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Title: Cleopatra's Needle - A History of the London Obelisk, with an Exposition of the Hieroglyphics
Author: King, James
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Cleopatra's Needle - A History of the London Obelisk, with an Exposition of the Hieroglyphics" ***

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(The central columns were cut by THOTHMES III., the side columns by
RAMESES II. The Inscriptions at the base of each side are much mutilated,
and those on the Pyramidion are not shown in the Plate.)]






  "The Land of Egypt is before thee."--_Gen._ xlvii. 6.



  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE

  INTRODUCTION                                                       5


    II.--OBELISKS, AND THE OBELISK FAMILY                           17

   III.--THE LARGEST STONES OF THE WORLD                            27

    IV.--THE LONDON OBELISK                                         36


    VI.--THE INTERPRETATION OF HIEROGLYPHICS                        53

   VII.--THOTHMES III.                                              61

         FIRST SIDE                                                 69

         SECOND SIDE                                                83

         THIRD SIDE                                                 88

         FOURTH SIDE                                                92

   XII.--RAMESES II.                                                95

  XIII.--THE HIEROGLYPHICS OF RAMESES II.                          101

         AND RAMESES II. AT DEIR-EL-BAHARI                         111



  THOTH                                                             12



  COLOSSAL STATUE OF RAMESES II., AT MEMPHIS                        29

  CLEOPATRA'S NEEDLE, AT ALEXANDRIA                                 38


  THE ROSETTA STONE                                                 48

  COLOSSAL HEAD OF THOTHMES III.                                    67

  COLOSSAL HEAD OF RAMESES II.                                      98

[The illustrations of the obelisk at Constantinople, and of Cleopatra's
Needle on the Embankment, are taken, by the kind permission of Sir Erasmus
Wilson, from his work, "The Egypt of the Past."]


The London Obelisk, as the monument standing on the Thames Embankment is
now called, is by far the largest quarried stone in England; and the
mysterious-looking characters covering its four faces were carved by
workmen who were contemporaries of Moses and the Israelites during the
time of the Egyptian Bondage. It was set up before the great temple of the
sun at Heliopolis about 1450 B.C., by Thothmes III., who also caused to be
carved the central columns of hieroglyphs on its four sides. The eight
lateral columns were carved by Rameses II. two centuries afterwards. These
two monarchs were the two mightiest of the kings of ancient Egypt.

In 1877 the author passed through the land of Egypt, and became much
interested during the progress of the journey in the study of the
hieroglyphs covering tombs, temples, and obelisks. He was assisted in the
pursuit of Egyptology by examining the excellent collections of Egyptian
antiquities in the Boolak Museum at Cairo, the Louvre at Paris, and the
British Museum. He feels much indebted to Dr. Samuel Birch, the leading
English Egyptologist, for his kind assistance in rendering some obscure
passages on the Obelisk.

This little volume contains a _verbatim_ translation into English, and an
exposition, of the hieroglyphic inscriptions cut by Thothmes III. on the
Obelisk, and an exposition of those inscribed by Rameses II. Dr. Samuel
Birch, the late W. R. Cooper, and other Egyptologists, have translated the
inscription in general terms, but no attempt was made by these learned men
to show the value of each hieroglyph; so that the student could no more
hope to gain from these general translations a knowledge of Egyptology,
than he could hope to gain a knowledge of the Greek language by reading
the English New Testament.

In the march of civilisation, Egypt took the lead of all the nations of
the earth. The Nile Valley is a vast museum of Egyptian antiquities, and
in this sunny vale search must be made for the germs of classical art.

The London Obelisk is interesting to the architect as a specimen of the
masonry of a people accounted as the great builders of the Ancient World.
It is interesting to the antiquary as setting forth the workmanship of
artists who lived in the dim twilight of antiquity. It is interesting to
the Christian because this same venerable monument was known to Moses and
the Children of Israel during their sojourn in the land of Goshen.

The inscription is not of great historical value, but the hieroglyphs are
valuable in setting forth the earliest stages of written language, while
their expressive symbolism enables us to interpret the moral and religious
thoughts of men who lived in the infancy of the world.

Egypt is a country of surpassing interest to the Biblical student. From
the early days of patriarchal history down to the discovery in 1883 of the
site of Pithom, a city founded by Rameses II., Egyptian and Israelitish
and Christian history have touched at many points. Abraham visited the
Nile Valley; Joseph, the slave, became lord of the whole country; God's
people suffered there from cruel bondage, but the Lord so delivered them
that "Egypt was glad at their departing;" the rulers of Egypt once and
again ravaged Palestine, and laid Jerusalem under tribute. When, in the
fulness of time, our Saviour appeared to redeem the world by the sacrifice
of Himself, He was carried as a little child into Egypt, and there many of
His earliest and most vivid impressions were received. Thus, from the time
of Abraham, the father of the faithful, to the advent of Jesus, the Lord
and Saviour of all, Egypt is associated with the history of human

And although the Obelisk which forms the subject of this volume tells us
in its inscriptions nothing about Abraham, Joseph, or Moses, yet it serves
among other important ends one of great interest. It seems to bring us
into very direct relationship with these men who lived so many generations
ago. The eyes of Moses must have rested many times upon this ancient
monument, old even when first he looked upon it, and read its story of
past greatness; the toiling, suffering Israelites looked upon it, and we
seem to come into a closer fellowship with them as we realize this fact.

The recent wonderful discovery of mummies and Egyptian antiquities, of
which an account is given in this volume, and the excavations now being
carried on at Pithom and Zoan, are exciting much fresh interest in
Egyptian research.

This little volume will have served its end if it interests the reader in
the historical associations of the monument, which he can visit, if he
cares to do so, and by its aid read for himself what it has to tell us of
the men and deeds of a long-distant past.

It also seeks to stimulate wider interest and research into all that the
monuments of Egypt can tell us in confirmation of the historical parts of
the Bible, and of the history of that wondrous country which is prominent
in the forefront of both Old and New Testaments, from the day when "Abram
went down into Egypt to sojourn there," until the day when Joseph "arose
and took the young Child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which
was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called
My Son."





Standing some time ago on the top of the great pyramid, the present writer
gazed with wonder at the wide prospect around. Above Cairo the Nile Valley
is hemmed in on both sides by limestone ridges, which form barriers
between the fertile fields and the barren wastes on either side; and on
the limestone ridge by the edge of the great western desert stand the
pyramids of Egypt. Looking forth from the summit of the pyramid of Cheops
eastwards, the Nile Valley was spread out like a panorama. The distant
horizon was bounded by the Mokattam hills, and near to them rose the lofty
minarets and mosques of Grand Cairo.

The green valley presented a pleasing picture of richness and industry.
Palms, vines, and sycamores beautified the fertile fields; sowers,
reapers, builders, hewers of wood and drawers of water plied their busy
labours, while long lines of camels, donkeys, and oxen moved to and fro,
laden with the rich products of the country. The hum of labour, the
lowing of cattle, the bleating of sheep, the song of women, and the merry
laughter of children, spoke of peace and plenty.

Looking towards the west how changed was the scene! The eye rested only on
the barren sands of the vast desert, the great land of a silence unbroken
by the sound of man or beast. Neither animal nor vegetable life exists
there, and the solitude of desolation reigns for ever supreme; so that
while the bountiful fields speak of activity and life, the boundless waste
is a fitting emblem of rest and death.

It is manifest that this striking contrast exercised a strong influence
upon the minds of the ancient Egyptians. To the edge of the silent desert
they carried their dead for burial, and on the rocky platform that forms
the margin of the sandy waste they reared those vast tombs known as the
pyramids. The very configuration of Egypt preached a never-ending sermon,
which intensified the moral feelings of the people, and tended to make the
ancient Egyptians a religious nation.

The ancient Egyptians were a very religious people. The fundamental
doctrine of their religion was the unity of deity, but this unity was
never represented by any outward figure. The attributes of this being were
personified and represented under positive forms. To all those not
initiated into the mysteries of religion, the outward figures came to be
regarded as distinct gods; and thus, in process of time, the doctrine of
divine unity developed into a system of idolatry. Each spiritual
attribute in course of time was represented by some natural object, and in
this way nature worship became a marked characteristic of their mythology.

The sun, the most glorious object of the universe, became the central
object of worship, and occupies a conspicuous position in their religious
system. The various aspects of the sun as it pursued its course across the
sky became so many solar deities. Horus was the youthful sun seen in the
eastern horizon. He is usually represented as holding in one hand the
stylus or iron pen, and in the other, either a notched stick or a tablet.
In the hall of judgment, Thoth was said to stand by the dreadful balance
where souls were weighed against truth. Thoth, with his iron pen, records
on his tablet the result of the weighing in the case of each soul, and
whether or not, when weighed in the balance, it is found wanting.
According to mythology, Thoth was the child of Kneph, the ram-headed god
of Thebes.

Ra or Phra was the mid-day sun; Osiris the declining sun; Tum or Atum the
setting sun; and Amun the sun after it had sunk below the horizon. Ptah, a
god of the first order, worshipped with great magnificence at Memphis,
represented the vivifying power of the sun's rays: hence Ptah is spoken of
as the creative principle, and creator of all living things. Gom, Moui,
and Khons, were the sons of the sun-god, and carried messages to mankind.
In these we notice the rays personified. Pasht, literally a lioness, the
goddess with the lioness head, was the female personification of the sun's

The moon also as well as the sun was worshipped, and lunar deities
received divine adoration as well as solar deities.

[Illustration: THOTH.]

Thoth, the reputed inventor of hieroglyphs and the recorder of human
actions, was a human deity, and represented both the light moon and the
dark moon. He is also called Har and Haremakhu--the Harmachis of Greek
writers--and is the personification of the vigorous young sun, the
conqueror of night, who each morning rose triumphant from the realms of
darkness. He was the son of Isis and Osiris, and is the avenger of his
father. Horus appears piercing with his spear the monster Seth or Typho,
the malignant principle of darkness who had swallowed up the setting sun.
The parable of the sun rising was designed to teach the great religious
lesson of the final triumph of spiritual light over darkness, and the
ultimate victory of life over death. Horus is represented at the
coronation of kings, and, together with Seth, places the double crown upon
the royal head, saying: "Put this cap upon your head, like your father
Amen-Ra." Princes are distinguished by a lock of hair hanging from the
side of the head, which lock is emblematic of a son. This lock was worn in
imitation of Horus, who, from his strong filial affection, was a model son
for princes, and a pattern of royal virtue. The sphinx is thought to be a
type of Horus, and the obelisks also seem to have been dedicated, for the
most part, to the rising sun.

There were also sky divinities, and these were all feminine. Nu was the
blue mid-day sky, while Neit was the dark sky of night. Hathor or Athor,
the "Queen of Love," the Egyptian Venus, represented the evening sky.

There were other deities and objects of worship not so easily classified.
Hapi was the personification of the river Nile. Anubis, the jackal-headed
deity, was the friend and guardian of the souls of good men. Thmei or Ma,
the goddess of truth, introduced departed souls into the hall of judgment.

Amenti, the great western desert, in course of time was applied to the
unknown world beyond the desert. Through the wilderness of Amenti departed
spirits had to pass on their way to the judgment hall. In this desert were
four evil spirits, enemies of the human soul, who endeavoured to delude
the journeying spirits by drawing them aside from the way that led to the
abode of the gods. On many papyri, and on the walls of tombs, scenes of
the final judgment are frequently depicted. Horus is seen conducting the
departed spirits to the regions of Amenti; a monstrous dog, resembling
Cerberus of classic fable, is guardian of the judgment hall. Near to the
gates stand the dreadful scales of justice. On one side of the scales
stands Thoth, the recorder of human actions, with a tablet in his hand,
ready to make a record of the sentence passed on each soul. Anubis is the
director of the weights; in one scale he places the heart of the deceased,
and in the other a figure of the goddess of truth. If on being weighed the
heart is found wanting, then Osiris, the judge of the dead, lowers his
sceptre in token of condemnation, and pronounces judgment against the
soul, condemned to return to earth under the form of a pig. Whereupon the
soul is placed in a boat and conveyed through Amenti under charge of two
monkeys. If the deeds done in the flesh entitle the soul to enter the
mansions of the blest, then Horus, taking the tablet from Thoth,
introduces the good spirit into the presence of Osiris, who, with crook
and flagellum in his hands, and attended by his sister Isis, with
overspreading wings, sits on a throne rising from the midst of the waters.
The approved soul is then admitted to the mansions of the blest.

To this belief in a future life, the custom among the Egyptians of
embalming the dead was due. Each man as he died hoped to be among those
who, after living for three thousand years with Osiris, would return to
earth and re-enter their old bodies. So they took steps to ensure the
preservation of the body against the ravages of time, and entombed them in
massive sarcophagi and in splendid sepulchres. So well did they ensure
this end that when, a few months ago, human eyes looked upon the face of
Thothmes III., more than three thousand years after his body had been
embalmed, it was only the sudden crumbling away of the form on exposure to
the air, that recalled to the remembrance of the onlookers the many ages
that had passed since men last saw that face.

It is with the worship of the sun that the obelisk now on the Embankment
is associated, as it stood for many ages before one of the great temples
at Heliopolis, the Biblical On.

Impressive as this ancient Egyptian religious life was, it cannot be
compared for a moment, judged even on the earthly standard of its moral
power, to the monotheism and the religious life afterwards revealed to the
Hebrews, when emancipated from Egyptian bondage. The religion first made
known through God's intercourse with the Patriarchs, continued by Moses
and the Prophets, and culminating in the incarnation and death of Christ
the Lord, lacks much of the outward splendour and magnificence of the
Egyptian religion, but satisfies infinitely better the hearts of weary
sinful men. The Egyptian worship and religious life testify to a constant
degradation in the popular idea of the gods and in the moral life of their
worshippers. The worship and religious life of which the God of the
Hebrews is the centre, tends ever more and more to lead men in that "path
of the just, which is as the shining light, that shineth more and more
unto the perfect day."[1] Now in Christ Jesus those that once "were far
off are made nigh by the blood of Christ."[2] "The times of ignorance" are
now past, and God "commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent:
inasmuch as He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world
in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained."[3]




An obelisk is a single upright stone with four sides slightly inclined
towards each other. It generally stands upon a square base or pedestal,
also a single stone. The pedestal itself is often supported upon two
broad, deep steps. The top of the obelisk resembles a small pyramid,
called a pyramidion, the sides of which are generally inclined at an angle
of sixty degrees. The obelisks of the Pharaohs are made of red granite
called Syenite.

In the quarries at Syene may yet be seen an unfinished obelisk, still
adhering to the native rock, with traces of the workmen's tools so clearly
seen on its surface, that one might suppose they had been suddenly called
away, and intended soon to return to finish their work. This unfinished
obelisk shows the mode in which the ancients separated these immense
monoliths from the native rock. In a sharply cut groove marking the
boundary of the stone are holes, evidently designed for wooden wedges.
After these had been firmly driven into the holes, the groove was filled
with water. The wedges gradually absorbing the water, swelled, and cracked
the granite throughout the length of the groove.

The block once detached from the rock, was pushed forwards upon rollers
made of the stems of palm-trees, from the quarries to the edge of the
Nile, where it was surrounded by a large timber raft. It lay by the
riverside until the next inundation of the Nile, when the rising waters
floated the raft and conveyed the obelisk down the stream to the city
where it was to be set up. Thousands of willing hands pushed it on rollers
up an inclined plane to the front of the temple where it was designed to
stand. The pedestal had previously been placed in position, and a firm
causeway of sand covered with planks led to the top of it. Then, by means
of rollers, levers, and ropes made of the date-palm, the obelisk was
gradually hoisted into an upright position. It speaks much for the
mechanical accuracy of the Egyptian masons, that so true was the level of
the top of the base and the bottom of the long shaft, that in no single
instance has the obelisk been found to be out of the true perpendicular.

There has not yet been found on the bas-reliefs or paintings any
representation of the transport of an obelisk, although there is
sufficient external evidence to prove that the foregoing mode was the
usual one. In a grotto at El Bersheh, however, is a well-known
representation of the transportation of a colossal figure from the
quarries. The colossus is mounted on a huge sledge, and as a man is
represented pouring oil in front of the sledge, it would appear that on
the road prepared for its transport there was a sliding groove along which
the colossus was propelled. Four long rows of men, urged on in their
work by taskmasters, are dragging the figure by means of ropes.


The Syenite granite was very hard, and capable of taking a high polish.
The carving is very beautifully executed, and the hieroglyphs rise from a
sunken surface, in a style known as "incavo relievo." In this mode of
carving the figures never project beyond the surface of the stone, and
consequently are not so liable to be chipped off as they would have been
had they projected in "high relief." The hieroglyphs are always arranged
on the obelisks with great taste, in long vertical columns, and these were
always carved after the obelisk was placed in its permanent position.

The hewing, transport, hoisting, and carving of such a monolith was a
gigantic undertaking, and we are not therefore surprised to learn that
"the giant of the obelisk race," now in front of St. John Lateran, Rome,
occupied the workmen thirty-six years in its elaboration.

The chief obelisks known, taking them in chronological order, are as
follows:--Three were erected by Usertesen I., a monarch of the XIIth
dynasty, who lived about 1750 B.C. He is thought by some to be the Pharaoh
that promoted Joseph. Of these three obelisks one still stands at
Heliopolis in its original position, and from its great age it has been
called "the father of obelisks." It is sixty-seven and a-half feet high,
and is therefore about a foot shorter than the London obelisk. Its
companion is missing, and probably lies buried amid the ruins of the
sacred city. The third is at Biggig, in the Fyoom, and, unfortunately, is
broken into two parts. Its shape is peculiar, and on that account Bonomi
and others say that it cannot with propriety be classed among the

After the XIIth dynasty Egypt was ruled for many centuries by monarchs of
Asiatic origin, called the Hykshos or "Shepherd Kings." During the rule of
those foreigners it does not appear that any obelisks were erected.

Thothmes I., of the XVIIIth dynasty, erected two in front of the Osiris
temple at Karnak. One of these is still standing, the other lies buried by
its side. Hatasu, daughter of Thothmes I., and queen of Egypt, erected two
obelisks inside the Osiris temple of Karnak, in honour of her father. One,
still standing, is about one hundred feet high, and is the second highest
obelisk in the world. Its companion has fallen to the ground. According to
Mariette Bey, Hatasu erected two other obelisks in front of her own temple
on the western bank of the Nile. These, however, have been destroyed,
although the pedestals still remain.

