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In front of these pyramids is the Sphinx,1 a still more wondrous object of art, but one upon which silence has been observed, as it is looked upon as a divinity by the people of the neighbourhood. It is their belief that King Harmaïs was buried in it, and they will have it that it was brought there from a distance. The truth is, however, that it was hewn from the solid rock; and, from a feeling of veneration, the face of the monster is coloured red. The circumference of the head, measured round the forehead, is one hundred and two feet, the length of the feet being one hundred and forty-three, and the height, from the belly to the summit of the asp on the head, sixty-two.2

The largest3 Pyramid is built of stone quarried in Arabia: three hundred and sixty thousand men, it is said, were employed upon it twenty years, and the three were completed in seventy-eight years and four months. They are described by the following writers: Herodotus,4 Euhemerus, Duris of Samos, Aristagoras, Dionysius, Artemidorus, Alexander Polyhistor, Butoridas, Antisthenes, Demetrius, Demoteles, and Apion. These authors, however, are disagreed as to the persons by whom they were constructed; accident having, with very considerable justice, consigned to oblivion the names of those who erected such stupendous memorials of their vanity. Some of these writers inform us that fifteen hundred talents were expended upon radishes, garlic, and onions5 alone.

The largest Pyramid occupies seven6 jugera of ground, and the four angles are equidistant, the face of each side being eight hundred and thirty-three7 feet in length. The total height from the ground to the summit is seven hundred and twenty-five feet, and the platform on the summit is sixteen feet and a-half in circuit. Of the second Pyramid, the faces of the four sides are each seven hundred and fifty-seven feet and a-half in length.8 The third is smaller than the others, but far more prepossessing in appearance: it is built of Æthiopian stone,9 and the face between the four corners is three hundred and sixty-three feet in extent. In the vicinity of these erections, there are no vestiges of any buildings left. Far and wide there is nothing but sand to be seen, of a grain somewhat like a lentil in appearance, similar to that of the greater part of Africa, in fact.

The most difficult problem is, to know how the materials for construction could possibly be carried to so vast a height. According to some authorities, as the building gradually advanced, they heaped up against it vast mounds of nitre10 and salt; which piles were melted after its completion, by introducing beneath them the waters of the river. Others, again, maintain, that bridges were constructed, of bricks of clay, and that, when the pyramid was completed, these bricks were distributed for erecting the houses of private individuals. For11 the level of the river, they say, being so much lower, water could never by any possibility have been brought there by the medium of canals. In the interior of the largest Pyramid there is a well, eighty-six cubits deep, which communicates with the river, it is thought. The method of ascertaining the height of the Pyramids and all similar edifices was discovered12 by Thales of Miletus; he measuring the shadow at the hour of the day at which it is equal in length to the body projecting it.

Such are the marvellous Pyramids; but the crowning marvel of all is, that the smallest, but most admired of them—that we may feel no surprise at the opulence of the kings—was built by Rhodopis,13 a courtesan! This woman was once the fellow-slave of Æsopus the philosopher and fabulist, and the sharer of his bed; but what is much more surprising is, that a courtesan should have been enabled, by her vocation, to amass such enormous wealth.

1 It still exists, though the face is mutilated. It was disinterred from the sand by Belzoni, but is now again nearly covered. According to Cavaglia, the signature of the Historian Arrian was found inscribed on one of the fore-paws, when it was disinterred.

2 This reading is, perhaps, preferable to the LXI. s, (61 1/2) of the Bamberg MS. The head and neck, when uncovered, were found to be 27 feet in height.

3 Built by King Cheops, according to Herodotus, B. ii.

4 All these writers are mentioned in the list of authors at the end of the present Book.

5 For the use of the workmen. There is, probably, no foundation for a statement so exact as this; as it would be very singular that such a fact should continue to be known, and the names of the builders be buried in oblivion.

6 According to modern measurement, the sides of its base measure at the foundation 763 feet 4 inches, and it occupies a space of more than 13 acres. Its perpendicular height is 480 feet.

7 Other readings are 883, and 783.

8 Differing very considerably from the modern measurement. These variations may possibly arise, however, from a large portion of the base being covered with sand.

9 It was entirely coated with marble from the Thebaid; which, however was removed by the Arabs in the middle ages. In the vicinity there is a fourth pyramid, but of such small dimensions that some of the Egyptian obelisks exceed it in height.

10 "Nitrum." See B. xxxi. c. 46.

11 From this reason being given, it would almost appear that these "bridges" in reality were aqueducts, for conveying the water, in order to melt the mounds of salt and nitre.

12 A very improbable story, as Ajasson remarks; as if the method of ascertaining the heights of edifices was unknown to the sages of Egypt, and the constructors of the Pyramids!

13 Herodotus, B. ii. cc. 134, 5, takes great pains to prove the absurdity of this story; and there is little doubt that the beautiful courtesan has been confounded with the equally beautiful Egyptian Queen, Nitocris, who is said by Julius Africanus and Eusebius to have built the third pyramid. As to the courtesan having been a fellow-slave of the fabulist, Æsop, it is extremely doubtful.

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