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Catacomb of the Men, of considerable length, runs under Pompey's Pillar, divided from it by more than fifty feet of solid sandstone. The bull was found in the ladies' catacomb, which does not sound much more appropriate than a china shop.
There is still a fragment of the Serapeum near Pompey's Pillar.
The Serapeum, besides being a temple of the Bull-god, in whom the Romans, without much sense of humour, saw their Jupiter, contained half of the library of Alexandria ; the two hundred thousand volumes taken by Mark Antony from Pergamus to present to Cleopatra, were kept here. One can imagine the humiliation, the stupefaction succeeded by wild fury of the citizens of Pergamus, for Pergamus had been the rival of Alexandria in its manuscripts of the classics. So great had been the rivalry between the Ptolemies and the Attalid kings of Pergamus, that the Egyptian monarchs forbade the exportation of papyrus from Egypt to Pergamus, in the hopes of stopping the reproduction of books there. The Attalids met the situation by using the skins of sheep: these Pergamine skins were the origin in name as well as substance of the parchment we use for deeds and other documents, which we wish to be more imperishable than mere gems of literature.
Pompey's Pillar has nothing to do with Pompey, though the Alexandrines "did for ” him, and might quite well have done him the tardy justice of erecting this magnificent column of red granite in his honour, when they had realised that it would not offend Cæsar, but please his magnanimous soul. The granite is of the best quality, highly polished, elegant, and of good style, and measures with its base nearly a hundred feet high, of which three-quarters are shaft. It is about thirty feet round at the bottom and fifteen feet and a half at the top, and as you approach it from the decent parts of the city, where foreigners are hotelled, it looks magnificent, soaring against the sunset. It was put up by a quite unimportant person named Pompey, in honour of Diocletian, who had captured Alexandria and murdered all his enemies among the citizens. El-Makrizi says that it
stood in a colonnade of four hundred columns which contained the Pergamine Library, destroyed by the fanatical Omar. At present it is surrounded by a garden, rather pleasing, though its vegetation is almost entirely mesenbryanthemum, vulgarly called pig's-face. There are many levels in the garden, and many remains of catacombs, bottle cisterns, wells, and so on, with a couple of Ptolemaic sphinxes to guard the column, like the lions of Trafalgar Square. But it cannot be denied that the only outstanding monument here is Pompey Minor's pillar.
The Kom-es-Shogafa is a Roman rival of the Tombs of Thebes or Memphis. We went through a hoarding into a Golgotha. I knew what the original Golgotha must have been like directly I stood on that hill of desolation. We went down by a staircase that recalled the descent to Joseph's Well at Cairo till we found ourselves in a room supported by four columns, carved out of virgin rock, with branches supporting the roof. It looked like the larder ; there were bones on the ledges, and amphoræ for wine-jars; but it was more likely the banqueting-hall, which, I suppose, was what the Ghaffir meant to imply when he gave it the terse Arab definition of “ Animal and human feast-chamber.” Close by there was a good well with a stair, in a chamber surrounded by tombs. Tombs radiated from every side of the rotunda on this floor. The staircase had an admirably cut cupola.
As we entered the beautiful pronaos we saw carved above our heads a scollop-shell a yard long, emblematic, I suppose, of the Long Pilgrimage. The art of that pronaos would not please the purist, but it was meant to be very grand. It is like a sculptured Etruscan tomb where expense was no object, and carved on a shield is the gorgon's head, like the man in the sun which we have on the modern Arms and so many of the ancient coins of Sicily.
The authorities, who are responsible for the presentation of this tomb to the public, have a somewhat histrionic taste. There is a staircase dropping down into it between graceful Egyptian columns, underneath which flows a stream of clear water of some depth. Electric lights have been intro
duced under this water with the happiest effect—there is nothing to equal it at Earl's Court. I should have said that the man who built this tomb had certainly seen the splendid Etruscan tombs of Caere, if there did not seem to be equally good evidence that he had seen the tombs of Westminster Abbey, for that altar tomb in the wall, with its lions at head and foot, looked like a work of the Middle Ages. The situation was saved by there being canopic jars under the bier —the jars used by the Egyptians to receive the parts of the body which would not embalm. The mixture of styles on that tomb was only Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and ruscan; the carvings were spirited and effective.
They were almost coarse in execution, but the sandstone was of a charming colour ; and as one looked back on it from the tombdoor, and through the Ptolemaic columns, the effect of that staircase, with the electric lights shining like lilies through its conduits of clear running water, was magical.