Thothmes III., the greatest of Egyptian monarchs, and brother of Hatasu,
erected four obelisks at Heliopolis, and probably others in different
parts of Egypt. These four have been named "The Needles"--two of them
"Pharaoh's Needles," and two "Cleopatra's Needles." The former pair were
removed from Heliopolis to Alexandria by Constantine the Great. Thence one
was taken, according to some Egyptologists, to Constantinople, where it
now stands at the Atmeidan. It is only fifty feet high, but it is thought
that the lower part has been broken off, and that the part remaining is
only the upper half of the original obelisk.


The other was conveyed to Rome, and now stands in front of the church of
St. John Lateran, and from its great magnitude it is regarded as "the
giant of the obelisk family."

Amenophis II., of the XVIIIth dynasty, set up a small obelisk, of Syenite
granite, about nine feet high. It was found amid the ruins of a village
of the Thebaid, and presented to the late Duke of Northumberland, then
Lord Prudhoe.

Amenophis III., of the XVIIIth dynasty, erected two obelisks in front of
his temple at Karnak; but the temple is in ruins, and the obelisks have
entirely disappeared.

Seti I. set up two; one, known as the Flaminian obelisk, now stands at the
Porta del Popolo, Rome, and the other at Trinita de Monti, in the same

Rameses II. was, next to Thothmes III., the mightiest king of Egypt; and
in the erection of obelisks he surpassed all other monarchs. He set up two
obelisks before the temple of Luxor; one is still standing, but the other
was transported to Paris about forty years ago. The latter is seventy-six
feet high, and seven and a-half feet higher than the London one. Two
obelisks, bearing the name of Rameses II., are at Rome, one in front of
the Pantheon, the other on the Cœlian Hill.

Ten obelisks, the work of the same monarch, lie buried at Tanis, the
ancient Zoan.

Menephtah, son and successor of Rameses, set up the obelisk which now
stands in front of St. Peter's, Rome. It is about ninety feet high, and as
regards magnitude is the third obelisk in the world.

Psammeticus I., of the XXVIth dynasty, set up an obelisk at Heliopolis in
the year 665 B.C. It now stands at Rome on the Monte Citorio. Psammeticus
II., about the same time that Solomon's temple was destroyed, erected an
obelisk which now stands at Rome, on the back of an elephant. Nectanebo
I. made two small obelisks of black basalt. They are now in the British
Museum, and, according to Dr. Birch, were dedicated to Thoth, the Egyptian
god of letters. They were found at Cairo, built into the walls of some
houses. One was used as a door-sill, the other as a window-sill. They came
into possession of the English when the French in Egypt capitulated to the
British, and were presented to the British Museum by King George III. in
1801. They are only eight feet high.

Nectanebo II., of the XXXth dynasty, who lived about four centuries before
the Christian era, set up two obelisks. One hundred years afterwards they
were placed by Ptolemy Philadelphus in front of the tomb of his wife
Arsinoë. They were taken to Rome, and set up before the mausoleum of
Augustus, where they stood till the destruction of the city in 450 A.D.
They lay buried amid the _débris_ of Rome for many hundreds of years, but
about a century ago they were dug out. One now stands behind the Church of
St. Maria Maggiore, the other in the Piazza Quirinale. Each is about fifty
feet high.

Two large obelisks were transported from Egypt to Nineveh in 664 B.C. by
Assurbanipal. These two monoliths probably lie buried amid the ruins of
that ancient city. The above include the chief obelisks erected by the
Pharaohs; but several others were erected by the Roman Emperors. Domitian
set up one thirty-four feet high, which now stands in the Piazza Navona,
in front of the Church of St. Agnes. Domitian and Titus erected a small
obelisk of red granite nine feet high, which now stands in the cathedral
square of Benevento. Hadrian and Sabina set up two obelisks, one of which,
thirty feet high, now stands on Monte Pincio. An obelisk twenty-two feet
high, of Syenite granite, was brought by Mr. Banks from Philæ to England,
and now stands in front of Kingston Lacy Hall, Wimborne.

Among obelisks of obscure origin is one of sandstone nine feet high at
Alnwick; two in the town of Florence, and one sixty feet high, in the city
of Arles, made of grey granite from the neighbouring quarries of Mont
Esterel. The total number of existing obelisks is fifty-five. Of these
thirty-three are standing, and twenty-two lie prostrate on the ground or
are buried amid rubbish. Of those standing, twenty-seven are made of
Syenite granite.




It is interesting to compare the obelisk on the Embankment with the other
large stones of the world; stones, of course, that have been quarried and
utilized by man. Of this kind, the largest in England are the blocks at
Stonehenge. The biggest weighs about eighteen tons, and is raised up
twenty-five feet, resting, as it does, on two upright stones. These were
probably used for religious purposes, and their bulk has excited in all
ages the wonder of this nation.

The London Obelisk weighs one hundred and eighty-six tons, and therefore
is about ten times the weight of Stonehenge's largest block. It is
therefore by far the largest stone in England. The obelisk was moreover
hoary with the age of fifteen centuries when the trilithons of Stonehenge
were set up, and therefore its colossal mass and antiquity may well fill
our minds with amazement and veneration.

The individual stones of the pyramids, large though they are, and
wonderful as specimens of masonry, are nevertheless small compared with
the giant race of the obelisks.

The writer, when inspecting the outer wall of the Temple Hill at
Jerusalem, measured a magnificent polished stone, and found it to be
twenty-six feet long, six feet high, and seven feet wide. It is composed
of solid limestone, and weighs about ninety tons. This stone occupies a
position in the wall one hundred and ten feet above the rock on which rest
the foundation stones, and arouses wonder at the masonic and engineering
skill of the workmen of King Solomon and Herod the Great. This block,
however, is only half the weight of Cleopatra's Needle, and even this
obelisk falls far short in bulk of many of Egypt's gigantic granite

At Alexandria, Pompey's Pillar is still to be seen. It is a beautifully
finished column of red granite, standing outside the walls of the old
town. Its total length is about one hundred feet, and its girth round the
base twenty-eight feet. The shaft is made of one stone, and probably
weighs about three hundred tons.

Even more gigantic than Pompey's Pillar is a colossal block found on the
plain of Memphis. Next to Thebes, in Upper Egypt, Memphis was the most
important city of ancient Egypt. Here lived the Pharaohs while the
Israelites sojourned in the land, and within sight of this sacred city
were reared the mammoth pyramids. "As the hills stand round about
Jerusalem, so stand the pyramids round about Memphis."

A few grassy mounds are the only vestiges of the once mighty city; and in
the midst of a forest of palm trees is an excavation dug in the ground, in
which lies a huge granite block, exposed to view by the encompassing
_débris_ being cleared away. This huge block is a gigantic statue lying
face downwards. It is well carved, the face wears a placid countenance,
and its size is immense. The nose is longer than an umbrella, the head is
about ten feet long, and the whole body is in due proportion; so that the
colossal monolith (for it is one stone) probably weighs about four hundred


In the day of Memphis' glory a great temple, dedicated to Ptah, was one of
the marvels of the proud city. "Noph" (Memphis) "shall be waste and
desolate," saith Jeremiah; a prediction literally fulfilled. Of the great
temple not a vestige remains; but Herodotus says that in front of the
great gateway of the temple, Rameses II., called by the Greeks Sesostris,
erected a colossal statue of himself. The colossal statue has fallen from
its lofty position, and now lies prostrate, buried amid the ruins of the
city, as already described. On the belt of the colossus is the cartouche
of Rameses II. The fist and big toe of this monster figure are in the
British Museum. In the Piazza of St. John Lateran, at Rome, the tall
obelisk towers heavenwards like a lofty spire, adorning that square.
Originally it was one hundred and ten feet long, and therefore the longest
monolith ever quarried. It was also the heaviest, weighing, as it does,
about four hundred and fifty tons, and therefore considerably more than
twice the weight of the London obelisk.

As the sphinx is closely associated with the obelisk, and as Thothmes is
four times represented by a sphinx on the London Obelisk, and as,
moreover, two huge sphinxes have lately been placed on the Thames
Embankment, one on each side of the Needle, it may not be out of place to
say a few words respecting this sculptured figure. An Egyptian sphinx has
the body of a lion couchant with the head of a man. The sphinxes seem for
the most part to have been set up in the avenues leading to the temples.
It is thought by Egyptologists that the lion's body is a symbol of power,
the human head is a symbol of intellect. The whole figure was typical of
kingly royalty, and set forth the power and wisdom of the Egyptian

In ancient Egypt, sphinxes might be numbered by thousands, but the
gigantic figure known by pre-eminence as "_The Sphinx_," stands on the
edge of the rocky platform on which are built the pyramids of Ghizeh. When
in Egypt, the writer examined this colossal figure, and found that it is
carved out of the summit of the native rock, from which indeed it has
never been separated. On mounting its back he found by measurement that
the body is over one hundred feet long. The head is thirty feet in length,
and fourteen feet in width, and rears itself above the sandy waste. The
face is much mutilated, and the body almost hidden by the drifting sand of
the desert. It is known that the tremendous paws project fifty feet,
enclosing a considerable space, in the centre of which formerly stood a
sacrificial altar for religious purposes. On a cartouche in front of the
figure is the name of Thothmes IV.; but as Khufu, commonly called Cheops,
the builder of the great pyramid, is stated to have repaired the Sphinx,
it appears that the colossus had an existence before the pyramids were
built. This being so, "The Sphinx" is not only the most colossal, but at
the same time the oldest known idol of the human race.

One of the most appreciative of travellers thus describes the impression
made upon him by this hoary sculpture:--

"After all that we have seen of colossal statues, there was something
stupendous in the sight of that enormous head--its vast projecting wig,
its great ears, its open eyes, the red colour still visible on its cheek;
the immense proportion of the whole lower part of its face. Yet what must
it have been when on its head there was the royal helmet of Egypt; on its
chin the royal beard; when the stone pavement by which men approached the
pyramids ran up between its paws; when immediately under its breast an
altar stood, from which the smoke went up into the gigantic nostrils of
that nose, now vanished from the face, never to be conceived again! All
this is known with certainty from the remains that actually exist deep
under the sand on which you stand, as you look up from a distance into the
broken but still expressive features. And for what purpose was this sphinx
of sphinxes called into being, as much greater than all other sphinxes as
the pyramids are greater than all other temples or tombs? If, as is
likely, he lay couched at the entrance, now deep in sand, of the vast
approach to the second, that is, the central pyramid, so as to form an
essential part of this immense group; still more, if, as seems possible,
there was once intended to be a brother sphinx on the northern side as on
the southern side of the approach, its situation and significance were
worthy of its grandeur. And if further the sphinx was the giant
representative of royalty, then it fitly guards the greatest of royal
sepulchres, and with its half human, half animal form, is the best welcome
and the best farewell to the history and religion of Egypt."--Stanley's
_Sinai and Palestine_, p. lviii.

Standing amid the sand of the silent desert, gazing upon the placid
features so sadly mutilated by the devastations of ages, the colossal
figure seemed to awake from sleep, and speak thus to the writer:--

"Traveller, you have wandered far from your peaceful home in sea-girt
England, and you long to gaze upon the crumbling glories of the ages that
are passed. You have come to see the marvels of Egypt--the land which in
the march of civilization took the lead of all the nations of antiquity.
Here as strangers and pilgrims sojourned the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob.
This was the adopted land of the princely Joseph, the home of Moses, and
the abode of Israel's oppressed race. I remember them well, for from the
land of Goshen they all came to see me, and as they gazed at my
countenance they were filled with amazement at my greatness and my beauty.
You have heard of the colossal grandeur of Babylon and Nineveh, and the
might of Babylonia and Assyria. You know by fame of the glories of Greece,
and perhaps you have seen on the Athenian Acropolis those chaste temples
of Pericles, beautiful even in their decay. You have visited the ruins of
ancient Rome, and contemplated with wonder the ruined palace of the
Cæsars, Trajan's column, Constantine's arches, Caracalla's baths, and the
fallen grandeur of the Forum.

"Traveller, long before the foundation of Rome and Athens; yea, long
before the ancient empires of Assyria and Babylonia rose from the dim
twilight, I stood here on this rocky platform, and was even old when
Romulus and Cecrops, when Ninus and Asshur, were in their infancy. You
have just visited the pyramids of Cheops and Cephren; you marvel at their
greatness, and revere their antiquity. Over these mighty sepulchres I have
kept guard for forty centuries, and here I stood amid the solitude of the
desert ages before the stones were quarried for these vast tombs. Thus
have I seen the rise, growth, and decay of all the great kingdoms of the
earth. From me then learn this lesson: 'grander than any temple is the
temple of the human body, and more sacred than any shrine is the hidden
sanctuary of the human soul. Happiness abideth not in noisy fame and vast
dominion, but, like a perennial stream, happiness gladdens the soul of him
who fears the Most High, and loves his fellow-men. Be content, therefore,
with thy lot, and strive earnestly to discharge the daily duties of thine

"This world, with all its glittering splendours, the kings of the earth,
and the nobles of the people, are all mortal, even as thou art. The tombs
which now surround me, where reposes the dust of departed greatness,
proclaim that you are fast hastening to the destiny they have reached.
Change and decay, which you now see on every side, is written on the brow
of the monarch as much as on the fading flower of the field. Only the
'Most High' changeth not. He remaineth the same from generation to
generation. Trust in Him with all thine heart, serve Him with all thy
soul, and all will be well with thee, even for evermore."




Seven hundred miles up the Nile beyond Cairo, on the frontiers of Nubia,
is the town of Syene or Assouan. In the neighbourhood are the renowned
quarries of red granite called Syenite or Syenitic stone. The place is
under the tropic of Cancer, and was the spot fixed upon through which the
ancients drew the chief parallel of latitude, and therefore Syene was an
important place in the early days of astronomy. The sun was of course
vertical to Syene at the summer solstice, and a deep well existed there in
which the reflection of the sun was seen at noon on midsummer-day.

About fifteen centuries before the Christian era, in the reign of Thothmes
III., by royal command, the London Obelisk, together with its companion
column, was quarried at Syene, and thence in a huge raft was floated down
the Nile to the sacred city of Heliopolis, a distance of seven hundred
miles. Heliopolis, called in the Bible On, and by the ancient Egyptians
An, was a city of temples dedicated to the worship of the sun. It is a
place of high antiquity, and was one of the towns of the land of Goshen.
Probably the patriarch Abraham sought refuge here when driven by famine
out of the land of Canaan. Heliopolis is inseparably connected with the
life of Joseph, who, after being sold to Potiphar as a slave, and after
suffering imprisonment on a false accusation, was by Pharaoh promoted to
great honour, and by royal command received "to wife Asenath, the daughter
of Poti-pherah, priest of On" (Gen. xli. 45). Heliopolis was probably the
scene of the affecting meeting of Joseph and his aged father Jacob. The
place was not only a sacred city, but it was also a celebrated seat of
learning, and the chief university of the ancient world. "Moses was
learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians," and his wisdom he acquired in
the sacred college of Heliopolis. Pythagoras and Plato, and many other
Greek philosophers, were students at this Egyptian seat of learning.

On arriving at Heliopolis, the two obelisks now called Cleopatra's Needles
were set up in front of the great temple of the sun. There they stood for
fourteen centuries, during which period many dynasties reigned and passed
away; Greek dominion in Egypt rose and flourished, until the Ptolemies
were vanquished by the Cæsars, and Egypt became a province of imperial

Possibly Jacob and Joseph, certainly Moses and Aaron, Pythagoras and
Plato, have gazed upon these two obelisks; and therefore the English
nation should look at the hoary monolith on the Thames Embankment with
feelings of profound veneration.


In the eighth year of Augustus Cæsar, 23 B.C., the Roman Emperor caused
the two obelisks to be taken down and transported from Heliopolis to
Alexandria, there to adorn the Cæsarium, or Palace of the Cæsars. "This
palace stood by the side of the harbour of Alexandria, and was surrounded
by a sacred grove. It was ornamented with porticoes, and fitted up with
libraries, paintings and statues, and was the most lofty building in the
city. In front of this palace Augustus set up the two ancient obelisks
which had been made by Thothmes III., and carved by Rameses II., and
which, like the other monuments of the Theban kings, have outlived all the
temples and palaces of their Greek and Roman successors." The obelisks
were set up in front of the Cæsarium seven years after the death of
Cleopatra, the beautiful though profligate queen of Egypt, and the last of
the race of the Ptolemies. Cleopatra may have designed the Cæsarium, and
made suggestions for the decoration of the palace. The setting up of the
two venerable obelisks may have been part of her plan; but although the
monoliths are called Cleopatra's Needles, it is certain that Cleopatra had
nothing to do with their transfer from Heliopolis to Alexandria.

Cleopatra, it appears, was much beloved by her subjects; and it is not
improbable that they associated her name with the two obelisks as a means
of perpetuating the affectionate regard for her memory.

The exact date of their erection at Alexandria was found out by the recent
discovery of an inscription, engraved in Greek and Latin, on a bronze
support of one of the obelisks. The inscription in Latin reads thus: "Anno
viii Caesaris, Barbarus praefectus Ægypte posuit. Architecture Pontio."
"In the eighth year of Cæsar, Barbarus, prefect of Egypt, erected this,
Pontius being the architect."

The figure of an obelisk is often used as a hieroglyph, and is generally
represented standing on a low base. The bronze supports reproduced at the
bottom of the London Obelisk never appear in the hieroglyphic
representations, and were probably an invention of the Ptolemies or the

For about fifteen centuries the two obelisks stood in their new position
at Alexandria. The grand palace of the Cæsars, yielding to the ravages of
Time's resistless hand, has for many ages disappeared. The gradual
encroachment of the sea upon the land continued through the course of many
centuries, and ultimately, by the restless action of the waves, the
obelisk which now graces our metropolis became undermined, and about 300
years ago the colossal stone fell prostrate on the ground, leaving only
its companion to mark the spot where once stood the magnificent palace of
the imperial Cæsars.

