Oriental
erections. Every one has heard of the famous towers and walls
of Troy ; and few readers of modern travels can fail to be familiar
with the ruins of Petra whose temples, theatres, and tombs are not
built, but hewn in proper proportions out of the solid rock, which
encloses the curious valley in which the city is situated.

Ephesus, which is now a paltry village, was once one of the most
celebrated cities of Asia Minor. It had its theatres, circus, aque-
ducts, and temples, and other costly structures, among which was
the celebrated temple of Diana, regarded by the ancients as one of
the seven wonders of the world. This magnificent building, accord-
ing to Pliny, was 425 feet long and 220 feet broad. It was adorned
on the outside and inside with 127 columns of the most exquisite
marble curiously carved, and 60 feet in height of which thirty-six
had ornaments in basso-relievo. Two hundred and twenty years
were spent in the building of this wonderful temple, whose beams
and doors were of cedar, and the rest of the timber cypress. It was
burned by Herostratus, 356 years before Christ, through no other
motive, as he himself confessed, than to immortalise his name.

Another curious structure in Asia Minor, and one which formed
the fourth wonder of the ancient world, is the Mausoleum of Arte-
mesia, built by that queen in honour of her husband Mausolus,
king of Caria. Aulius Gellius says, she, being so affected at her
husband's death, had this built to his memory. The stone of the
whole structure was of the most costly marble. The mausoleum
was 41 1 feet in circumference, and 25 cubits in height ; it had
twenty-six columns of fine stone, and was open on all sides, with
arches 73 feet wide.

The British Museum contains many extraordinary specimens,
recently obtained, of very ancient sculptures from Asia Minor.

TEMPLES AND STATUES OF INDIA.

Passing to India, we find there also numerous temples and
erections, which may justly be regarded as curiosities of human
art. The most wonderful of the Hindustani erections were the
dams and water-courses necessary for irrigation in a tropical
country, and of which vast remains still exist in Ceylon and other
provinces. Next to these were their forts and temples the latter

7



WONDERS AND CURIOSITIES OF ARCHITECTURE.

often of gigantic proportions, and ornamented with columns, statues,,
and other sculpture. That of Elephanta, on a small rocky island of
that name, on the coast of Bombay, has been long regarded as the
chief. The temple is situated well up the island, and all its com-
partments, pillars, and statues are hewn out of the solid rock. ' The
entrance,' says Mrs Grahame, 'is 55 feet wide, its height 18, and its
length about equal to its width. It is supported by massive pillars,,
carved in the solid rock ; the capital of these resembles a compressed
cushion, bound with a fillet ; the abacus is like a bunch of reeds
supporting a beam, six of which run across the whole cave ; below
the capital, the column may be compared to a fluted bell, resting on
a plain octagonal member placed on a die, on each corner of which
sits Hanamam, Ganesa, or some of the other inferior gods. The
sides of the cavern are sculptured in compartments, representing-
persons of the mythology ; but the end of the cavern, opposite to
the entrance, is the most remarkable. In the centre is a gigantic
trimurti, or three-formed god including Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva
sculptured with all their ornaments and attributes. On each side
of the trimurti is a pilaster, the front of which is filled up by a figure,
14 feet high, leaning on a dwarf. To the right is a large square
compartment, hollowed a little, and carved into a great variety of
figures, with all their appropriate symbols. The upper part of the
compartment is filled with small figures in the attitudes of adoration.
On the left side of the trimurti is a compartment answering to that
I have just described, but appropriated to other deities. All these
figures are in alto-relievo, as are those of the other sides of the
cavern. On the right, as you enter the cave, is a square compart-
ment with four doors, supported by eight colossal figures ; it contains
a gigantic symbol of Maha Deo, and is cut out of the rock, like the
rest of the cave. There are several other more secret chambers and
smaller recesses, to which there is no outlet ; these are lighted from
above, the whole thickness of the hill having been cut through for
that purpose.' One of the most beautiful of these rock-cut structures
is the Hindu temple called Kailasa at Ellora. It is one of a number
of similar temples existing there. A representation of it is given as
frontispiece to this volume.

There are other Brahmin temples, remarkable for their size and
for the elaborate manner in which they are sculptured and orna-
mented ; but these we pass by, to give an example of their statues,
which, like those of Egypt, were frequently of colossal dimensions.
That of Ningydeo is thus described by Colonel Welsh in his
Military Reminiscences : ' Estimated as a military post only, this
place must ever rank high, from its being almost inaccessible ;
though all wonder in this respect was speedily lost in our surprise,
when, after ascending several neat staircases, we suddenly came
upon a large stone building, above which we then first discovered a
finely formed image, carved out of one solid stone, about 70 feet
8



WONDERS AND CURIOSITIES OF ARCHITECTURE.

high, and representing a youth with wreaths of laurel winding from
his ankles to his shoulders, every leaf of which was so exquisitely
laboured, as to bear the closest examination. We were able to
contrast the size of this extraordinary colossus with men, monkeys,
and vultures, two of the latter being perched upon his head ; and
the upper part being seven times the height of a middle-sized man,
who stood on the top of the building, with the legs and thighs of
the statue below. That it was cut out of the solid rock, cannot
admit of a doubt ; for no power on earth could have moved so
massive a column, to place it there on the top of so steep and slip-
pery a mountain so steep, indeed, that we could not see the statue
till we had ascended close to it. The legs and thighs are cut out



Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 52 of 58)