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Besides the usual paintings of Nut, the sky goddess, and bastard signs of the Zodiac on the ceiling, he pointed out a calendar on the inner face of the façade which set forth all the festivals and processions held in honour of the triad of Esna. The figure of the Pharaoh catching birds and fish in a net is, as usual there, symbolical of Egyptian prejudices, The unclean fish represent the hated foreign nations, and the captive birds are allegorical representations of evil spirits. The paintings of the Ptolemies were crude. Taken wholesale, they make gorgeous columns, as here ; but the Phoenix, which was the soul of Osiris, does not look like a bird at all, immortal or otherwise—it is much more like a tortoise. When we were in that Hall of Columns at Esna I did not feel so inclined to criticise in this vein. As two-thirds of the façade were still buried, it was as if we stood in the crypt of an Egyptian temple designed like the crypts of some of our great cathedrals, which are underground churches, hardly less magnificent than the naves and choirs above them. The sculptures and colours acquired a new significance and richness in the dim, religious light, and breathed with fresh intensity the air of mystery which seems to be Egypt's birthright.
The excavated Esna will doubtless be incomparably more splendid ; it may be difficult to match even in Egypt; but nevertheless I shall rejoice that I saw it when its Hall of Columns was like the porch of the Kingdom of Pluto.
Besides its temple, Esna has an ancient and beautiful mosque eight hundred years old, once one of the largest in Egypt, which has a charming blue mosaic over the door, but otherwise, even on its antique arches, is disfigured by a mixture of whitewash and dirty Reckitt's blue,
The people of Esna were friendly; they were pleasant people who had seen the advantages of intercourse with the money-spending English, and were anxious that we should take away certain worthless goods and a good opinion of their city. They were persistent in trying to sell us the latest scarabs and the little white skull-caps which you do not allow your servant to wear when he is waiting on you, but only when he is housemaiding the rooms. They were so persistent that we should have had a difficulty in getting on board our steamer if the police had not courbashed the hawkers away, in the genial Nile-side fashion, as soon as the first snort was given by the engines. Then we steamed off, as fast as we could, for Edfu.
Esna and Edfu are like the Renshaws or the Dohertys to the tourist, who generally sees them both on the same day, and hardly ever mentions one without the other, though they are not in the least alike, except that both are, as we see them, the parvenu creations of the Ptolemies.
The people of Edfu had the reputation of being very bad neighbours. They consequently quarrelled with the people of Komombo on the rather academical matter of the merits of the crocodile as an object of worship. The people of Komombo had a passion for crocodiles. A room in their temple is full of mummy crocodiles still. From the mummymaker's point of view the crocodile, of course, had considerable merits. It kept so well ; its skin needed so little preparation -a coating of seccotine would have done. But the people of Edfu thought otherwise; they had a dislike to the crocodile, partly because Komombo was the nearest city and the Komombo people thought so highly of it, and partly because Sebbek, the god of darkness, confused with Set, who killed Osiris, had a crocodile's head. The people of Edfu sided with Horus against crocodiles. Man has improved but slowly at Edfu ; its inhabitants would not be desirable as neighbours even yet. The inhabitants of Abydos are not greater savages than the filthy, screaming, mutinous crew who live under the shadow of the mighty fane dedicated to Horus at Edfu.
In size and condition Edfu is one of the very finest temples in Egypt. Its decorations anticipate the vulgarities of baroque : they are even comic; but if you are far enough off not to see them, you cannot but acknowledge its majesty.
Long before you near the landing-stage you see the twin giants of its chief pylon towering above the palm groves. Perhaps it had once a further element of grandeur in standing close enough to the Nile for water processions to glide up to great sweeps of glistening steps. Now you have to ride through a dirty village, whose evil-looking adults glower at you, while their shameless, but not unprosperous-looking children besiege you, only half-seriously, for bakshish.
Edfu is an interesting temple to study; it is so complete ; it still has its lofty, massive precinct-walls of crude brick. It still has its birthhouse or Mammisi, for Horus, I presume. He was always being born, as Osiris was always being dead, in temples. You can see very plainly here where the four great flagstaffs, like Venetian masts, were let into the fronts of the pylons. I think it is here that an inscription informs us that they were used for lightning conductors.
Never does the parallelism between pylons and pigeontowers strike you more forcibly than at Edfu, which has the finest perfect pylons in Egypt. But when you are inside the sacred precincts you do not realise their full majesty--you are too close, and your eye is distracted by the two badly scratched Pharaohs, who looked like athletes starting for a Marathon race, as they sprawl over the entire façade. It is a pity that such distracting decorations are allowed to interfere with the noble massiveness of Edfu—the more so because you are faceto-face here with one of the most perfectly preserved monuments of the ancient world.
