Strabo xvii 42
Above this city lies Abydus, where is the Memnonium, a royal building, which is a remarkable structure built of solid stone, and of the same workmanship as that which I ascribed to the Labyrinth, though not multiplex; and also a fountain207 which lies at a great depth, so that one descends to it down vaulted galleries made of monoliths of surpassing size and p113workmanship. There is a canal leading to the place from the great river; and in the neighbourhood of the canal is a grove of Aegyptian acantha, sacred to Apollo. Abydus appears once to have been a great city, second only to Thebes, but it is now only a small settlement. But if, as they say, Memnon is called Ismandes208 by the Aegyptians, the Labyrinth might also be a Memnonium and a work of the same man who built both the Memnonia in Abydus and those in Thebes; for it is said that there are also some Memnonia in Thebes.
Herodotus on Moeris
As for the other kings, they could tell me of no great works which had been produced by them, and they said that they had no renown except only the last of them, Moiris: he (they said) produced as a memorial of himself the gateway of the temple of Hephaistos (VULCAN, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hephaestus) which is turned towards the North Wind,
(one pyramid for him and one for his wife)
and dug a lake, about which I shall set forth afterwards how many furlongs of circuit it has, and in it built pyramids of the size which I shall mention at the same time when I speak of the lake itself. He, they said, produced these works, but of the rest none produced any.
Herodotus. Histories II .101
Diodorus Siculus mentions the lake Moeris had excavated
Moeris … dug a lake of remarkable usefulness , though at the cost of incredible toil. Its circumference, they say is 3600 stades, its depth at most points fifty fathoms. Who, then, on estimating the greatness of construction, would not reasonably ask how many tens of thousands of men must have been employed, and how many years they took to finish their work? No one can adequately commend the king’s design, which brings such usefulness and advantage and usefulness to all the dwellers in Egypt.
Since the Nile kept to no definite bounds in its rising, and the fruitfulness of the country depended upon the river’s regularity, the king dug the lake to accommodate the superfluous water, so that the river should neither, with its strong current, flood the land unseasonably and form swamps and fens, nor, by rising less than was advantageous, damage the crops by lack of water. Between the river and the lake he constructed a canal 80 stades in length and 300 feet in breadth. Through this canal, at times he admitted the water of the river, at other times he excluded it, thus providing the farmers with water at fitting times by opening the inlet and again closing it scientifically and at great expense. No less than 50 talents had of necessity to be expended by anyone who wished to open or shut this sluice. The lake has continued to serve the needs of the Egyptians down to our own days, and it has its name from its constructor, being still called the Lake of Moeris.
Herodotusrecords that Moiris constructed a gateway to the temple of Hephaistos (Ptah) and dug a large lake. In the lake he built more than one pyramid. Diodorus Siculus mentions a king named Moeris who dug out a lake “of remarkable usefulness” to provide a reservoir of water and guard against a poor inundation. He confirms that the place was named lake Moeris (in the Faiyum) after its creator. He is generally considered to have been Amenemhat III, who built a series of great water wheels in the Faiyum diverting the Nile into lake Moeris, and established a pyramid at Hawara (nearby
Diodorus Siculus, The Historical Library, Books I, LI and LII
Translation by W.G.Waddell
Stade (stadium, pl. stadia) about 185 metres
Talent : 6000 silver drachmas
Herodotus Pyramids remain this day. I found them at Biyahmu.
51.5 cm x 36 cm copperplate engraving, 55 cm x 44 cm sheet size, modern hand colour, Antwerp, engraved 1595, printed 1603
We are pleased to offer this scarce original map (Van der Krogt# 8650H:31B) of Ancient Egypt from the 1603 Latin edition Theatrum Orbis Terrarum of Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598), the first true atlas in the modern sense. This example of “historical cartography” was presented in the Parergon section of the Theatrum, and Ortelius based the content of the map mainly on the writings of Pliny, Strabo, Herodotus and `other classical authors. On the title page of the Parergon section of the atlas, Ortelius notes that these historical maps “are published separately from the Theatrum, where places are shown as they are in the present day” and that he “includes them as a supplement at the instigation of friends.” No matter the self-effacing introduction, it is evident that Ortelius put far more personal effort into the maps of the Parergon than the “present day” maps of the Theatrum which in most cases were entirely composed by other cartographers. This “sideways” eastern oriented plate is bisected by the Nile and replaces a northern oriented two sheet map of Ancient Egypt that Ortelius first published in 1584. A map of deep scholarship, it is also a wonderfully decorative masterpiece of the engraver’s art with this well-preserved example exhibiting hand colour work of the very highest order that will make a superlative presentation if matted and framed.
