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· About five miles to the north-east of Cairo stands the little village of Maţarîyaht, built upon part of the site of Heliopolis, where formerly could be seen the sycamore tree, usually called the ‘Virgin's Tree,' under which tradition says that the Virgin Mary sat and rested during her flight to Egypt ; it was planted some time towards the end of the XVIIth century, and was given to the Empress Eugénie by Isma'il on the occasion of the opening of the Suez Canal. Every one will regret the fall, due simply to old age, of this venerable and picturesque tree on July 14, 1906. It was visited by tourists in large numbers, and the garden in
* Called in Egyptian
Annu meħt, 'Annu of the
North,' to distinguish it from N
, Annu Qemàu, 'Annu of the South,' i.e., Hermonthis.
tä, b0, Juynboll, op. cit., t. iii., p. 110. At this place the balsam
trees, about which so many traditions are extant, were said to grow. The balsam tree was about a cubit high, and had two barks; the outer red and fine, and the inner green and thick. When the latter was macerated in the mouth, it left an oily taste and an aromatic odour. Incisions were made in the barks, and the liquid which flowed from them was carefully collected and treated; the amount of balsam oil obtained formed a tenth part of all the liquid collected. The last balsam tree cultivated in Egypt died in 1615, but two were seen alive in 1612; it is said that they would grow nowhere out of Egypt. They were watered with the water from the well at Mađarîyah in which the Virgin Mary washed the clothes of our Lord when she was in Egypt. The oil was much sought after by the Christians of Abyssinia and other places, who thought it absolutely necessary that one drop of it should be poured into the water in which they were baptized. See Wansleben, L'Histoire de l'Eglise ď Alexandrie, pp. 88-93 ; Abd-al-Laţff (ed. de Sacy), p. 88.
which it stood is a pretty and restful place. The verses from the Gospel of the Infancy (viii, 9-13) which refer to Matariyah, read :
9. Hence they went to that sycamore tree, which is now called Matarea;
10. And in Matarea the Lord Jesus caused a well to spring forth, in which St. Mary washed his coat;
II. And a balsam is produced, or grows, in that country, from the sweat which ran down there from the Lord Jesus.
12. Thence they proceeded to Memphis, and saw Pharaoh, and abode three years in Egypt. Close by is the well wherefrom the Virgin is said to have drawn water wherewith to wash the garments of the Child. Beyond the garden in which stood the “Virgin's Tree' is the fine Aswân granite obelisk which marks the site of the ancient town of Heliopolis, called 'On' in Gen. xli. 45, ‘House of the Sun'in Jeremiah xliii. 13, and 'Eye or Fountain of the Sun' by the Arabs. Heliopolis was about twelve miles from the fortress of Babylon, and stood on the eastern side of the Pelusiac arm of the Nile, near the right bank of the great canal which passed through the Bitter Lakes and connected the Nile with the sea. Its ruins cover an area three miles square. The greatest and oldest Egyptian College or University for the education of the priesthood and the laity stood here, and it was here that Ptolemy II., Philadelphus, sent for Egyptian manuscripts when he wished to augment the library which his father had founded.
The obelisk is sixty-six feet high, and was set up by Usertsen I. ( about B.C. 2433 ; a companion obelisk remained standing in its place until the seventh century of our era, and both were covered with caps of smu (probably copper) metal. During the XXth dynasty the temple of Heliopolis was one of the largest and wealthiest in all Egypt, and its staff was numbered by thousands. When Cambyses visited Egypt the glory of Heliopolis was well on the wane, and after the removal of the priesthood and sages of the temple to Alexandria by Ptolemy II. its downfall was well assured. When Strabo visited it (B.C. 24), the greater part of it was in ruins; but we know from Arab writers that many of the statues remained in situ at the end of the twelfth century. Heliopolis had a large population of Jews, and it will be remembered that Joseph married the daughter of Pa-țā-pa-Rā (Potipherah) a priest of On (Annu), or Heliopolis. It lay either in or very near the Goshen of the Bible. The Mnevis bull, sacred to Rā, was worshipped at Heliopolis, and it was here that the phenix or palm-bird brought its ashes after having raised itself to life at the end of each period of five hundred years. Alexander the Great halted here on his way from Pelusium to Memphis. Macrobius says that the Heliopolis of Syria, or Baalbek, was founded by a body of priests who left the ancient city of Heliopolis of Egypt.
THE PYRAMIDS* OF GÎZAH.
On the western bank of the Nile, from Abû Roâsh on the north to Mêdûm on the south, is a slightly elevated tract of land, about twenty-five miles long, on the edge of the Libyan desert, on which stand the pyramids of Abû Roash, Gizah, Zâwyet al-'Aryân, Abuşîr, Sakkâra, Lisht, and Dahshûr. Other places in Egypt where pyramids are found are Al-lâhûn † in the Fayyûm, Hawâra, and Kullah near Esna. The pyramids built by the Nubians or Ethiopians at Ķurrû, Zûma, Tankâsi, Gebel-Barkal, Nûri, and Bagrawiyah (Meroë), are of various dates and are mere copies, in respect of form only, of the pyramids in Egypt. It is well to state at once that the pyramids were tombs and nothing else. There is no evidence whatever to show that they were built for purposes of astronomical observations, and the theory that the Great Pyramid was built to serve as a standard of measurement is ingenious but worthless. The significant fact, so ably pointed out by Mariette, that pyramids are only found in
* The word 'pyramid' appears to be derived from the ancient Egyptian Per-EM-US
and it probably meant, 'a building with a sloping side. The Arabs call the Pyramids ' AL-AHRÂM,' olal, which means something like 'old ruined buildings." The natives of the Sûdân call the pyramids of their country “ȚARÂBÎL,” lubb.
+ loc, o s tmma Le-ḥent, ‘mouth of the canal,' Coptic hey wns.
cemeteries, is an answer to all such theories. Tomb-pyramids were built by kings and others until the XIIth dynasty. The ancient writers who have described and treated of the pyramids are, according to Pliny. (Nat. Hist., xxxvi, 17):Herodotus, Euhemerus, Duris of Samos, Aristagoras, Dionysius, Artemidorus, Alexander, Polyhistor, Butoridas, Antisthenes, Demetrius, Demoteles, and Apion. If we may believe some of the writers on them during the Middle Ages, their outsides must have been covered with inscriptions; which were, no doubt, of a religious nature.* In modern times they have been examined by Shaw (1721), Pococke (1743), Niebuhr (1761), Davison (1763), Bruce (1768), Denon and Jomard (1799), Hamilton (1801), Caviglia (1817), Belzoni (1817), Wilkinson (1831), Howard Vyse and Perring (1837–38), Lepsius (1842-45), and Petrie (1881).
It appears that before the actual building of a pyramid was begun a suitable rocky site was chosen and cleared, a mass of rock if possible being left in the middle of the area to form the core of the building. The chambers and the galleries leading to them were next planned and excavated. Around the core a truncated pyramid building was made, the angles of which were filled up with blocks of stone. Layer after layer of stone was then built around the work, which grew larger and larger until it was finished. DH Lepsius thought that when a king ascended the throne, he built for himself a small but complete tomb-pyramid, and that a fresh coating of stone was built around it every year that he reigned ; and that when he died the sides of the pyramids were like long flights of steps, which his successor filled up with right-angled triangular blocks of stone. The
*“ ... ... ... their surfaces exhibit all kinds of inscriptions written in the characters of ancient nations which no longer exist. No one knows what this writing is or what it signifies.” Mas'ûdi (ed. Barbier de Meynard), t. ii., p. 404.