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had lasted another hundred years it might have exercised an important influence on the character of Egyptian Mohammedanism. For it was as early as 641 that Amr, the General of the Caliph Omar, effected the permanent conquest of Egypt by the Arabs.
Phila with its water avenue of palm trees, Philæ with its processions of white columns mirrored in the inundation, looked like fairy-land on that winter morning.
We came back to Philä on an afternoon just before Christmas. Eternal summer reigns in that island of the blest. The lotus-eaters must have lived in just such a warm, indulgent air. The galleys came to our ship's side, and we stepped on board. The rows of white robed Nubians in the forepart of the boat called out Hip, hip, hurry" and made the boat fly with their powerful strokes, until we were abreast of that kiosk of golden stone, and that pylon of the Roman Emperor. Then they calmed down so that we might drink in the effect of that classical vessel, with its web of oars, rowing into the temples of the Ptolemies. Seen closer by daylight, Pharaoh's Bed may disappoint some. It was never finished; its columns are slight and support nothing, just as Hadrian's pylon shows no symptoms of being a gateway. The colonnades of Nectanebus, too, are two-thirds submerged. If the Nile could be kept down to their bases it would give a most lovely effect. But the Temple of Isis, which is on higher ground, rises nobly from the flood which laves its threshold.
I hardly knew which to be most annoyed with, Gregory XVI., Pont. Max., who had put up his name on the temple, as if it had been a baroque church at Rome, or the Nubians who pulled our sleeves and clamoured for bakshish, just as we were taking in the poetic loveliness of the Temple of Isis from the water, until Mr. Jordan silenced them with mother wit. “I'm coming back," he said ; "I can't swim." The temple where the worship of Isis, and the child Horus, and her husband Osiris, lasted almost to the Mohammedan era has graceful and beautifully coloured capitals. The spot where the Egyptians believed that Isis found the remains of Osiris is now full of deep, clear water. The crosses of Christianity are on the columns, while the goddess Nut spans the welkin on the ceiling above them; the winged sun of Horus is over every door; the soul-boat sails upon the walls; surrounded by these, and a decoration of the key of life and power are announcements of Gregory XVI. and his emissaries, Camberini and Tosti. You almost regret that they escaped the fate of B. Mure, who also put his name on that wall, and has had the words stultus est added by an envious hand.
In the chamber of the death and resurrection of Osiris the lion-headed god Khnum is making a man upon a potter's wheel.
There was one thing in Egypt which tired me very quickly —the dragoman's explanation of the mythology on the walls of a temple or a tomb. I know that these explanations meant something to the dragoman, but they very seldom meant much to me. He had certain catch-words which he rattled off glibly, and I knew that he would not get any further. He pointed out the signs of life and power, or read a most ordinary cartouche, and gave us a date or twogenerally a correct date—but he never by any chance helped us to understand what it was all about.
The Arab loafer at Philæ bores you to death by assuming the rôle of the guardian angel to extract bakshish in the face of Lord Cromer's proclamation. When you prepare to ascend the staircase to the roof of the Temple of Isis in broad daylight, he lights a candle for you. When you are coming down its wide and easy steps he puts a hand under your armpit to steady you ; he sings while he rows, and demands bakshish for doing it; he brings babies, who get in the way, and expects bakshish for that. And he goes through all these performances when you are endeavouring to look at something else. He is not even very good at carrying things. When you give him a camera to carry he lets it drop out of its case.
The view from the roof of the Temple of Isis at Philæ when the water is at its highest is very fine, for you are at the broad end of a lake a hundred miles long. Temples rise from the water at your feet, and the horizon is bounded by palm grooves, or the fantastic rocks of Nubia, except on one side, where a long line of the crossed yards of the tall gyassas tells you that you are in the presence of the eighth wonder of the world--the Great Dam of Assuan. Even Shellal is made respectable by its background of desert. On the roof itself is the famous Osiris chamber, whose walls are covered with bas-reliefs of the death and resurrection of Osiris, which have great value to the mythologist, for all the shrines which contained the fourteen pieces into which Osiris was cut up were of different shapes, and they are all presented here. Isis and Nephthys, the great weepers, are keeping guard. Osiris is lying among lotus-buds, and other marsh plants emblematic of returning life. “Finally,” says Wilkinson," he is represented with all the scattered limbs reunited to his body in the act of arising from his bier. Isis at his feet stretches out her arms to him, and Nephthys presents to his nostrils the breath of life.” The date corresponding to A.D. 453 occurs in this chamber.
