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NAPA´TA (Νάπατα, Strab. xvii. p.820; Ptol. 4.7.19, 8.16.8; Ναπαταί, Steph. B. sub voce Τανάπη, D. C. 54.5.), was the capital of an Aethiopian kingdom, north of the insular region of Meroe, and in about lat. 19° N. There is, however, great difficulty in determining the true position of Napata, as Strabo (l.c.) places it much farther N. than Pliny, and there is reason for supposing that it is the designation of a royal residence, which might be moveable, rather than of a fixed locality. Ritter (Erdkunde, vol. i. p. 591) brings Napata as far north as Primis (Ibrim), and the ruins at Ipsambûl, while Mannert, Ukert, and other geographers believe it to have been Merawe, on the furthest northern point of the region of Meroe. It is, however, [p. 2.397]generally placed at the E. extremity of that great bend of the Nile, which skirts the desert of Bahiouda [NUBAE], and near Mount Birkel (Gebel-el-Birkel), a site which answers nearly to the description of Napata, in Pliny (l.c.). Napata was the furthest point S. beyond Egypt, whither the arms of Rome penetrated, and it was taken and plundered by Petronius, the lieutenant of Augustus, in B.C. 22. (D. C. 54.5.) Nor does Napata seem ever to have recovered its earlier greatness; for Nero's surveyors found only an inconsiderable town there, and afterwards all traces of this city vanish. The government of Napata, like that of Meroe, was often committed to the hands of women, who bore the title of Candace (Acts of Apost. 8.27; Euseb. Hist. Eccles. 2.1; Tzetzes, Chiliad. iii. v. 885); and in the kingdom of Schendy, Burckhardt found in the present century a similar regimen. Napata, if not a colony, was probably at one time among the dependencies of Meroe. The government and religion were the same in both; and from the monuments discovered in either, both seem to have been in a similar state of civilisation. If Merawe, indeed, represent the ancient Napata, it seems to follow that the latter city was the second capital of the Mesopotamian region of Meroe.

Napata owed much of its wealth and importance to its being the terminus of two considerable caravan routes:--(1) One crossing the desert of Bahiouda; (2) The other further to the N. running from the city to the island Gagaudes in the Nile (Plin. Nat. 6.35), the modern Argo. (Russegger, Karte von Nubien.) Although Napata was surrounded by Nomade hordes, its proper population was probably as civilised as that of Meroe, at least its wealth presupposes settlement and security. Its commerce consisted in an interchange of the products of Lïoya and Arabia, and it was near enough to the marshes of the Nile to enjoy a share in the profitable trade in ivory and hides which were obtained from the chase of the hippopotamus and elephant. If the ruins which are found near Mount Birkel represent Napata, the city can have been second only to the golden city of the Aethiopians, Meroe itself. (Diod. 53.6.) On the western bank of the Nile are found two temples and a considerable necropolis. The former were dedicated to Osiris and Ammon; and the sculptures respresenting the Ammonian and Osirian worship, are inferior in execution and design to none of the Nubian monuments. Avenues of sphinxes lead up to the Ammonium,which exhibits in its ruins the plan of the great temples of Aegypt. On the walls of the Osirian temple, which Calliand (L'Isle de Meroe) calls a Typhonium, are represented Ammon-Ra and his usual attendants. The intaglios exhibit Ammon or Osiris receiving gifts of fruit, cattle, and other articles, or offering sacrifice; strings of captives taken in war are kneeling before their conqueror. On the gateway leading to the court of the necropolis, Osiris was carved in the act of receiving gifts as lord of the lower world. The pyramids themselves are of considerable magnitude; but having been built of the sandstone of Mount Birkel, have suffered greatly from the periodical rains, and have been still more injured by man.

Among the ruins, which probably cover the site of the ancient Napata are two lions of red granite, one bearing the name of Amuneph III. the other of Amuntuonch. They were brought to England by Lord Prudhoe, and now stand at the entrance to the Gallery of Antiquities in the British Museum. The style and execution of these figures belong to the most perfect period of Aegyptian art, the xviiith dynasty of the Pharaohs. Whether these lions once marked the southern limit of the dominions of Aegypt, or whether they were trophies brought from Aegypt, by its Aethiopian conquerors, cannot be determined. (Hoskins, Travels, pp. 161. 288; Calliaud, L'Isle de Meroe; Transact. of Royal Soc. Lit. 2nd Ser. vol. i. p. 54.)


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  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.35
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 4.7
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