« PreviousContinue »
and the remains of constructed edifices, filled the area to which the
These ruins, which have acquired the name of Wadi Moosa, from that of a village in their vicinity, are the wreck of the city of Petra, which, in the time of Augustus Cæsar, was the residence of a monarch, and the capital of Arabia Petræa. The country was conquered by Trajan, and annexed by him to the province of Palestine. In more recent times, Baldwin I, king of Jerusalem, having made himself also master of Petra, gave it the name of the Royal Mountain.
The travellers having gratified their wondet with the view of these stupendous works, went forward to Mount Hor, which they ascended, and viewed a building on the top containing the tomb of Aaron; a simple stone monument, which an aged Arab shows to the pilgrims. Having remained in this spot, consecrated by such great antiquity, they returned next morning, and again explored other portions of the ruins of Petra; after which they went back to Karrac. They then turned their attention to other undescribed ruins, of which they had received some account from the Arabs; and finally, proceeded to view those of yerrasch, which greatly exceed in magnitude and beauty those of Palmyra.
A grand colonnade runs from the eastern to the western gates of the city, formed on both sides of marble columns of the Corinthian order, and terminating in a semi-circle of sixty pillars of the Ionic order, and crossed by another colonnade running north and south. At the western extremity stands a theatre, of which the proscenium remains so entire, that it may be described as almost in a state of undecayed beauty Two superb amphitheatres of marble, three glorious temples, and the ruins of gorgeous palaces, with fragments of sculpture and inscriptions, mingled together, form an aggregate of ancient elegance, which surpasses all that popery has spared of the former grandeur of Rome.
From the same source that we collected these brief conversa. tional notices, we have received a literal translation of a Bedoueen love-song, that would even furnish ideas of delight to the elegant author of Lalla Rookh.
Bedoueen Love-Song. The morning star has not yet appeared, nor the beams of the moon retired; nor has the dew yet begun to rise from the valley, but my soul beholds my love. She comes in white robes fairer than the lower of the jessamine: her breath is sweeter than new milk, and her eyes sparkle like those of the gazelle when the day is falling. How weary is the time till she comes. Her tardy steps fill my bosom with throbbings. Come, fairest of beauty, come, is my cry till she appears.
We trust that the narratives of these bold and adventurous researches, will not be limited to the description of the remains of antiquity; objects to which the generality of English travellers have been too apt to pay exclusive attention: for, although consi
derable light has been thrown on the manners of the Arabs, by the members of the Roman Propaganda, as well as by the missionaries of the Jesuits, we are still greatly in want of some liberal account of the Arabic mind. The tales of Arabia are well known to all readers as the most amusing fictions which have hitherto been pro duced; and Arabian discoveries in science, are also very surprising instances of intellectual acumen. It is therefore greatly to be desired, that we should obtain some account of their modes of thinking, and of their opinions on other subjects than the dogmas of religious faith, or their usages in war.
The attention of the public has recently been drawn in an unusual degree to the mysteries of Egypt, by the result of Belzoni's enterprising and indefatigable research. We are, however, stil greatly in want of a circumstantial account of the extent of his discoveries, as well as of some curious particulars respecting different castes of the inhabitants: we use the term in its strictest oriental signification. The same source that has supplied us with the interesting conversational notices of the antiquities of Arabia, has furnished the facts which constitute the basis of the following observations:
It has been ascertained that, between the first and second cataracts of the Nile, there is a caste of the inhabitants, who do not consider themselves as the aborigines of the country. They do not resemble the other inhabitants in appearance, and they not only possess many customs peculiar to themselves, but even speak a language which has no affinity to that of Arabic; speaking also that language, but in a broken and rude dialect. This people possess a tradition among them, that their ancestors were led from their homes by a great king, with whom they conquered the country, and were left behind to keep it in possession; and they look forward to their native king coming again, and resuming his authority.