In 1798 Napoleon Buonaparte, with forty thousand French troops, landed on
the coast of Egypt, and soon conquered the country. Admiral Nelson
destroyed the French fleet in Aboukir Bay; and at a decisive battle fought
within sight of Cleopatra's Needle in 1801, Sir Ralph Abercrombie
completely defeated the French army, and rescued Egypt from their
dominion. Our soldiers and sailors, wishful to have a trophy of their Nile
victories, conceived the idea of bringing the prostrate column to
England. The troops cheerfully subscribed part of their pay, and set to
work to move the obelisk. After considerable exertions they moved it only
a few feet, and the undertaking, not meeting with the approval of the
commanders of the army and navy, was unfortunately abandoned. Part of the
pedestal was, however, uncovered and raised, and a small space being
chiselled out of the surface, a brass plate was inserted, on which was
engraved a short account of the British victories.

George IV., on his accession to the throne in 1820, received as a gift the
prostrate obelisk from Mehemet Ali, then ruler of Egypt. The nation looked
forward with hope to its speedy arrival in England, but for some reason
the valuable present was not accepted. In 1831 Mehemet Ali not only
renewed his offer to King William IV., but promised also to ship the
monolith free of charge. The compliment, however, was declined with
thanks. In 1849 the Government announced in the House of Commons their
desire to transport it to London, but as the opposition urged "that the
obelisk was too much defaced to be worth removal," the proposal was not
carried out. In 1851, the year rendered memorable by the Great Exhibition
in Hyde Park, the question was again broached in the House, but the
estimated outlay of £7,000 for transport was deemed too large a grant from
the public purse. In 1853 the Sydenham Palace Company, desirous of having
the obelisk in their Egyptian court, expressed their wish to set it up in
the transept of the Palace, and offered to pay all expenses. The consent
of the Government was asked for its removal, but the design fell through,
because, as was urged, national property could only be lent, not given to
a private company.

Great diversity of opinion existed about that time respecting its value,
even among the leading Egyptologists; for in 1858 that enthusiastic
Egyptian scholar, Sir Gardner Wilkinson, referring to Mehemet Ali's
generous offer, said:--"The project has been wisely abandoned, and cooler
deliberation has pronounced that from its mutilated state and the
obliteration of many of the hieroglyphics by exposure to the sea air, it
is unworthy the expense of removal."

In 1867 the Khedive disposed of the ground on which the prostrate Needle
lay to a Greek merchant, who insisted on its removal from his property.
The Khedive appealed to England to take possession of it, otherwise our
title to the monument must be given up, as it was rapidly being buried
amid the sand. The appeal, however, produced no effect, and it became
evident to those antiquaries interested in the treasures of ancient Egypt,
that if ever the obelisk was to be rescued from the rubbish in which it
lay buried, and transported to the shores of England, the undertaking
would not be carried out by our Government, but by private munificence.

The owner of the ground on which it lay actually entertained the idea of
breaking it up for building material, and it was only saved from
destruction by the timely intervention of General Alexander, who for ten
successive years pleaded incessantly with the owner of the ground, with
learned societies and with the English Government, for the preservation
and removal of the monument. The indefatigable General went to Egypt to
visit the spot in 1875. He found the prostrate obelisk hidden from view
and buried in the sand; but through the assistance of Mr. Wyman Dixon,
C.E., it was uncovered and examined.

On returning to England, the General represented the state of the case to
his friend Professor Erasmus Wilson, and the question of transport was
discussed by these two gentlemen together with Mr. John Dixon, C.E. The
latter after due consideration gave the estimated cost at £10,000,
whereupon Professor Wilson, inspired with the ardent wish of rescuing the
precious relic from oblivion, signed a bond for £10,000, and agreed to pay
this sum to Mr. Dixon, on the obelisk being set up in London. The Board of
Works offered a site on the Thames Embankment, and Mr. Dixon set to work
_con amore_ to carry out the contract.


Early in July, 1877, he arrived at Alexandria, and soon unearthed the
buried monolith, which he was delighted to find in much better condition
than had been generally represented. With considerable labour it was
encased in an iron watertight cylinder about one hundred feet long, which
with its precious treasure was set afloat. The _Olga_ steam tug was
employed to tow it, and on the 21st September, 1877, steamed out of the
harbour of Alexandria _en route_ for England. The voyage for twenty days
was a prosperous one, but on the 14th October, when in the Bay of Biscay,
a storm arose, and the pontoon cylinder was raised on end. At midnight it
was thought to be foundering, and to save the crew its connection with the
_Olga_ was cut off. The captain, thinking that the Needle had gone to the
bottom of the sea, sailed for England, where the sorrowful tidings soon
spread of the loss of the anxiously expected monument. To the great
delight of the nation, it was discovered that the pontoon, instead of
sinking, had floated about for sixty hours on the surface of the waters,
and having been picked up by the steamer _Fitzmaurice_, had been towed to
Vigo, on the coast of Spain. After a few weeks' delay it was brought to
England, and set up in its present position on the Thames Embankment.

The London Needle is about seventy feet long, and from the base, which
measures about eight feet, it gradually tapers upwards to the width of
five feet, when it contracts into a pointed pyramid seven feet high. Set
up in its original position at Heliopolis about fifteen centuries before
the Christian era, this venerable monument of a remote antiquity is nearly
thirty-five centuries old.

"Such is the British Obelisk, unique, grand, and symbolical, which
devotion reared upward to the sun ere many empires of the West had emerged
from obscurity. It was ancient at the foundation of the city of Rome, and
even old when the Greek empire was in its cradle. Its history is lost in
the clouds of mythology long before the rise of the Roman power. To
Solomon's Egyptian bride the Needle must have been an ancestral monument;
to Pythagoras and Solon a record of a traditional past antecedent to all
historical recollection. In the college near the obelisk, Moses, the
meekest of all men, learned the wisdom of the Egyptians. When, after the
terrible last plague, the mixed multitude of the Israelites were driven
forth from Egypt, the light of the pillar of fire threw the shadow of the
obelisk across the path of the fugitives. Centuries later, when the
wrecked empire of Judæa was dispersed by the king of Babylon, it was again
in the precincts of the obelisk of On that the exiled people of the Lord
took shelter. Upon how many scenes has that monolith looked!" Amid the
changes of many dynasties and the fall of mighty empires it is still
preserved to posterity, and now rises in our midst--the most venerable and
the most valuable relic of the infancy of the world.

"This British Obelisk," says Dean Stanley, "will be a lasting memorial of
those lessons which are taught by the Good Samaritan. What does it tell us
as it stands, a solitary heathen stranger, amidst the monuments of our
English Christian greatness--near to the statues of our statesmen, under
the shadow of our Legislature, and within sight of the precincts of our
Abbey? It speaks to us of the wisdom and splendour which was the parent of
all past civilization, the wisdom whereby Moses made himself learned in
all the learning of the Egyptians for the deliverance and education of
Israel--whence the earliest Grecian philosophers and the earliest
Christian Fathers derived the insight which enabled them to look into the
deep things alike of Paganism and Christianity. It tells us--so often as
we look at its strange form and venerable characters--that 'the Light
which lighteneth every man' shone also on those who raised it as an emblem
of the beneficial rays of the sunlight of the world. It tells us that as
true goodness was possible in the outcast Samaritan, so true wisdom was
possible even in the hard and superstitious Egyptians, even in that dim
twilight of the human race, before the first dawn of the Hebrew Law or of
the Christian Gospel."



On the triumph of Christianity, the idolatrous religion of the ancient
Egyptians was regarded with pious abhorrence, and so in course of time the
hieroglyphics became neglected and forgotten. Thus for fifteen centuries
the hieroglyphic inscriptions that cover tombs, temples, and obelisks were
regarded as unmeaning characters. Thousands of travellers traversed the
land of Egypt, and yet they never took the trouble to copy with accuracy a
single line of an inscription. The monuments of Egypt received a little
attention about the middle of the eighteenth century, and vague notions of
the nature of hieroglyphs were entertained by Winckelman, Visconti, and
others. Most of their suggestions are of little value; and it was not
until the publication of the description of ancient Egypt by the first
scientific expedition under Napoleon that the world regained a glimpse of
the true nature of the long-forgotten hieroglyphs.

In 1798 M. Boussard discovered near Rosetta, situated at one of the mouths
of the Nile, a large polished stone of black granite, known as "The
Rosetta Stone." This celebrated monument it appears was set up in the
temple of Tum at Heliopolis about 200 B.C., in honour of Ptolemy V.,
according to a solemn decree of the united priesthood in synod at Memphis.
On its discovery, the stone was presented to the French Institute at
Cairo; but on the capture of Alexandria by the British in 1801, and the
consequent defeat of the French troops, the Rosetta Stone came into the
possession of the English general, and was presented by him to King George
III. The king in turn presented the precious relic to the nation, and the
stone is now in safe custody in the British Museum.

[Illustration: THE ROSETTA STONE.]

The Rosetta Stone has opened the sealed book of hieroglyphics, and enabled
the learned to understand the long-forgotten monumental inscriptions. On
the stone is a trigrammatical inscription, that is, an inscription thrice
repeated in three different characters; the first in pure hieroglyphs,
the second in Demotic, and the third in Greek. The French savants made the
first attempt at deciphering it; but they were quickly followed by German,
Italian, Swedish, and English scholars. Groups of characters on the stone
were observed amid the hieroglyphs to correspond to the words, Alexander,
Alexandria, Ptolemy, king, etc., in the Greek inscription. Many of the
opinions expressed were very conflicting, and most of them were ingenious
conjectures. A real advance was made in the study when, in 1818, Dr.
Young, a London physician, announced that many of the characters in the
group that stood for Ptolemy must have a phonetic value, somewhat after
the manner of our own alphabet. M. Champollion, a young French savant,
deeply interested in Egyptology, availed himself of Dr. Young's discovery,
and pursued the study with ardent perseverance.

In 1822 another inscribed monument was found at Philæ, in Upper Egypt,
which rendered substantial help to such Egyptologists as were eagerly
striving to unravel the mystery of the hieroglyphs. It was a small obelisk
with a Greek inscription at the base, which inscription turned out to be a
translation of the hieroglyphs on the obelisk. Champollion found on the
obelisk a group of hieroglyphs which stood for the Greek name Kleopatra;
and by carefully comparing this group with a group on the Rosetta Stone
that stood for Ptolemy, he was able to announce that Dr. Young's teaching
was correct, inasmuch as many of the hieroglyphs in the royal names are
alphabetic phonetics, that is, each represents a letter sound, as in the
case of our own alphabet.

Champollion further announced that the phonetic hieroglyph stood for the
initial letter of the name of the object represented. Thus, in the name
Kleopatra, the first hieroglyph is a knee, called in Coptic _kne_, and
this sign stands for the letter _k_, the first letter in Kleopatra. The
second hieroglyph is a lion couchant, and stands for _l_, because that
letter is the first in _labu_, the Egyptian name of lion. Further, by
comparing the names of Ptolemy and Kleopatra with that of Alexander,
Champollion discovered the value of fifteen phonetic hieroglyphs. In the
pursuit of his studies he also found out the existence of homophones, that
is, characters having the same sound; and that phonetics were mixed up in
every inscription with ideographs and representations.

In 1828, the French Government sent Champollion as conductor of a
scientific expedition to Egypt. He translated the inscriptions with
marvellous facility, and seemed at once to give life to the hitherto mute
hieroglyphs. On a wall of a temple at Karnak, amidst the prisoners of King
Shishak, he found the name "Kingdom of Judah." It will be remembered that
the Bible states that "In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak, King
of Egypt, came up against Jerusalem: and he took away the treasures of the
house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house" (1 Kings xiv,
25, 26). The discovery, therefore, of the name "Kingdom of Judah" in
hieroglyphs in connection with Shishak excited much interest in the
Christian world, corroborating as it did the Biblical narrative.

In 1830 Champollion returned from Egypt laden with the fruits of his
researches; and by his indefatigable genius he worked out the grand
problem of the deciphering and interpretation of hieroglyphic

Since that time the study of Egyptology has been pursued by Rosellini,
Bunsen, De Rouge, Mariette, Lenormant, Brugsch, Lepsius, Birch, Poole,
etc. The number of hieroglyphs at present are about a thousand. A century
ago there existed no hope of recovering the extinct language of the
ancient Egyptians; but by the continued labours of genius, the darkness of
fifteen centuries has been dispelled, and the endless inscriptions
covering obelisks, temples and tombs, proclaim in a wondrous manner the
story of Egypt's ancient greatness.

Dr. Brugsch has written a long and elaborate history of Egypt, derived
entirely from "ancient and authentic sources;" that is, from the
inscriptions on the walls of temples, on obelisks, etc., and from papyri.
The work has been translated into English, and published with the title,
"Egypt under the Pharaohs." The student also has only to turn to the
article "Hieroglyphics" in Vol. XI. of the ninth edition of the
"Encyclopædia Britannica," to see what progress has been made recently in
this direction.

But notwithstanding all this, the language of the hieroglyphs is not yet
by any means perfectly understood and Egyptian grammar still presents
many knotty problems that await solution. Rapid strides are daily being
made in the study of Egyptology; and it may be hoped that the time is not
far distant when the student will read hieroglyphic inscriptions with the
same facility that the classic student reads a page of Greek and Latin.




Hieroglyphs or hieroglyphics, literally "sacred sculptures," is the term
applied to those written characters by means of which the ancient
Egyptians expressed their thoughts. Hieroglyphs are usually pictures of
external objects, such as the sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, man, the
members of man's body, and various other objects.

They may be arranged in four classes.

First. _Representational_, _iconographic_, or _mimic_ hieroglyphs, in
which case each hieroglyph is a picture of the object referred to. Thus,
the sun's disk means the sun; a crescent the moon; a whip means a whip; an
eye, an eye. Such hieroglyphs form picture-writing, and may be called
_iconographs_, or representations.

Secondly. _Symbolical_, _tropical_, or _ideographic_ hieroglyphs, in which
case the hieroglyph was not designed to stand for the object represented,
but for some quality or attribute suggested by the object. Thus, heaven
and a star meant night; a leg in a trap, deceit; incense, adoration; a
bee, Lower Egypt; the heart, love; an eye with a tear, grief; a beetle,
immortality; a crook, protection. Such hieroglyphs are called
_ideographs_, and are perhaps the most difficult to interpret, inasmuch
as they stand for abstract ideas. Ideographic writing was carried to great
perfection, the signs for ideas became fixed, and each ideograph had a
stereotyped signification.

Thirdly. _Enigmatic_ hieroglyphs include all those wherein one object
stands for some other object. Thus, a hawk stands for a solar deity; the
bird ibis, for the god Thoth; a seated figure with a curved beard, for a

Fourthly. _Phonetic_ hieroglyphs, wherein each hieroglyph represents a
sound, and is therefore called a phonetic. Each phonetic at first probably
stood for a syllable, in which case it might be called a syllabic sign.
Thus, a chessboard represents the sound _men_; a hoe, _mer_; a triple
twig, _mes_; a bowl, _neb_; a beetle, _khep_; a bee, _kheb_; a star,

It appears that when phonetic hieroglyphs were first formed, the spoken
language was for the most part made up of monosyllabic words, and that the
names given to animals were imitations of the sounds made by such animals;
thus, _ab_ means lamb; _ba_, goat; _au_, cow; _mau_, lion; _su_, goose;
_ui_, a chicken; _bak_, a hawk; _mu_, an owl; _khep_, a beetle; _kheb_, a
bee, etc.

It is easy to see how the figure of any such animal would stand for the
name of the animal. According to Dr. Birch, the original monosyllabic
words usually began with a consonant, and the vowel sound between the two
consonants of a syllable was an indifferent matter, because the name of an
object was variously pronounced in different parts; thus a guitar, which
is an ideograph meaning goodness, might be pronounced _nefer_ or _nofer_;
a papyrus roll, which stood for oblation, was called _hetep_ or _hotep_.

Most phonetics remained as syllabic signs, but many of them in course of
time lost part of the sound embodied in the syllable, and stood for a
letter sound only. Thus, the picture of a lion, which at first stood for
the whole sound _labo_, the Egyptian name of lion, in course of time stood
only for _l_, the initial sound of the word; an owl first stood for _mu_,
then for _m_; a water-jug stood first for _nen_, then for _n_, its initial

Phonetics which represent letters only and not syllables may be called
_alphabetic_ signs, in contradistinction to _syllabic_ signs.

Plutarch asserts that the ancient Egyptians had an alphabet of twenty-five
letters, and although in later epochs of Egyptian history there existed at
least two hundred alphabetic signs, yet at a congress of Egyptologists
held in London in 1874, it was agreed that the ancient recognized alphabet
consisted of twenty-five letters. These were as follows:--An eagle stood
for _a_; a reed, _ạ_; an arm, _ā_; leg, _l_; horned serpent, _f_;
mæander, _h_; pair of parallel diagonals, _i_; knotted cord, ḥ; double
reed, _ī_; bowl, _k_; throne or stand, _ḳ_; lion couchant, _l_; owl,
_m_; zigzag or waterline, _n_; square or window shutter, _p_; angle or
knee, _q_; mouth, _r_; chair or crochet, _s_; inundated garden or pool,
_sh_; semicircle, _ṭ_; lasso or sugar-tongs-shaped noose, _th_; hand,
_t_; snake, _t'_; chicken, _ui_; sieve, _kh_.

