Page images
PDF
EPUB

and fifty feet high and three hundred broad. We ascended one of these for a general view of the vast field of ruin.

Piled and tumbled and flung about lay the mighty efforts of a mighty race. At one place excavating was still going on, and a regiment of little boys were running back and forth with baskets of dirt on their heads, singing and sweating in the blazing sun, earning as much as two piastres (ten cents) a day. Men were working, too; they receive quite fancy sums —twenty cents a day, some of them.

Now that we were outside of the shaded temple and sanctuary enclosures our party was not very game. It was our first day in Upper Egypt, and the flies and the sun made a pretty deadly combination. We began to complain, and to long for the cool corridors and fizzy drinks and protecting screens of the hotel. We might have played golf or tennis in that sun, but seeing ruins was different, and we began to pray for the donkeys again. So Gaddis led us around by the Sacred Lake, where once the splendid ceremonials were performed-it is only a shallow pool now—and then once more we were on the donkeys, strung out in a crazy, shrieking stampede for the hotel. Gaddis rode near me. His donkey was a racer, too, but Gaddis did not laugh or cry out, or anything of the sort. He only wore that gentle serene smile, the smile of Egypt, observing trivial things.

Oon V

In the afternoon we visited the Temple of Luxor that beautiful structure which Amenophis III. built

on the banks of the Nile. Luxor is Karnak on a smaller scale, though big enough in all conscience, and it is not all excavated yet. Débris had covered this temple to the very top, and it is not so long ago that a village was built on a level with the capitals of these columns. When M. Maspero, in 1883, began his work of excavation, the natives naturally protested against the uncovering of the “heathen” ruins at the expense of their mud huts. The work went on, however, and to-day a large part of the magnificent architecture stands revealed, once more reflecting its columns in the Nile.

There is still a quantity of débris to be removed. One end of the Temple is full of it, and may remain so a good while. On top of this mass, some five hundred years ago, a Mohammedan mosque was built by the descendants of a saint named Abu Haggag, and sufficient of his family are left to this day to hold that mosque intact against all would-be excavators. However, the mosque itself begins to look pretty old. If the diggers keep encroaching, it may slide off into the Temple some day, saints and all.

Luxor, as a whole, is better preserved than Karnak. I suppose the heaped-up débris kept the columns in position during the last ten or a dozen centuries. I wish it had been there when the early Christian came along. Cambyses of Persia, who burned everything that would burn in Egypt, about 527 B.C., blackened the walls of this temple with fire, the marks of which show to this day, but he was nothing to the followers of Queen Helena. Even the guide-book, which is likely to be conservative in any comment that may

THE TEMPLE OF LUXOR ... ONCE MORE REFLECTING ITS COLUMNS IN THE NILE

touch upon the faith of its readers, says concerning the followers of Helena: "Not content with turning certain sections of it into churches, the more fanatical among them smashed statues, and disfigured basreliefs and wrecked shrines with characteristic savage and ignorant zeal.” 1

There ought to be a painting or a marble group somewhere entitled “Early Christian at Work”—a lean-faced, stringy-haired maniac with sledge, murdering a symbolized figure of Defenceless Art in the Far East. The early Christian is said to have destroyed forty-five thousand statues in Thebes in one day.

Still, those statues may not matter so much—they were probably all of Rameses the Great, and there are enough of him left. The Luxor Temple had them in all sizes, and of all materials, from granite to alabaster. Also some of “Mrs. Rameses,” as Gaddis called her—no particular Mrs. Rameses—there having been several of her; just a sort of generic type of connubial happiness, I suppose. Mrs. Rameses, by the way, does not cut much figure in the statuary. She usually comes only about to the knee of the King, though she is life-size even then, for his own statues are colossal, ranging anywhere from fifteen to fifty feet high. That was to represent their difference in importance, of course, an idea which the women members of our party seemed to disapprove.?

One of the statues of Rameses was found in a

1 Cook's Egypt, page 562.

? At Abou Simbel there are sitting statues of Rameses the Great which, if standing erect, would be eighty-three feet tall.

« PreviousContinue »