Page images

open country beyond, where the party began to string out into bodies of two or three. The Professor and I rode proudly at the head of the column, setting a smart pace, until his blessed girth-rope broke again. Thereafter we trailed the procession and came into Abydos very warm and dusty. The donkey-boys pattered along contentedly enough until we neared the end of the ride when they began to reveal exaggerated signs of physical distress, groaning and panting fearfully and rolling their eyes. Backsheesh, O Awakener of Pity! The rapidity with which three half-piastres restored them to full bodily health would have been held miraculous in the day of Moses.

Abydos, the sacred, the holy, the thrice-consecrated to great Osiris, lies on the verges of the Libyan Desert far to the west of the Nile. It is not far, presumably, from the site of ancient Thinis whence Menes sprung - the first recorded capital of Egypt. But of Thinis nothing remains but a name which may be spelled in a hopeless number of ways. Even in the days of its parlous greatness Thinis never attained to the proportions of Memphis or Thebes; and the abiding celebrity of Abydos as a cemetery rests on quite a different basis from that of Sakkâra and the royal tombs of Luxor. It is, in short, the reputed burialplace of Osiris himself, thus constituting a "holy sepulchre” for those of the ancient faith. No spot in

[graphic][merged small]

all Egypt was more reverenced, for as the chief end of man was to obtain a happy immortality, and as Osiris was lord of the nether world, it behooved every true Egyptian to be buried at Abydos if possible, - at least, for a little while, - or at the very smallest, to leave during his lifetime some votive gift at the tomb of the potent god.

What temples graced this site in the earlier days may be conjectured from a ruin still extant. The surviving temples are all of the Ramessid period and continue in very fair preservation. As usual, we discovered that Rameses II had been so inconsiderate as to impair the pious works of his ancestors when he came to build for himself, mutilating even the inscriptions of his father Seti. Nevertheless the temple of Seti still bears his name.

It was a curious temple, quite unlike any we have been seeing of late. Nothing now remains of the two great pylons and the open courts which once prepared the worshiper for approach to the shrine. One comes full upon the main façade without any prelude - a handsome but rather low colonnade. Bits of the old girdle wall extend on either side.

Within follow two hypostyle halls much wider than they are long and provided each with seven aisles leading back to seven shrines in the extreme rear of the building. The latter were dedicated to various gods and to the Pharaoh himself, but I noticed that the central sanctuary was Ammon's, with Osiris, Isis, and Horus at his left and Harakhte, Ptah, and the Pharaoh at his right, all facing the triumphal halls. Osiris, however, as befitting the chief divinity of the place, had a passage leading from his niche to a sort of inner shrine beyond, where he and Isis and Horus were honored exclusively.

The papyrus columns of the hypostyle halls need hardly be spoken of in detail. They are of comparatively small interest after what we have seen, either as architectural members or as bearers of decorative work, especially when compared with the extraordinary reliefs borne by the side walls. Nothing so exquisite as the latter have we beheld since we stood in Ti's tomb at Sakkâra. Here at last the artists of a later age succeeded in regaining the summit which the sculptors of old had occupied in the Fourth and Fifth dynasties. Moreover, the material in which the reliefs are cut is so pure and perfect a white limestone as to make the sculptures seem even finer than they are. In them Seti, the king, is shown worshiping Osiris in various appropriate ways, presenting flowers, images, incense, and so on. The skill with which the details are rendered is little short of absolute perfection. They say the faces of Seti are wonderfully like him as he appears in the flesh in his

« PreviousContinue »