Egypt was a rich country, and many persons were engaged in creating luxuries for the wealthy. Goldsmiths and lapidaries produced beautiful jewelry. Sculptors carved stone and ivory into exquisite figurines and vessels. Apothecaries made ointments, lotions, and perfumes, and craftsmen shaped delicate alabaster vials to contain them.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Egypt was a rich country, and many persons were engaged in creating luxuries for the wealthy. Goldsmiths and lapidaries produced beautiful jewelry. Sculptors carved stone and ivory into exquisite figurines and vessels. Apothecaries made ointments, lotions, and perfumes, and craftsmen shaped delicate alabaster vials to contain them.
About 3100 B.C. a king of Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt and united the Two Lands. According to tradition, the king was Menes, but a carved inscription names Narmer as the conqueror.
Rulers had several names, however, and Menes and Narmer may have been the same person.
The conqueror is reckoned as the founder of Dynasty I. Memphis was founded as the capital of the united country.
The king came to be called the pharaoh. He was considered an incarnation of the god Horus. Theoretically, he owned all the land and had complete power over all affairs, both civil and religious.
Ancient man lived first by hunting and gathering wild foods. In the Nile Valley he learned very early to grow grain crops and to raise livestock.
The country divided naturally into two parts.
There was also some contact with neighboring countries.
For trade goods the Egyptians had many products---salt from the shallow waters of the Delta; beads of glass, which they discovered how to make about 4000 B.C.; papyrus stalks for rope, baskets, and a writing material called papyrus; linen woven from the native flax; jewelry made of the gold and gemstones found in the Eastern Desert.
Monarchy developed as the system of government in each of the Two Lands, and a struggle for supremacy began. Apparently Lower Egypt gained control briefly about 3400 B.C.
Excavation of tombs and temples produced paintings, sculptures, inscriptions, and artifacts that gave a detailed picture of life in ancient Egypt.
Most of Egypt's ancient history is expressed in terms of numbered dynasties (ruling houses). The three periods of greatest development are called the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom
More than 3,000 years before the Christian Era, a highly developed civilization existed in Egypt.
The country at that time consisted of little more than the valley and delta of the Nile River.
It was one of the great powers of the ancient Middle East, retaining its dominant position for more than 2,000 years---many times longer than did other strong kingdoms that rose in that part of the world.
When Egyptian antiquities, preserved by the dry climate and isolation of their desert locations, first became known to outsiders in modern times, it was believed that the world's earliest civilization had evolved in Egypt.
As scholars learned more of ancient history, they found that some important early developments apparently had originated in neighboring lands, such as Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and Palestine.
However, Egyptian achievements in many fields of activity stand as milestones in the history of civilization.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The Egyptians continued to construct taller and taller pyramids and started smoothing out the jagged edges of stepped pyramids. One of the earliest attempts was the Meidum pyramid, in 2570 B.C. It had seven steps progressing to eight, but
Pyramid designers learned that if pyramids were going to be higher and have steeper slopes, their bases needed to be wider.
Unsatisfied with the Bent Pyramid, Sneferu ordered another pyramid at Dahshur. The designers chose a better foundation and made this pyramid the same height as the Bent Pyramid, but with a wider base and a shallower angle. The Red Pyramid was completed in 2560 B.C.
The pyramids were built of limestone, granite, basalt, gypsum (mortar), and baked mud bricks. Limestone blocks were quarried at Giza and possibly other sites. Granite likely came from upriver at Aswan.
Alabaster came from Luxor and basalt from the Fayoum depression
Iron tools were not available, so workers used copper and stone-cutting tools to carve out the blocks in the quarries. They then used levers to move the stone blocks away from the quarry site.
Transporting building materials
Again, no one knows how laborers were able to get the 2.5-ton stone blocks from the quarries to the building site. Wheels wouldn't have been useful on the desert sand and gravel, so they most likely dragged the blocks with wooden sleds and ropes.
Some think that workers used quarter-circle wooden sleds that fit around a rectangular block. They attached the sleds to the block, and a crew of about eight men rolled them along the ground, much like rolling a keg of beer. Others say the laborers used wooden rollers.