A classical reader would be apt, at first sight, to say that this people are the descendants of the troops of Cambyses; but they de not resemble the Persians in appearance, nor indeed any of the Asiatic nations. By the account that we have received, they are more like the Caffrees, or that idolatrous race which possess the greatest part of southern Africa; who, although described by the professors of the Mahomedan religion under that name, yet in reality constitute a great variety of nations, some of which are of no des picable power. We are therefore disposed to think, that this unknown race are of Ethiopian descent: at the same time, it must be confessed that, upon the epoch to which they refer their arrival in Egypt, authentic history throws but very little light,
The latest great invasion of Egypt from southern Africa, was about the year of Rome 725, when Ælius Gallus, having withdrawn most of the Roman forces from that province in order to invade Arabia, Candace, the queen of Ethiopia, made an irruption, with a numerous army, into she district of Thebais; leading bet traope, according to Dio, in person. She ravaged all the country: took Syene, and the islands of the Nile, Elephantine, and Phila, and made three Roman cohorts prisoners. She then retired towards her own territory, but was pursued by Petronius, the Ro man governor, and defeated with great slaughter. It could not, therefore, be at this period, that these aliens settled in Egypt, and their origin must be ascribed to a much higher antiquity.
Besides the great excavated temple of Ysambiel, which Belzoni has laid open, four gigantic sitting statues have been discovered, sculptured in the adjacent rocks, and of the enormous proportions of more than one hundred feet in height.
In the island of Phila, are the unfinished remains of atemple, which tends to throw a considerable light on the mode of construction used in those everlasting edifices which the ancient Egyptians, under the influence so far of good taste, raised to their gods. It appears, that their architects polished at first only four sides of those enormous masses of stone which they employed; and, having laid them together, and thus completed the edifice in the rough, as it may be aptly termed, then polished and sculptured the surfaces of the walls. The same method was adopted by the French in the ornamental parts of Versailles.
Three distinct classes of architecture are evidently discernible in the Egyptian monuments; for, under this denomination, the antiquities of Nubia may be included. The rudest, the greatest, and therefore perhaps the oldest, are those of Lower Egypt,—the companions and cotemporaries of the pyramids. The structures of Upper Egypt, and in the vicinity of the first cataract, are works of more skill; and, though inheriting the same strong and bold features, possess a more juvenile appearance. The ruins, in Nubia, are of a still more elegant species, combining with the same characteristics a feminine cast, as compared with the male-muscularity of the architecture of Egypt.
We should not omit to mention here, that the head, said to be that of Memnon, now in the British Museum, did not belong to that celebrated statue. The real head of Memnon is so defaced as Bot to be worth the trouble of sending home, even if it were easily practicable, for it has been computed to weigh about four hundred and fifty tons. We are likely soon, however, to be gratified with the possession of the foot of Memnon, which is about two yards in length; and, among other curiosities, we also understand, the entire hand and arm of the same statue to which the gigantic fist already in the museum belongs, may soon be expected in Britain.
About two days' journey above Cairo, is a lofty insulated rock, on the top of which a Coptic monastery is situated. This singular mass, which seems strangely to have escaped the wonder-working sculptors of Egypt, is called Gibraltar, a name which it derives from the number of wild fowl that hover round it, the term in Arabic signifying the mountain of birds; and is, for the same reason, applicable to the British fortress of that name at the entrance of the Mediterranean.
· But what we regard as one of the most curious of all these discoveries, is the result of a visit lately made to the holy island of Flowers, the Coptic name of which we do not recollect; but the island is situated in the Nile, between Philæ and Elephantine. In this sequestered spot, no stranger is permitted to enter, except as a pilgrim; and the Mahomedans are not often so under the influ. ence of curiosity, as to make religious pretexts for gratifying it. Here a number of unburied mummies are still to be seen, without coffins, and placed only in their cearments, as if denied the rights of sepulture. We do therefore conceive, that it was from the custom of burying the good in this island, that the story of Charon, and the ferrying of the river Styx, took its rise. Hitherto the fable has been supposed to refer to an island in the lake Mareotes; but the circumstance of the ferry being across a river, and the constant sanctity with which the isle of Flowers has been regarded, points it out, in our opinion, as more likely to have been the place. Besides, the unsepultured coffinless mummies, would seem to indicate a posthumous adjudication of the merits of the persons, and that to these, in particular, the judgment had not been favourable.
