« הקודםהמשך »
They seemed to study the taste of the purchaser, for at one time seeing me examine some bits of linen, they all rushed out, collected it in armfuls, and coming in one by one, each held out his portion, crying, “Buckshese.” At another time bones and pieces of mummies were the articles in demand ; and finding that I had no paras, or small copper coin, they brought each article separately, in hopes of obtaining a piaster. I endeavoured by every possible means to get rid of my tormentors, but all to no purpose; they continued to increase to upwards of twenty, and fearful of losing sight of me for a moment, and so giving up even the chance of reward, they sent into the village to get themselves some bread. If I mentioned the name of Mohammad Alee, they all bowed the head, but none stirred to go. If I turned them out by force, it was but to see them in a few minutes come creeping in again by some of the different holes and crannies of this many-chambered sepulchre; and if I walked out myself, or turned suddenly round, some wily Arab whispered in my ear, “Buckshese,” and held out some foolish, valueless article for my inspection. This never-ceasing theme of Eastern cupidity is, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the first word a European hears on landing, and it continues to ring in his ears till he leaves the country. If you ask a question, buckshese is demanded; no bargain is concluded without it—nay, the very appearance of an Englishman is enough to make the young children run out and cry “Buckshese.” I verily believe it is the first word taught in lisping childhood, and, like the obolus of the Roman, it is the last thing in their mouths. They will do any thing for, and nothing without it. An old Arab proverb says, “Give a Turk money with one hand, and he will let you pluck out his eyes with the other.”
This tomb, which is the usual resting-place of travellers visiting Sackara, and called by the Arabs Beer-dor-etho, is of great extent, having many series of chambers, with upright niches for the bodies, and also sarcophagi of scienitic granite; but there are no hieroglyphics in it. Immediately over where I had taken up my abode, there was an elliptic arch, cut in the stone, between two of the upright posts; but that the Egyptians were acquainted with the arch, is now so well known, that I need not dwell
the circumstance here, as the labours of Wilkinson and Belzoni have put it beyond question.
It was now near sun-down; I walked forth, and as I sat upon
THE SITE OF MEMPHIS.
one of the adjoining hillocks that crown this range of rock, while Paulo was preparing my coffee, I enjoyed the splendid picture that lay stretched beneath me, and mused upon the days of the past—till fancy conjured up the recollection of far distant eras, and gave shape, form, and life itself to the undulating line of gray sand that occupied the space between me and the glowing, fertile plain of Fayoum. This space, now so lone and desolate, was once crowded with the edifices, and noisy with the people of Memphis.
Notwithstanding the learned descriptions, as to the site of this vast city, by the savans of both ancient and modern times, the unpretending traveller who sits thus, with a view commanding the whole range of country, and the quotations of Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Strabo, fresh in his memory, may be able to advance an opinion as to its probable situation. If we consult the works of the last two centuries we find them disagree, some placing it at Geza; others, and those the most numerous, at Metraheny, a village a few miles further up the Nile than Sackara, and near to the pyramids of Dashour, which were then in sight, and rising like so many huge tents or pavilions out of the desert. It appears to me that Memphis stood not exactly at either of those two places, but lay along the whole length of the pyramids—extending from Dashour down to Geza, which latter it did not quite reach, as Pliny tells us the pyramids (evidently the large ones) were between Memphis and the Delta, one league from the Nile, two from Memphis, and near the village of Busiris. Herodotus says, that to reach Memphis from Naucratis they had to pass by the pyramids; and Strabo speaks of it as eleven miles from the Delta, and five from the heights on which the pyramids are built. But whatever discrepancy may occur among writers, the vicinity of these tombs and the pyramids, which most, antiquarians are now agreed have had a sepulchral use, ought to decide the question. The French, in their Description de l' Egypt, boast of a great discovery, and will fix the place at Metrahaine, because Citizen Contelle found there the broken wrist of a statue forty-five feet high !! although Denon says“The multitude of pyramids scattered over the district of Sackara, the plain of the monks, and the caves of the ibis, all prove
that this territory was the necropolis to the south of Memphis, and that the village opposite to this, in which the pyramids of Geza are situated, was another necropolis, or city of the dead, which
REFLECTIONS ON ITS DESTRUCTION."
formed the northern extremity of Memphis, and by these we may measure the extent of the ancient city.” The contiguity to the lake Meris, the canal, and barrier mentioned by Savary, Pococke, Clarke, Wilkinson, and other travellers, as proving its site to be Metraheny, only show that it was in the neighbourhood, without being able to fix an exact locality for this immense metropolis, which, as the country was narrow, must have been a long city. And the testimony as to its being eighteen miles in circumference, it is more than probable meant its length, which will alone accord with the extent occupied by the pyramids, beginning from the southern side of Geza to beyond Metraheny ;-and the vicinity of these tombs and pyramids is no doubt that alluded to by the prophet Hosea, who, speaking of the destruction of the Hebrews, says, “Egypt shall fatten them up, and Memphis shall bury them.”— Hosea ix. 6.