For long-distance transport, the blocks were loaded on barges and transported down the Nile. Workers dug canals to get the barges nearer to the site
Egyptologists estimate that workers placed about 300 stones a day during pyramid construction. Several theories -- lever systems, ramps and kites, for example -- attempt to explain how the huge blocks got into place. Those in the know generally accept the ramp idea, but they debate the exact ramp configurations.
The ramps could have been long and straight, perpendicular to the sides or wrapped around the core.
While laborers placed stones in the core, stone cutters were making the chambers, passageways and shafts in the pyramid's interior. Artists inscribed the designs that adorned the chamber walls. Let's take a closer look at the workers who built the pyramids.
The Greek historian Herodotus described the building of Khufu's pyramid by more than 100,000 slaves. Hollywood seized upon this image of slaves and their taskmasters in movies like "The Ten Commandments." But when Harvard archaeologist Mark Lehner led an expedition to uncover clues about the people who built the pyramids, he found no evidence of housing for such a large population. Instead, his group discovered housing and food storage places for small gangs of workers.
It appears that at any one time about 2,000 workers were on site, divided into two large divisions and smaller groups of about 200 men. The evidence indicates that they were probably paid and well fed. The working groups were periodically rotated over the years of pyramid construction, and the total workforce may have been about 30,000 [source: Harvard Magazine].
Pyramid building stopped in Egypt long ago. When the Spanish conquered the Aztecs and Mayans, the Central American pyramids were abandoned in the jungles until archaeologists uncovered and studied them.
Archaeological research continues on these structures today to resolve the many mysteries of how they were built
Pyramid construction is a continuously debated topic. There are no existing records of building plans or discussions of construction methods, so no one knows exactly what happened. Of course, archaeologists and engineers have plenty of ideas -- some sound far-fetched and others seem more reasonable. We'll use the Giza pyramids as an example because we have the most information on them.
Let's break the task of building the pyramids into components:
Surveying and excavation: choosing a suitable site, orienting it and preparing the foundation
Obtaining building materials: quarrying rocks or making huge stones
Transporting building materials: transporting from the quarrying site to the pyramid
Workforce logistics: finding skilled workers, feeding them and housing them
Surveying and Excavation
Egyptian builders probably made plans and models of the pyramid. The projects were overseen by the pharaoh's master builder, or vizier.
The collapse of the Meidum pyramid and the shift of the Bent Pyramid taught builders that foundations were important. Once engineers found a suitable site with a good foundation, they had to lay out the site.
The ancient Egyptians used "cubits" (the length from the tip of your middle finger to your elbow) and "hands" (the width of your hand with the thumb on the side) for measurements. They dug post holes at regular intervals (10 cubits) along the base outline and laid out the site in a grid.
Then, laborers excavated and leveled the foundation. No one is sure of the exact method, but they were extremely exact -- the base of Khufu's pyramid is level to 2 centimeters (less than an inch).
There are two main theories about leveling methods:
1) Workers poured water into the excavated site and leveled all material above the waterline. Then they lowered the water level and removed more material, continuing the process until the foundation was level.
2) The builders installed posts at regular intervals. A line, leveled with plumb bobs, was pulled taut across the posts at a reference mark to ensure alignment. Then they could excavate the foundation down to the reference marks.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu
The Giza pyramid complex, on the west bank of the Nile, is the most famous group of pyramids in the world. As we discussed earlier, the grandest pyramid was built for Sneferu's son, Khufu, in 2540 B.C. The two smaller pyramids nearby were for Khufu's son, Khafre, and his grandson, Menkaure. After this dynasty, great pyramid building stopped, probably because of the time and expense of these massive state projects.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu on the Giza plateau in Egypt is the largest and most elaborately constructed pyramid in existence, representing the most advanced aspects of pyramid construction. Khufu's pyramid has the following features:
The primary burial chamber, or king's chamber, contains the sarcophagus (tomb) that held Khufu's body, and the walls are adorned with hieroglyphs (writing) depicting various aspects of ancient Egyptian history and religion.
