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Aswan (or Uswân), the southern limit of Egypt proper, 583 miles from Cairo, on the east bank of the river, called in Egyptian , Coptic cor&n, was called by the Greeks Syene, which stood on the slope of a hill to the south-west of the present town. Properly speaking Syene was the island of Elephantine. In the earliest Egyptian inscriptions it is called Åbu, i.e., “the district of the elephant,” and it formed the metropolis of the first nome of Upper Egypt. As we approach the time of the Ptolemies, the name Sunnu, i.e., the town on the east bank of the Nile, from whence comes the Arabic name Aswân, takes the place of Åbu. The town obtained great notoriety among the ancients from the fact that Eratosthenes and Ptolemy considered it to lie on the tropic of Cancer, and to be the most northerly point where, at the time of the summer solstice, the sun's rays fell vertically; as a matter of fact, however, the town lies o' 37' 23" north of the tropic of Cancer. There was a famous well there, into which the sun was said to shine at the summer solstice, and to illuminate it in every part.
In the time of the Romans three cohorts were stationed here,* and the town was of considerable importance. In the twelfth century of our era it was the seat of a bishop. Of its size in ancient days
* It is interesting to observe that the Romans, like the British, held Egypt hy garrisoning three places, viz. Aswân, Babylon (Cairo), and Alexandria. The garrison at Aswân defended Egypt from foes on the south, and commanded the entrance of the Nile; the garrison at Babylon guarded the end of the Nile valley and the entrance to the Delta ; and the garrison at Alexandria protected the country from invasion by sea.
nothing definite can be said, but Arabic writers describe it as a flourishing town, and they relate that a plague once swept off 20,000 of its inhabitants. Aswân was famous for its wine in Ptolemaic times. The town has suffered greatly at the hands of the Persians, Arabs, and Turks on the north, and the Nubians, by whom it was nearly destroyed in the twelfth century, on the south. The oldest ruins in the town are those of a Ptolemaic temple, which are still visible.
The island of Elephantine* lies a little to the north of the cataract just opposite Aswân, and has been famous in all ages as the key of Egypt from the south; the Romans garrisoned it. with numerous troops, and it represented the southern limit of their empire. The island itself was very fertile, and it is said that its vines and fig-trees retained their leaves throughout the year. The kings of the Vth dynasty sprang from Elephantine. The gods worshipped here by the Egyptians were called Chnemu, Sati and Sept, and on this island Amenophis III. built a temple, remains of which were visible in the early part of this century. Of the famous Nilometer which stood here, Strabo says : “The Nilometer is a well upon the banks of the Nile, constructed of close-fitting stones, on which are marked the greatest, least, and mean risings of the Nile ;.. for the water in the well and in the river rises and subsides simultaneously. Upon the wall of the well are lines, which indicate the complete rise of the river, and other degrees of its rising. Those who examine these marks communicate the result to the public for their information. For it is known long before, by these marks, and by the time elapsed from the commencement, what the future rise of the river will be, and notice is given of it. This information is of service to the husbandmen with reference to the distribution of the water ; for the purpose also of attending to the embankments, canals, and other things of this kind. It is of use also to the governors, who fix the revenue; for the greater the rise of the river, the greater it is expected will be the revenue." According to Plutarch the Nile rose at Elephantine to the height of 28 cubits; a very interesting text at Edfû states that if the river rises 24 cubits 34 hands at Elephantine, it will water the country satisfactorily.
*“A little above Elephantine is the lesser cataract, where the boatmen exhibit a sort of spectacle to the governors. The cataract is in the middle of the river, and is formed by a ridge of rocks, the upper part of which is level, and thus capable of receiving the river, but terminating in a precipice, where the water dashes down. On each side towards the land there is a stream, up which is the chief ascent for vessels. The boatmen sail up by this stream, and, dropping down to the cataract, are impelled with the boat to the precipice, the crew and the boats escaping unhurt.” (Strabo, Bk. xvii. chap. i., 49, Falconer's translation.) Thus it appears that “shooting the cataract " is a very old amusement.
To the south-west of Atrûn island, in a sandy valley, lie the ruins of an ancient building of the sixth or seventh century of our era, half convent, half fortress.
