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176

CLEOPATRA'S NEEDLES.

at least two dozen of our last night's persecutors, who were anxiously waiting our arrival, and through whom we had absolutely to fight our way; nevertheless they followed us through the town, determined to capture us at all hazards—every now and then running with their donkeys before us, exclaiming—“him best dunkey"-"you Inglese no walk”—“him kick highest” — “him dum fine Jock-ass”—“me show you catacomb.” After several fruitless efforts to get rid of them, we had to strike-further resistance was vain-indeed I deem it the part of prudence to adopt the prevailing creed of the country, and bow to your inevitable fate; the only way to escape the assault of a multitude is at once to mount the first that comes up, and belabour your way through the rest.

Having paid his respects to his consul, one of the first visits a European makes on his arrival at Alexandria is to Cleopatra's needles and Pompey's pillar, and thither we now bent our steps. These magnificent obelisks, to which authors have assigned the ridiculous name of Cleopatra's needles, are situated outside the present town, near the shore of the new harbour, amidst heaps of rubbish, drifted sand, and pitfalls—the debris of the former citywhich extends a great distance all round, including that part on which Pompey's pillar stands, and even as far as the shores of the lake Mareotis. The poorer people are constantly at work amongst its ruins, as the scarcity of stones here is very great, and they obtain much from the foundations of the old walls scattered about, some ten or twelve feet below the present surface for it is written, “ her cities shall be in the midst of the cities that are wasted.”

As these were the first objects of Egyptian grandeur and antiquity we had seen, we were greatly struck with thein. All who have travelled themselves will, I think, acknowledge how very difficult it is to convey by words, a description of objects such as these ; or, without an appearance of affectation, to embody in language the feelings that their recollections will arouse. Blocks of stone of such magnitude must ever excite wonder ;-how much more so when we know that they contain a record of some of the mysteries of the religion of the most extraordinary, the most enlightened, as well as the most ancient people in the world. They are generally supposed by antiquaries to have decorated the entrance to the palace of the Ptolemies in the days of Egyp

TIE PROSTRATE OBELISK.

177

tian grandeur, for which purpose they must have been carried down the Nile from the quarries of Upper Egypt. The one nearest the town is prostrate, lying with its base towards the shore, and imbedded to about half its depth in the sand and rubbish. It is sixty-three feet in length from the round of the mortice to the bevel of the top, the extreme end of which is broken off'; the whole measurement from out to out is seventy feet, by six and a half feet in breadth at the base. The hieroglyphics with which it is covered are sharper and in better preservation than those of the one still standing, on the eastern side of which they are much defaced, probably by the action of the prevailing wind, which, blowing from the desert for centuries, loaded with particles of fine siliceous sand, has had this powerful effect. Both of them undoubtedly stood on pedestals, and are composed of the most beautiful rose-coloured granite, somewhat brighter in colour than that of Pompey's pillar. The sand and accumulating rubbish has covered up the entire pedestal of the standing one, and a considerable portion of its base.

The prostration of the obelisk has been erroneously attributed to the French, during their occupation of Egypt; a modern writer, however, first refers its downfall to an earthquake, but in a subsequent note says, “I afterwards learned it had been thrown down by Chiandi, an Italian engineer, in the service of the Basha, the pedestal having been blown up, and the fragments used in constructing a fort close at hand. In the same manner the obelisk itself was to have been disposed of; but this fine monument of antiquity was saved for the time by the interference of the English consul, it being the property of Great Britain.”

The French generally assign its downfall to the English, and in this they are joined by one of the last writers upon Egypt-an American traveller, who states, when speaking of the standing one, or that generally denominated Cleopatra's needle, “by its side, half buried in the sand, lies a fallen brother of the same size and about the same age, said to have been taken down by the English many years ago, for the purpose of being carried to England, but the Basba prevented it.”

Now, that this obelisk must have been in its prostrate condition for some centuries, we learn from the work of the accurate and erudite Sandys, who, speaking of Alexandria, in 1610 says, “Of antiquities there are few remainders, only one hieroglyphical 178

THE PROSTRATE OBELISK.

obelisk, of Theban marble, as hard, well nigh, as porphyry, but of a deeper red, and speckled alike, called Pharaoh's needle, standing where once stood the palace of Alexandria, and another lying by, and like it, half buried in the rubbish.And again, from the following passage in the rare and curious old work of Frere Nicole Lestuen, published in 1517, we may conclude it was prostrate in his day, as he mentions but one standing :

"De la on est mene an grant lieu on estoit la sale marence et encore est une grat coulonne toute dune pierre de merueilleuse haulteur en memoire du faictaiat ung capital agu: et semble a une tour qui la usit de loing. Ceste coulonne est de couleur rouge et maintes lettres sont faictes a lentour: rius haulte a merueille que nest icel le qui est a romme aupres de sianet pierre ; laqlle estoit a upres de ceste íey en Alexandrie ; et est apportee a romme.”

