Page images
PDF
EPUB

486

BADRASHÊN, MEMPHIS, AND

SAķĶÂRA.

The ruins of Memphis and the antiquities at Sakkára are usually reached by steamer or train from Cairo to Badrashên. Leaving the river or station the village of Badrashên is soon reached, and a short ride next brings the traveller to the village of Mit-Rahinah. On the ground lying for some distance round about these two villages once stood the city of Memphis, though there is comparatively little left to show its limits. According to Herodotus (ii., 99), “Menes, who first ruled over Egypt, in the first place protected Memphis by a mound; for the whole river formerly ran close to the sandy mountain on the side of Libya ; but Menes, beginning about a hundred stades above Memphis, filled in the elbow towards the south, dried up the old channel, and conducted the river into a canal, so as to make it flow between the mountains : this bend of the Nile, which flows excluded from its ancient course, is still carefully upheld by the Persians, being made secure every year; for if the river should break through and overflow in this part, there would be danger lest all Memphis should be flooded. When the part cut off had been made firm land by this Menes, who was first king, he in the first place built on it the city that is now called Memphis; for Memphis is situate in the narrow part of Egypt; and outside of it he excavated a lake from the river towards the north and the west ; for the Nile itself bounds it towards the east. In the next place, they relate that he built in it the temple of Vulcan, which is vast and well worthy of mention." (Cary's translation.)

Whether Menes built the town or not, it is quite certain that the city of Memphis was of most ancient foundation

The reason why the kings of Egypt established their capital there is obvious. From the peoples that lived on the western bank of the river they had little to fear, but on the eastern side they were always subject to invasions of the peoples who lived in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Arabia ; with their capital on the western bank, and the broad Nile as a barrier on the east of it, they were comparatively safe. Added to this, its situation at the beginning of the Delta enabled it to participate easily of the good things of that rich country, The tract of land upon which Memphis stood was also fertile and well wooded. Diodorus speaks of its green meadows, intersected with canals, and of their pavement of lotus flowers; Pliny talks of trees there of such girth that three men with extended arms could not span them ; Martial praises the roses brought from thence to Rome; and its wine was celebrated in lands remote from it. The site chosen was excellent, for in addition to its natural advantages it was not far from the sea-coast of the Delta, and holding as it were a middle position in Egypt, its kings were able to hold and rule the country from Philæ on the south to the Mediterranean on the north.

In the inscriptions it is called Men-nefer, * "the beautiful dwelling,' (al Het-Ptaḥ

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

, ' 'the white-walled city.' The last name calls to mind the

White Castle' spoken of by classical writers. Tetá, son of Menes, built his palace there, and Ka-Kau the second king of the IInd dynasty, B.C. 4100, established the worship of Apis there.

The name Memphis is a corruption of Men-nefer ; the city is called by the Arabs Menúf, and by the Copts Memfi, Menfi (elelegi, llengi).

[ocr errors]

never

was

During the rule of the IIIrd, IVth, and VIth dynasties, the kings of which sprang from Memphis, that city reached a height of splendour which was probably

excelled. The most celebrated building there

the temple of Ptaḥ, which was beautified and adorned by a number of kings, the last of whom reigned during the XXVIth dynasty. The Hyksos ravaged, but did not destroy, the city; under the rule of the Theban kings, who expelled the Hyksos, the city flourished for a time, although Thebes became the new capital. When Rameses II. returned from his wars in the east, he set up a statue of himself in front of the temple of Ptaḥ there ; Piānkhi the Ethiopian besieged it; the Assyrian kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal captured it; Cambyses the Persian, having wrought great damage there, killed the magistrates of the city and the priests of the temple of Apis, and smote the Apis bull so that he died ;* he established a Persian garrison there.