A dome, ornamented with coloured representations of Saints Michael, George, and Gabriel, and the twelve Apostles, still remains in a good state of preservation. To the east of the convent is the cemetery, where some interesting stelæ and linen fragments were found.
A mile or so to the north of the convent stands the bold hill in the sides of which are hewn the tombs which General Sir F. W. Grenfell excavated; this hill is situated in Western Aswân, the corenie NEULENT of the Copts, and is the Contra Syene of the classical authors. The tombs are hewn out of the rock, tier above tier, and the most important of these were reached by a stone staircase, which to this day remains nearly complete, and is one of the most interesting antiquities in Egypt. The tombs in this hill may be roughly divided into three groups.
The first group was hewn in the best and thickest layer of stone in the top of
the hill, and was made for the rulers of Elephantine who lived during the VIth and XIIth dynasties. The second group is composed of tombs of different periods; they are hewn out of a lower layer of stone, and are not of so much importance. The third group, made during the Roman occupation of Egypt, lies a comparatively short height above the river. All these tombs were broken into at a very early period, and the largest of them formed a common sepulchre for people of all classes from the XXVIth dynasty downwards. They were found filled with broken coffins and mummies and sepulchral stelæ, etc., etc., and everything showed how degraded Egyptian funereal art had become when these bodies were buried there. The double tomb at the head of the staircase was made for Sabben and Mechu; the former was a dignitary of high rank who lived during the reign of Pepi II., a king of the VIth dynasty, whose prenomen
OIU Nefer-ka-Rā is inscribed on the left hand side of the doorway; the latter was a smer, prince and inspector, who appears to have lived during the XIIth dynasty. The paintings on the walls and the proto-Doric columns which support the roof are interesting, and its fine state of preservation and position makes it one of the most valuable monuments of that early period. A little further northward is the small tomb of ? Heqib, and beyond this is the fine, large tomb hewn originally for Se-Renput, one of the old feudal hereditary governors of Elephantine, but which was appropriated by Nub-kau-Rā-necht. He was the governor of the district of the cataract, and the general who commanded a lightly-armed body of soldiers called "runners ;" he lived during the reign of Usertsen I., the second
ing of the XIIth dynasty, and his tomb must have been one of the earliest hewn there during that period. Further excavations in this hill will no doubt bring to light many other interesting tombs now unknown; it is much to be
hoped that Sir Francis Grenfell will see his way to causing his work to be continued.
Aswân was as famous for its granite, as Silsileh was for its sandstone. The Egyptian kings were in the habit of sending to Aswân for granite to make sarcophagi, temples, obelisks, etc., and it will be remembeaed that Unå was sent there to bring back in barges granite for the use of Pepi II., a king of the VIth dynasty. It is probable that the granite slabs which cover the pyramid of Mycerinus (IVth dynasty) were brought from Aswân. The undetached obelisk, which still lies in one of the quarries, is an interesting object.
Near the quarries are two ancient Arabic cemeteries, in which are a number of sandstone grave-stones, many of them formed from stones taken from Ptolemaic buildings, inscribed in Cufic* characters with the names of the Muḥammedans buried there, and the year, month, and day on which they died. We learn from them that natives of Edfû and other parts of Egypt were sometimes brought here and buried.
The first Cataract, called Shellâl by the Arabs, begins a little to the south of Aswân, and ends a little to the north of the island of Philæ ; eight cataracts are reckoned on the Nile, but this is the most generally known. Here the Nile becomes narrow and flows between two mountains, which descend nearly perpendicularly to the river, the course of which is obstructed by huge boulders and small rocky islands and barriers, which stand on different levels, and cause the falls of water which have given this part of the river its name.
On the west side the obstacles are not so
* A kind of Arabic writing in which very old copies of the Ķor'ân, etc., are written: it takes its name from Kûfah, ügyul El-Kafa, a town on the Euphrates. Kûfah was one of the chief cities of 'Irâḥ, and is famous in the Muḥammedan world because Muḥammad and his immediate successors dwelt there. Enoch lived here, the ark was built here, the boiling waters of the Flood first burst out here, and Abraham had a place of prayer set apart here.