The smaller queen's chamber (actually a misnomer -- it was not intended for the queen) lies within the pyramid, while another unfinished secondary burial chamber lies underneath the pyramid.
Weight-relieving chambers above the king's chamber distribute the weight of the overlying rock and prevent the king's chamber from collapsing.
The gallery is a large passageway with a vaulted, corbelled ceiling (the walls are layered upward, and each vertical layer sticks out further than the one below to form a primitive arch).
Descending and ascending passageways connect various chambers to each other and to the outside.
Air shafts connect the king's chamber to the outside. They may have been designed as a way for Khufu's spirit to exit the pyramid and rise to the heavens.
The entrance was sealed after the pharaoh's body was placed inside.
White limestone rocks line the pyramid's exterior, giving it a smooth face. These rocks have eroded away over time, but we know they existed because the Pyramid of Khafre still has some on its peak.
Now, you enter the Red Pyramid for the first time.The original height of the pyramid was approximately 343 feet, while each side measured 722 feet. Modern steps have been installed to ease the ascension to the opening which is 94 feet above the ground level and between 12 - 13 feet east of center. Here is the internal layout of the pyramid, which consists of three chambers:
The first passageway descends at an angle of approx. 27 degrees at a length of approx 206 feet.
The end of the descending passageway empties into a level corridor that is approx. 25 feet long. This corridor leads into the first of three chambers.
The first chamber has a magnificent corbelled ceiling consisting of 11 courses and climbing to a height of approx. 40 feet.
At the south end of the chamber there is a opening into a second short passageway, which leads to the second chamber.
The second chamber has similar dimensions to that of the first. It is exceptional in that it is one of the only pyramid chambers to lie directly beneath the centerpoint or apex of the pyramid. At the south end, a staircase has been installed to allow access to the final chamber, the entrance for which is located approx. 25 feet above the floor of this second chamber.
The top of the stairs lead to a final passageway which is about 23 feet long. This passageway ends at the third and final chamber.
The final chamber is believed to have been the actual intended burial chamber. It's dimensions are approx. 14 x 27 feet with a final corbelled ceiling rising to a height of 50 feet. The floor has been systematically removed to a depth of 14 feet in a search for other passageways and chambers in this pyramid. No such other features were ever found.
The step pyramid of Djoser is located at Saqqara, just south of Memphis. The pyramid started out as a mastaba. It was then expanded six different times to six levels to the height of over 200 feet.
The architect credited with it's designs was the kings vizier named Imhotep.
This marks a large step in architectural design and size of buildings among early people. The pyramid was built during the 3rd dynasty around 2630 B.C.
The uniqueness of this pyramid is in the fact the angle of the wall was changed in mid-construction. It started at 55° up to 154 feet.
This third built for Menkura, grandson of Khufu, is much small then the other two on the Giza plateau. It's height is 218 feet, less than half of the other two pyramids.
The base measures 343 feet. Next to the pyramid are three much small pyramids.
The second largest pyramid is that of King Khephren, son of Khufu. This originally stood 473 feet high. It appears to be taller than Khufu's pyramid, because it is built on higher ground.
The pyramids base is about 706 feet long. In front of the pyramid is a causeway which leads to a valley temple.
Near the valley temple the famous sphinx was carved out of an outcrop of limestone.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) is one of the largest structures built by man even today, 4,500 years later. It is estimate that 2.3 million blocks averaging 2.5 tons a piece were used in the building the pyramid.
Friday, July 25, 2008
The British did not get control of Egypt until 1882, when they took on Alexandria. There were no outward changes, because by then, Britain had been ruling Egypt indirectly for many years. The British did not do anything to try to promote the Egyptian people.
Islam spread quickly, and it was not long before the Arab Islamic State was able to free Egypt from the horrible reign of terror by Rome. Amr Bin Al Aas conquered the Romans in 640 AD and Egypt was bound to Islam as its greatest supporter.
There were several different periods to the Islamic rule of Egypt:
Bahri Mameluke Era
Burgi Mameluke Era
Ottoman Turk Era
After Alexander's death the empire split into many parts, with the most powerful generals each ruling a section. Egypt eventually fell under the reign of Ptolemy. The Greeks did adopt some of the Egyptian customs and traditions, but they still spoke Greek and held onto their Greek customs.
