Egypt Through The Stereoscope

A Journey Through The Land Of The Pharaohs

by James Henry Breasted | 1908 | 103,705 words

Examines how stereographs were used as a means of virtual travel. Focuses on James Henry Breasted's "Egypt through the Stereoscope" (1905, 1908). Provides context for resources in the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA). Part 3 of a 4 part course called "History through the Stereoscope."...

Position 28 - Statue Of Ramses Ii, An Embellishment Of A Now Vanished Temple Of Memphis

How are the mighty fallen! We stand on the Nile bottoms, eleven miles south of the cemetery of Gizeh, and you would not imagine that these palms are now growing in what was once the streets of mighty Memphis, the vast city, whose southern extremities reached to Dashur, and whose northern limits were close upon Gizeh (see Map 4). Here where now the waving palms are supreme, was the great capital city, which grew up in the days of the Old Kingdom, and became a metropolis of the ancient land. As reign after reign added to its magnificence and beauty, its fame passed into other lands; Greek travelers wrote of it, and Greek poets sang of it, and in the days of the Roman empire it was the goal of wealthy Roman tourists, as Thebes is now for the hosts of Cook.

As far down as the 12th century of our own era, the Arab writers speak of it as filled with an amazing host of marvelous monuments; but after that it began to serve as a quarry for building stone, and under the attacks of the Cairene architects of the Moslem sultans its great walls and monuments gradually melted away, until as century after century passed, they disappeared one after another like those of Rome under a similar process. But unfortunately this process was not arrested in its course as at Rome, but ceased only with the total annihilation of the city.

A vast city, filled with splendid temples, colonnades, long avenues of sphinxes, colossal obelisks, huge sculptured statues of the Pharaohs like this lying here, lovely temple lakes with groves and gardens and vineyards, gorgeous palaces, luxurious chateaus of the rich, with fish pools and tempting summer houses, bright with myriad flowers of all climes and hung with lotus blossoms; vast quarters set apart for the hosts of foreigners of every race that frequented the city, from Mycenae, the upper Euphrates, and the Phoenician cities on the north, to the dark-skinned Nubians of the upper Nile on the south; huge market-places and bazaars where these foreigners traded and offered to the luxurious Egyptians the products of every clime and sun; beautiful canals from the river, branching through the city and furnishing coolness and refreshing to the thirsty gardens, or bearing in a glittering Procession a line of temple barges, decked with flowers, and filled with chanting priests and singing women, as they conduct the sacred Apis-bull from one great temple to another—a world metropolis with all these and a thousand other vanished splendors, sleeps on this spot under these swaying palms.

You may go miles over the ground which it once occupied, and of all that once made it famous, you will find, besides a few mounds, only this colossus and another not far away, which we shall not have time to visit.

Such statues as this fallen giant here were placed by the kings of the Empire in front of their temples on either side of the entrance. Its presence therefore indicates that we are standing on the site of a temple in the city. This fact will explain more graphically than any words why it is that we shall not visit any of the Delta cities, with one exception. They were all like Memphis, so near the northern frontier that the invading armies of century after century for thousands of years have swept over them, till there is nothing left but a confused expanse of scattered blocks. In the vicinity of Cairo, the ruin wrought by siege and sack has been succeeded by the slow annihilation which follows the pick of the quarryman.

There are many Delta cities, known to have been places of great importance and power, of which we do not even know the site at the present day. Thus all knowledge of the location of the great commercial city of Naukratis was lost, until Prof. Petrie, wandering in the Delta, one lucky day, happened upon a stone bearing the name of the city. We shall meet no temple walls still standing, until we reach them far south in Upper Egypt , where distance from the northern invader and the Moslem builder has secured them some measure of immunity and left them to the mercies of old Father Time.

This statue is a portrait of Ramses II, who reigned some fifteen hundred years later than the builders of the Gizeh pyramids. You will remember that we looked upon the face of his father, Sethos I, in flesh and blood in the Cairo Museum. The statue as it lies is some twenty-five feet long, to which we must add the height of the crown, which stands on the ground at its head. It is of granite, and was brought from the quarries, which we shall later see at the first cataract, some six hundred miles, to this place. Large as it seems, compared with the native who stands upon it, it is a pigmy beside the colossi, which we have yet to see.

We move westward now to view a portion of the cemetery of ancient Memphis, and as is usual in Egypt, we shall find the city of the dead in a much better state of preservation than the city of the living. The red lines numbered 29 in the lower left-hand portion of Map 4 show this next position, and that we shall be looking west with the Nile behind us.

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