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ERRORS OF ANTIQUARIES.
outline of the landscape, its appearance, when seen at a distance, thus accurately defined against the clear blue sky, has in it something impressively grand and noble ; itself the monument of a city, and a people of by-gone days, it raises its tall form majestically from among the modern sepulchres and gilded tombs of yesterday. I can perfectly agree with Denon, that in the shaft of Pompey's pillar consists its beauty ; being one solid piece of red granite, sixty-five feet in height, and still retaining its beautiful smooth polish. The capital which surmounts it, is a very rude attempt at the Corinthian order, the foliage very plain and meagre, and altogether it looks too short for its shaft. This alone ought, I think, to date its construction at a much earlier period than writers are willing to assign to it. I cannot help likening it to a draft, or rough model of the rich foliage and highly-wrought ornament of those Corinthian capitals I have seen in Greece, especially those of the temple of Jupiter Olympius, which must be acknowledged as the finest specimens in existence; but compared with them, this seems almost a different order of architecture. The base appears much too high, and out of proportion, even for a single column ; it is fourteen feet in breadth, and stands upon a corresponding platform of mason-work, which was so much undermined, as to threaten its downfall some years ago, but it has since been repaired. The exact height of the top of the pillar from the ground, is now ascertained to be ninety feet.
It is interesting to trace back the exact condition of such monuments as this for a series of years, as described to us by the early travellers and historians. Such inquiries materially assist the efforts of the antiquary in arriving at any well grounded supposition as to their use and origin; and they also enable us to form a just opinion as to the merits and discoveries (so called) of subsequent chroniclers. It is known to most persons versed in Egyptian antiquities, that the base of Pompey's pillar stands upon a block of marble, of about four feet square, round which there is a band of solid masonry, equal in circumference to the size of the base. This masonry was formerly composed of fragments of obelisks and broken ornaments, containing hieroglyphics and inscriptions on their sides-collected, in all probability, from the ruins of the ancient city of Alexandria. Denon, the French savant, and a celebrated English traveller of the same period, adduce these fragments of the ancient city, and the hieroglyphics they contain, as a proof of 182
the modernness of the column. With due deference to these learned authors, I do not think that this is a sufficient proof against its antiquity; for it appears that, in 1610, the whole mass was supported or balanced upon the centre square stone, and not surrounded by those hieroglyphic tablets.
“Without the walls," says Sandys, in allusion to the granite of Cleopatra's needle, “on the south-west side of the city, on a little hill, stands a column of the same, all of one stone, sixtyeight palms high, and thirty-six in compass-set upon a square cube, (and, which is to be wondered at,) not half so large as the foot of the pillar, called by the Arabians, Hemadesleor, which is the column of the Arabians.”
From time to time, this surrounding masonry has been removed in search of treasure. It was restored after the date of Sandy's visit; it was in a dilapidated state when Pococke first saw it; who writes, “When I returned a second time to Alexandria, this part was repaired in such a manner, that the lower is made a seat for the people to sit on ; and so it is (i. e. the central supporting stone,) no more to be seen in its ancient state.” At the date of the British expedition to Egypt, it was again in a ruined state, and has been twice renewed since; so that the stones forming the support of the basement can offer no decided proof as to the date when this monument, called Pompey's Pillar, was erected.
A general mistake exists in supposing that there are no hieroglyphics upon the shaft of Pompey's pillar. I regret to say, that it is now nearly covered with them, and although the greater number are as unintelligible as those of Cleopatra's needles, yet the frequent repetition of the H. M. S. attest the scientific research of the Mids and Reefers touching at Alexandria. Young gentlemen of the royal navy, let me ask in sober earnestness, in what consists the honour and glory of having your names emblazoned upon every post and pillar, in characters such as those in which Morrison's pills or Warren's blacking is set forth upon a dead wall in the neighbourhood of London ? In England I am sure you would not, even if you dared, deface with black paint, in letters a foot long, any of our national monuments. It is not your calling ; leave it to the sign-painters, or some of the travelling bagmen of Leeds or Manchester. The long tried worth-the unflinching courage-the gallantry, and noble daring of those
proud bulwarks of Britain's liberties, whose names you have bedaubed upon this and other objects of antiquity throughout the Mediterranean, require no such homage to their greatness. In one of the efforts made to place a name high up on the pillar, the paint-pot upset, and has disfigured it very much.
A few Greeks had clambered to the top, by means of a rickety grass-rope ladder; they had fastened a dirty bit of paper to the base, stating, that gentlemen travellers would be insured a perfectly safe ascent for the sum of half a dollar. It was an amusement that none of our party were inclined to indulge in. Those at the top had hoisted the Greek revolutionary flag ; strange to see it in this position in this country, and within sight of the villa of Ibrahim Basha. The French erected the cap of liberty upon it, which was afterwards removed by the British.
