Page images
PDF
EPUB

Mariout. At the Western mouth of the Nile, à little beyond Alexandria, was Canopus *, whence that branch is called the Canopic, now. Maadi. Near to it was a city called Nicopolis, built in commemoration of a victory obtained by Augustus over Antony: but the modern victory of Aboukir, gained by Lord Nelson over the navy of France, Aug. 1, 1799, will render the same spot infinitely more celebrated among succeeding generations. The next mouth of the Nile is called Bolbitinum Ostium, where is now Raschid, or, as the Europeans call it Rosetta. In the interior of the Delta, nearly below Rosetta, was Sais, now Sa, antiently the capital of Lower Ægypt. The Sebennytic mouth of the Nile was so called from the city Sebennytus, an inland city, now Semenud. Next to it was the Phatniticum Ostium, one of the principal mouths of the Nile, near the city of Tamiathis, or Damiata. The Mendesian mouth was so called from Mendes, now Ashmur-Tarah ; the Tanític from Tanis, the Zoan of the scriptures, now San. The Eastern branch of the Nile was called the Pelusiotic, from the strong city of Pelusium, now Tireh, one of the keys of Ægypt at its mouth. East of Pelusium is Mount Casius, and East of it the Palus Sirbonis, or Sirbonian Bog, now called Sebakel Bardoil. Here Typhon the murderer of Osiris, is fabled to have perished; and the country being covered with deep and moving sands, is called Al-Giofar, and has always

. * Hence Canopus from its vicinity to Alexandria, was called Pellæan.

Nam qua Pellæi gens fortunata Canopi
Accolit effuso stagnantem gurgite Nilum.

Virg. Georg. IV. 287. rendered the approach to Ægypt on this side very difficult and dangerous to an invading enemy. * North East of the Sibonis Palus is Rhinocorura, now ElArish, the remotest Eastern limit of Ægypt and of Africa. At about an equal distance between Pelusium, the apex of the Delta, and the Western branch of the Sinus Arabicus is Heroopolis; which gave to that branch the name of the Sinus Heroopolitis; it was the residence of the antient shepherd kings of Ægypt. South West of it the Jews had a city called Onion, and a temple, which continued from the time of Onias who built and called it after his own name, to that of Vespasian. Onias was nephew to Menelaus, and the rightful successor to the priesthood of Jerusalem, but being rejected by Antiochus Eupator, who made Alcimus high priest, he fled to Ægypt, and persuaded Ptolemy Philometor to let him build this temple there, about 173 years B. C., which subsisted 243 years. At the very apex of the Delta was Heliopolis, or On, the city of the sun, and a little below it was the Ægyptian Babylon, probably built during the time of the Persian power in Ægypt: it occupied the site of Old Cairo. On the Western bank of the Nile, fifteen miles South of the Delta, was the renowned city of Memphis, the antient metropolis of all Ægypt. Near it are those stupendous and immortal works, the Pyramids : the largest of these is, at the lowest, 481 feet in perpendicular height, and covers eleven acres of ground; it is built of hewn stones,