Predynastic Period (5500 - 3100 BC)
In the Predynastic Period of Ancient Egypt, people evolved from hunters and gatherers using stone weapons into an organized central society.
Animals such as donkeys are tamed and used in daily life, not just for food. Egyptians trace their roots back to a land they called Punt. At first, Egypt is ruled by many kings, each one fighting with others to try to take over and rule more kingdoms.
Early Dynastic Period (2920 - 2650 BC)
Ancient writing came about during the Early Dynastic period in the form of hieroglyphs. By the end of the Early Dynastic period, Egypt will be unified into one kingdom and ruled by a pharaoh.The Early Dynastic period consists of dynasties 0 through 2 usually, and lasted about 300 years. There were at least 30 kings during the Early Dynastic period and some of the first monuments and temples were built at Saqqara and Abydos during this time.
Old Kingdom (2650 - 2152 BC)
The Old Kingdom contained the 3rd through the 6th Dynasties, or about 500 years of rule. The capital was in Northern Egypt, in Memphis, and the rule was held solidly by the pharaohs. During this time, some pharaohs were even considered to be gods, and were worshipped as religious figures. The first pyramids were built as step pyramids of mud bricks early in the Old Kingdom period. The true pyramids were later constructed of stone blocks, forming the ancient monuments that we still study today. Ancient doctors knew quite a lot about the body, antiseptics and surgery. Artists were showing great talent in painting, carving and sculpting.
First Intermediate Period (2150 - 1986 BC)
All of the successes of the Old Kingdom began to fall apart during the First Intermediate Period. The Nile River was flooding, causing trouble for those living off of the land there. Crops were either being washed out from the floods, or not getting any water at all due to issues with irrigation. There was widespread hunger and death. The pharaoh had lost control of the lands to the local governments, some of which were corrupt.
Middle Kingdom - (1986 - 1759 BC)
Intef and Mentuhotep from Luxor were able to reunite the broken lands under local rule into rule by one king again. This began the 11th Dynasty. While the pharaoh never really regained power over the local governments, foreign trade started to happen again. Irrigation projects were fixed and completed. In fact, it could be dangerous to be the pharaoh. One of the Middle Kingdom kings was killed by a group of local governors who wanted to keep their power. It was well into the Middle Kingdom before power was restored to the pharaoh. Egyptians enjoyed wealth again, and the population began to grow.
Second Intermediate Period (1759 - 1539 BC)
Immigration of people who weren't born as Egyptians eventually led to the Second Intermediate Period. These people moved to Egypt from their countries and set up towns and communities which followed their own rules. They did not live by the Egyptian laws, nor did they recognize the rule of the pharaoh. During the Second Intermediate Period, Egypt was ruled by a string of foreign kings. Amosis, a military general, set off wars against these foreigners and the foreign rule, and eventually put Egypt back under Egyptian control, starting up the 18th Dynasty.
New Kingdom (1539 - 1069 BC)
After the Second Intermediate Period, the kings of the 18th Dynasty vowed that they would never want to see Egypt under a foreign king again. The kings of the 18th Dynasty were fierce military generals, fighting to keep Egypt ruled by Egyptians. They fortified the Egyptian borders to ward against foreign attacks. Egypt became wealthy and powerful again, and the kings taxed all foreigners and foreign trade heavily. Foreigners were treated badly.As the 19th Dynasty started, Egypt began to fail again. Foreign relations were not good, and the foreign rulers were waging war on Egypt. The strongest king of the time was Ramses II, but after his death there were many weak kings, pushing Egypt back into political chaos and disorder.
Third Intermediate Period (1070 - 657 BC)
Upon the death of Ramses XI, a man from Tanis named Smendes assumed the throne of Egypt. No one was really in charge at this point, and there was much chaos and confusion. The 22nd Dynasty was made up of Chiefs from Libya, and they ruled at the same time as the pharaohs of the 23rd Dynasty. This political strife lasted for several hundred years.
