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was buried, and all through Egyptian history, as long as the gods of Egypt were worshipped, the great and the wise and the holy were buried at Abydos, to be as near as possible to the sacred and beloved relic of Osiris. The Osiris sepulchre has not yet been discovered; the Egyptians hid the sepulchres of their great with extraordinary care to protect them from spoliators; and this, the most sacred sepulchre in Egypt, has defied the ancient despoiler and the modern investigator to find its whereabouts. One would imagine it to be in the great temple built by Seti I., which has so many arrangements for the Osiris cult.
Abydos has not been exploited like Karnak or Thebes. Very little was known about it, until Mariette excavated the temple of Seti I. just fifty years ago. Even now, apart from the famous Coptic church, there are only two monuments shown to the ordinary visitor—the superb temple of Seti I. and the temple of Rameses II., although there are the ruins of another little temple built by Rameses II., of the Temple and Ancient City of Osiris, of a castle which may be a tomb on an unusually large scale, and several groups of tombs of the Ancient, Middle, and New Empires, besides many houses and other indiscriminate ruins.
There are many stone tombs with architectural claims. The tombs of Abydos are now being systematically explored by a syndicate, and are yielding a rich harvest. If there were decent accommodation there, and sufficient police to keep the population in order, Abydos would be a fascinating place to stay at. It is crowded with antiquities; its surroundings are picturesque, and the Temple of Seti by itself would be a never-ending delight. But all these ifs are at present answered in the negative. The people are savages, among the worst in Egypt, and it is eight miles from Baliana, the nearest station by river or rail. The ride from Baliana to Abydos is like the ride from Bedrashen to Sakkara, mostly along high causeways between the inundation basins. In the spring, when these are full of green crops, the ride is charming; it terminates in a lofty and picturesque village (lofty for Egypt) just outside the ruins. We rode through
the ruins to the ancient Coptic convent known as Anba Musâs. The church is not to be compared with those of Babylon at Cairo, but is one of the best in the country, though not to my mind so attractive as the humbler and simpler church at Medamut near Karnak. It presents a picturesque appearance outside, with its great courtyard and its twentythree domes; and some of its domes inside, with their cut corners and matrix work, have the elegance of mosque domes. There are various features of interest to the antiquary in its screen and baptistery. But it lacks beauty. Its priests have discovered an ingenious way of making money. They tear leaves out of the antique Coptic religious books in their library and sell them for a piastre each to tourists. I bought two to prove the truth of this allegation.
I was glad to leave Anba Musâs. I shall not describe it, or I shall spoil the interest of the idle public in reading my descriptions of the adorable Coptic churches of old Cairo.
When we left the convent we rode past the fortress and a sandy waste of half-buried, mud-brick tombs and houses of the Middle and New Empires, to the Temple of Rameses II., which has, unfortunately, had the upper parts of its walls and its roofs destroyed. It has, as my Cincinnati friend observed, been scalped, or it would be one of the finest temples in Egypt, for its sculptures and paintings are very fresh and beautiful, and the stones and marbles employed in its construction are more precious than those employed elsewhere by the Pharaohs.
It was clear that our dragoman loved Abydos better than any other place he took us to. He bubbled over with information and high spirits. This is the sort of dialogue to which he treated us. He clapped his hands and began : " This way, this way, ladies, sec procession round the wallsmen carrying can-shaped vessels of bcer-Mohammed knows the numerals—106 barrels. Each column have a figure of Osiris bearing the name of Rameses the Great."
While I was examining the lovely black granite doorjambs, he began to spell out the cartouches in the way he
had : “Rameses beloved of Amen—the great son of Ptah elected by Ra—the son of the sun-Amen beloved of Ra."
And while I was examining the gay colours on the smooth, fine limestone he bubbled on: "Rameses beloved of Amen."
The colours and the paintings were delightful, and there were such pretty people in the processions. I liked everything about this sumptuous temple. While I was photographing the place where the minor Abydos tablet, now in the British Museum, was cut off, in the way they had in the good old days when finding was keeping and anybody who liked could help himself to ancient monuments, Mohammed began again.
Ladies, ladies and gentlemen, here is Osiris in the Hades accompanied by Isis, Nephetes, and Amnte-one, two, three--receiving the homage. The homage is of a rather practical kind."
"I, your son Seti I., am burning incense before you, and I pray you to give me a good Nile.” The figure of Seti was gloriously dignified and beautiful. Mohammed was witheringly sarcastic to a lady who ventured to suggest that Seti's hands were in rather a strained position. “Madam-hands not wrong-if artist makes any mistakes Seti will cut his head off.”
