Ancient Egypt eBook

George Rawlinson
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 341 pages of information about Ancient Egypt.
Spanish bigotry looked with horror on everything that stood connected with an idolatrous religion, and the pyramids of Mexico were first wantonly injured, and then allowed to fall into such a state of decay, that their original form is by some questioned.  A visit to the plains of Teotihuacan will not convey to the mind which is a blank on the subject the true conception of a great pyramid.  It requires a pilgrimage to Ghizeh or Saccarah, or a lively and well-instructed imagination, to enable a man to call up before his mind’s eye the true form and appearance and impressiveness of such a structure.

Lord Houghton endeavoured to give expression to the feelings of one who sees for the first time these wondrous, these incomprehensible creations in the following lines: 

      After the fantasies of many a night,
        After the deep desires of many a day,
      Rejoicing as an ancient Eremite
        Upon the desert’s edge at last I lay: 
      Before me rose, in wonderful array,
        Those works where man has rivalled Nature most,
      Those Pyramids, that fear no more decay
        Than waves inflict upon the rockiest coast,
    Or winds on mountain-steeps, and like endurance boast.

      Fragments the deluge of old Time has left
        Behind in its subsidence—­long long walls
      Of cities of their very names bereft,—­
        Lone columns, remnants of majestic halls,
      Rich traceried chambers, where the night-dew falls,—­
        All have I seen with feelings due, I trow,
      Yet not with such as these memorials
        Of the great unremembered, that can show
    The mass and shape they wore four thousand years ago.

The Egyptian idea of a pyramid was that of a structure on a square base, with four inclining sides, each one of which should be an equilateral triangle, all meeting in a point at the top.  The structure might be solid, and in that case might be either of hewn stone throughout, or consist of a mass of rubble merely held together by an external casing of stone; or it might contain chambers and passages, in which case the employment of rubble was scarcely possible.  It has been demonstrated by actual excavation, that all the great pyramids of Egypt were of the latter character that they were built for the express purpose of containing chambers and passages, and of preserving those chambers and passages intact.  They required, therefore, to be, and in most cases are, of a good construction throughout.

There are from sixty to seventy pyramids in Egypt, chiefly in the neighbourhood of Memphis.  Some of them are nearly perfect, some more or less in ruins, but most of them still preserving their ancient shape, when seen from afar.  Two of them greatly exceed all the others in their dimensions, and are appropriately designated as “the Great Pyramid” and “the Second Pyramid.”  A third in their immediate vicinity is of very inferior size, and scarcely deserves the pre-eminence which has been conceded to it by the designation of “the Third Pyramid.”

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Project Gutenberg
Ancient Egypt from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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