Page images
PDF
EPUB

numerous as on the east, and sailing and rowing boats can ascend the cataract on this side when the river is high. The noise made by the water is at times very great, but it has been greatly exaggerated by both ancient and modern travellers, some of whom ventured to assert that the water fell from several places in the mountain more than two hundred feet.” Some ancient writers asserted that the fountains of the Nile were in this cataract, and Herodotus believed that the source of the Nile was here. Many of the rocks here are inscribed with the names of kings who reigned during the Middle Empire; in many places on the little islands in the cataract quarries were worked. The island of Sehêl should be visited on account of the numerous inscriptions left there by princes, generals, and others who passed by on their way to Nubia ; the village of Mahâtah, on the east bank of the river, is prettily situated, and worth a visit.

PHILÆ.

Philæ is the name given by the Greeks and Romans to two islands situated at the head of the first cataract, about six miles above Aswân; the larger one is called Biggeh, and the smaller Philæ. Inscriptions found on rocks in the larger island show that as far back as the time of Amenophis II. an Egyptian temple stood here; the greater number of these inscriptions were cut by Egyptian officials on their way to and from Nubia. The smaller island, to which the name Philæ is generally confined, consists of a granite rock, the sides of which, having been scarped, have had walls built on them ; it measures 417 yards long and 135 yards wide. The name of this island in Egyptian was P-āa-lek, Coptic nudek, i.e., 'the frontier.' The monuments on this island are numerous and interesting, but they belong to a comparatively late date, none that have yet been found being older than the time of Nectanebus, the last native

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

king of Egypt. On the south-west corner are the remains of the small temple which this king dedicated to Isis. The most important ruins are those of the Temple of Isis, which was begun by Ptolemy II. Philadelphus and Arsinoë, and was added to and completed by the Ptolemies and Roman emperors who came after. On each side of the path which led to the temple is a corridor: that on the west has thirty-two pillars and that on the east sixteen; at the north end of the east corridor is the so-called chapel of Æsculapius, which was built by Ptolemy V. Epiphanes and Cleopatra. The towers of the first propylon are about 65 feet high, and their southern faces are ornamented with sculptures representing Ptolemy VII. Philometor triumphing over his enemies. On the east side of the large court, which is entered through the propylon, is a portico with ten columns, and on the west side are the three chambers forming the so-called mammisi, on the walls of which are representations of the birth of Horus. In this courtyard there is a copy of the famous Rosetta Stone inscription, given, unfortunately, without the Greek text. Passing through the second propylon, a portico having ten beautifully painted capitals is entered, and north of this are three chambers, in the last of which is the monolith shrine. Round and about are several small chambers and passages with secret openings. When Strabo visited the island he saw the hawk which was worshipped there, and which was said to have been brought from Ethiopia ; it was very sick and nearly dead.*

* “A little above the cataract is Phila, a common settlement, like Elephantina, of Ethiopians and Egyptians, and equal in size, containing Egyptian temples, where a bird, which they call hierax (the hawk), is worshipped ; but it did not appear to me to resemble in the least the hawks of our country nor of Egypt, for it was larger, and very different in the marks of its plumage. They said that the bird was Ethiopian, and is brought from Ethiopia when its predecessor dies, or before its death. The one shown to us when we were there was sick and nearly dead."--(Strabo, xvii., 1-49, Falconer's translation.)

On the western side of the island stands the beautiful little temple usually called Pharaoh's bed, and a little to the north of it is a small temple built by Ptolemy IX. Euergetes II.; the other ruins on the island are not of importance, but if time permits, a visit should be paid to the Nilometer built in a staircase leading down to the river. Philæ was said to be one of the burial places of Osiris, and as such was held in the greatest esteem by both Egyptians and Ethiopians; it was considered a most holy place, and only priests were allowed to live there unmolested. An oath sworn by Osiris of Philæ was inviolable, and the worship of this god flourished here until A.D. 453, that is to say, seventy years after the proclamation of the famous edict of Theodosius against the religion of Egypt. In the time of the Romans a strong garrison was stationed here. In Coptic times a Christian church, remains of which are still visible, was built on the northern end of Philæ. The picturesque scenery at Philæ is too well known to need comment.

R

THE NILE BETWEEN THE FIRST AND

SECOND CATARACTS.

The country which is entered on leaving Philæ is generally known by the name of Ethiopia, or Nubia ; the latter name has been derived by some from nub, the Egyptian word for gold, because in ancient days much gold was brought into Egypt from that land. In the hieroglyphics, Nubia or Ethiopia, is generally called Amy Kesh (the Cush of the Bible) and Enes Ta-kenset; from the latter name the Arabic El-kenûs is derived. It is known that as far back as the Vlth dynasty, the Egyptians sent to this country for certain kinds of wood, and that all the chief tribes which lived round about Korosko, hastened to help the Egyptian officer Unå in the mission which he undertook for King Pepi II. It seems pretty certain too, if we may trust Unå's words, that the whole country was made to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Egyptian king. From the VIIth to the XIth dynasty nothing is known of the relations which existed between the two countries, but in the time of Usertsen I., the second king of the XIIth dynasty, an expedition was undertaken by the Egyptians for the purpose of fixing the boundaries of the two countries, and we know from a stele set up at Wâdi Halfah by this king, that his rule extended as far south as this place. Two reigns later the inhabitants of Nubia or Ethiopia had become so troublesome, that Usertsen III. found it necessary to build fortresses at Semneh and Kummeh, south of the second cataract, and to make stringent laws forbidding the passage of any negro ship unless it was laden with cattle or mer chandise.

« PreviousContinue »