Indeed we might have conjectured its remaining for a long time in a condition similar to the present, from the fact of the greater sharpness of the hieroglyphics on all sides ; for there are excavations or tunnels made under it, in two places, to obtain building materials, that enabled me to decide upon this point ; yet, when standing, it must have been exposed to the same injurious influences as its neighbour. The removal of one or other of these obelisks to England has been long contemplated, and the delay has never been satisfactorily accounted for; for they are ours by right of conquest and presentation.*

The moment we arrived at the obelisks, our attendant dragoman and the donkey boys commenced a most destructive attack upon each of their corners and angles, with great stones, hammering away to procure us specimens to take with us, and did not at all understand our desiring them to desist, and saying we did not wish them to be broken ; at which they laughed most heartily.

* In an article published in the “Dublin University Magazine" for May, 1839, I proposed to have this prostrate obelisk conveyed to England, and with some sphinxes and other memorials of Egyptian conquest, erected as the Nelson testimonial in Trafalgar-square. For the particulars of that paper, and the letters I have received on the subject, see Appendix H.

THE PASSAGE OF THE RED SEA.

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feenerally supported in the relickinson, and with this obeli

I should imagine the height of Cleopatra's needle to be, if cleared, about eighty feet, the height of the obelisk at Rome. A traveller of 1819 very gravely informs us that there are no eyes in Cleopatra's needles !!!

It is interesting to notice, in connection with this obelisk, the fact put forward by Sir G. Wilkinson, and other antiquaries, that it was constructed in the reign of Thothmes III., the Pharaoh generally supposed to have been destroyed in the Red Sea. Professor M‘Cullagh has demonstrated chronologically, and particularly from the catalogue of Eratosthenes, that this Pharaoh of the Exodus was “a king named Achescus Ocaras, who reigned only one year ; preceded by a king named Apappus, who reigned a hundred years, and succeeded by queen Nitocris, who reigned six years.”* Apappus, he states to have beena foreigner in Lower Egypt, of Theban origin, and therefore a “new king, who knew not Joseph.” Moses was born in the twenty-first year of his reign, and was saved by the king's young daughter, a girl about ten years old.” Moses having fled to the land of Midian, returned to Egypt on the death of Apappus, during the short reign of his successor, Ocaras, the Pharaoh of the Exodus. “On the night of the passover, the king lost his first-born, perhaps his only son,” continues Mr. M‘Cullagh, “and this may be the reason that he was succeeded by his sister Nitocris. The short reign of Ocaras (a single year) might be explained by supposing that he was drowned in the Red Sea ; but as there is nothing in the sacred narrative which obliges us to admit that the king perished in this manner, we may adopt the account of Herodotus, that he was murdered by his subjects. We may imagine that some of his nobles remained with Pharaoh on the shore, and that when they saw the sea return and swallow up all that had gone in after the Israelites, they murdered the king, whose obstinacy had brought such calamities on his people, and then placed his sister Nitocris on the throne.” Herodotus (Euterpe, s. C.) asserts that the Egyptians, having slain her brother, who was then sovereign, she was appointed his successor, and that afterwards to avenge his death, she destroyed by artifice a great number of the Egyptians, by inviting them to a festival in a large

* Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, vol. I. p. 66. 1837.

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subterranean chamber, and then letting in the water of the Nile on them (probably in allusion to the drowning in the Red Sea.) She afterwards, to avoid the indignation of the Egyptians, suffocated herself in a chamber filled with ashes.

The Scriptures inform us, that on the Hebrews having passed through, “the waters returned, and covered the chariots and the horsemen and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them ; there remained not so much as one of them.” (Exod. xiv. 28.) And again, in the song of triumph which the Israelites sung on the deliverance, we read that “ Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea; his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea” -(Exod. xv. 4.); but no mention whatever, either in these or the parallel passages is made of the individual death of the Egyptian king ; but of his overthrow, discomfiture, or overwhelmment, while the death or destruction of his army is distinctly stated.

In the immediate vicinity of Cleopatra's needles, the Jews have enclosed a large piece of ground, with a high wall, for a burialplace, and are erecting a handsome synagogue within it. If nothing else, toleration, at least, is commencing in Egypt, as heretofore none of that stricken race were allowed a place of public worship in any of the great cities.

We next proceeded to Pompey's pillar, and on our way passed by some groves of tall palms—the first collection of those truly eastern and magnificent trees we had yet seen. I know few objects of more striking beauty than a palm grove; the slender, leafless mail-clad stems, of these splendid monarchs of an African soil, shoot up without a single branch for sixty or eighty feet, when their waving plumes form most graceful arches overhead, in the twining tracery of their dark foliage. The great father of botany has well denominated this noble race “the princes and patricians of the vegetable kingdom.”

Beyond these we passed one of the outer gates, with a deep fosse and drawbridge, where the Arabs and a few Bedawees hold a market for their flocks—from this, we had a good view of the pillar, standing upon a rising ground in the midst of an extensive plain, a continuation of the ruins of the ancient city, on which scarcely a single lichen finds sustenance ; for it seems now the undisputed abode of the lizard, the kestril, and the grass-hopper. Without another object to catch the eye, or break the unvaried

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