   1 [Glyph]   a      Eagle                      'Aa

   2 [Glyph]   ạ      Reed                        Au

   3 [Glyph]   ā      Arm                         Aa

   4 [Glyph]   b      Leg                         Bu

   5 [Glyph]   f      Cerastes Serpent            Fi

   6 [Glyph]   h      Mæander                     Ha

   7 [Glyph]   h      Knotted Cord                Hi

   8 [Glyph]   i      Pair of parallel diagonals  --

   9 [Glyph]   ī       Double Reed                 iu

  10 [Glyph]   k      Bowl                        Kȃ

  11 [Glyph]   ḳ      Throne (stand)              Qa

  12 [Glyph]   l      Lion couchant               Lu or Ru

  13 [Glyph]   m      Owl                         Mu

  14 [Glyph]   n      Zigzag or Water Line        Na

  15 [Glyph]   p    { Square or Window-blind      Pu
                    { (shutter)

  16 [Glyph]   q      Angle (Knee)                Qa

  17 [Glyph]   r      Mouth                       Ru, Lu

  18 [Glyph]   s      Chair or Crochet            Sen or Set

  19 [Glyph]   s      Inundated(?) Garden (Pool)  Shi

  20 [Glyph]   t      Semicircle                  Tu

  21 [Glyph]   θ    { Lasso (sugar-tongs-shaped)  Ti
                    { Noose

  22 [Glyph]   ṭ       Hand                        Ti

  23 [Glyph]   t'     Snake                       --

  24 [Glyph]   ...    Chick                       ui

  25 [Glyph]   χ      Sieve                       Khi

About 600 B.C., during the XXVIth dynasty, many hieroglyphs, about a
hundred in number, which previously were used as ideographs only, had
assigned to them a phonetic value, and became henceforth alphabetic signs
as well as ideographs. In consequence of this innovation, in the last ages
of the Egyptian monarchy, we find many hieroglyphs having the same
phonetic value. Such hieroglyphs are called homophones, and they are
sometimes very numerous; for instance, as many as twenty hieroglyphs had
each the value of _a_, and _h_ was represented by at least thirty
homophones. In spite of the great number of homophones, the Egyptians
usually spelled their words by consonants only, after the manner of the
ancient Hebrews; thus, _hk_ stood for _hek_, a ruler; _htp_ for _hotep_,
an offering; _km_ for _kam_, Egypt; _ms_ for _mes_, born of.

The Egyptians began at an early age to use syllabic signs for proper
names. Osiris was a well-known name; and as _os_ in their spoken language
meant a throne, and _iri_, an eye, a small picture of a throne followed by
that of an eye, stood for _Osiri_, the name of their god.

An ideograph was often preceded and followed by two phonetic signs, which
respectively represented the initial and final sound of the name of the
ideograph. Thus a chessboard was an ideograph, and stood for a gift, and
sometimes a building. It was called _men_, and sometimes the chessboard is
preceded by an owl, the phonetic sign of _m_, and followed by a zigzag
line, the phonetic sign of _n_. Such complementary hieroglyphs are
intended primarily to show with greater precision the pronunciation of
_men_, and they are known by the name of complements.

Phonetic hieroglyphs are often followed by a representation or ideograph
of the object referred to. Such explanatory representations and ideographs
are called determinatives, because they help to determine the precise
value of the preceding hieroglyph.

They were rendered necessary on the monuments from the fact that the
Egyptians had few vowel sounds; thus _nib_ meant an ibis; _nebi_, a
plough; _neb_, a lord; but each word was represented by the consonantal
signs _n-b_; and consequently it was necessary to put after _n-b_ a
determinative sign of an ibis or a plough, to show which of the two was

From the earliest to the latest ages of the Egyptian monarchy, all kinds
of hieroglyphs are used in the same inscription, iconographs, ideographs,
and phonetics are mingled together; and if it were not for the judicious
use of complements and determinatives, it would often be impossible to
interpret the inscriptions.

The hieroglyphs constitute the most ancient mode of writing known to
mankind. They were used, as the name hieroglyphs, that is, "sacred
sculptures," implies, almost exclusively for sacred purposes, as may be
proved from the fact that the numerous inscriptions found on temples,
tombs and obelisks relate to the gods and the religious duties of man.
Hence the Egyptians called their written language _neter tu_, which means
"sacred words." The hieroglyphs at present known are about a thousand,
but further discoveries may augment their number. On the monuments they
are arranged with artistic care, either in horizontal lines or in vertical
columns, with all the animals and symbols facing one way, either to the
right hand or the left.

The hieroglyphs on obelisks and other granite monuments are sculptured
with a precision and delicacy that excite the admiration of the nineteenth
century. In tombs and on papyri the hieroglyphs are painted sometimes with
many colours, while on obelisks and on the walls of temples they are
generally carved in a peculiar style of cutting known as _cavo relievo_,
that is, raised relief sunk below the surface. The beautiful artistic
effect of the coloured hieroglyphs as seen on some of the tombs is as much
superior to our mode of writing as the flowing robes of the Orientals as
compared with the dress of the Franks. The spoken language of the
Egyptians was Semitic, but it had little in common with the Hebrew, for
Joseph conversed with his brothers by means of an interpreter.

Hieroglyphic inscriptions are found in the earliest tombs. The cartouche
of Khufu, or Cheops, a king of the IVth dynasty, was found on a block of
the great pyramid; and as hieroglyphic inscriptions were used until the
age of Caracalla, a Roman emperor of the third century, it follows that
hieroglyphs were used as a mode of writing for about three thousand years.

The Egyptians had two modes of cursive writing. The _hieratic_, used by
the priests and employed for sacred writings only. The hieratic
characters, which are really abbreviated forms of hieroglyphics, bear the
same relation to the hieroglyphs that our handwriting does to the printed
text. Another mode of cursive writing used by the people and employed in
law, literature, and secular matters, is known as _demotic_ or
_enchorial_. The characters in demotic are derived from the hieratic, but
appear in a simpler form, and phonetics largely prevail over ideographs.

To any students who wish to pursue the absorbing study of hieroglyphics,
the following works are recommended:--"Introduction to the Study of
Hieroglyphics," by Dr. Samuel Birch; "Egyptian Texts," by the same author,
and "Egyptian Grammar," by P. Le Page Renouf. The two latter works are
published in Bagster's series of Archaic Classics. Wilkinson's "Ancient
Egyptians," and Cooper's "Egyptian Obelisks," are instructive volumes. The
author obtained much help from the works of Champollion, Rosellini,
Sharpe, Lepsius, and from Vol. II. of "Records of the Past."




Thothmes III. is generally regarded as the greatest of the kings of
Egypt--the Alexander the Great of Egyptian history. The name Thothmes
means "child of Thoth," and was a common name among the ancient Egyptians.
On the pyramidion of the obelisk he is represented by a sphinx presenting
gifts of water and wine to Tum, the setting sun, a solar deity worshipped
at Heliopolis. On the hieroglyphic paintings at Karnak, the fact of the
heliacal rising of Sothis, the dog-star, is stated to have taken place
during this reign, from which it appears that Thothmes III. occupied the
throne of Egypt about 1450 B.C. This is one of the few dates of Egyptian
chronology that can be authenticated.

Thothmes III. belonged to the XVIIIth dynasty, which included some of the
greatest of Egyptian monarchs. Among the kings of this dynasty were four
that bore the name of Thothmes, and four the name of Amenophis, which
means "peace of Amen." The monarchs of this dynasty were Thebans.

The father of Thothmes III. was a great warrior. He conquered the
Canaanitish nations of Palestine, took Nineveh from the Rutennu, the
confederate tribes of Syria, laid waste Mesopotamia, and introduced the
war-chariots and horses into the army of Egypt.

Thothmes III., however, was even a greater warrior than his father; and
during his long reign Egypt reached the climax of her greatness. His
predecessors of the XVIIIth dynasty had extended the dominions of Egypt
far into Asia and the interior of Africa. He was a king of great capacity
and a warrior of considerable courage. The records of his campaigns are
for the most part preserved on a sandstone wall surrounding the great
temple of Karnak, built by Thothmes III. in honour of Amen-Ra. From these
hieroglyphic inscriptions it appears that Thothmes' first great campaign
was made in the twenty-second year of his reign, when an expedition was
made into the land of Taneter, that is, Palestine. A full account of his
marches and victories is given, together with a list of one hundred and
nineteen conquered towns.

This monarch lived before the time of Joshua, and therefore the records of
his conquests present us with the ancient Canaanite nomenclature of places
in Palestine between the times of the patriarchs and the conquest of the
land by the Israelites under Joshua. Thothmes set out with his army from
Tanis, that is, Zoan; and after taking Gaza, he proceeded, by way of the
plain of Sharon, to the more northern parts of Palestine. At the battle of
Megiddo he overthrew the confederated troops of native princes; and in
consequence of this signal victory the whole of Palestine was subdued.
Crossing the Jordan near the Sea of Galilee, Thothmes pursued his march to
Damascus, which he took by the sword; and then returning homewards by the
Judean hills and the south country of Palestine, he returned to Egypt
laden with the spoils of victory.

In the thirtieth year of his reign Thothmes lead an expedition against the
Rutennu, the people of Northern Syria. In this campaign he attacked and
captured Kadesh, a strong fortress in the valley of Orontes, and the
capital town of the Rutennu. The king pushed his conquests into
Mesopotamia, and occupied the strong fortress of Carchemish, on the banks
of the Euphrates. He then led his conquering troops northwards to the
sources of the Tigris and the Euphrates, so that the kings of Damascus,
Nineveh, and Assur became his vassals, and paid tribute to Egypt.

Punt or Arabia was also subdued, and in Africa his conquests extended to
Cush or Ethiopia. His fleet of ships sailed triumphantly over the waters
of the Black Sea. Thus Thothmes ruled over lands extending from the
mountains of Caucasus to the shores of the Indian Ocean, and from the
Libyan Desert to the great river Tigris.

"Besides distinguishing himself as a warrior and as a record writer,
Thothmes III. was one of the greatest of Egyptian builders and patrons of
art. The great temple of Ammon at Thebes was the special object of his
fostering care, and he began his career of builder and restorer by
repairing the damages which his sister Hatasu had inflicted on that
glorious edifice to gratify her dislike of her brother Thothmes II., and
her father Thothmes I. Statues of Thothmes I. and his father Amenophis,
which Hatasu had thrown down, were re-erected by Thothmes III. before the
southern propylæa of the temple in the first year of his independent
reign. The central sanctuary which Usertesen I. had built in common stone,
was next replaced by the present granite edifice, under the directions of
the young prince, who then proceeded to build in rear of the old temple a
magnificent hall or pillared chamber of dimensions previously unknown in
Egypt. This edifice was an oblong square one hundred and forty-three feet
long by fifty-five feet wide, or nearly half as large again as the nave of
Canterbury Cathedral. The whole of this apartment was roofed in with slabs
of solid stone; two rows of circular pillars thirty feet in height
supported the central part, dividing it into three avenues, while on each
side of the pillars was a row of square piers, still further extending the
width of the chamber, and breaking it up into five long vistas. In
connection with this noble hall, on three sides of it, north, east, and
south, Thothmes erected further chambers and corridors, one of the former
situated towards the south containing the 'Great Table of Karnak.'

"Other erections of this distinguished monarch are the enclosure of the
temple of the Sun at Heliopolis, and the obelisks belonging to the same
building, which the irony of fate has now removed to Rome, England, and
America; the temple of Ptah at Thebes; the small temple at Medinet Abou; a
temple at Kneph, adorned with obelisks, at Elephantine, and a series of
temples and monuments at Ombos, Esneh, Abydos, Coptos, Denderah,
Eileithyia, Hermonthis and Memphis in Egypt; and at Amada, Corte, Talmis,
Pselus, Semneh, and Koummeh in Nubia. Large remains still exist in the
Koummeh and Semneh temples, where Thothmes worships Totun, the Nubian
Kneph, in conjunction with Usertesen III., his own ancestor. There are
also extensive ruins of his great buildings at Denderah, Ombos, and
Napata. Altogether Thothmes III. is pronounced to have 'left more
monuments than any other Pharaoh, excepting Rameses II.,' and though
occasionally showing himself as a builder somewhat capricious and
whimsical, yet still on the whole to have worked in 'a pure style,' and
proved that he was 'not deficient in good taste.'

"There is reason to believe that the great constructions of this mighty
monarch were, in part at least, the product of forced labours. Doubtless
his eleven thousand captives were for the most part held in slavery, and
compelled to employ their energies in helping towards the accomplishment
of those grand works which his active mind was continually engaged in
devising. We find among the monuments of his time a representation of the
mode in which the services of these foreign bondsmen were made to
subserve the glory of the Pharaoh who had carried them away captive. Some
are seen kneading and cutting up the clay; others bear them water from a
neighbouring pool; others again, with the assistance of a wooden mould,
shape the clay into bricks, which are then taken and placed in long rows
to dry; finally, when the bricks are sufficiently hard, the highest class
of labourers proceed to build them into walls. All the work is performed
under the eyes of taskmasters, armed with sticks, who address the
labourers with the words: 'The stick is in my hand, be not idle.' Over the
whole is an inscription which says: 'Here are to be seen the prisoners
which have been carried away as living captives in very great numbers;
they work at the building with active fingers; their overseers are in
sight; they insist with vehemence' (on the others working), 'obeying the
orders of the great skilled lord' (_i.e._, the head architect), 'who
prescribes to them the works, and gives directions to the masters; they
are rewarded with wine and all kinds of good dishes; they perform their
service with a mind full of love for the king; they build for Thothmes
Ra-men-khepr a Holy of Holies for the gods. May it be rewarded to him
through a range of many years.'"[4]


"In person Thothmes III. does not appear to have been very remarkable. His
countenance was thoroughly Egyptian, but not characterised by any strong
individuality. The long, well-shaped, but somewhat delicate nose, almost
in a line with the forehead, gives a slightly feminine appearance to the
face, which is generally represented as beardless and moderately plump.
The eye, prominent, and larger than that of the ordinary Egyptian, has a
pensive but resolute expression, and is suggestive of mental force. The
mouth is somewhat too full for beauty, but is resolute, like the eye, and
less sensual than that of most Egyptians. There is an appearance of
weakness about the chin, which is short, and retreats slightly, thus
helping to give the entire countenance a womanish look. Altogether, the
face has less of strength and determination than we should have expected,
but is not wholly without indications of some of those qualities."[5]

Thothmes III. died after a long and prosperous reign of fifty-four years,
and when he was probably about sixty years old, his father having died
when he was only an infant.




_Translation of the First Side._

"The Horus, powerful Bull, crowned in Uas, King of Upper and Lower Egypt,
'Ra-men-Kheper.' He has made as it were monuments to his father Haremakhu;
he has set up two great obelisks capped with gold at the first festival of
Triakonteris. According to his wish he has done it, Son of the Sun,
Thothmes, beloved of Haremakhu, ever-living."

[Illustration: "Horus, powerful Bull, crowned in Uas."]

    HAWK (=bak=) _Horus_. Horus is a solar deity, and represented the
    rising sun, or the sun in the horizon. Horus is here represented by a
    hawk, surmounted by the double crown of Egypt called PSCHENT. The hawk
    flew higher than any other bird of Egypt, and therefore became the
    usual emblem of any solar deity, just as the eagle, from its lofty
    soaring, is an emblem of sublimity, and therefore an emblem of St.
    John. The double crown named PSCHENT is composed of a conical hat
    called HET, the crown and emblem of Upper Egypt, and the TESHER, or
    red crown, the emblem of Lower Egypt. The wearer of the double crown
    was supposed to exercise authority over the two Egypts. The oblong
    form upon the top of which the sacred hawk, the symbol of Horus,
    stands, is thought by some to be a representation of the standard of
    the monarch. Dr. Birch thinks it is the ground plan of a palace, and
    the avenue and approaches to the palace.

    BULL (=Mnevis=). The _Mnevis_ was the name of the black bull, or
    sacred ox of Heliopolis. It was regarded as an avatar or incarnation
    of a solar deity. On the London Obelisk Mnevis appears twelve times on
    the palatial titles, and twice on the lateral columns of Rameses II.

    ARM WITH STICK (=khu=) _powerful_, is the common symbol of power. In
    the Bible also an arm stands for power. "The Lord brought us forth out
    of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm" (Deut. xxvi.
    8). There are twelve palatial titles on the obelisk, three on each
    face, and in eleven cases occurs the arm holding a stick in its hand.
    In each case this hieroglyph may be rendered by the word _powerful_.
    The same hieroglyph appears several times in both the central and
    lateral columns.

    CROWN (=kha=) _crowned_, because placed on the head at the time of
    coronation. This hieroglyph is thought by some to be a part of a

    OWL (=em=) _in_, is a preposition.

    SCEPTRE (=Uas=) _Western Thebes_. The sceptre here depicted is that
    carried in the left hand of Theban kings. It is composed of three
    parts, the top is the head of a greyhound, the shaft is the long stalk
    of some reed, perhaps that of the papyrus or lotus, while the curved
    bottom represents the claws of the crocodile, an animal common in
    Upper Egypt in ancient times. This sceptre, called KAKUFA, was often
    represented by an ostrich feather, the common symbol of truth, and
    stands for _Uas_, the name of that part of Thebes which stood on the
    western bank of the Nile. The sceptre as an ideograph means power, in
    the same manner as the sceptre carried by our monarch on state
    occasions is a badge of authority.

Thus the palatial title may be rendered, "The powerful bull, crowned in
Western Thebes."

Above the cartouche will be noticed a group of four hieroglyphs, namely,
a _reed_, _bee_, and two _semicircles_. This group is usually placed above
the cartouche containing the prenomen or sacred name of the king, and the
four are descriptive of the authority exercised by the monarch. They may
be thus explained:--


    REED (=su=) is the symbol of Upper Egypt, where reeds of this kind
    were probably common, especially by the banks of the Nile. A flower or
    plant is often used as the emblem of a nation.

    In ancient times the vine was the emblem of the king of Judah, and on
    the same principle the reed was the emblem of Upper Egypt. The
    semicircle below is called _tu_, and here stands for king. The two
    hieroglyphs together are called SUTEN, and may be rendered "king of
    Upper Egypt."

    BEE (=kheb=) is the emblem of Lower Egypt.

    The four hieroglyphs are called SUTEN-KHEB, and mean "king of Upper
    and Lower Egypt."

