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HERMO´POLIS MAGNA

HERMO´POLIS MAGNA (Ἑρμοῦ πόλις μεγάλη, Steph. B. sub voce Ptol. 4.5.60; Hermopolis, Ammian, 2.16; Hermupolis, It. Anton. pp. 154, seq.; Mercurii Oppidum, Plin. Nat. 5.9.11: Eth.Ἑρμεοπολίτης or Eth. Ἑρμοπολίτης), the modern Eshmoon, was situated on the left bank of the Nile, about lat. 27° 4′ N., and was the capital of the Hermopolite nome in the Heptanomis. It is sometimes, indeed, as by Pliny, reckoned among the cities of Upper and not of Middle Egypt. Hermopolis stood on the borders of these divisions of Egypt, and, for many ages, the Thebaïd or upper country extended much further to the N. than in more recent periods. As the border town, Hermopolis was a place of great resort and opulence, ranking second to Thebes alone. A little to S. of the city was the castle of Hermopolis, at which point the river craft from the upper country paid toll (Ἑρμοπολιτάνη φυλακή, Strab. xvii. p.813; Ptol. l.c.; the Bahr Jusuf of the Arabians). The grottos of Beni-hassan, near Antinoöpolis, upon the opposite bank of the Nile, were the common cemetery of the Hermopolitans, for, although the river divided the city from its necropolis, [p. 1.1059]yet, from the wide curve of the western hills at this point, it was easier to ferry the dead over the water than to transport them by land to the hills. The principal deities worshipped at Hermopolis were Typhôn and Thoth. The former was represented by an hippopotamus, on which sat a hawk fighting with a serpent. (Plut. Is. et Osir, p. 371, D.) Thoth or Tauth, the Greek Hermes, the inventor of the pen and of letters, the Ibisheaded god, was, with his accompanying emblems, the Ibis and the Cynocephalus or ape, the most conspicuous among the sculptures upon the great portico of the temple of Hermopolis. His designation in inscriptions was “The Lord of Eshmoon.” This portico was a work of the Pharaonic era; but the erections of the Ptolemies at Hermopolis were upon a scale of great extent and magnificence, and, although raised by Grecian monarchs, are essentially Egyptian in their conception and execution. The portico, the only remnant of the temple, consists of a double row of pillars, six in each row. The architraves are formed of five stones; each passes from tile centre of one pillar to that of the next, according to a well-known usage with Aegyptian builders. The intercolumnation of the centre pillars is wider than that of the others; and the stone over the centre is twenty-five feet and six inches long. These columns were painted yellow, red, and blue in alternate bands, and the brilliancy of the colours is well represented in Minutoi's 14th plate. There is also a peculiarity in the pillars of the Hermopolitan portico peculiar to themselves, or, at least, discovered only again in the temple of Gournou. (Dénon, L'Egypte, plate 41.) Instead of being formed of large masses placed horizontally above each other, they are composed of irregular pieces, so artfully adjusted that it is difficult to detect the lines of junction. The bases of these columns represent the lower leaves of the lotus; next come a number of concentric rings, like the hoops of a cask; and above these the pillars appear like bunches of reeds held together by horizontal bonds. Including the capital, each column is about 40 feet in height; the greatest circumference is about 28 1/2 feet, about five feet from the ground, for they diminish in thickness both towards the base and towards the capital. The widest part of the intercolumnation is 17 feet; the other pillars are 13 feet apart. Hermopolis comparatively escaped the frequent wars which, in the decline both of the Pharaonic and Roman eras, devastated the Heptanomis; but, on the other hand, its structures have suffered severely from the ignorance and cupidity of its Mohammedan rulers, who have burned its stones for lime or carried them away for building materials.

[W.B.D]

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