Art. III.--Historic Doubts relative to Napoleon Bonaparte.
8vo. pp. 48. Oxford, 1819.
(From the Eclectic Review.] THIS is a well managed and legitimate burlesque of Hume's
scepticism. After adverting to the extraordinary tales current among us relative to this Napoleon Bonaparte, and to the wide discrepancies of opinion, of which his character and actions are the subjects, the writer remarks:
'In the midst of these controversies the preliminary question, concerning the existence of this extraordinary personage, seems never to have occurred to any one as a matter of doubt; and to show even the smallest hesitation in admitting it, would probably be regarded as an excess of scepticism, on the ground that this point has always been taken for granted by the disputants on all sides, being indeed implied by the very nature of their disputes. But is it in fact found that undisputed points are always such as have been the most carefully examined as to the evidence on which they rest? that facts or principles which are taken for granted, without controversy, as the common basis of opposite opinions, are always themselves established on sufficient grounds? On the contrary, is not any such fundamental point, from the very circumstance of its being taken for granted at once, and the attention drawn off to some other question, likely to be admitted on insufficient evidence, and the flaws in that evidence overlooked? Experience will teach us that such instances often occur: witness the well-known anecdote of the Royal Society; to whom king Charles
II proposed as a question, whence it is that a vessel of water receives no addition of weight from a live fish being put into it, though it does if the fish be dead. Various solutions of great ingenuity were proposed, discussed, objected to, and defended; nor was it till they had been long bewildered in the inquiry that it occurred to them to try the experiment, by which they at once ascertained, that the phenomenon which they were striving to account for—which was the acknowledged basis and substratum, as it were, of their debates—had no existence but in the invention of the witty monarch.' pp. 5, 6.
The readiness with which men believe, (as Hume has remarked,) on very slight evidence, any story that pleases their imagination by its admirable and marvellous character, is utterly unwor. thy of a philosophical mind, which should rather suspend its judgment the more, in proportion to the strangeness of the account, and yield to none but the most decisive and unimpeachable proofs.
Let it then he allowed us, as is surely reasonable, just to inquire, with respect to the extraordinary story I have been speak. ing of, on what evidence we believe it. We shall be told that it is notorious; i.e. in plain English, it is very much talked about: but as the generality of those who talk about Bonaparte do not even pretend to speak from their own authority, but merely to repeat what they have casually heard, we cannot reckon them as in any degree witnesses, but must allow ninety-nine hundredths of what we are told to be mere hear-say, which would not be at all the more worthy of credit if even it were repeated by ten times as many more. As for those who profess to have personally known Napoleon Bonaparte, and to have themselves witnessed his transactions, I write not for them: if any such there be, who are inwardly conscious of the truth of all they relate, I have nothing to say to them, but to beg that they will be tolerant and charitable towards their neighbours, who have not the same means of ascertaining the truth, and who may well be excused for remaining doubtful about such extraordinary events, till most unanswerable proofs shall be adduced.' pp. 8, 9.
It is recommended, however, that we trace up this hear-say evidence, as far as we are able, towards its source.
• Most persons would refer to the newspapers as the authority from which their knowledge on the subject was derived; so that, generally speaking, we may say, it is on the testimony of the newspapers that men believe in the existence and exploits of Napoleon Bonaparte.' p. 9.
But the authority of this newspaper evidence may be questioned; first, as to the means the editors have possessed of gaining correct information; secondly, as to the interest they may have in concealing truth, or propagating falsehood; and, thirdly, as to the agreement of their testimony.