Many of the ornate cartouches used by Ortelius’ engravers were in fact taken from a series of ornament prints designed by the brilliant painter, architect and graphic artist Hans Vredeman de Vries. This handsome title cartouche presents a quotation from Book Eight of Lucan’s Civil War (Pharsalia) “A land content in its wealth, needing no aid from Jove but relying upon the Nile”:
Inset map for Alexandria and environs with a notation explaining that here additional placenames are presented that the scale of the main map precluded:
To get a sense of map detail consider that the distance from the top of the mainmast to the waterline on the tiny ship shown in the Gulf of Suez measures just 2 cm actual size. Note pictorial depiction of the Troicus Mountains with notation that the stone for the Pyramids was quarried at this site. The elegant calligraphy for “Arabiae Petreae Pars” is indicative of the great care that went into the engraving of this plate:
Note regional lettering meticulously hand coloured in gilt for a most impressive presentation. Map makes reference to “Tabennam” – better known as Tabennisi this was the site of the first Cenobitic monastery founded by Pachomius in the 4th century and generally considered the birthplace of Christian monasticism. Also noted are the “Catadupi” of the Nile, i.e. the cataracts. Here Ortelius would have turned to Pliny the Elder’s description of the Nile:
“Its waters then hastening onwards, it is borne along to the spot in the country of the Aethiopians which is known by the name of “Catadupi;” where, at the last Cataract, the complaint is, not that it flows, but that it rushes, with an immense noise between the rocks that lie in its way: after which it becomes more smooth, the violence of its waters is broken and subdued, and, wearied out as it were by the length of the distance it has travelled, it discharges itself, though by many mouths, into the Egyptian sea. During certain days of the year, however, the volume of its waters is greatly increased, and as it traverses the whole of Egypt, it inundates the earth, and, by so doing, greatly promotes its fertility.
Nile delta – note pictorial representation of island tombs in the manmade Lake Moeris, the Egyptian Labyrinth near the City of Crocodiles and of course, the tinyhttp://picclick.co.uk/1886-Print-Map-Fayuom-Birket-et-Keroun-Lake-Moeris-Egypt-302000446495.html “Pyramides” near Memphis:
Nearby his 1595 publishing privilege Ortelius dutifully provides a list a regions, towns, peoples, mountains, rivers and islands mentioned by ancient writers but of uncertain location. Indeed, Ortelius certainly intended his map to be consulted in conjunction with reading accounts of Egypt by ancient historians – the fact that his scholarship yielded such an extensive list shows the depth of his research in compiling the map:
Ortelius’ Latin text on verso is a fascinating document in and of itself – representative excerpts presented below are derived from the 1606 English edition published in London:
…The Mappe doth shew the situation of this country, and therefore I shall not need to speake ought of that. What the great fertility and richnesse of soile of this province was, that worthy commendation vulgarly spoken of it, wherein it is said to be “The Common Barne of All the World” doth sufficiently show…
…Eusebius writes that in this one country of Egypt there were more cities than in all the rest of the world and that besides their boast of great antiquity, the Egyptians still had 20,000 cities in the time of their King Amasis. Diodorus Siculus in his time wrote that there were 3000. Although we have most diligently sought all such names out of writings and monuments of antiquity we could not find mention of many more than 300, as the map will give you to understand…
…some say the Egyptians were the first men to worship the sun, moon and stars as immortal gods. But Holy Scripture and secular writers alike demonstrate that in their gods such as Isis, Osiris etc. they foolishly venerated and consecrated all kinds of beasts and living creatures. They put into their inventory of gods the crocodile, the ox, the lion, the bear, the goat, the monkey, the ape, the bull, the ram, the hog, the dog, the Indian rat, the wolf, the sheep, the weasel and the shrew mouse…
…They had besides these the Dragon (or serpent), the Hawk, the Eagle, the Ibis and the Beetle – the counterfeits of these for the most part they adored and worshiped as gods; yet some delighted to honour the very beast themselves alive so that it was a felony for a man to kill any of them, although it were by chance…
Title: AEGYPTVS | ANTIQVA | “Ex | Conatibus geo:|graphicis Ab. | Ortelij”. [Ancient Egypt, from the geographical efforts of Abraham Ortelius]. (North half; Inset: Alexandria and surroundings, 93 x 116 mm).
Plate size: 393 x 481 mm.
Scale: 1 : 1,000,000
Identification number: Ort 219 (Koeman/Meurer: 4P, Karrow: 1/163, van der Krogt AN: 8650H:1:31A).
Occurrence in Theatrum editions and page number:
1584L3Addblank (100 copies printed) (identical to 1584L, but here without page number; last line, left aligned: Plinius,Marcellinus,alijqu
1584L109 (750 copies printed) (identical to 1584L3Add, but here with page number 109; last line, left aligned: Plinius,Marcellinus,alijqu
1584G3Add2 in upper right corner (75 copies printed) (last line, left aligned, in Gothic script like most of the text: Strabo/Plinius/
1585F3Add23 (75 copies printed) (last line, left aligned: Strabon, Pline, Marcellin, & plusieurs autres , qui les descriuent assez au vif.),
1587F107 (250 copies printed) (last line, left aligned: sieurs autres , qui les descriuent assez au vif.),
1592L20 (525 copies printed) (last line, left aligned: cellinos, alijque, eas satis luculenta oratione describunt.).