It was here the Pharaohs reigned; it was here a Joseph ruled, and an Herodotus was initiated into the Egyptian mysteries. It was here a Sesostris and a Rameses held their court; here, perhaps within my view, were executed those signs and wonders when the Nile, now glancing in the sunbeams, ran thick and red with blood, as the rod of the Israelitish law-giver was stretched over its dark waters ; here plague and pestilence swept off millions, and those very rocks and caves that now surround me, once flung back the midnight cry that rose throughout the land, when the first-born of Egypt were smitten by the angel of destruction, who breathed his deadly mandate on the host of Pharaoh ; and farther on the mental diorama moves, when Israel's bond-children rose to go, and countless numbers crowded the streets, laden with the spoil of their Egyptian lords; and lastly came, in a still more recent age, the King Bokhtnasr, to avenge the wrongs of Judah, and receive the reward of conquest performed in another and a distant land ; and a small volume which lay before me, printed in a far distant isle, and in a language then unknown, tells me all this.-Ezekiel xxix. 18–20.
But all that was great or grand of Memphis is no more; the sand rolls its destructive wave along the ground whereon it stood, and Egypt lies beyond, its noble river margined by tall quivering palms; the hamlet's rustic music, the jackal's evening whine, and the pelican's plaintive note, are the only sounds that wake the stillness of this sequestered spot.
When I re-entered the cave, I found the Arabs had returned with the mummy-pots, several of which I opened-their contents I found in a state of great decay, and lighted a fire with—they burned with a bright flame, and peculiarly aromatic smell. The light thus created illumed the whole cave, and fell full upon
the forms of the Arabs scattered through its gloomy chambers--some stretched in sleep, some in the act of prayer* at a little distance from the rest, and others squatted round the fire; and the glare now thrown back from their dark sun-burnt faces, formed altogether a picture such as pencil might depict, but pen is inadequate to describe. Finding I could not dispossess the Arabs, who, to say the truth, seemed to have a much better right to the place than I had, I determined to make the most of them ; some I employed in thinning a few hieroglyphic tablets, left by the Frenchman, to make them more easily transportable to Alexandria ; others occasionally entertained us with some wild song; and again an eastern tale was told and translated to me by the Maltese, as we sat smoking our pipes round the fire, composed of the bits of wood that formed the coffins of the people of ancient Egypt.
It is remarkable how the superstitions and prejudices of countries and people vary. How few English or Irish of the lower orders would like to inhabit tombs, surrounded by the mouldering remains of human bodies, as the Arabs of Sackara do!
It was now late, and I settled to rest in a sheltered corner; some time elapsed, however, ere I could procure sleep; the peculiar novelty of my situation, the faint glimmering of light from the expiring fire, the group of curious beings I was surrounded by, and the remembrance of the people and the era that erected this sepulchral hall, filled my mind, and long as memory lasts that scene shall never fade; but bodily exhaustion will overcome even
* It is curious that the Mohammadans practise a deception on themselves similar to that of birds. Every one has remarked that sparrows and other small birds, in dry weather, roll themselves in the dust of the road, and perform with their wings the action of waslıing, by throwing the dust upon their backs, and ruffling up their feathers. Here, in like manner, when the Arabs had no water at hand, they used the dry sand and dust in the manner they perform the ablution before and after prayer, sprinkling it over the head, back of the neck, beard, and arms, &c.
such stirring thoughts; and I do not think I ever enjoyed a more peaceful slumber, or awoke more refreshed than next morning.
At an early hour I set forward to rejoin my friends at Geza, and having sent two of the donkeys round by the plain with the antiquities and baggage, I proceeded with Paulo and the Arab Alee to the mummy-pits of the sacred animals. Having arrived at the place so famed in travel and in Egyptian mythology, my mortification was great to find we had forgotten the lights ; nevertheless my curiosity got the better of my fears, and as I could not see it, I resolved to feel my way into it, and bring away some of the urns containing the embalmed ibises.
An arch cut out of the rock led into a small apartment or shrine, in the centre of the floor of which a square hole, about the size of a large chimney, descended perpendicularly to the sepulchres of the animals. Holes cut in the sides of this passage enabled us to get down to a low, narrow, and perfectly dark vault, the commencement of a series of chambers cut in the rock, about thirty feet below the surface, and extending a great way on all sides. I should say as much as half an acre has been yet opened, and no possible conjecture can be made as to how far it may extend beyond where the ibis-pots now commence. I was here exposed to a most extraordinary scene, and such as few explorers of catacombs have gone through, or I would advise to try.
All was utter blackness; but Alee, who had left all his garments above, took me by the hand, and led me in a stooping posture some way amidst broken pots, sharp stones, and heaps of rubbish, that sunk under us at every step ; then placing me on my face, at a particularly narrow part of the gallery, he assumed a similar snake-like posture himself, and by a vermicular motion, and keeping hold of his legs, I contrived to scramble through a burrow of sand and sharp bits of pottery, frequently scraping my back against the roof. Sometimes my guide would leave me, and I could hear him puffing and blowing like a porpoise, as he scratched out the passage, and groped through the sand like a rabbit for my admittance. This continued through many windings, for upwards of a quarter of an hour, and again I was on the point of returning, as half-suffocated with heat and exertion, and choked with sand, I lay panting in some gloomy corner, while Alee was examining the next turn. I do not think in all my travels I ever felt the same strong sensation of being in an