Late Kingdom - (664 - 332 BC)
Egypt was invaded by Nubia, as the southern Nubians rushed the northern Egyptians. The Nubians won, and for a short while began to restore old Egyptian traditions and religious practices. It was not long before the Assyrians conquered the Nubians.An Egyptian leader was put on the throne and the 26th Dynasty began.Peace came about by the second or third generation of kings, but Egypt never returned to the power and glory that it once had. Egypt was then conquered by Persia, and the Egyptians suffered badly.During this time the Greeks conquered Persia, and the rule of Egypt passed to Greece. Alexander the Great was welcomed into Egypt and recognized as the liberator of Egypt from Persian rule. It would be 2000 years before another Egyptian would hold the throne of Egypt again, in the 18th Century AD.
The prehistoric times of Egypt were a very long time ago. It was the time before the pharaohs, and before anyone knew how to write.
There is not much that is known about prehistoric Egyptians. Egypt was not one big desert with a river giving it life such as it is now.
Prehistory - The time before writing
The Dynastic Period - The time of Egyptian Pharaohs or Kings
The Greco-Roman Period - Egypt ruled by Greek Kings and Roman Emperors
The Archaic Islamic Period - After the Arab Invasion
The Colonial Period - Egypt ruled by Europeans
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Egypt has a rich and fascinating history with the Middle East. Although Egypt is the best known and most researched empire in the area, the others in the Middle East contributed to its grandeur. No culture has ever began with only its own traditions and methods.
The most apparent interactions take place directly. These interactions are those that make direct connections from one culture to another.
Pharaoh is a title used to refer to the rulers of ancient Egypt in the pre-Christian and pre-Islamic period. The term 'Pharaoh', as in the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, is a Greek interpretation of the ancient Egyptian word Per-aa literally meaning 'Great House', used in the Old Kingdom as part of phrases like 'smr per-Aa' literally meaning 'Courtier of the Great House', with specific reference to the buildings of the court or palace itself. From the Twelfth Dynasty onwards the word appears in a wish formula 'Great House, may it live, prosper and be in health', but only with reference to the buildings of the court rather than the king himself. The earliest certain instance where 'Per Aa' is used specifically to address the king is in a letter to Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) in the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty (1539-1292 BC) which is addressed to 'Pharaoh, given life, prosperity and health, the Master'. From the Nineteenth Dynasty onwards it is used as regularly as hm.f 'His Majesty'.
Ancient Egypt was a long-lived ancient civilization geographically located in north-eastern Africa. It was concentrated along the middle to lower reaches of the Nile River reaching its greatest extension during the second millennium BC, which is referred to as the New Kingdom period. It reached broadly from the Nile Delta in the north, as far south as Jebel Barkal at the Fourth Cataract of the Nile. Extensions to the geographical range of ancient Egyptian civilization included, at different times, areas of the southern Levant, the Eastern Desert and the Red Sea coastline, the Sinai Peninsula and the Western Desert (focused on the several oases).
Ancient Egypt developed over at least three and a half millennia. It began with the incipient unification of Nile Valley polities around 3500 BC and is conventionally thought to have ended in 30 BC when the early Roman Empire conquered and absorbed Ptolemaic Egypt as a province. (Though this last did not represent the first period of foreign domination, the Roman period was to witness a marked, if gradual transformation in the political and religious life of the Nile Valley, effectively marking the termination of independent civilisational development).
The civilization of ancient Egypt was based on a finely balanced control, by ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, of natural and human resources, characterised primarily by controlled irrigation of the fertile Nile Valley; the mineral exploitation of the valley and surrounding desert regions; the early development of an independent writing system and literature; the organisation of collective projects; trade with surrounding regions in east / central Africa and the eastern Mediterranean; finally, military ventures that exhibited strong characteristics of imperial hegemony and territorial domination of neighbouring cultures at different periods. Motivating and organizing these activities were a socio-political and economic elite that achieved social consensus by means of an elaborate system of religious belief under the figure of a (semi)-divine ruler (usually male) from a succession of ruling dynasties, Egyptian Pharaohs, and which related to the larger world by means of polytheistic beliefs channeled through the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs
Perhaps the height of Egyptian wealth and power came between 1550 and 1290 BC. The dynasty began with the expulsion of the Palestinian Hyksos rulers from the north of Egypt by King Ahmose I - an event that may have inspired the Biblical story of the Exodus. Carrying forward the momentum of this act, subsequent rulers, in particular Thutmose III, established an empire of client states in Syria-Palestine, and dominions stretching towards the heart of Africa. War booty and lively international trade founded on Egypt's highly productive gold mines made Egypt a major world player.
