Philae, - Pearl Of The Nile.
One of the exterior statues is mutilated beyond recognition, but all of them represented the same monarch. The position of the hands on the knees is characteristic of most royal Egyptian statues, and is symbolic of Rameses resting after his conquest of the then known world. It is not strange that the Egyptians gave to him the title, "King of Kings," for he was really the greatest conqueror of antiquity, prior to the era of Greece and Rome. He was apparently a favorite of fortune, living to the age of eighty-seven, and ruling Egypt for no less than sixty-seven years. It was his passion to erect magnificent temples, and place in front of them some of those obelisks and statues which, after all they have survived, are still the marvel of the world. Nor were these ornamental works the only monuments which Rameses bequeathed to Egypt, for he caused the stony desert to be pierced in various places with artesian wells; he finished a canal connecting the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, more than three thousand years before De Lesseps followed in his footsteps; while, as a warrior, he had conquered Syria and seized upon the fortress of Jerusalem more than a hundred years before the Israelites (led out from Egypt during the reign of his successor) set foot upon the soil of Palestine.
But to appreciate adequately the vastness of these statues at Abou-Simbel, we should examine them singly. Each is no less than sixty-six feet high, and its forefinger is a yard in length. If the figure stood erect, it would reach an altitude of nearly eighty-three feet. A group of travelers standing on its lap looks like a swarm of insects resting on its surface. The lower half of the leg measures twenty feet from knee to heel. The destruction of one of these statues was effected more than two thousand years ago by foreign conquerors; but what a comment upon human nature it is, that such sublime monuments, after enduring for so many ages, should now, without the excuse of foreign conquest, be disgracefully mutilated by modern travelers, who (itching for notoriety) have placed upon these ruins their names, and those of the towns unfortunate enough to be their birthplaces. Some of these carvings, in letters a foot in length, have been actually filled in with paint! A few years ago a traveler took a plaster cast of one of the heads, and left it besmeared with whitewash, which he had not the decency to efface. Alas! almost all of Egypt's unique treasures have suffered from the wanton depredations of man. Not long ago a party of tourists visited the grand old obelisk at Heli-opolis, which was already ancient when Abraham made his journey into Egypt, and were found knocking pieces out of it with an axe! When one hears of such vandalism, one can agree with Douglas Jerrold, who, while arguing that every kind of business had its pleasant side, remarked: "If I were an undertaker, I know of several persons whom I could work for with considerable satisfaction."
A Nubian Woman.
Part Of One Statue.
The Statues Of Rameses II.
The most impressive view of Abou-Simbel is that which reveals these seated statues from a distance, in profile. Gigantic as their features are, they nevertheless possess a serene, majestic beauty, which becomes marvelous when we reflect that these colossal figures were hewn directly from the face of the mountain. Surely such forms and features, cut thus from the natural rock, were the work of men whose genius was akin to that of Michael Angelo. There was to me something indescribably-weird and unearthly in their solemn faces forever gazing at the river, with an expression which has not changed while ages have flowed on beneath them, like the stream itself. They look as if they had the power to rise, if they desired, and tell us of the awful mysteries on which their lips are sealed.
Notwithstanding the marvelous character of the ruins of the Upper Nile, nothing in Egypt so appeals to our imagination and enthusiasm as those incomparable memorials of the Pharaohs, - the Pyramids and Sphinx. They are easily accessible from Cairo, as a fine carriage-road now leads almost to their base. On my first visit to them, more than a score of years ago, the Arabs who infest their vicinity were by no means as well disciplined as they are to-day. No sooner had we reached the edge of the desert, than we were assailed by numbers of vociferous Bedouins, who, in their long white gowns, resembled African somnambulists. All clamored fiercely for the privilege of conducting us to the summit of the Great Pyramid; but our guide treated them with indifference, until we were surrounded by perhaps sixty men, who shouted and gesticulated as if they were demented. Then he called upon the chief of these madmen to appoint two for each of us. This was finally done amid the wildest confusion. The rejected men acted like petulant children, lying down in the sand, throwing it into the air, howling, and doing other foolish acts indicative of their chagrin.