The bee was an insect that received great attention among the ancient
Egyptians. They were kept in hives which resembled our own, and when
flowers were not numerous, the owners of bees often carried their hives in
boats to various spots on the banks of the Nile where many flowers were
blooming. The wild bees frequented the sunny banks and made their
habitations in the clefts of the rocks. Moses says that God made His
people to "suck honey out of the rock," and the Psalmist repeats the same
idea, when he says, "with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied

Below this group of hieroglyphs stands what is called the cartouche of
Thothmes III. The word was first used by Champollion, and signifies a
scroll or label, or escutcheon on which the name of a king is inscribed.
The oval form of the cartouche was probably taken from the scarabeus or
sacred beetle, an emblem of the resurrection and immortality; and thus the
very framework on which the king inscribed his name spoke of the eternity
of a future state. The form, however, may be from a plate of armour. The
cartouche is somewhat analogous to a heraldic shield bearing a coat of
arms, and its object was probably to give prominence to the king's name,
just as an aureole in Christian art gives prominence to the figure it

The three hieroglyphs charged in this cartouche make up the divine name of
Thothmes, and consist of a solar disk, chessboard, and beetle. Each
monarch had two names, respectively called prenomen, or divine name,
somewhat analogous to our Christian name, and the nomen, corresponding to
our surname. The prenomen is called the divine name, because it contains
the name of the god from whom the king claims his descent, and often the
deities also by whom he is beloved, and with whom he claims relationship.
The king not only claimed descent from the gods, but he was accounted by
his subjects as a representation of the deity.

The title of Pharaoh applied to their kings is derived from Phaa or Ra,
the midday sun, and the notion was taught that kingly power was derived
from the supreme solar deity. The divine right of kings was thus an
article of faith among the ancient Egyptians. He was the head of their
religious system, defender of the faith; and in all matters,
ecclesiastical as well as civil, the king was supreme. He was consequently
instructed in the mysteries of the gods, the services of the temples, and
the duties of the priesthood. The Theban kings claimed relationship with
Amen, the supreme god of Thebes; and most kings also claimed Ra, the
supreme solar deity, worshipped at Heliopolis, as their grand ancestor.


    SUN'S DISK (=aten=) was the emblem of Ra, who was said to have in
    perfection all the attributes possessed by inferior deities. He was
    all in all; from him came, and to him return, the souls of men.

    Ra or Phra was, properly speaking, the mid-day sun; and as the sun
    shines with greatest power and brightness at mid-day, the attributes
    of majesty and authority were intimately associated with this deity.
    Amen-Ra, the god of Thebes, was supposed to possess the attributes of
    Amen and Ra.

    The ATEN was originally circular, and thus in shape resembled the
    sun's disk, but in many inscriptions the shape is oval, or that of an
    oblate-spheroid, considerably flattened at top and bottom.

    CHESSBOARD (=men=) is by many thought to be a battlemented wall, but
    it is probably a chessboard; for at Thebes a picture represents
    Rameses III. playing a game at chess, or some kindred game. What
    appears to be a battlement is really the chessmen on the board.

    MEN, as part of the divine name of Thothmes, may be the shortened form
    of Amen, the supreme god of Thebes, just as Tum is the shortened form
    of Atum. Ptah was the supreme god of Memphis, and Ra the supreme god
    of Heliopolis. Amen literally means "the concealed one," and was the
    name applied to the sun after it had sunk below the horizon. He was
    reputed to be the oldest and most venerable of deities, called the
    "dweller in eternity," and the source of light and life. Before the
    creation he dwelt alone in the lower world, but on his saying "come,"
    the sun appeared, and drove away the darkness of night. Sometimes he
    is called Amen-Ra, and his principal temple was at Thebes. He is
    generally represented by the figure of a man with his face concealed
    under the head of a horned ram. The figure is coloured blue, the
    sacred colour of the source of life.

    SACRED BEETLE (=kheper=) usually called _scarabeus_ or _scarabee_. It
    was thought that the beetle hid its eggs in the sand, where they
    remained until the young beetles broke forth to life. Thus the
    scarabeus became the symbol of the resurrection and a future life.

    According to Cooper, the sacred beetle was in the habit of laying its
    eggs in a ball of clay, which it kept rolling until the eggs were
    vivified by the heat of the sun. The beetle thus became the emblem of
    the sun, the vivifier, and was therefore consecrated to Ra, who is on
    that account called Ra-Kheper.

    When dedicated to Ra, the beetle holds the cosmic ball between its
    front legs. Sometimes it is an emblem of the world, and is then
    consecrated to Ptah, the creator of heaven and earth.

    The divine name, or prenomen, of Thothmes is thus _Ra-Men-Kheper_,
    frequently read _Men-Khepera-Ra_, and is made up of three hieroglyphs,
    which stand for Ra, Amen, and Ptah, the supreme gods respectively
    worshipped at Heliopolis, Thebes, and Memphis. From these three great
    deities Thothmes thus claims his descent.

The cartouche with the divine name of Thothmes occurs four times on the
obelisk, once on each side at the top of the central column of
hieroglyphs. The sacred beetle occurs in two other places in the central
columns of Thothmes, but never appears in the eight lateral columns of

[Illustration: "He has made as it were monuments to his father

    EYE (=ar=) _made_. As a verb _ar_ signifies to make.

    ZIGZAG (=en=) _has_. After verbs the zigzag means _has_, and is
    therefore a sign of perfect.

    HORNED SNAKE (=ef=) _he_. The usual personal pronoun.

    OWL (=mu=) _as it were_.

    CHESSBOARD (=men=) _monument_.

    VASE (=nu=). The vase represents an _ampulla_ or bottle. The three
    vases in this place are used as a determinative to _men_, monument;
    and being three in number, indicate plurality, making MEN into MENU,

    HORNED SNAKE (=ef=) _his_. This figure is often called cerastes.
    Standing by itself it usually stands for the possessive pronoun _his_.

    ZIGZAG (=en=) _to_. Used here as a preposition.

    SEMICIRCLE and CERASTES (=tef=) _father_. The semicircle is here an
    alphabetic phonetic, equal to _t_, and with _ef_ makes TEF, meaning

    HAWK (=bak=) _Horus_. The hawk alone stood for any solar deity. With
    the solar disk on the head and two ovals by the side, as in the
    present hieroglyph, it stood for Haremakhu, the sun in the horizon.
    The two ovals are called KHU, and stand for the eastern and western

Thothmes III. claims Horus as his father, and it is moreover evident from
the above that the obelisk itself is dedicated to the rising sun. The
great Sphinx at the pyramids of Ghizeh is also dedicated to Haremakhu, and
this may account for the fact that the gigantic figure faces the east, the
region of the rising sun.

[Illustration: "He has set up two great obelisks capped with gold."]

    THRONE BACK (=es=). This may be the back of a chair. It is the old
    hieroglyph for the letter _s_.

    REEL (=ha=) _set up_. This hieroglyph is by some thought to be the leg
    of a stool.

    ZIGZAG (=en=) _has_.

    HORNED SNAKE (=ef=) _he_.

    OBELISK (_tekhen_) is in this place an image or picture of the thing
    spoken of, namely obelisk. This hieroglyph is therefore an iconograph,
    or representation. Two obelisks are here depicted, to indicate that
    two were set up. According to Cooper the obelisk was an emblem of the
    sun--the clearest symbol of supreme deity. The Egyptian name was
    TEKHEN, a word signifying mystery, and it was regarded among the
    initiated as the esoteric symbol of light and life. The obelisk was
    consequently dedicated to Horus, the god of the rising sun, while the
    pyramid, the house of the dead, was dedicated to Tum, or Atum, the god
    of the setting sun. Hence obelisks are found only on the east bank of
    the Nile, while pyramids are built on the west side, by the edge of
    the silent desert.

    SWALLOW (=ur=) _great_. The swallow is an emblem of greatness, and
    therefore may be called an ideograph, or symbolic hieroglyph.

    Two swallows are here depicted, because there are two obelisks, and
    the dual form extends to the adjective.

    TWO LEGS (=bu=) _capped_. There are two legs, to express duality, and
    thus agree with the preceding substantive, two obelisks. A human leg
    is the original alphabetic sign for letter _b_. The letter _u_ is a
    plural termination.

    SEMICIRCLE (=ta=) _the_. Under the right leg is a semicircle, which is
    here the feminine article to agree with the little triangular
    hieroglyph below.

    PYRAMIDION. The summit of the obelisk, known as the pyramidion, from
    its resemblance to a small pyramid, is here represented by a small
    triangle. This hieroglyph represents the top or cap of the obelisk,
    and is a determinative to _capped_.

    OWL (=mu=) _with_. Owl, as a preposition, has the same meaning as the
    prepositions _with_, _from_, _by_--the usual signs of the ablative

    BOWL (=neb=) _gold_. Under this crater or bowl will be noticed three
    small dots, probably designed to represent grains of the metal

    SCEPTRE (=user=) is here used as a determinative of metal; and some
    Egyptologists think that when it accompanies the bowl called NEB, the
    metal referred to is not gold but copper.

Among the hieroglyphs on the London Obelisk may be found many ideographs
or pictures of outward objects, each of which stands for an attribute or
abstract idea. Thus arm stands for power, interior of a hall for
festivity, lizard for multitude, beetle for immortality, sceptre for
power, crook for authority, Anubis staff for plenty, vulture for queenly
royalty, asp for kingly royalty, ostrich feather for truth, ankh or crux
ansata for life, weight for equality, adze for approval, pike for power,
horn for opposition, the bird called bennu for lustre, pyramous loaf for
giving, hatchet called neter for god, lion's head for victory, swallow for

In addition to the obelisk, the other iconographs or picture
representations found on the London Obelisk are the sun, moon, star,
heaven, pole, throne, abode, altar, tree.

From this hieroglyphic sentence we learn that the pyramidion of each
obelisk was covered or capped with some metal, probably copper. This was
done to protect the monument from lightning and rain. Cooper draws
attention to the fact that obelisks were capped with metals, and pyramids
were covered with polished stones. The pyramidia of Hatasu's obelisks at
Karnak were covered with gold. The venerable obelisk still standing at
Heliopolis had a cap of bronze, which remained until the Middle Ages, and
was seen by an Arabian physician about A.D. 1300.

The avarice of greed and the rapacity of war have long since stripped
every obelisk of its metal covering.

[Illustration: "At the first festival of the Triakonteris."]

    DISK (=aten=) _time_. The solar disk is usually a symbol of Ra, but as
    the sun is the measurer of times and seasons, the disk sometimes
    stands for time, as it does here.

    The hieroglyphs following are defaced. Some think one hieroglyph is a
    cerastes, but Dr. Birch says the group probably consisted of a harpoon
    and three vertical lines--a common sign of plurality. Thus the
    preceding sentence would be "at time the first," that is, "at the
    first time."

    OWL (=mu=) _in_. Here a preposition governing _time_.

    PALACE (=seḥ=) _Festival of the Triakonteris_. This hieroglyph with
    three compartments probably represents the interior of a palace. It is
    the usual symbol for a festival. With two small thrones inside, as
    seen here, the hieroglyph probably represents the interior of a
    palace; and is the ideograph for the festival called triakonteris,
    because celebrated every thirty years. This cyclical festival was
    celebrated with great festivity. The space of time between two
    successive feasts was called a triakontennial period. The thrones
    which distinguish the triakonteris from an ordinary festival indicates
    also the royal character of this great feast.

    HALL (=seḥ=) is the usual hieroglyph for an ordinary festival, and
    represents the interior of a hall. It consists of two compartments.
    The pole in the centre supporting the roof is here a carved post.
    _Seḥ_ is here used as a determinative to the preceding hieroglyph.
    The symbol for festival here stands on a large semicircle, with an
    inscribed diamond-shaped aperture. This semicircle with the
    diamond-shaped aperture is called HEB, and often appears alone as the
    hieroglyph for _festival_.

Thothmes III. reigned fifty-four years, and therefore witnessed the
beginning of two triakontennial periods. Probably he set up the two
obelisks at the first triakonteris that happened during his reign.


The hieroglyphs following seem to be zigzag, line, semicircle, zigzag,
hoe, mouth, mouth, cerastes, semicircle, two arms united, line, eye,
zigzag, cerastes. These are defaced somewhat on the obelisk, and therefore
doubtfully copied in the transcript. Dr. Birch translates them: "according
to his wish he has done it." The student should notice that the
hieroglyphs hoe and mouth together mean _wish_.

Eye (=ar=) here means _done_; and zigzag _has_, the usual sign of perfect.

The nomen is the family name or surname of the monarch. It may be made up
of iconographs, ideographs, syllabic signs, and alphabetic phonetics; or
the name may consist of a combination of all these. If it be composed of
the first three, then the nomen corresponds to what in heraldry is called
a rebus. The name of Thothmes is made up of the well-known sacred bird
called _ibis_, and the triple twig called _mes_.

[Illustration: "Son of the Sun, Thothmes."]

    GOOSE (=sa=) _son_. The goose was a common article of food in Egypt,
    and as hieroglyphs for the most part are representations of common
    objects, we find the goose repeatedly figured on the inscriptions.
    Sometimes it stands for _Seb_, the father of the gods, the _Saturn_ of
    classic mythology.

    SOLAR DISK (=aten=) _the sun_. It stands for Ra, the sun-god. The
    goose and disk mean "son of the sun," and almost invariably precede
    the nomen of the king, because kings were thought to be lineal
    descendants of the supreme solar deity.

    IBIS. A common bird in Egypt, resembling the crane, phœnix, and
    bennu. It was sacred to, and an emblem of, Thoth, the god of letters,
    who is usually depicted with an ibis head. As Thoth represented both
    the visible and concealed moon, he was fitly represented by the sacred
    bird ibis, which on account of its mingled black and white feathers,
    was an effective emblem of both the dark and illumined side of the
    moon. The ibis alone on a standard, as depicted on the obelisk, stood
    for Thoth, the first syllable of the word Thothmes.

    TRIPLE TWIG (=mes=) means _born_, and is a symbol of birth. Thus
    _ibis_ and _mes_ together form the rebus Thothmes, which name thus
    means, "born of Thoth."

In this particular cartouche will be noticed a small scarabeus or beetle,
which is an emblem of existence and immortality, and probably indicates
the self-existent nature and immortality of Thothmes; but this part of the
obelisk is much defaced, and what follows is well nigh obliterated.

In ancient times kings and great persons were frequently named after the
god they worshipped; thus among the Egyptians, Rameses from Ra, Amen-hotep
from Amen, Seti from Set, etc. Similarly in Scripture we find Joshua,
Jeremiah, Jesus, derived from Jehovah; Jerubbaal, Ethbaal, Jezebel,
Belshazzar, and many others, from Baal or Bel, the sun-god; Elijah,
Elisha, Elias, Elishama, etc., from El or Eloah, the true God. The same
mode of deriving names from deities prevailed more or less among all
ancient nations. On this principle Thothmes, the mighty Egyptian monarch,
was named after the god Thoth.

What follows on this side of the obelisk is well nigh obliterated, but the
hieroglyphs were probably the same as those following the cartouche of
Thothmes at the bottom of the central column on the second and fourth
sides of the obelisk, and therefore would mean, "Beloved of Haremakhu,
ever living."

[Illustration: "Beloved of Haremakhu, ever living."]

    HAWK (=bak=), as has been already explained, is the emblem of any
    solar deity, but surmounted by the _aten_ or solar disk, and
    accompanied by two ovals called _khu_, which indicate the two
    horizons, in the east and west parts of the sky, the hawk, as here,
    stands for Horus, or Haremakhu, the sun in the horizon.

    The hoe, called =mer= or =tore=, is equal to the phonetic _m_, and was
    one of the commonest implements used in agriculture. It is sometimes
    spoken of as a hand-plough, or pick or spade, and probably it answered
    all these purposes. In shape it somewhat resembled our capital letter
    A, as it consisted of two lines tied together about the centre with a
    twisted rope. One limb was of uniform thickness, and generally
    straight, and formed the head; while the other, curved inwards, and
    sometimes of considerable width, formed the handle. The hoe stands
    here for the phonetic sound of _m_, the first letter of the word
    =mai=, which means _beloved_.

    TWO REEDS. One reed is equal to _a_, the double reed equals phonetic
    _i_, and is generally a plural sign. Here the double reed is an
    intensive, so that the hoe and double reeds spell _mai_, which means
    "much beloved."

These hieroglyphs, taken in the order in which they ought to be translated
into English, consist of a hoe, two reeds, a hawk, two ovals, and a solar

The last group of hieroglyphs consists of a long serpent, a semicircle,
and a straight line. The long serpent is equal to the phonetic _t_, or
_th_, or _g_. The semicircle, which represents the upper grindstone for
bruising corn, equals phonetic _t_. It is often called a muller or
millstone. The straight line is a phonetic equal to _ta_. The three
hieroglyphs therefore form the word _getta_ or _tetta_, a term which means

_Getta_ appears as the last group of hieroglyphs at the bottom of the
central column on the third and fourth sides. They were probably at first
at the end of the central column on the first and second sides also,
although they have been obliterated on the two latter faces.




_Translation of the Second Side._

"Horus, the powerful Bull, crowned by Truth, Lord of Upper and Lower
Egypt, Ra-men-Kheper. The Lord of the Gods has multiplied Festivals to him
upon the great Persea Tree within the Temple of the Phœnix; he is known as
his son--a divine person, his limbs issuing in all places according to his
wish. Son of the Sun, Thothmes, of Holy An, beloved of Haremakhu."

[Illustration: "Horus, the powerful bull, crowned by Truth, lord of Upper
and Lower Egypt, Ra-men-Kheper."]

    SEATED FIGURE (=Ma=) _goddess of Truth_. She was called Thmei or Ma,
    and was generally represented by a seated female, holding in one hand
    the ankh, the symbol of life, and on her head an ostrich feather. The
    ostrich feather alone is also the symbol of truth or justice, because
    of the equal length of the feathers. In courts of justice the chief
    judge wore a figure of Thmei suspended from his neck by a golden

    Thmei or Ma is always represented as present at the dreadful balance
    in the hall of justice, where each soul was weighed against the symbol
    of divine truth.

The above is the same as face one, the only new idea being that of
_Truth_, mentioned in the palatial title.

[Illustration: "The lord of the gods has multiplied Festivals to him."]

    LIZARD (=as=) _multiplied_. _As_ is the usual verb to multiply.

    With the zigzag line under the sign of the perfect, the two
    hieroglyphs mean _has multiplied_.

    BACK OF CHAIR (=s=) phonetic hieroglyph. Is here the consonantal
    complement of _as_, the preceding hieroglyph.

    ZIGZAG (=en=) _to_. A preposition here.