Approximate number of copies printed: 1775.
States: 219.1 as described;
219.2: in 1592, in the textblock in lower left, last line third word “trisu” (which is meaningless) changed to “tribu” [tribe].
Cartographic sources: Ortelius own two-sheet map of Ancient Egypt, dedicated to the humanist and medical doctor Scipio Fabio from Bologna, which appeared in 1565, and for which Ortelius mentions as sources Diodorus, Herodotos, Strabo and Plinius (Meurer p. 21-22).
References: G. Schilder (1987) “Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica” II, Canaletto, p. 8-9. P.H. Meurer “Ortelius as the Father of Historical Cartography”, p. 133-159 in: M. van den Broecke, P. van der Krogt and P.H. Meurer (eds.) “Abraham Ortelius and the First Atlas”, HES Publishers, 1998.
Remarks: This map, together with Ort 220, was replaced by a one sheet map, plate Ort 221, in 1595L.
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SECUNDA AFFRICE TABULA CONTINET AFFRICAM & INSULAE QUE CIRCA IPSAM SUNT PARALLEL]
First Edition of an Important 15th Century Map of North Africa with Sardinia and Sicily. Printed in July 1482 in Ulm by Lienhard Holle.
The Egyptian Labyrinth, Marvel that Surpassed the Pyramids
Egyptian Colossus of Memnon maze puzzle
According to the 5th-century BC Greek historian Herodotus, who stated that he himself had seen the building, the Egyptian Labyrinth was a vast structure on the shores of a large lake located seven days’ journey up the Nile from the Pyramids at Giza. The temple was divided into twelve great courts and its walls were covered with sculpture, and a large pyramid decorated with colossal figures was connected to it by a subterranean passage. Herodotus emphatically presents the building as a marvel or wonder (thaumata) that eclipsed the Pyramids at Giza.
The 1st century BC Greek geographer Strabo is the only other eyewitness to the Egyptian Labyrinth whose account has survived. Strabo called it “a great palace composed of many palaces” and marveled at enormity of the stone slabs that made up its roof and walls. He wrote that it had many great courts, each with its own entrance, but that “in front of the entrances are crypts, as it were, which are long and numerous and have winding passages communicating with one another, so that no stranger can find his way either into any court or out of it without a guide.”
Although it is uncertain when these court entrances were actually constructed, the Egyptian Labyrinth complex itself dates from the 19th century BC. So these crypt-like entrances with many winding passages “communicating with one another” are probably the oldest examples of mazes that we know of.
Herodotus relates that the lower levels of the Labyrinth, which he was not allowed to visit, contained the “sepulchers of the kings who built the Labyrinth, and those of the sacred crocodiles.” This a plausible story, for the Egyptians are known to have buried sacred bulls in winding underground passages beneath other temples.
Purpose of the Egyptian Labyrinth
The few clues that we have indicate that the Labyrinth originally served many different purposes to the Egyptians. We know that it served as the mortuary temple of pharaoh Amenemhet III (19th century BC), the place on earth where Egyptians would make daily offerings to Amenemhet’s spirit—for all eternity—to guarantee his prosperity in the afterlife.
The Labyrinth probably also functioned as a cult center and meetingplace for the rulers of the nomes, or Egyptian political divisions, and it may have served as a palace and administrative center too. Intriguingly, the pyramid that formed a part of this complex contained its own fantastic maze hewn from stone, designed to guard Amenemhet’s mummy from tomb robbers.
The Egyptian Labyrinth was more than 1,300 years old at the time of Herodotus’s visit and was likely in a state of partial disrepair. It was probably a vast, sprawling collection of interconnected buildings, shrines, passageways, and courtyards, some decaying, some still maintained. Here is the historian’s own description of the impression of the interior:
This confusing layout and impressive size would later earn it fame in Roman times as one of the four famous architectural labyrinths of antiquity.
The remains of Pharaoh Amenemhet III’s pyramid
Fate of the Egyptian Labyrinth
Time has not spared the Egyptian Labyrinth. The complex fell into ruin at an unknown date, and in Roman times it became the site of quarrying for its fine stone, which occupied such a number of masons that a small town sprung up on the site. When the British archaeologist Flinders Petrie excavated the site in 1888, he found nothing but a vast field of chipped stone, six feet deep. “All over an immense area of dozens of acres, I found evidence of a grand building,” he wrote. Petrie could only guess that part of this structure once measured an enormous 1,000 by 800 feet, and he summed up his findings quite succinctly: “From such very scanty remains it is hard to settle anything.”
Not long after Petrie wrote this, much of the field of limestone chips was quarried away and used as bedding under railway lines, and with almost nothing now remaining on the site, archaeologists can no longer confirm Petrie’s measurements. Thus we have only the word of three eyewitnesses—Herodotus, Strabo, and Petrie—to attest to the size and magnificence of a monument that once surpassed the Pyramids…
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