Page images

worshipped here, and the town was famous for its linen weavers and stone cutters. Its Egyptian name was 40 Åpu. Of this city Herodotus (ii, 91) says: “There is a large city called Chemmis (i.e., Panopolis), situate in the Thebaic district, near Neapolis, in which is a quadrangular temple dedicated to Perseus, the son of Danaë; palm-trees grow around it, and the portico is of stone, very spacious, and over it are placed two stone statues. In this enclosure is a temple, and in it is placed a statue of Perseus. The Chemmites affirm, that Perseus has frequently appeared to them on earth, and frequently within the temple, and that a sandal worn by him is sometimes found, which is two cubits in length; and that after its appearance, all Egypt flourishes. They adopt the following Grecian customs in honour of Perseus : they celebrate gymnastic games, embracing every kind of contest ; and they give as prizes, cattle, cloaks, and skins: When I enquired why Perseus appeared only to them, and why they differed from the rest of the Egyptians, in holding gymnastic games ; they answered, “ that Perseus derived his origin from their city; for that Danaus and Lynceus, who were both natives of Chemmis, sailed from them into Greece’; and tracing the descent down from them they came to Perseus ; and that he coming to Egypt, for the same reason as the Greeks allege, in order to bring away the Gorgon's head from Libya, they affirmed that he came to them also and acknowledged all his kindred; and that when he came to Egypt he was well acquainted with the name of Chemmis, having heard it from his mother : they add, that by his order they instituted gymnastic games in honour of him.” Akhmîm is still famous for its linen weavers, who seem to have inherited the skill of their predecessors in making many-coloured woven fabrics. The city is also famous as the birth-place of Nonnus, the poet, A.D. 410, and as the burial-place of Nestorius, A.D. 450. This wretched man was banished first to Petra, in Arabia, and then to the Oasis of Khârga in 435; he was seized by the Blemmyes and carried off, but eventually found his way to Panopolis. He was again banished and tortured by sufferings and privations, and at length died of a disease in the course of which his tongue was eaten by worms; his religious opponents declared that rain never fell on his tomb. In ancient days Akhmîm had a large population of Copts, and large Coptic monasteries stood close hy.

Al-Menshah, on the west bank of the river, 3284 miles from Cairo, stands on the site of a city which is said to have been the capital of the Panopolite nome ; its Coptic name was Psôi, Yws. In the time of Shenûti the Blemmyes, a nomad warlike Ethiopian tribe, invaded Upper Egypt, and having acquired much booty, they returned to Psôi or Menshåh, and settled down there.

Girgah, on the west bank of the river, 341] miles from Cairo, has a large Christian population, and is said to occupy the site of the ancient This, whence sprang the first dynasty of historical Egyptian kings. A few miles further south is Al-Balyana Lili, commonly, but erroneously pronounced Baliâna, where travellers usually start for Abydos.



The Ruins of Abydos. (After Mariette).
A Ancient town.

B Temple of Seti I.
c Temple of Rameses II.

o Temple of Osiris.

E Coptic convent. Abydos, † in Egyptian *] Åbļu, Coptic eßWT, Arabic ‘Arâbat al-Madfûnah, on the west bank of the Nile, was one of the most renowned cities of ancient Egypt; it was famous as the chief seat of the worship of Osiris in Upper Egypt, because the head of this god was supposed to be buried here. The town itself was dedicated to Osiris, and the temple in it, wherein the most solemn ceremonies connected with the worship of this god were celebrated, was more revered than any other in the land. The town and its necropolis were built side by side, and the custom usually followed by the Egyptians in burying their dead away from the town in the mountains was not followed

* The Temples at Abydos are visited by Messrs. Cook's travellers on the return journey to Cairo.

+ Greek 'Aßvoos ; see Pape, Wörterbuch, p. 4. That the name was pronounced Absdos, and not Abydos, is clear from :και Σηστών και "Αβυδον έχουν και διαν'Αρίσβην.

Iliad, ii., 836.

in this case. Though the hills of fine white stone were there ready, the people of Abydos did not make use of them for funereal purposes; the sandy plain interspersed every here and there with rocks was the place chosen for burial. The town of Abydos, a small town even in its best time, was built upon a narrow tongue of land situated between the canal, which lies inland some few miles, and the desert. It owed its importance solely to the position it held as a religious centre, and from this point of view it was the second city in Egypt. Thebes, Abydos, and Heliopolis practically represented the homes of religious thought and learning in Egypt. The necropolis of Abydos is not much older than the VIth dynasty, and the tombs found there belonging to this period are of the mastaba class.

During the XIth and XIIth dynasties the tombs took the form of small pyramids, which were generally built of brick, and the ancient rectangular form of tomb was revived during the XVIIIth dynasty. Abydos attained its greatest splendour under the monarchs of the XIth and XIIth dynasties, and though its plain was used as a burial ground as late as Roman times, it became of little or no account as early as the time of Psammetichus I. It has often been assumed that the town of Abydos is to be identified with This, the home of Menes, the first historical king of Egypt; the evidence derived from the exhaustive excavations made by M. Mariette does not support this assumption. No trace of the shrine of Osiris, which was as famous in Upper Egypt as was the shrine of the same god at Busiris in Lower Egypt, has been found in the temple ; neither can any trace be discovered of the royal tombs which Rameses II. declares he restored. Plutarch says that wealthy inhabitants of Egypt were often brought to Abydos to be buried near the mummy of Osiris, and, curiously enough, the tombs close to certain parts of the temple of Osiris are more carefully executed than those elsewhere.

Of Abydos Strabo says (Bk. XVII., cap. i., sec. 42), “Above this city (Ptolemaïs) is Abydos, where is the palace of Memnon, constructed in a singular manner, entirely of stone, and after the plan of the Labyrinth, which we have described, but not composed of many parts. It has a fountain situated at a great depth. There is a descent to it through an arched passage built with single stones of remarkable size and workmanship. There is a canal which leads to this place from the great river. About the canal is a grove of Egyptian acanthus, dedicated to Apollo. Abydos seems once to have been a large city, second to Thebes. At present it is a small town. But if, as they say, Memnon is called Ismandes by the Egyptians, the Labyrinth might be a Memnonium, and the work of the same person who constructed those at Abydos and at Thebes ; for in those places, it is said, are some Memnonia. At Abydos Osiris is worshipped; but in the temple of Osiris no singer, nor player on the pipe, nor on the cithara, is permitted to perform at the commencement of the ceremonies celebrated in honour of the god, as is usual in rites celebrated in honour of the gods.” (Bk. XVII. 1, 44, Falconer's translation.) The principal monuments which have been brought to light by the excavations of M. Mariette at Abydos are:

1. The Temple of Seti I.,* and the Temple of Rameses II.

The Temple of Seti I., better known as the Memnonium, is built of fine white calcareous stone upon an artificial foundation made of stone, earth and sand, which has

* The plans of the temples of Abydos, etc., printed in this book are copied from those which accompany the Rapport sur les Temples Égyptiens adressé à S. E. Le Ministre des Travaux Publics par Grand Bey. This gentleman's plans are more complete than the more elaborate drawings given by Lepsius in his Denkmäler, and by other Javants.

« PreviousContinue »