Quantities of fragments of different coloured marbles, and bits of polished porphyry are scattered around. In the plain beneath is the cemetery of the present city, the tombs of which are generally of mason-work, raised a couple of feet from the ground, narrow, and without any slab at top; at either end is an upright post or stele, that at the head being mostly expressive of the rank and sex of the deceased. In those erected to men, it is surmounted by a turban, such as was worn by the tribe, or descriptive of the office the person held during life, as that of Kádee, Mufti, or Memlook, &c. Those of females are without any ornament, and are only marked by the simple red cap or turboosh. On the front of the pillar is the name and station of the deceased, and also a verse of the Koorán; many of these inscriptions are beautifully executed in raised gilt letters, on an azure blue ground. All those pillars, and many of the tombs themselves are of white marble. A great number of them have a small open space in the centre of the top of the tomb, in which is planted a root of the aloe, which from its longevity, as well as its requiring so little sustenance, is considered a type of immortality, besides being believed by the Mooslims to be an infallible antidote against the evil eye, which they greatly dread, imagining that its power extends as well over the dead as the living. Others of the higher orders have small cupolas, *
* Dr. Shaw derives the word cupola from the Arabic term cubbha, which is applied to those small domes in Barbary.
supported by corner pillars erected over them; and all are kept scrupulously clean and white-washed. I did not see any marabuts or tombs of saints among them ; but each family mausoleum was enclosed by a low wall, and the different vaults were arranged side by side. The tombs of all those who had suffered decapitation were without any turban or ornament at top, and so their restingplaces were easily distinguished. As we passed along, we met several funerals of the lower orders ; the body being carried upon a rude bier without any coffin, and attended by about a dozen people. · On our return to the city, we passed a group of women of the lowest class, proceeding in procession to the house of mourning, in number about thirty, walking two and two, clapping their hands together, and chanting a funeral dirge, not unlike the keenen, or wild Irish cry. Many of them had disfigured their arms and faces and naked breasts with mud, a practice related by Herodotus as in use among the Egyptian women of his day. It is to this also that in all probability the Scriptures so often refer, when describing sackcloth and ashes as typical of mourning.
Shortly after our arrival, we were waited upon one morning by the surveyor of the navy, Mohammed Effendi, whose embossed card ! in the latest London fashion, was certainly more than we expected to have found in Egypt. He was an exceedingly intelligent man, was educated in some of the best dock-yards in England, and had so far overcome the prejudices of Islamism, as to marry one of our countrywomen.
Attended by this gentleman, we visited the dock-yard and arsenal, which must certainly be admitted to be the greatest national undertaking of the present Basha ; and, taken in connection with the cannon foundry and arms manufactory at Cairo, shows much of returning civilization, and of the introduction (perhaps we should say, revival) of the arts in this extraordinary country. Of all the modern works of Egypt, this is that best worth seeing, and is an object of much interest, even to those more conversant with naval works; for, with the exception of the three higher powers, I doubt whether any of the European states could exhibit a finer establishment of the kind. We were first ushered into an office near the entrance, where the commissioners of the dock-yard were seated cross-legged on a deewan. They were exceedingly courteous, as, indeed, we invariably found
the higher classes of Egyptian Mooslims. Coffee was presented, in small china cups holding about a third of one of ours, not on a tray, but handed to each individual by a separate servant, in a small silver stand, (zurf, ) exactly like an egg-cup, which I always found very serviceable ; as the cups are so hot, one is in great danger of burning their fingers. The coffee is far superior to that commonly used by us; it is drank without cream or sugar, boiling hot, and, as they never strain it, it is thick as mud ; yet it has a most delicious fragrance. Who will say that it is not more grateful and more rational, while it is fully as refreshing, and a much less injurious beverage than those intoxicating liquors in use in our northern countries ?
In this, my first visit into polite society in the east, I was surprised at seeing each of the Mooslims present make the usual salutation, by touching the forehead with the tips of the righthand fingers, on receiving their coffee. At first, I imagined that it applied to the servant ; but I afterwards learned, that it is intended for the master of the house, who then returns it. To one another, their salute is peculiarly easy and graceful; they generally approach the open hand to the lips, and then touch the forehead; but to an intimate friend or superior, the salutation is, by laying the hand first upon the breast, and then touching the lips and forehead, accompanied by a gentle inclination of the body forward.
Their dress was remarkably handsome. The outer cloak or beneesh of brown or drab cloth, trimmed with sable, fell in loose folds upon the deewan, where they sat cross-legged, leaving their red, pointed slippers on the floor beneath; their under garment of striped silk was confined round the waist by a splendid Cashmere shawl, in which was placed the ink-horn*—the badge of their profession; and the turban, bold, yet graceful, of white spotted muslin, over-shadowed a face, handsome, expressive, and intellectual. The eyes of all those men were of exceeding brilliancy, and their long silky beards gave a dignity to their appearance, such as is not to be found in the trim, well-shaven features of the European. Some few Christians, who were engaged in the office,
* “ The writer's ink-horn by his side."--Ezek. ix.