But the temple of Rameses II. will not bear comparison with that of his father Seti I., which may be called the finest in Egypt; for it is comparatively perfect, and no temple is comparable to it for the beauty of its sculptures. Whether because he was afraid of having his head cut off, or for another reason, Hui, the chief sculptor of King Seti I., carved glorious bas-reliefs, beautiful in conception and portraiture, delicate in outline, supremely dignified. This temple is on a different principle from that of most Egyptian temples. The first and second courts have been destroyed; the third and the fourth are hypostyle halls of great size and magnificence. In both the columns are sculptured in low-relief, and the sculptures in the second are Hui's masterpieces. But these two great halls, whose lofty columns are covered with the
figures of gods and men, the best which ancient Egypt has given us, are subservient to an arrangement of chapels, seven in a row, arranged for all the world as the choir and its chapels, right and left, are arranged in a great friars' church like Santa Croce at Florence. These are dedicated to the King himself, to Ptah, Harmachis, Amen, Osiris, Isis, and Horus. There is a door for each in the first hall of columns, though six of them have been blocked up, and each of them is blazoned with the story of its patron in emblems. Their vaulted roofs are hollowed out of stones of immense thickness, laid from architrave to architrave. From the left of the inner hall of columns runs a passage, with its walls and ceilings covered with emblematic sculpture. This is the passage of the kings, which contains the major tablet of Abydos, giving a list of the sixty-six most important Pharaohs from Menes to Seti. Seti, holding the incenseburner, which seems to have given the idea of the tobaccopipe, stands pointing to the inscription—a gigantic figurewhile Rameses II., that is to be, stands in front of him, on a smaller scale, making offerings. We owe this tablet, which, in connection with the table preserved by Manetho the chronicler, gives us a list of the early Kings of Egypt, to a prayer for the dead which runs something like this: “The accomplishment of the prayer for the dead that Ptah-SekkerOsiris, Lord of the Grave, who dwells in the Temple of Seti, may augment the offering for the Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt by, King Seti.” The said offering consisted of a thousand portions of bread, beer, beef, and so on.
This tablet is about fifteen feet long and six feet high, made of the matchless, fine-grained white limestone used for the best Egyptian bas-reliefs. The figures of Seti I. and Prince Rameses are gloriously lovely. The workmanship of the tablet looks like carved ivory. The long, narrow-roofed passage in which it is set up is a most inadequate setting for it. From it you enter, on the right, another passage, from which a staircase leads, through a picturesque round arch, to the palace of Rameses II., which consists of a number of chambers of colossal stonework badly carved.
I have resisted the temptation to give more detail about this wonderful temple of Seti, because one cannot impress its loveliness on the ordinary reader by giving details of its architectural and sculptural chefs d'æuvres. I have already written much about it, and yet I have said nothing to emphasise how marvellously beautiful and interesting it is.
In the shadowy hall, whose columns were painted and sculptured for the great Rameses, we sat down to a luxurious hotel luncheon, waited on by Arabs in white and scarlet, as Orientally robed as the servants of Rameses in the decorations. There was much popping of the corks of iced sodawater, for the ride was long and the day was hot, and the dust of thirty dynasties surrounds the lost Osiris-Sepulchre of Abydos.
Afterwards, while the incense of cigarettes was rising to the painted roof, I wandered off into the buildings attached to the great temple on the other side of the Hall of the Tablet-the sacrificial chamber-an abattoir with its story painted on its walls; the room where the sacred barks were kept which were carried in the processions, with the benches, on which they rested, still lining the walls ; the vast subterranean Osirion, and the uninviting palace where the builder of so many gorgeous monuments resided, when he came to Abydos.
There was much more which I wished to examine there were tombs of kings almost as vast and grand as their real tombs at Thebes, but never used and never intended to be used. In Egypt, the land of make-believe, it confered sufficient merit on the dead to have a tomb near the tomb of Osiris : it did not signify whether he used it or not.
One king (after consultation with his sister-wife) even erected a sham pyramid to his grandmother. Explorers went on trying to excavate it till Mr. Curelli discovered documentary evidence (on a stone), confessing that it was an honorary affair, the grandmother being safely buried at Thebes. The inscription began with a sort of dialogue between the King and his wife (and sister): “The one spake to the other, seeking to do honour to those yonder."