Around 1350 BC, however, King Akhenaten (formerly known as Amenhotep IV - see above) turned Egypt on its head by abolishing all the nation's gods, and replacing them with a single sun-god, the Aten. The new faith was accompanied by a radical new art-style, as seen in the statuette above, currently owned by the Louvre.
The cult of Aten, however, barely survived the death of its patron. Within a few years, orthodoxy had been re-established and Akhenaten's very dynasty had died out, leaving the throne to a series of generals, the last of whom, Ramesses I, was the founder of a new 19th Dynasty.
Friday, June 27, 2008
One of the most remarkable elements of the Temple is the existence of a Nilometer, as well as a chapel, which was dedicated to the Goddess Nut.
On various walls of the Temple, there are many battle scenes, as well as the famous scene of the ritual of the Temple foundation.
The northern wall of the court shows the divine marriage of Hathor and Horus of Behdet, which was celebrated twice every year; once at the Dendera Temple and the second time at the Edfu Temple. The Journey of Hathor, from Dendera to Edfu and the vice versa, can also be seen on this wall.
Another scene, on the inside of the outer corridor of the western side of the Temple, depicts the legend of the conflict between Horus and Seth, the victory of Horus over his uncle, and his coronation to rule the world.
There are 2 consecutive vestibules; the outer one called the “hall of the offerings”, where the walls are decorated with various scenes representing the different deities and offering scenes of the different Ptolemaic Kings.
The inner vestibule was called the “rest house of the Gods”.
At the end of the Temple is the sanctuary, which includes a niche of grey granite where a statue of the God is supposed to be placed.
In front of the dais is a pedestal for the resting of the divine boat. The sanctuary is surrounded, on the outside, by 12 rooms, where many religious scenes were depicted on their walls.
Some of these rooms were used as storerooms, while the others were dedicated for different religious purposes.
This open court was open to the public and was known as the court of the offerings, being the place where people could give their offering to the statue of the God.
The Hypostyle Hall is rectangular and 12 columns support its roof. On both sides of the entrance to this hall stands a statue of Horus of Behdet, in the shape of a falcon.
An entrance beyond the 1st Hypostyle Hall accesses the Inner Hypostyle Hall. 12 columns to the right support its roof, and on the left there are 2 rooms; one was used as a library that once contained a large number of manuscripts.
Edfu Temple consists of traditional elements of Egyptian Temples of the New Kingdom, together with a few Greek elements, such as the Mamisi, which is situated to the west of the main entrance of the Temple (Mamisi means “house of the divine birth”).
It consists of an entrance, a court and chapel.
The walls of the mamisi are decorated with scenes showing the story of the divine birth of Horus the child, in the presence of the Goddess Hathor, the God Khenoum and other deities who were concerned with pregnancy and birth.
The Temple has a Pylon that is considered the highest among surviving Temples in Egypt today.
It is 37m high and is decorated with battle scenes, representing King Ptolemy VIII smiting his enemies before the God Horus.
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Edfu was a flourishing city in Ancient Times. Today, the most important monument in the city of Edfu is the Temple of Horus, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful and preserved Temples in Egypt.
The origins of the Temple probably date back to the Second Intermediate Period, but the actual Temple only dates back to Ptolemaic times.
Between Aswan and Luxor is located the major Ptolemaic temple of Edfu - the best preserved major temple in Egypt. The temple is dedicated to the falcon god Horus and was built over a 180-year period from 237 BC to 57 BC
Most visitors to the temple arrive by cruise boat and then take a horse-drawn carriage to the temple where vendors are ready to sell you all manner of souvenirs.