Edfu is worth a book to itself--nearly all its parts are there, and a history of Egyptian mythology and a book on Egyptian temple ceremonials might be made out of those coarsely sculptured paintings on its walls. It is best not to vex oneself with indignation at the decadence of their art, but to abandon oneself to the fascinating task of making out the plan of what Baedeker calls “the most complete monument of antiquity.” It is of great size ; its whole length is about four hundred and fifty feet, the width of its pro-pylon--that is, of its façade—is about two hundred and fifty feet, and the height of the chief pylons is a hundred and fifteen feet. In other words, it is of the dimensions of a very large cathedral in everything but the height of its towers.
of its towers. It does not give you this impression inside, because one third of it is broken up into small chambers, and more than another third is devoted to the great courtyard.
Denderah is as complete inside, but since it has no pro-pylon, and the courtyard is lost, and the enclosing wall is partly broken down, and partly obscured with Coptic débris, Denderah looks small beside Edfu.
The temple of Edfu is dedicated to the solar deity Horus, the son of Isis. The Greeks, who, like the Romans, had a passion for identifying the divinities of other nations with their own stock gods, chose to consider Horns as a variant of Apollo, and accordingly called Edfu Apollinopolis Magna. Up to 1864 the town, as usual, stood on the top of the temple which, filled with débris up to the roof, made an excellent foundation for the mud pastry of an Egyptian village. To clear it out was one of Mariette's first works after his appointment as conservator of monuments and director of excavations. Egyptian temples owe a good deal to Coptic débris. The paintings and sculptures were preserved by it with a freshness, which they would not otherwise have retained, and, where the masonry was cheap and Ptolemaic, the débris kept the buildings standing. It kept Edfu standing. We have proof positive of this, for, some years after it had been removed, the great wall on the west side collapsed and the whole roofing of the temple showed signs of following suit. Sir William Garstin persuaded Lord Cromer that it must be attended to, and Lord Cromer made the Government advance fifteen hundred pounds, at which cost M. Barsanti successfully restored it. It occasionally grows monotonous if you try to observe all the details of the victories with which Rameses II. and Rameses III. used to smother the masonry of their temples. But when the victories were entirely invented by Ptolemies, who were invariably beaten, they have not even a historical interest. Part of the temple of Edfu, which is devoted to the exploits of the Ptolemies, might perhaps be regarded as the earliest and most expensive form of the novel.
The Temple of Edfu—I fancy that it is expressed in the name, which means pierced, or something of the kind-commemorates the conquest and piercing of his uncle Set by
Horus to avenge the death of Osiris. This is how it sounds in dragoman English: “Horus fought very badly against his uncle Set because to kill Osiris-spearing the God of Evilthe Hippopotamus—very small hippo."
The dragoman did not mean that Horus fought badly, but that it was bad for Set. “Because to kill" was his usual form of pluperfect. The smallness of the hippopotamus implied the greatness of the victory; the greater an Egyptian wished to depict a victory, the smaller and weaker and more cowardly he represented his enemy. Egyptian ideas of victory have changed very little. Rameses II., to give future generations an idea of his courage, constantly represented himself as clubbing the heads of bunches of poor little enemies, who have their elbows tied tightly behind them, and are held by their hair. Egypt degenerated further in the time of the Ptolemies.
The dragoman said that he had met King Edward in this temple in 1809. Perhaps it was true, except the date. It seems not to have been the first time that His Majesty had met this illustrious person, for, as he emerged from one of the honeycomb chambers at the back of the temple, the King said to him, “What are you doing here?” Dragomans are never at a loss for an answer; it is against the etiquette of their profession, so he replied, “Getting through a little door." If His Majesty really did see the Temple of Edsu, he saw such a place of worship as Alexander the Great himself might have officiated in, after the manner of the kings of Egypt. Its gigantic pylons open into a vast court of offerings with all its thirty-two columns standing. At the end of that, with a high stone screen connecting the columns of its façade, like Denderah, is the Khent Hall, with eighteen great columns, a chamber to the left, where the King purified himself before entering the temple, and a chamber to the right, which was a library, with a catalogue of its books still inscribed on its walls. Behind the Khent Hall is the Festival Hall, supported by twelve columns, with small rooms opening from it for the use of priests and processions. This leads into the chamber of the altar, with a staircase conducting to the roof, and