    CERASTES (=ef=) _him_. Personal pronoun.

    BASKET (=neb=) _lord_. This hieroglyph might be thought to be a basin,
    but in painted hieroglyphs it appears as a wicker basket.

    THREE HATCHETS (=neteru=) _gods_. A hatchet or battle-axe was called
    neter, and was the usual symbol for a god. Plurality is often
    indicated by a hieroglyph being repeated three times. The letter _u_
    is a plural termination; thus _neter_ is god, _neteru_ gods.

    PALACE (=seḥ=) _festival_.

    HALL (=seḥ=) _festival_. Here used as a determinative to the

Every syllabic sign possesses an inherent vowel sound, or an inherent
consonant sound, or both. The vowel sign is often placed before, and the
consonant sign after the syllabic sign. Such alphabetic hieroglyphs are
called complements, and are very frequently used in the inscriptions.

[Illustration: "Upon the great Persea Tree within the Temple of the

    HUMAN HEAD (=Her=) _upon_.

    The vertical line preceding is the masculine article. The defaced
    signs on the left were probably three short vertical lines, to
    indicate the plurality of festivals.

    POOL (=shi=). Here a phonetic united with succeeding hieroglyph.

    HAND (=t=) alphabetic phonetic. The two spell _shit_, the name of
    _persea_, a beautiful tree abounding in ancient Egypt, bearing
    pear-shaped fruit.

    TREE (=persea=) _tree_. A determinative to the preceding hieroglyphs.
    The tree here referred to may have been situated at Heliopolis; and it
    is worthy of notice that in a picture at Thebes, the god Tum appears
    in the act of writing the name of Thothmes on the fruit of the persea.

    PERSON ON THRONE (=śep=) _great_. The throne is a common symbol for

    CHAIR BACK (=s=) alphabetic phonetic. Here an initial complement to

    OWL (=em=)                }
                              } The two form _emkhen_, the preposition
    DECAPITATE FIGURE (=khen=)} _within_.

    SEMICIRCLE (=tu=) _the_. Feminine article.

    OPEN SQUARE (=ha=) _house_. The figure probably represents the ground
    plan of an ancient house.

    LARGE SQUARE (=ha=) _temple_. This square is not open, but it encloses
    a smaller square in one corner, and thus resembles a stamped envelope.
    The god or sacred bird that dwells in this temple is depicted within
    the square. On the third face of the obelisk, right lateral column,
    the goddess Athor or Hathor--literally the abode of Horus, thus
    implying that she was Horus' mother--is represented by a large square,
    enclosing a hawk, the emblem of Horus. Within the square hieroglyph
    now under consideration will be noticed the figure of a bird somewhat
    defaced, probably the crane or phœnix. The square itself is perhaps
    the ground plan of a temple, or adytum of a temple. Thus the sentence
    means, "within the house, the temple of the phœnix." Cooper thinks
    the bird depicted is the _bennu_, the sacred bird of Heliopolis, and
    that the temple of the bennu, called _habennu_, is the great temple of
    the sun at Heliopolis.

[Illustration: "He is known as his son, a divine person. His limbs issuing
in all places, according to his wish."]

    MOUTH (=ru=)   }
                   } The two, _ru-aten_, equal _known_.
    CIRCLE (=aten=)}

    GOOSE (=sa=) son.

    CERASTES (=ef=) _he_.

    CHICK (=u=) _is_.

    HATCHET (=neter=) _divine_.

    HUMAN FIGURE _person_.

    Thothmes, in virtue of his royalty, styles himself a "divine person."

    TWISTED CORD (=hi=) _limbs_. The three dots represent fragments of his
    body, and form a determinative of limbs.

    HOUSE (=p=)}
               } The two form _per_, _issuing_.
    MOUTH (=r=)}

    OWL (=em=) _in_.

    MÆANDER (=ha=) _place_.

    BASKET (=neb=) _all_.

    MOUTH (=er=) _according to_.

    POOL (=mer=) _wish_.

    MOUTH (=er=) _his_.

Then follows, "son of the sun, Thothmes of An," etc., the same hieroglyphs
as those already explained at the lower part of the first column. The only
new hieroglyph is the _pylon_, rendered _An_ in the cartouche. It may be
explained as follows:--


    PYLON (=An=) _Heliopolis_. The sacred city of the sun must have been a
    city of obelisks, temples, and pylons, or colossal gateways. The
    latter must have formed a conspicuous feature of the place, inasmuch
    as the massive masonry of the gateways would tower high above the
    other buildings. This being so, it is not surprising that a pylon with
    a flagstaff should be the usual symbol for Heliopolis.

The hieroglyphs following the cartouche mean, "Beloved of Haremakhu,"
etc., and have already been explained.

It ought to be observed that on three sides of the obelisk Thothmes'
columns of hieroglyphs ended alike, namely: face one, now almost
obliterated in this part; face two, still distinct; and face four, more
complete in its termination than any other side.



_Translation of the Third Side._

"Horus, powerful Bull, beloved of Ra, King of Upper and Lower Egypt,
Ra-men-Kheper. His father Tum has set up for him a great name, with
increase of royalty, in the precincts of Heliopolis, giving him the throne
of Seb, the dignity of Kheper, Son of the Sun, Thothmes, the Holy, the
Just, beloved of the Bennu of An, ever-living."

The first part of the inscription, namely, "Horus, powerful bull, beloved
of Ra, king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ra-men-Kheper," is the same as in
the first and second side, the only new idea occurring in the lower part
of the palatial title, namely, "beloved of Ra."


    HAND PLOUGH (=mer=) _beloved_.

    FIGURE (=Ra=) _sun-god_. The seated figure has a hawk's head,
    surmounted by the aten or solar disk. Ra being the supreme solar
    deity, the "beloved of Ra" was one of the favourite epithets of the

[Illustration: "His father Tum set up for him a great name, with increase
of royalty."]

    CHESSBOARD (=men=) _set up_.

    ZIGZAG (=en=) _has_. After zigzag appears a thick line, which Dr.
    Birch thinks to be a papyrus roll, the usual sign of possession.

    SEMICIRCLE (=t=) with cerastes (_ef_) make up (_tef_) _father_.

    SEMICIRCLE (=t=) phonetic consonantal complement of _t_ in _Tum_.

    SLEDGE (=tm=) _Tum_. The setting sun, worshipped at Heliopolis,
    probably same as Atum. The god Tum appears on the four sides of the
    pyramidion, and some therefore think that the obelisk stood with its
    companion in front of the temple of Tum at Heliopolis.

    MOUTH (=ru=) _for_.

    ZIGZAG (=n=)   }
                   } The two form (_nef_) _him_.
    CERASTES (=ef=)}

    SWALLOW (=ur=) _great_. This is the usual hieroglyph for greatness.

    CARTOUCHE (=khen=) _name_. The cartouche is usually the oval form in
    which the king inscribed his name. Here it stands for _name_.

    OWL (=em=) _with_. The owl has generally the force of the ablative

    TWISTED CORD (=uah=) _increase_. The top of this hieroglyph resembles
    papyrus flower, and ought therefore to be distinguished from the
    simple twisted cord.

    REED (=su=) _royalty_.

[Illustration: "In the precincts of Heliopolis, giving him the throne of
Seb, the dignity of Kepher."]

    OWL (=em=) _m_. Complement to _am_, preceding.

    CROSS (=am=) _in_.

    SEMICIRCLE (=ta=) _the_.

    OBLONG (=hen=) _precincts_. The usual hieroglyph for temple.

    PYLON (=An=) _Heliopolis_.

    CIRCLE with CROSS (=nu=) determinative of a city.

    MOUTH (=r=)}
               } The two phonetics form _ra_, _giving_.
    ARM (=a=)  }

    SEMICIRCLE (=ta=) _the_.

    CERASTES (=ef=) _him_.

    THRONE (=kher=) _throne_.

    GOOSE (=s=)} The two phonetics form _sb_ or _Seb_, name of a god. Seb
               } was the Chronos of the Greeks, the Saturn of the Latins.
    LEG (=b=)  }

    HORNS ON A POLE (=aa=) _dignity_. On the horns is a coiled rope.

    ZIGZAG (=en=) _of_.

    BEETLE (=khep=) _Kheper_. The scarabeus or sacred beetle, dedicated to
    Ra and Ptah.

The remaining hieroglyphs of this column have already been explained
(_see_ p. 80), except the two small hieroglyphs beside the nomen Thothmes,
and the termination of the column.


    MUSICAL INSTRUMENT (=nefer=) _holy_. This instrument resembles a heart
    surmounted by a cross. Some think it represents a guitar, and from the
    purifying effects of music, became the symbol for goodness or

    OSTRICH FEATHER (=shu=) _true_. The usual symbol of truth. The nomen
    therefore in this case may be rendered, "Thothmes, the holy, the


    BENNU (=bennu=) sacred bird of An. This _bennu_ is usually depicted
    with two long feathers on the back of the head.

[Illustration: "An or Heliopolis."]

    PYLON or gateway, is a hieroglyph that stands for _An_ or _On_, the
    Greek Heliopolis. Its great antiquity is shown from the fact that the
    city is referred to in the Book of Genesis under the name of _On_,
    translated Ων in the Septuagint: "And Pharaoh called Joseph's name
    Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of
    Poti-pherah priest of On.... And unto Joseph in the land of Egypt were
    born Manasseh and Ephraim, which Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah
    priest of On bare unto him."

Heliopolis was by the ancient Egyptians named Benbena, "the house of
pyramidia;" but as no pyramids proper ever existed at On, the monuments
alluded to are either pylons, that is, gateways of temples, or obelisks.




_Translation of the Fourth Side._

"Horus, beloved of Osiris, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ra-men-Kheper,
making offerings, beloved of the gods, supplying the altar of the three
Spirits of Heliopolis, with a sound life hundreds of thousands of
festivals of thirty years, very many; Son of the Sun, Thothmes, divine
Ruler, beloved of Haremakhu, ever-living."

The first part of the inscription, "Horus, beloved of Osiris, king of
Upper and Lower Egypt, Ra-men-Kheper," is similar to the other faces,
except that the figure of Osiris, the benignant declining sun, occurs.

[Illustration: "Making offerings, beloved of the gods, supplying the altar
of the three Spirits of Heliopolis."]

    CHESSBOARD (=men=) _making_.

    THREE VASES (=menu=) _offerings_. Plurality is indicated by the vase
    being repeated thrice.

    HAND PLOUGH (=mer=) _beloved_.

    HATCHET (=neter=) _god_. The three vertical lines before the hatchet
    indicate plurality.

    LONG SERPENT (=g=) phonetic }
                                } The two form _gef_, _supplying_.
    HORNED SNAKE (=ef=) phonetic}

    ALTAR, _altar_.

    ZIGZAG (=nu=) _of_.

    THREE BIRDS, _three spirits_. These birds represent the bennu, or
    sacred bird of Heliopolis, supposed to be an incarnation of a solar
    god. Three are depicted to represent respectively the three solar
    deities, Horus, Ra, Tum.

    PYLON (=An=) _Heliopolis_.

    VASE (=n=) complement to (_An_).

    CIRCLE with CROSS (=nu=) determinative of city An.

[Illustration: "With a sound life, hundreds of thousands of festivals of
thirty years, very many."]

    OWL (=em=) _with_.

    CROSS (=ankh=) _life_. This hieroglyph is the usual symbol of life. It
    is therefore known as the key of life, and from its shape is called
    _crux ansata_, "handled cross." It ought to be distinguished from the
    musical instrument called sistrum, which it somewhat resembles.

    SCEPTRE (=uas=) _sound_. The sceptre usually stands for power, but
    power in life is soundness of health.

    LITTLE MAN (=hefen=) _hundreds of thousands_. This little figure with
    hands upraised is the usual symbol for an indefinite number, and may
    be rendered millions, or as above.

    PALACE (=heb=) _festivals_. _See_ face one.

    SWALLOW (=ur=) _very_. This symbol generally means great. Here it is
    an intensive, very.

    LIZARD (=ast=) _many_.

[Illustration: "Making offerings to their Majesties at two seasons of the
year, that he might repose by means of them."]

    OFFERING (=hotep=) _offering_. The three vertical lines indicating
    plurality may refer both to offering and succeeding hieroglyph.

    CONE (=hen=) _majesty_. We have called this cone, from its likeness to
    a fir-cone.

    TWO CIRCLES (=aten=) _two seasons_. Each is a solar disk, the ordinary
    symbol of Ra, but here means season, because seasons depend on the

    SHOOT (=renpa=) _year_. This is a shoot of a palm tree; with one notch
    it equals year.

The following hieroglyphs are obscure, but the highest authorities say
that they probably mean, "that he might repose by means of them;" that is,
that Thothmes hoped that repose might be brought to his mind from the fact
that he made due offerings to his gods at the two appointed seasons.




The lateral columns of hieroglyphics on the London Obelisk are the work of
Rameses II., who lived about two centuries after Thothmes III., and
ascended the throne about 1300 B.C. Rameses II. was the third king of the
XIXth dynasty; and for personal exploits, the magnificence of his works,
and the length of his reign, he was not surpassed by any of the kings of
ancient Egypt, except by Thothmes III.

His grandfather, Rameses I., was the founder of the dynasty. His father,
Seti I., is celebrated for his victories over the Rutennu, or Syrians, and
over the Shasu, or Arabians, as well as for his public works, especially
the great temple he built at Karnak. Rameses II. was, however, a greater
warrior than his father. He first conquered Kush, or Ethiopia; then he led
an expedition against the Khitæ, or Hittites, whom he completely routed at
Kadesh, the ancient capital, a town on the River Orontes, north of Mount
Lebanon. In this battle Rameses was placed in the greatest danger; but his
personal bravery stood him in good stead, and he kept the Hittites at bay
till his soldiers rescued him. He thus commemorates on the monuments his

"I became like the god Mentu; I hurled the dart with my right hand; I
fought with my left hand; I was like Baal in his time before their sight;
I had come upon two thousand five hundred pairs of horses; I was in the
midst of them; but they were dashed in pieces before my steeds. Not one of
them raised his hand to fight; their courage was sunken in their breasts;
their limbs gave way; they could not hurl the dart, nor had they strength
to thrust the spear. I made them fall into the waters like crocodiles;
they tumbled down on their faces one after another. I killed them at my
pleasure, so that not one looked back behind him; nor did any turn round.
Each fell, and none raised himself up again."[6]

Rameses fought with and conquered the Amorites, Canaanites, and other
tribes of Palestine and Syria. His public works are also very numerous; he
dug wells, founded cities, and completed a great wall begun by his father
Seti, reaching from Pelusium to Heliopolis, a gigantic structure, designed
to keep back the hostile Asiatics, thus reminding one of the Great Wall of
China. Pelusium was situated near the present Port Saïd, and the wall must
therefore have been about a hundred miles long. In its course it must have
passed near the site of Tel-el-Kebir. It is now certain that Rameses built
the treasure cities spoken of in Exodus: "Therefore they did set over them
taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh
treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses" (Exod. i. 11). According to Dr.
Birch, Rameses II. was a monarch of whom it was written: "Now there arose
up a new king over Egypt who knew not Joseph."

He enlarged On and Tanis, and built temples at Ipsambul, Karnak, Luxor,
Abydos, Memphis, etc.

"The most remarkable of the temples erected by Rameses is the building at
Thebes, once called the Memnonium, but now commonly known as the Rameseum;
and the extraordinary rock temple of Ipsambul, or Abu-Simbel, the most
magnificent specimen of its class which the world contains.

"The façade is formed by four huge colossi, each seventy feet in height,
representing Rameses himself seated on a throne, with the double crown of
Egypt upon his head. In the centre, flanked on either side by two of these
gigantic figures, is a doorway of the usual Egyptian type, opening into a
small vestibule, which communicates by a short passage with the main
chamber. This is an oblong square, sixty feet long, by forty-five, divided
into a nave and two aisles by two rows of square piers with Osirid
statues, thirty feet high in front, and ornamented with painted sculptures
over its whole surface. The main chamber leads into an inner shrine, or
adytum, supported by four piers with Osirid figures, but otherwise as
richly adorned as the outer apartment. Behind the adytum are small rooms
for the priests who served in the temple. It is the façade of the work
which constitutes its main beauty."[7]


"The largest of the rock temples at Ipsambul," says Mr. Fergusson, "is
_the finest of its class known to exist anywhere_. Externally the façade
is about one hundred feet in height, and adorned by four of the most
magnificent colossi in Egypt, each seventy feet in height, and
representing the king, Rameses II., who caused the excavation to be made.
It may be because they are more perfect than any other now found in that
country, but certainly nothing can exceed their calm majesty and beauty,
or be more entirely free from the vulgarity and exaggeration which is
generally a characteristic of colossal works of this sort."[8]

A great king Rameses was, undoubtedly; but he showed no disposition to
underrate his greatness. The hieroglyphics on Cleopatra's Needles are
written in a vaunting and arrogant strain; and in all the monuments
celebrating his deeds the same spirit is present. His character has been
well summarized by Canon Rawlinson:--

"His affection for his son, and for his two principal wives, shows that
the disposition of Rameses II. was in some respects amiable; although,
upon the whole, his character is one which scarcely commends itself to our
approval. Professing in his early years extreme devotion to the memory of
his father, he lived to show himself his father's worst enemy, and to aim
at obliterating his memory by erasing his name from the monuments on which
it occurred, and in many cases substituting his own. Amid a great show of
regard for the deities of his country, and for the ordinances of the
established worship, he contrived that the chief result of all that he did
for religion should be the glorification of himself. Other kings had
arrogated to themselves a certain qualified dignity, and after their
deaths had sometimes been placed by some of their successors on a par with
the real national gods; but it remained for Rameses to associate himself
during his lifetime with such leading deities as Ptah, Ammon, and Horus,
and to claim equally with them the religious regards of his subjects. He
was also, as already observed, the first to introduce into Egypt the
degrading custom of polygamy and the corrupting influence of a harem. Even
his bravery, which cannot be denied, loses half its merit by being made
the constant subject of boasting; and his magnificence ceases to appear
admirable when we think at what a cost it displayed itself. If, with most
recent writers upon Egyptian history, we identify him with the 'king who
knew not Joseph,' the builder of Pithom and Raamses, the first oppressor
of the Israelites, we must add some darker shades to the picture, and look
upon him as a cruel and ruthless despot, who did not shrink from
inflicting on innocent persons the severest pain and suffering."




