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windows and its reliefs inside and out. Some of the rooms had balconies; the corbels which supported them, consisting of female busts in gaily coloured clothes, are still there. But these rooms were kept locked-I almost expected to be told that the locks were original.
There were birds singing outside for all they were worth; they were not conspicuous birds—I hoped that the Pharaohs had something finer, something more like parrots or birds of paradise, brought from the land of Punt with other curiosities.
I supposed that, when Rameses III. lived there, the houses of the Pharaonic town round Medinet-Habu were not quite so simply mud. The Egyptians knew so much about stucco and wall-paintings that they may have been as gay as a tomb; but, mud as they are, they make a fine effect against the pink cliffs of the Sahara and the cobalt sky behind. And they too were once filled with that extraordinary life which we know so much better than we know anything about Greece or Rome.
Our dragoman would not countenance this weakness for long ; he wished us to get on, to look at the square pieces of desert surrounded by columns, with duplicates of Osiris leaning their backs against them, which constitute the ordinary Theban temple. This particular temple which he sprang upon us, when we thought we had seen everything at MedinetHabu, is one of the largest and best preserved in Egypt. The osirids, which greet you as you enter it, are really charming, and a long history is incised and painted on its walls, beginning just inside the gate with a battle which reminds you of Michael Angelo's “Last Judgment.” Only in this instance the lost ones are the enemies of Egypt, and Rameses III. with his horses takes up as much room as all the prisoners do put together. The Egyptians, instead of representing their kings performing miracles of valour against a race of giants, always represented their enemies as dwarfs. This was supposed to act as a deterrent on the inhabitants of Ethiopia, who were unruly, and probably far too much for them in the open field when the Egyptians were not in overwhelming force. The formidable blacks of the Sudan fought with spears and two-handed swords at Omdurman. They must have known almost as much of the art of war in the days of King Piankhi. If we read Sudanese for Ethiopian, it helps us to understand the conquest of Egypt by the blacks, when the future protagonists of the Mediterranean-Rome, and Carthage, and Syracuse—were just new. born.
Once upon a time, six or seven centuries before Athens was heard of, in this great court, where the birds of Egypt were twittering so deafeningly, and in the other great court behind it, every column had its Osiris, gigantic, benevolent, carrying the signs of life and power, looking down on great processions like that which is pictured so gloriously on the walls of the inner court. We even know what line the processions took, for the paving stones in the court are worn through by priestly feet,
In this temple one can picture processions well, for there is a vista through it from end to end.
Its decorations are noble, their materials are costly, they are graciously sculptured, and the colour is hardly dimmed, but the back part has been scalped of its roof and the upper portions of its walls and columns. The Copts established a church, which has now been taken out, in the middle of these ruins. The ruins are all the better for it, because the Copts forgot to destroy the pictures before they plastered them over, and so preserved them. There are some vivid touches among them, such as that of the six clerks counting the hands and other parts which Rameses III. had cut off from his enemies. Our dragoman said that he had counted the hands in one heap, and that there were three thousand; but we afterwards discovered that this was stated in the hieroglyphics. Dragomans are a specious class.
At the back of Medinet-Habu are two fine groups of statuary and enough small chambers for a bee-hive. But you cannot describe everything in an Egyptian temple. This part of it was as cheerful as the other scalped temple, that of Rameses II. at Abydos,
The temples of Thebes would not be half as enjoyable if they were not so far from each other. When you have spent an hour or two examining a temple which is a regular museum and picture-gallery like Medinet-Habu, it is a relief to mount a fine spirited ass and listen to the wise foolishness of donkeyboys as you gallop off to the Ramesseum, or the Tombs of the Queens. As you fly over the sand, or (if you prefer it, pick your way among the mud ruins of the subjects of the Rameseses) you are pursued by tomb-robbers, or still greater villains who have not even robbed tombs, but bought their goods from antiquity fakers, worrying you to buy the mummy heads of Pharaohs, courtiers, and priestesses; or the blue beads which reposed on their bosoms; or the little Ushapti images which were to do the duties of slaves for them beyond the grave; and, of course, coins and pottery. It does not matter how fast you ride, they can keep up. A man ran beside me for a mile holding up a beautiful mummy head, which he wished to sell me for four shillings. As I never raised my offer beyond a shilling he then dropped off. When I had ridden another two miles I went back for it: I felt that I must become the possessor of that noble and beautiful face of one who was alive before Moses, which, if it were only made of bronze, would fetch a thousand times what he asked. I have it now in the place of honour in an eastern room.
I cannot describe the Tombs of the Queens : it all takes space, and the Tombs of the Kings are so much more important. But they are full of interesting and brilliant paintings, and there is something quite pathetic about the tombs of two little princes, sons of the great Rameses, just beside themsuch pretty boy's, monumentalised with such human touches. Here too is the gracious little temple of Der-el-Medina scribbled over by ancient Greek ’Arries; but I must not even give the names of all the temples of Thebes.
The tombs of this plain are countless. What a spectacle it would be if every one were to rise, as the Scriptures have foreshadowed, in the semblance that he wore on earth, when the graves give up their dead as the Archangel's trumpet blows the last post !
The Egyptians, all the kings, and queens, and priests, and nobles, and officials, not to mention the thousands who waited on them and have gone to dust in the desert on the west of the city, could have pictured it more easily, for were not their ka's, their doubles, ghosts with the exact attributes of the dead, living in their tombs? One is almost tempted to think that the imagery of the Resurrection must have been inspired by the reminiscences of Egyptian beliefs about the future state, which the Israelites carried with them out of their first captivity.
If at the last trump the ka's of all the notables of a thousand years of Egypt's greatest age, buried round this plain of Thebes, were to materialise in their earthly splendour, all the terms of pageantry would be beggared.
The tombs of these Theban officials are mightily interesting, for they present the public and domestic life of Egypt at a much later and more interesting period than the Memphite tombs, though they are neither so beautiful nor so wellpreserved as the tombs of Thi and Ptah-hetep at Sakkara. We can read all about their agriculture, their habits, and their luxuries, on the dimly lighted walls of the tombs at the foot of these Theban precipices.
The chief monuments of Thebes, excluding the colossi and the tombs, lie in four groups going from south to north, of which Medinet-Habu, the Ramesseum, Der-el-Bahari, and the House of Seti at Kurna are the centres. They are cut off from each other by agricultural lands full of the naïve peasant life, which has changed so little from the days of the Pharaohs.
The Ramesseum' never interested me so much as MedinetHabu, though it shows high art for an Egyptian temple. Rameses the Great, not Rameses the Third, built it; therefore one is not surprised to hear that many of its stones first did duty in the temple of Der-el-Bahari. Tourists remember it chiefly for the remains of its thousand-ton colossus of the King, which ancient Persians, early Christians, and modern
This is a really admirable picture of the Ramesseum in Tyndale's " Below the Cataracts."