« PreviousContinue »
STENCH OF THE INTERIOR.
wings twisted round the stalk of a lotus, and crowned with the pschent and lituus.
CCCCXX. The interior of the temple, consisting of broad corridors, lofty narrow passages, with chambers, spacious and most richly adorned, is every way worthy of the exterior. In the great central hall, I counted twelve columns, with bell-formed capitals, surmounted by low plinths, (not visible from the pavement below) which support the enormous stone beams sustaining the whole weight of the Cyclopean roof. The walls are covered with hieroglyphics and figures of the gods; but the stench and suffocating air of the place, into which the fresh breezes have not, perhaps, found their way for more than a thousand years, absolutely forbade my entering into a minute examination of them. Besides, the whole of the apartment is so choked up with sand and accumulated filth, that nothing below the capitals of the columns, in some places only the plinths, are visible. ing under the beams, it was necessary to work our way lying flat on our faces like snakes, while the unsavoury dust rose in clouds, entering our mouths, throats, lungs, and eyes, and dimming the light of the tapers. As the Arabs proceeded, sometimes behind, sometimes before me, I could hear them breathe like asthmatic persons ; and they were exceedingly rejoiced when I gave the signal for retreat. By far the greater part of the interior, the adytum, and all the apartments in the northern extremity, are inaccessible ; — and to discover those we entered, the traveller must
ASPECT OF EGYPTIAN TEMPLES.
explore the hovels on the roof, into which he is admitted reluctantly, and by whose inhabitants he will be told that no entrance into the interior exists. In one of the huts on the western side there is, however, a small hole, bored through the cornice of the ancient cella, through which he must creep, like a rat, into the temple; wherefore many travellers omit visiting the interior.
CCCCXXI. The whole edifice is surrounded by a lofty wall, sculptured and adorned like the cella. Standing on the northern extremity of this inclosure, I beheld with admiration the immense length and noble proportions of the pile, still nearly perfect, which may be undoubtedly regarded as one of the finest structures in the world. Before I speak of the exterior bas-reliefs, I shall make one remark on the position of Egyptian temples, with respect to the cardinal points. Some travellers maintain that all these edifices, excepting the one at Koom Ombos, face the east; an unaccountable error only to be explained by supposing that, having neglected to examine the point while in the country, they afterwards, in support of some fanciful theory, made the assertion at random. The notion, however, is entirely unfounded. I remember but three in all Egypt which face the East: the small structure at Déndera, vulgarly called the Typhonium ; the chapel said to be dedicated to the same deity at this place, and the temple of Bouto at Esneh. Venus's magnificent fane at Déndera faces almost due north, where, according to the
Hindoos, the land of the gods is situated * ; that of Luxor, and the Pyramids, the greatest of all the sacred edifices of Egypt, have also their grand entrances towards the north. The temple of Ombos faces the westt; and, from the relations of former travellers, it would seem that the front of that of Antæopolis was turned in the same direction. The great temples of Karnak, Medinet Habou, Edfoo, and Phile have their faces towards the south. The sacred edifices of Nubia, in like manner, follow no rule, being turned some in one direction, some in another.
CCCCXXII. To return to the sculptures of Edfoo : the principal figures on the propylon are Neith and Aroëris, — commonly identified with the Minerva and Apollo of the Greeks, - the latter with the head of the hawk. Before these deities, – to show that all the gods of Egypt delighted in human blood,
a human sacrifice is offered up. This representation occupies the whole length of one wing of the propylon, an extent of more than one hundred feet, and, according to custom, the sacrifice is repeated on both sides of the entrance. Above this group is a row of smaller figures, among which the principal are those
• Asiat. Research. vol. viii. p. 416.
+ The rock temples of Benihassan face the west ; that of Boubasta, or the Speos Artimidos, has its front towards the north. This, also, if we may judge from the position of the fallen architrave, containing the inscription, was the case with the temple of Pan at Ekhmim; and Herodotus relates that the grand Hephæsteum, or temple of Vulcan at Memphis, had its principal front towards the north.
of the Isis Leænata, Aroëris, and Thoth; and on each end of the propylon, Isis Leænata and Aroëris again occur, seated on thrones, the one above the other, alternately, from bottom to top. Sculptures of similar character and import cover all the exterior walls of the cella ; at the northern extremity of which are two lions' heads, projecting on a slab containing a small square channel like a water-spout.
CCCCXXIII. At a short distance to the southwest is the small peripteral temple, or Typhonium, now almost totally destroyed. The only reason for supposing it to have been sacred to the enemy of Osiris, seems to be derived from the ludicrous ornament on the plinths, a short-legged, round-bellied god, like the Silenus of the Greeks, whose countenance, however, displays nothing horrible, but rather resembles a merry buffoon, more familiar with good cheer than with plots and assassinations. From the prevalent symbols on the walls-could any inference be drawn from them-I should rather suppose it to have been a temple of Priapus or Venus Pandemos ; though all the figures are not of the same character, since we find, among many representations of a wanton description, the chaste and matronly Isis, suckling the infant Horus, and at the same time turning round with a look of deep affection towards Aroëris. In another compartment we observe Horus standing on the knees of Osiris, who affectionately sustains him with both his hands; a group to which nothing similar occurs on any other Egyptian monument. In
GROTTOES OF EILITHYIAS.
the centre of the adytum, is a single column, which appears to have always formed the sole support of the roof. On the frieze we find Soukos, or Kronos, with a crocodile's head, and huge mis-shapen body, close to Isis, who is engaged in suckling Horus; and at one remove from the goddess, his figure again occurs, in both cases proceeding towards her. If this god be identical with Typhon, as there is some reason for supposing, it is not a little extraordinary to find him, as we often do, in company with his eternal enemies, apparently on terms of amity, conversing or worshipped together.
CCCCXXIV. From Edfoo we descended the river to El Higgs, the ancient Eilithyias. The north wind, blowing impetuously nearly all day, rendered rowing almost impracticable ; but by persevering in our struggle against it, we, somewhat late in the afternoon, reached the site of the ancient city, enclosed by a prodigious brick wall, thirty feet in thick
On our way to the grottoes, we traversed the enclosed space ; where all traces of dwellings have long disappeared, and the ground is covered with a plant, called by the Arabs, Bellyéhah, somewhat resembling Senna, but so bitter, that even the camel refuses to feed on it. The temples, in one of which human victims were immolated to Boubasta, have now been reduced to shapeless heaps of stones * ; not
* These victims, according to one ancient authority, were burned alive:- και γαρ εν Ειληθύιας πόλει ζώντας ανθρώπους κατεπίμπρασαν, ως Μανέθων ιστόρηκε,Τυφωνίους καλούντες, και την τέφραν αυτών λικμώντες ηφάνιζον