the present grottoes of Beni-hassan,
was situated N. of Antinoe, in Middle Aegypt, on the eastern bank of the Nile, in lat. 27° 40′ N.
The name is variously written: Peos in the Itinerary of Antoninus (p. 167, Wesseling); Pois in the Notitia Imperii; but Speos is probably the true form, implying an excavation (σπέος
) in the rocks. Speos Artemidos was rediscovered by the French and Tuscan expedition into Aegypt early in the present century.
It was constructed by some of the Pharaohs of the 18th dynasty in a desert-valley running into the chain of Arabian hills.
The structure as a whole consists of a temple, and of between thirty and forty catacombs.
The temple is dedicated to Pasht, Bubastis, the Artemis of the Greeks. (Herod, 2.58.)
The catacombs appear to have served as the general necropolis of the Hermopolite nome. For although Hermopolis and its district lay on the western bank of the Nile, yet as the eastern hills at this spot approach very closely to the stream, while the western hills recede from it, it was more convenient to ferry the dead over the river than to transport them across the sands. Some of these catacombs were appropriated to the mummies of animals, cats especially, which were worshipped by the Hermopolitans.
In the general cemetery two of these catacombs merit particular attention: (1) the tomb of Neoopth, a military chief in the reign of Sesortasen I. and of his wife Rotei; (2) that of Amenheme, of nearly the same age, and of very similar construction.
The tomb of Neoopth, or, as it is more usually denominated, of Rotei, has in front an architrave excavated from the rock, and supported by two columns, each 23 feet high, with sixteen fluted facelets.
The columns have neither base nor capital; but between the architrave and the head of the column a square abacus is inserted.
A denteled cornice runs over the architrave.
The effect of the structure, although it is hardly detached from the rock, is light and graceful.
The chamber or crypt is 30 feet square, and its roof is divided into three vaults by two architraves, each of which was originally supported by a single column, now vanished.
The walls are painted in compartments of the most brilliant colours, and the [p. 2.1032]
drawing is generally in the best style of Aegyptian art. They represent various events in the life of Neoopth. From the tomb of Rotei, indeed, might be compiled a very copious record of the domestic life of the Aegyptians. On its walls are depicted, among many others, the following subjects: the return of warriors with their captives; wrestlers; hunting wild beasts and deer; the Nile boats, including the Bari
or high-prowed barge, and fisheries; granaries and flax-dressing; spinning and weaving; games with the lance, the ball, and the discus; and the rites of sepulture.
The tomb of Amenheme is covered also with representations of men in various postures of wrestling; and the other grottoes are not less interesting for their portraitures of civil and. domestic life. (Wilkinson, Modern Egypt and Thebes;
Rosellini, Mon. Civ.
vol. i.; Kenrick, Anc. Egypt,
vol. i. p. 47, foll.)