_First side.--Right hand._

"Horus, powerful bull, son of Tum, king of Upper and Lower Egypt,
Ra-user-ma-sotep-en-Ra, lord of kingly and queenly royalty, guardian of
Kham (Egypt), chastiser of foreign lands, son of the sun, Ra-meri-Amen,
dragging the foreigners of southern nations to the Great Sea, the
foreigners of northern nations to the four poles of heaven, lord of the
two countries, Ra-user-ma-sotep-en-Ra, son of the sun, Ra-mes-su-men-Amen,
giver of life like the sun."

Most of the above hieroglyphs have already been explained, but the
following remarks will enable the reader to understand better this column
of hieroglyphs.

Cartouche containing the divine name of Rameses:--

[Illustration: "King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ra-user-ma-sotep-en-Ra."]

    OVAL (=aten=) _Ra_. The oval is the solar disk, the usual symbol of
    the supreme solar deity called Ra.

    ANUBIS STAFF (=user=) _abounding in_. This symbol was equal to Latin
    _dives_, rich, abounding in. The _user_, or Anubis staff, was a rod
    with a jackal-head on the top. The jackal was the emblem of Anubis,
    son of Osiris, and brother of Thoth. The god Anubis was the friend and
    guardian of pure souls. He is therefore frequently depicted by the bed
    of the dying. After death Anubis was director of funeral rites, and
    presided over the embalmers of the dead. He was also the conductor of
    souls to the regions of Amenti, and in the hall of judgment presides
    over the scales of justice.

    FEMALE FIGURE (=ma=) _Ma_ or _Thmei_, the goddess of truth. She is
    generally represented in a sitting posture, holding in her hand the
    _ankh_, the key of life, an emblem of immortality.

    DISK (=aten=) _Ra_, the supreme solar deity.

    DRILL OR AUGER (=sotep=) _approved_. _Sotep_ means to judge, to
    approve of. Here it simply means _approved_.

    ZIGZAG (=en=) _of_.

The prenomen, or divine name of Rameses, means "The supreme solar god,
abounding in truth, approved of Ra." Thus in his divine nature Rameses
claims to be a descendant of Ra, and of the same nature with the god. This
prenomen is repeated twice in each column of hieroglyphs, and as there are
eight lateral columns cut by Rameses, it follows that this divine name
occurs sixteen times on the obelisk.

[Illustration: "Lord of kingly and queenly royalty, guardian of Egypt,
chastiser of foreign lands."]

    THE VULTURE (=mut=) was worn on the diadem of a queen, and was a badge
    of queenly royalty.

    THE SACRED ASP, called _uræus_, was worn on the forehead of a king. It
    was a symbol of kingly royalty and immortality, and being worn by the
    king (Βασιλευς), the sacred asp was also called _basilisk_. Rameses, in
    choosing the epithet "Lord of kingly and queenly royalty," wished
    perhaps to set forth that he embodied in himself the graces of a queen
    with the wisdom of a king.

    CROCODILE'S TAIL (=Kham=) _Egypt_. _Kham_ literally means black, and
    Egypt in early times was called "the black country," from the black
    alluvial soil brought down by the Nile. The symbol thought to be a
    crocodile's tail represents Egypt, because the crocodile abounded in
    Egypt, and was a characteristic of that country. Even at the present
    time Egypt is sometimes spoken of as "the land of the crocodile."

    TWO STRAIGHT LINES (=tata=) is the usual symbol for the two countries
    of Egypt. They appear above the second prenomen of this column of
    hieroglyphs. Each line represents a layer of earth, and is named _ta_.
    Egypt was a flat country, and on this account the emblem of Egypt was
    a straight line.

    A figure with an undulating surface, called _set_, is the usual emblem
    of a foreign country. The undulating surface probably indicates the
    hills and valleys of those foreign lands around Egypt, such as Nubia,
    Arabia Petra, Canaan, Phœnicia, etc. These countries, in comparison
    with the flat land of Egypt, were countries of hills and valleys. This
    hieroglyph for foreign lands occurs in this column immediately above
    the first nomen.

Cartouche with nomen: "Ra-mes-es Meri Amen."


    FIGURE WITH HAWK'S HEAD is Ra. On his head he wears the _aten_, or
    solar disk, and in his hand holds the _ankh_, or key of life.

    TRIPLE TWIG (=mes=) is here the syllabic _mes_. This is the usual
    symbol for _birth_ or _born_; thus the monarch in his name _Rameses_
    claims to be _born of Ra_.

    CHAIR BACK (=s=). The final complement in _mes_.

    REED (=es=) _es_. The final syllable in name Rameses. Some are
    disposed to render the reed as _su_, and thus make the name Ramessu.
    With his name the king associates the remaining hieroglyphs of the

The figure with sceptre is the god Amen. On his head he wears a tall hat
made up of two long plumes or ostrich feathers. On his chin he wears the
long curved beard which indicates his divine nature. A singular custom
among the Egyptians was tying a false beard, made of plaited hair, to the
end of the chin. It assumed various shapes, to indicate the dignity and
position of the wearer. Private individuals wear a small beard about two
inches long. That worn by a king was of considerable length, and square at
the end; while figures of gods are distinguished by having long beards
turned up at the end. The divine beard, the royal beard, and the ordinary
beard, are thus easily distinguished.

Amen was the supreme god worshipped at Thebes. He corresponds to Zeus
among the Greeks, and Jupiter among the Latins. Rameses associates with
his own name that of Amen. The hieroglyphs inside the cartouche are
"Ra-mes-es-meri-Amen," which literally translated mean, "Born of Ra,
beloved of Amen." The king consequently claims descent from the supreme
solar deity of Heliopolis, and the favour of the supreme god of Thebes.

_First side.--Left hand._

    "Horus, powerful bull, beloved of Ra, lord of Upper and Lower Egypt,
    lord of festivals, like his father Ptah-Totanen, son of the sun,
    Rameses-meri-Amen, powerful bull, like the son of Nut; none can stand
    before him, lord of the two countries, Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra, son of
    the sun, Rameses-meri-Amen."

On the third face, Rameses calls himself the son of Tum, but here he
claims Ptah Totanen as his father.

Ptah, also called Ptah Totanen, was the chief god worshipped at Memphis,
and is spoken of as the creator of visible things. Tum is also represented
as possessing the creative attribute, and it is not improbable that Ptah
and Tum sometimes stand for each other. The obelisk stood before the
temple of Tum at Heliopolis, and was probably connected with that deity.
That Ptah stands for Tum seems to receive confirmation from the fact that
after Ptah's name comes the figure of a god used as a determinative. This
figure has on its head a solar disk, and therefore appears to be intended
for a solar deity.

Nut was a sky-goddess, and represents the blue midday sky. She was said to
be the mother of Osiris, who is the friend of mankind, and one of the gods
much beloved.

_Second side.--Right hand._

    "Horus, powerful bull, son of Kheper, king of Upper and Lower Egypt,
    Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra, golden hawk, abounding in years, greatly
    powerful, son of the sun, Rameses-meri-Amen; the eyes of created
    beings witness what he has done, nothing has been said against the
    lord of the two countries, Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra, son of the sun.
    Rameses-meri-Amen, the lustre of the son, like the sun."

The _kheper_, or sacred beetle, was sacred to both Ptah and to Tum, and it
ought to be observed that Rameses claims each of these gods as his father.

The _hawk_ was an emblem of a solar deity, and it was described as golden,
in reference to the golden rays of the sun.

The bird at the bottom of this lateral column of hieroglyphs rendered the
lustre, is the _bennu_, or sacred bird of Heliopolis, regarded as an
incarnation of a solar deity, and therefore the symbol for lustre or
splendour. It is often depicted with two long feathers, or one feather, on
the back of its head.

_Second side.--Left hand._

    "Horus, powerful bull, beloved of truth, king of Upper and Lower
    Egypt, Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra, born of the gods, holding the country
    as son of the sun, Rameses-meri-Amen, making his frontiers at the
    place he wishes--at peace by means of his power, lord of the two
    countries, Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra, son of the sun, Rameses-meri-Amen,
    with splendour like Ra."

In the above _frontier_ is represented by a _cross_, to indicate where one
country passes into another. The flat land of Egypt is represented by a
straight line (_ta_), probably designed to be a layer of earth, while a
chip of rock stands for any rocky country, such as Nubia, or for a rocky
locality, as Syene, on the frontiers of Nubia, the region of the great
granite quarries. In the column it will be noticed that Rameses vauntingly
asserts that his conquests were co-extensive with his desires.

_Third side.--Right hand._

    "Horus, powerful bull, beloved by Ra, king of Upper and Lower Egypt,
    Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra, lord of festivals, like his father Ptah, son
    of the sun. Rameses-meri-Amen, son of Tum, out of his loins, loved of
    him. Hathor, the guide of the two countries, has given birth to him,
    Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra, son of the sun, Rameses-meri-Amen, giver of
    life, like the sun."

In the above, the hieroglyph rendered Hathor is an oblong figure with a
small square inscribed in one corner, thus resembling a stamped envelope.
This oblong figure called _ha_, probably represented the ground plan of a
temple or house, and is rendered abode, house, temple, or palace,
according to the context. Inside the ground-plan in this case is a figure
of a hawk, the emblem of a solar deity. Here it stands for Horus, and the
entire hieroglyph (_ha_, _hor_) rendered Hathor, means "the abode of
Horus." The "abode of Horus" refers to his mother, a goddess who is
therefore named Hathor, or Athor. The cow is often used as an emblem of
this goddess. Isis also is the reputed mother of Horus, and consequently
some think that Hathor and Isis are two names for one and the same

_Third side.--Left hand._

    "Horus, the powerful bull, son of Tum, king of Upper and Lower Egypt,
    Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra, lord of kingly and queenly royalty, guardian
    of Egypt, chastiser of foreign lands, son of the sun.
    Rameses-meri-Amen, coming daily into the temple of Tum; he has seen
    nothing in the house of his father, lord of the two countries,
    Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra, son of the sun, Rameses-meri-Amen, like the

In the above the word rendered guardian is _mak_, a word made up of three
phonetic hieroglyphs, namely, a hole, arm, and semicircle.

Egypt, called _Kham_, that is the black country, is here represented by a
crocodile's tail, since crocodiles were common in the country, and
characteristic of Egypt.

The word rendered chastiser is in the original _auf_, a name made up of
three phonetic hieroglyphs, namely, an arm, chick, horned snake. The
arrangement of these hieroglyphs with a view to neatness and economising
space displays both taste and ingenuity.

While it is asserted that Rameses went into the temple of Tum every day,
it is also said that he saw nothing in the temple. This seems like a
contradiction; but, according to classic writers, Rameses II., called by
the Greeks Sesostris, became blind in his old age, and the preceding
passage may have reference to the monarch's blindness.

_Fourth side.--Right hand._

    "Horus, powerful bull, beloved of Ra, king of Upper and Lower Egypt,
    Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra, the son of Ra, born of the gods, holding his
    dominions with power, victory, glory; the bull of princes, king of
    kings, lord of the two countries, Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra, son of the
    sun, Rameses-men-Amen, of Tum, beloved of Heliopolis, giver of life."

In the above, a lion's head, called _peh_, stands for glory, and a crook
like that of a shepherd, called _hek_, stands for ruler or prince.

The phrase, "king of kings," occurs in the above, and is the earliest
instance of this grand expression--familiar to Christian ears from the
fact that in the Bible it is applied to the High and lofty One that
inhabiteth eternity. "Alleluia: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth ...
and on His vesture a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."

_Fourth side.--Left hand._

    "Horus, powerful bull, son of Truth, king of Upper and Lower Egypt,
    Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra, golden hawk, supplier of years, most powerful
    son of the sun, Rameses-meri-Amen, leading captive the Rutennu and
    Peti out of their countries to the house of his father; lord of the
    two countries, Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra, son of the sun,
    Rameses-meri-Amen, beloved of Shu, great god like the sun."

The first half of the above is almost identical with the upper part of the
lateral column on the second side, right hand. The _Rutennu_ probably mean
the Syrians, and the _Peti_ either the Libyans or Nubians.

Shu was a solar deity, the son of Tum.




In Cairo, at the Boolak Museum, there is a vast collection of Egyptian
antiquities, even more valuable than the collections to be seen at the
British Museum, and at the Louvre, Paris. The precious treasures of the
Boolak Museum were for the most part collected through the indefatigable
labours of the late Mariette Bey. Since his death the charge of the Museum
has been entrusted to the two well-known Egyptologists, Professor Maspero
and Herr Emil Brugsch.

Professor Maspero lately remarked that for the last ten years he had
noticed with considerable astonishment that many valuable Egyptian relics
found their way in a mysterious manner to European museums as well as to
the private collections of European noblemen. He therefore suspected that
the Arabs in the neighbourhood of Thebes, in Upper Egypt, had discovered
and were plundering some royal tombs. This suspicion was intensified by
the fact that Colin Campbell, on returning to Cairo from a visit to Upper
Egypt, showed to the Professor some pages of a superb royal ritual,
purchased from some Arabs at Thebes. M. Maspero accordingly made a journey
to Thebes, and on arriving at the place, conferred on the subject with
Daoud Pasha, the governor of the district, and offered a handsome reward
to any person who would give information of any recently discovered royal

Behind the ruins of the Ramesseum is a terrace of rock-hewn tombs,
occupied by the families of four brothers named Abd-er-Rasoul. The
brothers professed to be guides and donkey-masters, but in reality they
made their livelihood by tomb-breaking and mummy-snatching. Suspicion at
once fell upon them, and a mass of concurrent testimony pointed to the
four brothers as the possessors of the secret. With the approval of the
district governor, one of the brothers, Ahmed-Abd-er-Rasoul, was arrested
and sent to prison at Keneh, the chief town of the district. Here he
remained in confinement for two months, and preserved an obstinate
silence. At length Mohammed, the eldest brother, fearing that Ahmed's
constancy might give way, and fearing lest the family might lose the
reward offered by M. Maspero, came to the governor and volunteered to
divulge the secret. Having made his depositions, the governor telegraphed
to Cairo, whither the Professor had returned. It was felt that no time
should be lost. Accordingly M. Maspero empowered Herr Emil Brugsch, keeper
of the Boolak Museum, and Ahmed Effendi Kemal, also of the Museum service,
to proceed without delay to Upper Egypt. In a few hours from the arrival
of the telegram the Boolak officials were on their way to Thebes. The
distance of the journey is about five hundred miles; and as a great part
had to be undertaken by the Nile steamer, four days elapsed before they
reached their destination, which they did on Wednesday, 6th July, 1881.

On the western side of the Theban plain rises a high mass of limestone
rock, enclosing two desolate valleys. One runs up behind the ridge into
the very heart of the hills, and being entirely shut in by the limestone
cliffs, is a picture of wild desolation. The other valley runs up from the
plain, and its mouth opens out towards the city of Thebes. "The former is
the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings--the Westminster Abbey of Thebes; the
latter, of the Tombs of the Priests and Princes--its Canterbury
Cathedral." High up among the limestone cliffs, and near the plateau
overlooking the plain of Thebes, is the site of an old temple, known as

At this last-named place, according to agreement, the Boolak officials met
Mohammed Abd-er-Rasoul, a spare, sullen fellow, who simply from love of
gold had agreed to divulge the grand secret. Pursuing his way among
desecrated tombs, and under the shadow of precipitous cliffs, he led his
anxious followers to a spot described as "unparalleled, even in the
desert, for its gaunt solemnity." Here, behind a huge fragment of fallen
rock, perhaps dislodged for that purpose from the cliffs overhead, they
were shown the entrance to a pit so ingeniously hidden that, to use their
own words, "one might have passed it twenty times without observing it."
The shaft of the pit proved to be six and a-half feet square; and on being
lowered by means of a rope, they touched the ground at a depth of about
forty feet.

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, and certainly nothing in
romantic literature can surpass in dramatic interest the revelation which
awaited the Boolak officials in the subterranean sepulchral chambers of
Deir-el-Bahari. At the bottom of the shaft the explorers noticed a dark
passage running westward; so, having lit their candles, they groped their
way slowly along the passage, which ran in a straight line for
twenty-three feet, and then turned abruptly to the right, stretching away
northward into total darkness. At the corner where the passage turned
northward, they found a royal funeral canopy, flung carelessly down in a
tumbled heap. As they proceeded, they found the roof so low in some places
that they were obliged to stoop, and in other parts the rocky floor was
very uneven. At a distance of sixty feet from the corner, the explorers
found themselves at the top of a flight of stairs, roughly hewn out of the
rock. Having descended the steps, each with his flickering candle in hand,
they pursued their way along a passage slightly descending, and
penetrating deeper and further into the heart of the mountain. As they
proceeded, the floor became more and more strewn with fragments of mummy
cases and tattered pieces of mummy bandages.

Presently they noticed boxes piled on the top of each other against the
wall, and these boxes proved to be filled with porcelain statuettes,
libation jars, and canopic vases of precious alabaster. Then appeared
several huge coffins of painted wood; and great was their joy when they
gazed upon a crowd of mummy cases, some standing, some laid upon the
ground, each fashioned in human form, with folded hands and solemn faces.
On the breast of each was emblazoned the name and titles of the occupant.
Words fail to describe the joyous excitement of the scholarly explorers,
when among the group they read the names of Seti I., Thothmes II.,
Thothmes III., and Rameses II., surnamed the Great.

The Boolak officials had journeyed to Thebes, expecting at most to find a
few mummies of petty princes; but on a sudden they were brought, as it
were, face to face with the mightiest kings of ancient Egypt, and
confronted the remains of heroes whose exploits and fame filled the
ancient world with awe more than three thousand years ago.

The explorers stood bewildered, and could scarcely believe the testimony
of their own eyes, and actually inquired of each other if they were not in
a dream. At the end of a passage, one hundred and thirty feet from the
bottom of the rock-cut passage, they stood at the entrance of a sepulchral
chamber, twenty-three feet long, and thirteen feet wide, literally piled
to the roof with mummy cases of enormous size. The coffins were brilliant
with colour-gilding and varnish, and looked as fresh as if they had
recently come out of the workshops of the Memnonium.