When the heightening of the great dam is completed, the triple Nilometer referred to by Strabo, the beautiful flood-wall built in ancient times, the Coptic town, and nearly all the temples will be engulfed, and the proud Temple of Isis will seem to rise from the bosom of a lake.
As Philæ was so soon to sink beneath the waters of progress, I saw it at sunrise, I saw it in the middle of the day, I saw it at sunset, and I saw it by moonlight. The ruins, like the ark of Noah on the face of the waters, are exquisite in the golden glow of the Egyptian sunrise and sunset. But the time to see Philæ is by the light of the serene Egyptian moon. Then Philæ is an island in a world of enchantment, for the Nile is all reflection, and the slender palms and silver columns have an unearthly beauty. To glide over still waters in such a scene, in soft, tropical air (for Philæ stands at the threshold of the Tropic of Cancer) is the climax of sensuosity. If the boatmen had the silence and the velvet touch of the rowers of Lake Como, everything would be perfect. But though they laugh, and splash, and sing their chanteys, the Arabs of Philæ are mightily picturesque as they row in their white turbans and flowing black robes.
I saw the moonlight Philæ with unwonted patience, for an American judge who was with us wished to be landed on a rock near Pharaoh's Bed to hatch a photograph, which he said would take him an hour. We beguiled the time by rowing into that beautiful kiosk, which is really like a many. posted monarch's bed, and floating there under the stars, now watching the play of the moonlight on the white columns, now noting the constellations like Orion, which were in the vault of blue over the temple. There was a fathom of water over the marble floor. It was the silver water which made the scene so enchanting, though the columns against the moonlit sky were simply glorious. At last the brilliance became overpowering, and we had to get the three wise men of the east, who were rowing us, to back out and pull away from the glistening marble into the blue night. We soon found ourselves out of the frying-pan into the fire, for the three wise men thought that it was a pity we should waste our time, and took us straight to the colonnade of the Temple of Isis. The Parthenon itself does not rise more grandly from the brow of the Acropolis than the Temple of Isis rose that night from the brink of the waters of Philæ. We were sincerely grateful to them; they had given us an object of superlative beauty to look at, and here the marble was not close enough to be oppressive with its glister. The American judge must have felt like St. Simeon on the top of his column-we were so long before we remembered him. But when we got back to him he was unruffled, and saluted us with one of his characteristic observations : “ The palm-trees beside the temple look as if they had been made on purpose.” He said an even truer thing when the three foolish men had rowed us back to the steamer, and gone through every species of antic in the last hundred yards with a view to bakshish : “The Arab has one God, and that is his profit.”
I suppose that the time will come when they will add a fresh storey to the big dam, and Philæ will disappear altogether in the march of Irrigation ; it would have been cheaper in the long run to take down the temples of Philæ and re-erect them on the island of Elephantine to make monuments for Assuan.
Among the most interesting facts about Philæ are its negatives. Herodotus, who visited Assuan in the days when it was called Syene, did not think it worth mentioning. Philæ may not have had any temples in his time; it is curiously modern for Egypt; there is no building there now which goes back to his time; the oldest was built about a century later, though the stones of the twenty-sixth dynasty built into the Temple of Isis might have belonged to an older temple on the site. For it would have been absurd for the heart of Osiris to be buried so late as this.
Again, neither the Egyptians nor the Nubians use the name Philæ ; they call it after the hero in the Arabian Nights, whose story is laid here, a sort of Hero and Leander episode. It is thus summarised by good old Ebers:
“The natives call it Anas-el-Wugood, and Anas-el-Wugood was beloved by the fair Zahar-el-Ward (Flower of the Rose). The legend of this pair, of how they were parted, and how at last they found each other again, which is put into the mouth of Sheherezade, originated, beyond a doubt, on the shores of the Nile; indeed the modern story-tellers begin it to this day with these words: 'I will build thee a castle in the midst of the great waters (Bahr) of Kenoos '-.e. Northern Nubia. The castle here meant is the Temple of Isis; and in the story of Anas-el-Wugood it is related that the young hero of the story reached his beloved, who was imprisoned in a castle on an island, by swimming on the back of a crocodile. Must not this story have grown out of the legend of Isis and Osiris, who loved each other, and were parted, and the myth of the god who rejoined Isis, and the legend of the god who, by aid of a crocodile, reached the abode of Isis ? The Osiris room in the Temple of Philæ is even at the present day held by the Arabs to be the bridal chamber of the happily united pair ” Banal Ebers!