Inside the temple's pylons is a large courtyard. Just before the entrance to the first of two hypostyle halls is a welcoming statue of Horus. Inside the hypostyle halls are dominated by a forest of towering columns.
The temple was excavated last century by Auguste Mariette. Its courtyard and surrounds were buried beneath sand and also houses built by local villagers. Deep within the temple is the sanctuary where a statue of Horus would have been cared for by priests.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
A mummy from the Chachapoyas culture is displayed in the Museum of The Nation before an exhibition in Lima, Jan. 9, 2007.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
After 25 centuries the history of the great Sphinx at Giza was so forgotten that many believed it had been placed in its position, as guardian of the pyramids, by the Gods. Indeed, the Sphinx is such an impressive work one, even today, might easily believe it must have been created by supernatural means.
The statue, with a man's head and a lion's body, stands 66 feet high and 240 feet long. The head measures 19 feet from forehead to chin. Each paw extends 56 feet forward of the body. The face is over 6 yards wide.
The lion was a powerful symbol in ancient Egypt as it represented strength and courage. The great cat was also considered the supreme guardian and tamed lions sometimes accompanied kings into battle. Not just as a mascot, but as the physical presence of a god meant to protect troops.
The Sphinx was the combination of two symbols, a lion god, and the king pharaoh/god, into one icon. In fact, the Great Sphinx at Giza probably bears the face of the ruling pharaoh at the time of construction: Chephren.
The symbol wasn't limited to Egypt, but was also found in ancient Phoenician, Syrian, and Greek societies. In Greek legend, the Sphinx devoured all travelers who could not answer the riddle it posed: "What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?"
The hero Oedipus gave the answer, "Man," causing the Sphinx's death.
The Great Sphinx at Giza started as a natural outcropping of rock. The ancient Egyptians carved the giant statue into the stone around 2500 B.C..
To make it even taller than the height of the outcrop they chipped out a depression around the base of the statue.
The paws were constructed from stone blocks.
The entire statue was painted in ancient times: red for the face and body, yellow with blue stripes on the headress. Finally, a temple was built in front of the statue as a place visitors could offer gifts to the "living image" of the creature the Egyptians sometimes referred to as "Horus-in-the-Horizon."
As time passed the statue was given less attention and, after a few centuries, desert sands covered the Great Sphinx up to its neck. Legends claim that visitors would press their ear to the statue's lips seeking wisdom. Around 1400 B.C. a Egyptian prince, on a hunt, came to rest in the shadow of the Sphinx.
While napping he heard the Sphinx tell him it would make him ruler of Egypt ahead of his older brothers if he promised to clear the sand away. On waking the prince vowed to keep the bargain. Sure enough, as the story goes, he ascended the throne as Pharaoh Thutmose IV and quickly had the statue uncovered.
Historians beleive that Thutmose IV concocted the dream to cover up murder. Thutmose had his brother killed so that he could gain the crown. While the Egyptian people might not have been able to forgive Thutmose the slaying for personal gain, they could overlook it if it seemed like it was the will of the gods.
By the 19th century, when European archaeologists started taking a close look at Egyptian monuments, the statue was again covered up to it's neck in sand. Efforts to uncover and repair the statue were undertaken early in the 20th century.
Preservation work continues even today.
There have been rumors of passageways and secret chambers surrounding the Sphinx and during recent restoration work several tunnels have been re-discovered.
One, near the rear of the statue extends down into it for about nine yards.
Another, behind the head, is a short dead-end shaft.
Several attempts have been made to use non-invasive exploration techniques to ascertain if there are other hidden chambers or tunnels about the Sphinx. These include electromagnetic sounding, seismic refraction, seismic reflection, refraction tomography, electrical resistivity and acoustical survey tests.
Studies made by Florida State University, Waseda University (Japan), and Boston University, have found "anomalies" around the Sphinx. These could be interpreted as chambers or passageways, but they could also be such natural features as faults or changes in the density of the rock.
Egyptian archaeologists, charged with preserving the statue, are concerned about the danger of digging or drilling into the natural rock near the Sphinx to find out if cavities really exist.