We stepped from that chamber into a corridor of tombs on the Saracenic plan. Clear water was flowing everywhere, clear as crystal. It seemed a profanation when the Ghaffir, a Nubian, who looked as if he had been blacked, lighted a fresh cigarette from the stump of the old one and threw the paper saturated by his lips into its pure current. Here there was another handsome tomb with three lunettes divided by three columns. Catacombs radiated from the main tomb all round-some had never had the marble slabs which closed them removed, and the names scribbled on them in red chalk were the names of the occupants, whose relations would not go to the expense of having them engraved, but just wrote them. After all, what did it signify in the days before electric light? It is hard to believe that the ancients had nothing better than the light emitted by fibres soaked in olive oil, when they went to all this trouble over their tombs. Their ideas of cause and effect must have been different from ours, or they could never have taken so much trouble about these obscure passages. Some of the carvings of this tomb were only half finished. This is not surprising, as experts say that the chief sepulchres in the tomb were never occupied,
though hundreds of dependants seem to have been buried round. As there is so much moisture there are some horrible decaying bones.
I am glad to have seen this tomb. The famous mortuary galleries of Palazzolo Acreide in Sicily may have been something like this when they were made.
When we emerged from that fantastic and complete mausoleum of a wealthy Alexandrine in the city's prime, we could not help being struck by the poverty and vulgarity of the quarter which surrounded it. It was a tangled mass of puff-bread, onions, small cucumbers, cocoa-nuts, monkeynuts, fried fish, sugar cane, and tarbooshes. Its one splash of colour was the approach to a low theatre with its furious
I should imagine that St. Menas, a few hours from Alexandria, which Mr. Ewald Falls calls the ancient Egyptian Lourdes, must be more interesting than any of the Egyptian remains round Alexandria. He quotes Severus as saying that the sanctuary of St. Menas was more splendid than any similar building in ancient Christian Egypt, not even excepting Alexandria. Very few explorers had ever visited it before Mr. Falls and the Rev. C. M. Kaufmann in the summer of 1905 halted there in the course of a thirty-days' camel trip in the Auladali desert, because Mr. Kaufmann was suffering so from malnutrition.
They discovered the long-lost city-a marble city buried in the desert sand-by Mr. Falls noticing the relief of a camel's head on a kom, with fragments of broken pottery. He ran back to Mr. Kaufmann, crying out, “This, Charley, ought to be the lost city!” The discovery was made in the summer, but Mr. Kaufmann was so ill that they could not stay there. However, they went back five months later, with the permission of the Ministry and the support of the Khedive, and excavated the famous basilica of Arcadius. The Bedawin were at first hostile to the operations, because they thought a big European city would come there, and that the excavators were digging for the ti casure, guarded by big thick snakes, which they themselves had always been trying to find. But the
Bedawin afterwards became their devoted workmen. The results of the excavation I must give in Mr. Falls's own words from a beautifully illustrated article in the Cairo Sphinx.
EXTRACT FROM “The SPHINX,” JANUARY 16, 1909 “At the same time work began on the large apse in the centre. It was hard work before the white, resplendent basilica of Arcadius, supported by fifty marble columns, came to light. At the end of this huge building, according to the old Arab manuscript, lay the tomb of the saint, the marble grave of the patron of the Lybian desert and of Alexandria. And, indeed, one day in January 1906, on the very spot, the entrance of a sort of cellar was discovered, so small that scarcely one man could enter. It took over a month to open a fine subterranean portico which leads deep under the church, and our satisfaction was great when first we deciphered on the walls near the crypt the Greek acclamations of the pilgrims, 'Father, help us, The Lord may help,' and so forth.
“The principal features of further work were then as follows: After the complete clearing of the basilica of Arcadius and the connecting of the elder basilica with the holy well, the crypt, and the tomb, the baptistery of Menas city was excavated. In 1906 and 1907 a part of the monastery and one of the cemeteries of Karm Abou Mina, with a fine old basilica on the north-east, were opened, and also many interesting cisterns, private houses, etc.
“Our last concluding finds in determining this city, the real Lourdes of ancient Egypt, to which once journeyed the imperial daughter of Byzane, to be cured of leprosy, were the baths for the sick and the afflicted. A group of them, connected with large therme and hypokaustea, lay in a fine marble basilica ; and in this church are yet to be seen the two small tanks where the holy water was dispensed to the pilgrims. •Take of Menas beautiful water,' says a Greek hexameter inscribed by a traveller from Smyrna, and pain will leave you.'"