After the founding of Alexandria, Memphis lost what

* “When Cambyses arrived at Memphis, Apis, whom the Greeks call Epaphus, appeared to the Egyptians; and when this manifestation took place, the Egyptians immediately put on their richest apparel, and kept festive holiday. Cambyses seeing them thus occupied, and concluding that they made their rejoicings on account of his ill success, summoned the magistrates to Memphis ; and when they came into his presence, he asked, 'why the Egyptians had done nothing of the kind when he was at Memphis before, but did so now, when he had returned with the loss of a great part of his army.' They answered, that their god appeared to them, who was accustomed to manifest himself at distant intervals, and that when he did appear, then all the Egyptians were used to rejoice and keep a feast. Cambyses, having heard this, said they lied, and as liars he put them to death. Having slain them, he next summoned the priests into his presence ; and when the priests gave the same account, he said, that he would find out whether a god so tractable had come among the Egyptians ; and having said this, he commanded the priests to bring Apis to him ; they therefore went away to fetch him. This Apis, or Epaphus, is the calf of a cow incapable of conceiving another offspring ; and the Egyptians say, that lightning descends upon the cow from heaven, and that from thence it brings

ever glory it then possessed, and became merely the chief provincial city of Egypt. During the reign of Theodosius, a savage attack, the result of his edict, was made upon its temples and buildings by the Christians, and a few hundred years later the Muḥammadans carried the stones, which once formed them, across the river to serve as building materials for their houses and mosques. The circuit of the ancient city, according to Diodorus, was 150 stadia, or about thirteen miles.

The Colossal Statue of Rameses II. This magnificent statue was discovered by Messrs. Caviglia and Sloane in 1820, and was presented by them to the British Museum. On account of its weight and the lack of public interest in such matters, it lay near the road leading from Badrashên to Mit-Rahînah, and little by little became nearly covered with the annual deposit of Nile mud; during the inundation the greater part of it was covered by the waters of the Nile. During the winter of 1886-87 Sir Frederick Stephenson collected a sum of money in Cairo for the purpose of lifting it out of the hollow in which it lay, and the difficult engineering part of the task was ably

forth Apis.

This calf, which is called Apis, has the following marks : it is black, and has a square spot of white on the forehead ; and on the back the figure of an eagle ; and in the tail double hairs; and on the tongue a beetle. When the priests brought Apis, Cambyses, like one almost out of his senses, drew his dagger, meaning to strike the belly of Apis, but hit the thigh ; then falling into a fit of laughter, he said to the priests, ‘Ye blockheads, are there such gods as these, consisting of blood and flesh, and sensible to steel ? This, truly, is a god worthy of the Egyptians. But you shall not mock me with impunity.' Having spoken thus, he commanded those whose business it was, to scourge the priests, and to kill all the Egyptians whom they should find feasting.

.. But Apis, being wounded in the thigh, lay and languished in the temple ; and at length, when he had died of the wound, the priests buried him without the knowledge of Cambyses.”-Herodotus, III, 27-29. (Cary's translation.)

accomplished by Colonel Arthur Bagnold, R.E. This statue is made of a fine hard limestone, and measures about fortytwo feet in height; it is probably one of the statues which stood in front of the temple of Ptaḥ, mentioned by Herodotus and Diodorus. The prenomen of Rameses II.

Rā-usr-maāt-setep-en-Rā, is inscribed on the belt of the statue, and on the end of the roll which the king carries in his hand are the words “Rameses, beloved of Åmen." By the side of the king are figures of a daughter and son of Rameses. The famous temple of Ptaḥ founded by Menes was situated to the south of the statue.

SAŅĶARA. The name Şakkâra is probably a form of the name of the Egyptian god Seker

who was connected with the resurrection of the dead. The tract of land at Sakkâra which formed the great burial ground of the ancient Egyptians of all periods, is about four and a half miles long and one mile wide; the most important antiquities there are : I. the Step Pyramid ; II. the Pyramids of Cnas, Teta, and Pepi I., kings of the Vth and VIth dynasties; III. the Serapeum ; and IV. the Tomb of Thi. Admirers of M. Mariette will be interested to see the house in which this distinguished savant lived.

I. The Step Pyramid is generally thought to have been built by the fifth king of the IIIrd dynasty (called

(B), Tcheser in the Tablet of Abydos), who is said

to have built a pyramid at Kochome (i.e., Ka-Kam) near Sakkâra. Though the date of this pyramid is not known accurately, it is probably right to assume that it is older than the pyramids of Gîzah. The door which led into the pyramid was inscribed with the name of a king

« PreviousContinue »