Are these "anomalies" secret chambers? And is it worth risking damage to such a work as the Sphinx in order to find out? That's the modern riddle of the Sphinx the Egyptian authorities must solve.
Shortly after its capture Alexandria again fell into the hands of the Greeks, who took advantage of 'Amr's absence with the greater portion of his army. On hearing what had happened, however, 'Amr returned, and quickly regained possession of the city.
About the year 646 'Amr was deprived of his government by the caliph Othman. The Egyptians, by whom 'Amr was greatly beloved, were so much dissatisfied by this act, and even showed such a tendency to revolt, that the Greek emperor determined to make an effort to reduce Alexandria.
The attempt proved perfectly successful. The caliph, perceiving his mistake, immediately restored 'Amr, who, on his arrival in Egypt, drove the Greeks within the walls of Alexandria, but was only able to capture the city after a most obstinate resistance by the defenders.
This so exasperated him that he completely demolished its fortifications, although he seems to have spared the lives of the inhabitants as far as lay in his power.
Alexandria now rapidly declined in importance.
The building of Cairo in 969, and, above all, the discovery of the route to the East by the Cape of Good Hope in 1498, nearly ruined its commerce; the canal, which supplied it with Nile water, became blocked; and although it remained a principal Egyptian port, at which most European visitors in the Mameluke and Ottoman periods landed, we hear little of it until about the beginning of the 19th century.
Alexandria figured prominently in the military operations of Napoleon's Egyptian expedition of 1798. The French troops stormed the city on the 2nd of July 1798, and it remained in their hands until the arrival of the British expedition of 1801.
The battle of Alexandria, fought on the 21st of March of that year, between the French army under General Menou and the British expeditionary corps under Sir Ralph Abercromby, took place near the ruins of Nicopohs, on the narrow spit of land between the sea and Lake Aboukir, along which the British troops had advanced towards Alexandria after the actions of Aboukir on the 8th and Mandora on the 13th.
This document is part of an article on Alexandria from the 1911 edition of an encyclopedia that is out of copyright here in the U.S. The article is in the public domain, and you may copy, download, print and distribute this work as you see fit.
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On the mainland life seems to have centred in the vicinity of the Serapeum and Caesareum, both become Christian churches: but the Pharos and Heptastadium quarters remained populous and intact.
In 616 it was taken by Chosroes, king of Persia; and in 640 by the Arabians, under 'Amr, after a siege that lasted fourteen months, during which Heraclius, the emperor of Constantinople, did not send a single ship to its assistance.
Notwithstanding the losses that the city had sustained, 'Amr was able to write to his master, the caliph Omar, that he had taken a city containing "4000 palaces, 4000 baths, 12,000 dealers in fresh oil, 12,000 gardeners, 40,000 Jews who pay tribute, 400 theatres or places of amusement."
The story of the destruction of the library by the Arabs is first told by Bar-hebraeus (Abulfaragius), a Christian writer who lived six centuries later; and it is of very doubtful authority.
It is highly improbable that many of the 700,000 volumes collected by the Ptolemies remained at the time of the Arab conquest, when the various calamities of Alexandria from the time of Caesar to that of Diocletian are considered, together with the disgraceful pillage of the library in A.D. 389 under the rule of the Christian bishop, Theophilus, acting on Theodosius' decree concerning pagan monumcnts (see LIBRARIES: Ancient History).
The story of Abulfaragius runs as follows:--
John the Grammarian, a famous Peripatetic philosopher, being in Alexandria at the time of its capture, and in high favour with 'Amr, begged that he would give him the royal library. 'Amr told him that it was not in his power to grant such a request, but promised to write to the caliph for his consent.
Omar, on hearing the request of his general, is said to have replied that if those books contained the same doctrine with the Koran, they could be of no use, since the Koran contained all necessary truths; but if they contained anything contrary to that book.
they ought to be destroyed; and therefore, whatever their contents were, he ordered them to be burnt. Pursuant to this order, they were distributed among the public baths, of which there was a large number in the city, where, for six months, they served to supply the fires.