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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/172

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Part I.




Kingdom of Meroë—Pyramids.

IT was long a question with the learned whether civilization ascended or descended the Nile—whether it was a fact, as the Greeks evidently believed, that Meroë was the parent State whence the Egyptians had migrated to the north, bringing with them the religion and the arts which afterwards flourished at Thebes and Memphis—or whether these had been elaborated in the fertile plains of Egypt, and only in later times nad extended to the upper Nile.

Recent discoveries have rendered it nearly certain that the latter is the correct statement of the facts—within historic times at least—that the fertile and easily cultivated Delta was first occupied and civilized; then Thebes and afterwards Meroë. At the same time it is by no means imjn-obable that the Ethiopians were of the same stock as the Thebans, though differing essentially from the Memphites, and that the former may have regarded these remote kindred with respect, perhaps even with a degree of half-superstitious reverence, due to their remote situation in the centre of a thinly-peopled continent, and have in consequence invented those fables which the Greeks interpreted too literally.

If any such earlier civilization existed in these lands, its records and its monuments have perished. No building is now found in Meroë whose date extends beyond the time of the great King Tirhakah, of the 25th Egyptian dynasty, B.C. 724 to 680, unless it be those bearing the name of one king, Amoun Gori, who was connected with the intruding race of sun-worshippers, which broke in upon the continuous succession of the kings of the 18th dynasty. Their monuments were all purposely destroyed by their successors; and almost the only records we have of them are the grottoes of Tell el Amarna, covered with their sculptures, which bear, it must be confessed, considerable resemblance in style to those found in Ethiopia. Even this indication is too slight to be of much value; and we must wait for some further confirmation before founding any reasoning upon it.

The principal monuments of Tirhakah are two temples at Gibel Barkal, a singular isolated mount near the great southern bend of the river. One is a large first-class temple, of purely Egyptian form and