Among the mummies of this mortuary chapel were found two kings, four
queens, a prince and a princess, besides royal and priestly personages of
both sexes, all descendants of Her-Hor, the founder of the line of
priest-kings known as the XXIst dynasty. The chamber was manifestly the
family vault of the Her-Hor family; while the mummies of their more
illustrious predecessors of the XVIIIth and XIXth dynasties, found in the
approaches to the chamber, had evidently been brought there for the sake
of safety. Each member of the family was buried with the usual mortuary
outfit. One queen, named Isi-em-Kheb (Isis of Lower Egypt), was also
provided with a sumptuous funereal repast, as well as a rich sepulchral
toilet, consisting of ointment bottles, alabaster cups, goblets of
exquisite variegated glass, and a large assortment of full dress wigs,
curled and frizzed. As the funereal repast was designed for refreshment,
so the sepulchral toilet was designed for the queen's use and adornment on
the Resurrection morn, when the vivified dead, clothed, fed, anointed and
perfumed, should leave the dark sepulchral chamber and go forth to the
mansions of everlasting day.

When the temporary excitement of the explorers had somewhat abated, they
felt that no time was to be lost in securing their newly discovered
treasures. Accordingly, three hundred Arabs were engaged from the
neighbouring villages; and working as they did with unabated vigour,
without sleep and without rest, they succeeded in clearing out the
sepulchral chamber and the long passages of their valuable contents in the
short space of forty-eight hours. All the mummies were then carefully
packed in sail-cloth and matting, and carried across the plain of Thebes
to the edge of the river. Thence they were rowed across the Nile to Luxor,
there to lie in readiness for embarkation on the approach of the Nile

Some of the sarcophagi are of huge dimensions, the largest being that of
Nofretari, a queen of the XVIIIth dynasty. The coffin is ten feet long,
made of cartonnage, and in style resembles one of the Osiride pillars of
the Temple of Medinat Aboo. Its weight and size are so enormous that
sixteen men were required to remove it. In spite of all difficulties,
however, only five days elapsed from the time the Boolak officials were
lowered down the shaft until the precious relics lay ready for embarkation
at Luxor.

The Nile steamers did not arrive for three days, and during that time
Messrs. Brugsch and Kemal, and a few trustworthy Arabs, kept constant
guard over their treasure amid a hostile fanatical people who regarded
tomb-breaking as the legitimate trade of the neighbourhood. On the fourth
morning the steamers arrived, and having received on board the royal
mummies, steamed down the stream _en route_ for the Boolak Museum.
Meanwhile the news of the discovery had spread far and wide, and for fifty
miles below Luxor, the villagers lined the river banks, not merely to
catch a glimpse of the mummies on deck as the steamers passed by, but also
to show respect for the mighty dead. Women with dishevelled hair ran along
the banks shrieking the death-wail; while men stood in solemn silence, and
fired guns into the air to greet the mighty Pharaohs as they passed. Thus,
to the mummified bodies of Thothmes the Great, and Rameses the Great, and
their illustrious compeers, the funeral honours paid to them three
thousand years ago were, in a measure, repeated as the mortal remains of
these ancient heroes sailed down the Nile on their way to Boolak.

The principal personages found either as mummies, or represented by their
mummy cases, include a king and queen of the XVIIth dynasty, five kings
and four queens of the XVIIIth dynasty, and three successive kings of the
XIXth dynasty, namely, Rameses the Great, his father, and his grandfather.
The XXth dynasty, strange to say, is not represented; but belonging to the
XXIst dynasty of royal priests are four queens, two kings, a prince, and a

These royal mummies belong to four dynasties, and between the earliest and
the latest there intervenes a period of above seven centuries,--a space of
time as long as that which divides the Norman Conquest from the accession
of George III. Under the dynasties above mentioned ancient Egypt reached
the summit of her fame, through the expulsion of the Hykshos invaders, and
the extensive conquests of Thothmes III. and Rameses the Great. The
oppression of Israel in Egypt and the Exodus of the Hebrews, the colossal
temples of Thebes, the royal sepulchres of the Valley of the Tombs of the
Kings, the greater part of the Pharaonic obelisks, and the rock-cut
temples of the Nile Valley, belong to the same period.

It would be beyond the scope of this brief account to describe each royal
personage, and therefore there can only be given a short description of
the two kings connected with the London Obelisk, namely, Thothmes III. and
Rameses the Great, the mightiest of the Pharaohs.

Standing near the end of the long dark passage running northward, and not
far from the threshold of the family vault of the priest-kings, lay the
sarcophagus of Thothmes III., close to that of his brother Thothmes II.
The mummy case was in a lamentable condition, and had evidently been
broken into and subjected to rough usage. On the lid, however, were
recognized the well-known cartouches of this illustrious monarch. On
opening the coffin, the mummy itself was exposed to view, completely
enshrouded with bandages; but a rent near the left breast showed that it
had been exposed to the violence of tomb-breakers. Placed inside the
coffin and surrounding the body were found wreaths of flowers: larkspurs,
acacias and lotuses. They looked as if but recently dried, and even their
colours could be discerned.

Long hieroglyphic texts found written on the bandages contained the
seventeenth chapter of the "Ritual of the Dead," and the "Litanies of the

The body measured only five feet two inches; so that, making due allowance
for shrinking and compression in the process of embalming, still it is
manifest that Thothmes III. was not a man of commanding stature; but in
shortness of stature as in brilliancy of conquests, finds his counterpart
in the person of Napoleon the Great.

It was desirable in the interests of science to ascertain whether the
mummy bearing the monogram of Thothmes III. was really the remains of that
monarch. It was therefore unrolled. The inscriptions on the bandages
established beyond all doubt the fact that it was indeed the most
distinguished of the kings of the brilliant XVIIIth dynasty; and once
more, after an interval of thirty-six centuries, human eyes gazed on the
features of the man who had conquered Syria, and Cyprus, and Ethiopia, and
had raised Egypt to the highest pinnacle of her power; so that it was said
that in his reign she placed her frontiers where she pleased. The
spectacle was of brief duration; the remains proved to be in so fragile a
state that there was only time to take a hasty photograph, and then the
features crumbled to pieces and vanished like an apparition, and so passed
away from human view for ever. The director felt such remorse at the
result that he refused to allow the unrolling of Rameses the Great, for
fear of a similar catastrophe.

Thothmes III. was the man who overran Palestine with his armies two
hundred years before the birth of Moses, and has left us a diary of his
adventures; for, like Cæsar, he was author as well as soldier. It seems
strange that though the body mouldered to dust, the flowers with which it
had been wreathed were so wonderfully preserved, that even their colour
could be distinguished; yet a flower is the very type of ephemeral beauty,
that passeth away and is gone almost as soon as born. A wasp which had
been attracted by the floral treasures, and had entered the coffin at the
moment of closing, was found dried up, but still perfect, having lasted
better than the king whose emblem of sovereignty it had once been; now it
was there to mock the embalmer's skill, and to add point to the sermon on
the vanity of human pride and power preached to us by the contents of that
coffin. Inexorable is the decree, "Unto dust thou shalt return."

Following the same line of meditation, it is difficult to avoid a thought
of the futility of human devices to achieve immortality. These Egyptian
monarchs, the veriest type of earthly grandeur and pride, whose rule was
almost limitless, whose magnificent tombs seem built to outlast the hills,
could find no better method of ensuring that their names should be had in
remembrance than the embalmment of their frail bodies. These remain, but
in what a condition, and how degraded are the uses to which they are put.
The spoil of an ignorant and thieving population, the pet curiosity of
some wealthy tourist, who buys a royal mummy as he would buy the Sphinx,
if it were moveable; "to what base uses art thou come," O body, so
tenderly nurtured, so carefully preserved!

Rameses II. died about thirteen centuries before the Christian era. It is
certain that this illustrious monarch was originally buried in the stately
tomb of the magnificent subterranean sepulchre by royal order hewn out of
the limestone cliffs in the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings. In the same
valley his grandfather and father were laid to rest; so that these three
mighty kings "all lay in glory, each in his own house." This burial-place
of the Pharaohs of the XVIIIth and XIXth dynasties is in a deep gorge
behind the western hills of the Theban plain. "The valley is the very
ideal of desolation. Bare rocks, without a particle of vegetation,
overhanging and enclosing in a still narrower and narrower embrace a
valley as rocky and bare as themselves--no human habitation visible--the
stir of the city wholly excluded. Such is, such always must have been, the
awful aspect of the resting-place of the Theban kings. The sepulchres of
this valley are of extraordinary grandeur. You enter a sculptured portal
in the face of these wild cliffs, and find yourself in a long and lofty
gallery, opening or narrowing, as the case may be, into successive halls
and chambers, all of which are covered with white stucco, and this white
stucco, brilliant with colours, fresh as they were thousands of years ago.
The sepulchres are in fact gorgeous palaces, hewn out of the rock, and
painted with all the decorations that could have been seen in palaces."

One of the most gorgeous of these sepulchral palaces was that prepared in
this valley by Rameses II., and after the burial of the king the portals
were walled up, and the mummified body laid to rest in the vaulted hall
till the morn of the Resurrection. From a hieratic inscription found on
the mummy-case of Rameses, it appears that official Inspectors of Tombs
visited this royal tomb in the sixth year of Her-Hor, the founder of the
priestly line of kings; so that for at least two centuries the mummy of
Rameses the Great lay undisturbed in the original tomb prepared for its
reception. From several papyri still extant, it appears that the
neighbourhood of Thebes at this period, and for many years previously, was
in a state of social insecurity. Lawlessness, rapine and tomb-breaking,
filled the whole district with alarm. The "Abbott Papyrus" states that
royal sepulchres were broken open, cleared of mummies, jewels, and all
their contents. In the "Amherst Papyrus," a lawless tomb-breaker, in
relating how he broke into a royal sepulchre, makes the following
confession:--"The tomb was surrounded by masonry, and covered in by
roofing-stones. We demolished it, and found the king and queen reposing
therein. We found the august king with his divine axe beside him, and his
amulets and ornaments of gold about his neck. His head was covered with
gold, and his august person was entirely covered with gold. His coffins
were overlaid with gold and silver, within and without, and incrusted with
all kinds of precious stones. We took the gold which we found upon the
sacred person of this god, as also his amulets, and the ornaments which
were about his neck and the coffins in which he reposed. And having
likewise found his royal wife, we took all that we found upon her in the
same manner; and we set fire to their mummy cases, and we seized upon
their furniture, their vases of gold, silver, and bronze, and we divided
them amongst ourselves."

Such being the dreadful state of insecurity during the latter period of
the XXth dynasty, and throughout the whole of the Her-Hor dynasty, we are
not surprised to find that the mummy of Rameses II., and that of his
grandfather, Rameses I., were removed for the sake of greater security
from their own separate catacombs into the tomb of his father Seti I. In
the sixteenth year of Her-Hor, that is, ten years after the official
inspection mentioned above, a commission of priests visited the three
royal mummies in the tomb of Seti. On an entry found on the mummy case of
Seti and Rameses II., the priests certify that the bodies are in an
uninjured condition; but they deemed it expedient, on grounds of safety,
to transfer the three mummies to the tomb of Ansera, a queen of the XVIIth
dynasty. For ten years at least Rameses' body reposed in this abode; but
in the tenth year of Pinotem was removed into "the eternal house of
Amen-hotep." A fourth inscription on the breast bandages of Rameses
relates how that after resting for six years the body was again carried
back to the tomb of his father in "the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings,"
a valley now called "Bab-el-Molook."

How long the body remained in this resting-place, and how many transfers
it was subsequently subjected to, there exists no evidence to show; but
after being exposed to many vicissitudes, the mummy of Rameses, together
with those of his royal relatives, and many of his illustrious
predecessors, was brought in as a refugee into the family vault of the
Her-Hor dynasty. In this subterranean hiding-place, buried deep in the
heart of the Theban Hills, Rameses the Great, surrounded by a goodly
company of thirty royal mummies, lay undisturbed and unseen by mortal eye
for three thousand years, until, a few years ago, the lawless
tomb-breakers of Thebes burrowed into this sepulchral chamber.

The mummy-case containing Rameses' mummy is not the original one, for it
belongs to the style of the XXIst dynasty, and was probably made at the
time of the official inspection of his tomb in the sixth year of Her-Hor's
reign. It is made of unpainted sycamore wood, and the lid is of the shape
known as Osirian, that is, the deceased is represented in the well-known
attitude of Osiris, with arms crossed, and hands grasping a crook and
flail. The eyes are inserted in enamel, while the eyebrows, eyelashes, and
beard are painted black. Upon the breast are the familiar cartouches of
Rameses II., namely, _Ra-user-Ma-sotep-en-Ra_, his prenomen; and
_Ra-me-su-Meri-amen_, his nomen.

The mummy itself is in good condition, and measures six feet; but as in
the process of mummification the larger bones were probably drawn closer
together in their sockets, it seems self-evident that Rameses was a man of
commanding appearance. It is thus satisfactory to learn that the mighty
Sesostris was a hero of great physical stature, that this conqueror of
Palestine was in height equal to a grenadier.

The outer shrouds of the body are made of rose-coloured linen, and bound
together by very strong bands. Within the outer shrouds, the mummy is
swathed in its original bandages; and Professor Maspero has expressed his
intention of removing these inner bandages on some convenient opportunity,
in the presence of scholars and medical witnesses.

It has been urged that since Rameses XII., of the XXth dynasty, had a
prenomen similar though not identical with the divine cartouche of Rameses
II., the mummy in question may be that of Rameses XII. We have, however,
shown that the mummies of Rameses I., Seti I., and Rameses II., were
exposed to the same vicissitudes, buried, transferred, and reburied again
and again in the same vaults. When, therefore, we find in the sepulchre at
Deir-el-Bahari, in juxta-position, the mummy-case of Rameses I., the
mummy-case and acknowledged mummy of Seti I., and on the mummy-case and
shroud the well-known cartouches of Rameses II., the three standing in the
relation of grandfather, father, and son, it seems that the evidence is
overwhelming in favour of the mummy in question being that of Rameses the

All the royal mummies, twenty-nine in number, are now lying in state in
the Boolak Museum. Arranged together side by side and shoulder to
shoulder, they form a solemn assembly of kings, queens, royal priests,
princes, princesses, and nobles of the people. Among the group are the
mummied remains of the greatest royal builders, the most renowned
warriors, and mightiest monarchs of ancient Egypt. They speak to us of the
military glory and architectural splendour of that marvellous country
thirty-five centuries ago; they illustrate the truth of the words of the
Christian Apostle: "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the
flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by
the Gospel is preached unto you."[9]

These great Egyptian rulers, in all their magnificence and power, had no
Gospel in their day, and can preach no Gospel to those who gaze
wonderingly upon their remains, so strangely brought to light. Much as we
should like to hear the tale they could unfold of a civilization of which
we seem to know so much, and yet in reality know so little, on all these
questions they are for ever silent. But they utter a weighty message to
all whose temptation now is to lose sight of the future in the present, of
the eternal by reason of the temporal. They show how fleeting and
unsubstantial are even the highest earthly rank and wealth and influence;
and how true is the lesson taught by him who knew all that Egypt could
teach, and much that God could reveal, and whose life is interpreted for
us by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews: "By faith Moses, when he
was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy
the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ
greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the
recompence of the reward."[10]


Harrison and Sons, Printers in Ordinary to Her Majesty, St. Martin's Lane,


[1] Prov. iv. 18.

[2] Eph. ii. 13.

[3] Acts xvii. 30, 31.

[4] Rawlinson's "History of Ancient Egypt," Vol. II., pp. 240-243.

[5] Rawlinson's "History of Ancient Egypt," Vol. II., p. 253.

[6] Brugsch, "History of Egypt," Vol. II., p. 57, 1st ed.

[7] Rawlinson's "Ancient Egypt," Vol. II., p. 318.

[8] "History of Architecture," Vol. I., p. 113.

[9] 1 Peter i. 24, 25.

[10] Heb. xi. 24-26.


Under this general title THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY purposes publishing a
Series of Books on subjects of interest connected with the Bible, not
adequately dealt with in the ordinary Handbooks.

The writers will, in all cases, be those who have special acquaintance
with the subjects they take up, and who enjoy special facilities for
acquiring the latest and most accurate information.

Each Volume will be complete in itself, and, if possible, the price will
be kept uniformly at _half-a-crown_.

The Series is designed for general readers, who wish to get in a compact
and interesting form the fresh knowledge that has been brought to light
during the last few years in so many departments of Biblical study.
Intelligent young readers of both sexes, Sunday-school teachers, and all
Bible students will, it is hoped, find these Volumes both attractive and

The order of publication will probably be as follows, the titles in some
cases being provisional:

=I. CLEOPATRA'S NEEDLE.= A History of the Obelisk on the Embankment, a
Translation and Exposition of the Hieroglyphics, and a Sketch of the two
kings, whose deeds it commemorates. By Rev. JAMES KING, M.A., Authorized
Lecturer to the Palestine Exploration Fund. (_Now ready._)

=II. ASSYRIAN LIFE AND HISTORY.= By M. E. HARKNESS, with an Introduction
by REGINALD STUART POOLE, of the British Museum. (_In October._)

=III. A SKETCH of the most striking Confirmations of the Bible, shown in
the recent Discoveries and Translations of Monuments in Egypt, Babylonia,
Assyria, etc.= By the Rev. A. H. SAYCE, M.A., Fellow of Queen's College,
and Deputy Professor of Comparative Philology in the University of Oxford,
Member of the Old Testament Revision Committee. (_In November or

=IV. BABYLONIAN LIFE AND HISTORY, as Illustrated by the Monuments.= By MR.
BUDGE, of the British Museum.

=V. THE RECENT SURVEY OF PALESTINE, and the most striking Results of it.=

=VI. EGYPT--HISTORY, ART, and CUSTOMS, as Illustrated by the Monuments in
the British Museum.=


_N.B.--Other Subjects are in course of preparation, and will be
announced in due course._



Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _italics_.

Passages in bold are indicated by =bold=.

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