* A gulph profound as that Sirbonian bog

Twixt Damiata and Mount Casius old,
Where armies whole have sunk. —

Par. Lost, Book II. the smallest being not less than thirty feet in length. The pyramids are thought to have been intended for royal sepulchres: they are of so remote antiquity that their foundation is utterly unknown. There is a room which contains a sarcophagus in the greatest pyramid. Below Memphis is Arsinoe, or Crocodilopolis, now Feium, near the lake Mæris, at the South end of which was the celebrated labyrinth, which contained 3000 chambers, 1500 above and as many below, in which the kings and sacred crocodiles were buried : it contained twelve principal halls, built by as many kings, and its ruins are still very magnificent. Another Maris was a canal now called Bathen, running North and South below that already described, and was excavated by human · industry, being 900 stadia in length and four in breadth. Below the Southern end of this latter Maris is Hermopolis Magna, now Ashmuneim, the last city of Heptanomis. We then proceed to Ægyptus Superior, in which we may notice Ptolemais Hermii, antiently a powerful city, now an inconsiderable village called Girge. Below it was the great city of Abydos, the palace of Memnon, now a ruin called Madfune. West of it was a fertile spot, in the midst of the desert, called the Oasis Magna, now El-wah. Returning to the Nile, below Abydos was Tentyra, now Dendera, a city at variance with Ombos, the former killing, the latter adoring the crocodile: a horrible instance of religious fury, which took place in consequence of this quarrel, is the subject of the 15th satire of Juvenal. Opposite to Tentyra, on the other side the Nile, is Coptos, or Kypt, from which a road was made by Ptolemy Philadelphus 258 miles in length, across the desert to the port of

Berenice on the Sinus Arabicus, by which the merchandise of India was transported to the Nile. Below Coptos, was the magnificent city of Thebes, called by the Greeks Diospolis, from the worship of Jupiter there, and distinguished by the epithet of Hecatompylos, or the hundred-gated, from the city of Baotia which had seven gates. The ruins of this astonishing city occupy a space of twenty-seven miles in circumference, on either side the Nile, containing several villages, the chief of which is Luxor. That part on the Western side of the Nile, which was called Memnonium, now Habon, contains many stupendous monuments. In the adjacent Lybian mountains are hewn sepulchres of the Ægyptian kings. Near Thebes was the celebrated statue of Memnon, which was said to utter a sound when struck by the first beams of the sun. It still exists*, though broken, and is covered with the names of the most illustrious antient writers and monarchs, or generals, who have thus recorded, with their own hands, their attestation to the fact of having heard the sound. + Some idea of the strength of this antient city may be obtained from the account given us by Herodotus, who tells us, that it could send out from each of its hundred gates 20,000 footmen and 200 chariots to oppose an enemy f: it was ruined by Cambyses the Persian. Below Thebes is Ombos, already mentioned, and below it was Syene, or

* It has been brought to London while this edition was in the press, 1818. + Hence Juvenal

Dimidio magicæ resonant ubi Memnone chordæ
Atque vetus Thebe centum jacet obruta portis.

Juv. Sat. XV. 5. I See also Homer. Iliad. IX. 383.

Assouan, the extreme town of Upper Ægypt, where was a celebrated well, the bottom of which at the time of the summer solstice was exactly illuminated, the sun being perpendicular over it. Juvenal was sent into a kind of honourable exile to this place. Near it is the Mons Basanites, or mountain of touchstone, from which the - Ægyptians used to make ornamental vases and household utensils. Opposite to Syene, on the Sinus Arabicus, was Berenice, already mentioned. At the extreme point of the Sinus Heroopolitis was Arsinoe, called afterwards by the celebrated Cleopatra after her own name; it is now Suez. Midway, on the coast, between Arsinoe and Berenice, which were so called from the names of two of the queens of Ægypt, is Myoshormus. About a mile South of Syene were the smaller cataracts of the Nile; the greater cataracts were more to the South, in Æthiopia.

It is not necessary to take more than a very rapid view of the remainder of Africa. The natives living along the Southern part of the Red Sea were called Troglodylæ, and inhabited caves in the earth. On this coast was Adulis, or Arkiko, and westwards the city of Auxume, which is still Auxum, in Abyssinia : North Westwards, on the Western or true branch of the Nile, was Meroe. The river Astapus, or Abawi, which flows through Nubia to a place called Coloe Palus, or Bahr Dembea, was known to the antients, and was mistaken by Mr. Bruce for the Nile: the real Nile, or Bahr el Abiad, flows far to the South West of this, and its sources are still unknown, but are placed in a chain of mountains called the Mountains of the Moon, South of the Nubæ Memnones; and by the Arabian geographers, our only authority, the

« PreviousContinue »