This web edition published by eBooks@Adelaide.
Last updated Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 13:09.
To the best of our knowledge, the text of this
work is in the “Public Domain” in Australia.
HOWEVER, copyright law varies in other countries, and the work may still be under copyright in the country from which you are accessing this website. It is your responsibility to check the applicable copyright laws in your country before downloading this work.
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
The eyes of all Europe have been lately directed with feverish anxiety towards the East. With the early history of the present ruler of Egypt, and with his projects of military reform, our readers are doubtless well acquainted. We shall, therefore, only rapidly glance at the present condition of Syria, as on the causes that led to the astonishing success of a campaign that at one time threatened to construct, upon a new basis, the political geography of the East.
In contemplating the state of degradation and impotency into which have fallen Syria, and that vast Peninsula which extends westward of the Euphrates, after having occupied so proud a place in the page of history, from the earliest traditionary periods down to the time when the Turkish Sultans abandoned Broussa for Adrianople, we naturally inquire what has become of the intellectual inheritance which the ancient inhabitants of these countries left behind them? Where are the successors of the skilful workmen of Damascus, of Mossul, and of Angora; the navigators of Phoenicia, the artists of Ionia, and the wise men of Chaldea? Several distinct characters of civilisation have successively flourished in this part of Asia. To the primitive ages, to the reign of the Pelasgi, correspond the subterraneous excavations of Macri, and the Phrygian monuments of Seïdï Gazi; to the Babylonian power, the ruins of Bagdad, and the artificial mountains of Van; to the Hellenic period, the baths, the amphitheatres, and the ruins which strew the coast of the Archipelago; to the Roman empire, the military roads which traverse in every direction the whole Peninsula; to the Greeks of the middle ages, the church of Iznik.
And now that Mussulman civilisation, which at its brightest periods produced the beautiful mosque of the Sultan Bayazid at Amasia, is at its last gasp; for we can, with safety, affirm that not a single grand thought, either social, religious, or political, any longer connects together the four millions of inhabitants which the Porte numbers in this part of her dominions. All unity has disappeared, and the Asmoulis, who compose the predominating race, no longer obey but some old habits and recollections. The downfall of the Janizary system destroyed their last connecting link. Forgetting that their destiny was conquest — that they were only encamped in the land — that they had received a military organisation for a permanent state of warfare — that their headquarters was Constantinople — they have become attached to the soil, and shut themselves up in their harems, have established a feudal system, are divided among themselves by hereditary enmities, and their contempt for foreigners is no longer founded on their courage and power.
Near the coasts of the Archipelago European intercourse has, in some degree, civilised the manners of the Turks, but as the traveller advances into the interior, civilisation sensibly decreases. On approaching the central plateau of Asia Minor, he perceives that cultivation seldom extends beyond the distance of half a league round a village; the inhabitants are secreted in the mountains, and carefully avoid the vicinity of the great roads; it is a well-known statistical phenomenon, that the most inaccessible districts are the most populous and the richest. This will be easily understood, when it is told that the passage of troops through a district is a pest more dreaded than the fatal plague itself. The once flourishing and magnificent plains of Eske–Seher have been deserts since the Sultan Amurath traversed them, at the head of 300,000 men, to lay siege to Bagdad. His passage was marked by all the devastating effects of the hurricane. When a body of those horsemen called Delhis, who are attached to the suite of every Pasha, enters a village, the consternation is general, and followed by a system of exaction that to the unfortunate villager is equivalent to ruin. To complain to the Pasha would be to court instant destruction.
From this we can conceive the horror of the peasantry of Anatolia at the passage of large bodies of troops through their country, and consequently the obstacles a European army would encounter which should ever be masters of the Black and Mediterranean Seas. The Turcomans, a Nornase tribe, who sometimes pitch their tents on the shores of the Archipelago, and who pay but a moderate tribute to the Porte, are also another cause of devastation. But it is the Musseleins, the farmers of the Pasha, who are the oppressors par excellence; they are always present to despoil the unfortunate fellah, to leave him, to use a common expression in the mouths of this oppressed race, ‘but eyes wherewith to weep.’ The welfare of the people, respect for the orders of the Porte, are things to them of the utmost indifference; to govern is to raise men and taxes; to obey, is to fear. Thus the law of force reigns almost exclusively at forty or fifty leagues from the capital.
But on a nearer approach to the Euphrates, the dissolution of every social tie becomes more striking. We find ourselves amid the independent tribes — the cruel Lendes; among the Tezdis — a people who adore the spirit of Erib. Towards the north we fall in with the Lazzi, and all those fierce natives who are entrenched like vultures amid the fastnesses of the Caucasus. Again, in the South we discover the wandering Arabs, the pirates of the desert, and the mountaineers of Lebanon, who live in a state of perpetual discord. Over this immense line of countries centuries have passed, and left no trace behind; all that the ancients and the crusaders have related to us of them, is typical of their condition at this day. The bows and arrows, the armour, exhibited as objects of curiosity in our museums, are still in use among them. It is only by chance, or by profiting by their intestine divisions, that the authority of the Porte is recognised. The Pashas are mostly hereditary, and live in a state of perpetual insurrection. Thus from the shores of the Archipelago to the banks of the Euphrates and the Tigris, civilisation and vegetation appear to obey the same law of decrease.
It is incontestable that Syria and the Pashalics on the confines of Upper Asia are of no real importance to the Sultan; and that the pride of this monarch would be the only sufferer by their loss. Desolation has reached such a point in the Ottoman Empire, that it is almost impossible to regenerate her, unless the branches of the tree, lopped of all those parts so eccentric by their position, are detached from it, and organised into independent states. Towards the North, Russia has pushed on her battalions as far as Erzeroum, but it will be found more difficult, to govern Armenia from St. Petersburg than from Constantinople. In politics, the calculation of distances is an important element. In the South of Asia, Egypt lays claim to Syria, and that part of Caramania situated between Mount Taurus and the sea — a territory in which she will find those resources she at present stands so much in need of, such as timber for shipbuilding, etc., a Christian population, among whom the seeds of European civilisation will be more easily implanted. She will thus form an empire that will one day become powerful, if not prematurely exhausted by that system of monopoly so rigorously put in force by her present ruler.
The history of the quarrels of the Pasha of Acre with Mehemet Ali, justifies, in some degree, the pretensions of the latter. Abdallah Pasha had rendered himself famous by his extortions, and in 1822 took it into his head to seize Damascus. The neighbouring Pasha formed a league against him, and laid siege to his capital, when Mehemet Ali negotiated his pardon for a sum of 60,000 purses, which of course the people paid. Interest soon prevailed over gratitude; the Pasha of Acre felt there was more to be gained from Constantinople than from Cairo — that the authority of the Sultan in the Pashalic would never be more than nominal, and that the Porte, satisfied by some presents, would not be in a condition to prevent his exactions; he therefore sought, on every occasion, to get rid of the influence of Mehemet Ali, and to excite the jealousy of the Porte against him. An opportunity soon offered itself. Some Egyptian fellahs had taken refuge under the guns of Abdallah Pasha; Mehemet Ali demanded these men, but the Governor of Acre refused to give them up, on the plea that they were subjects of the Grand Signor, and referred the matter to the Porte, who on this occasion was seized with a fit of humanity, and bewailed the oppression of the peasantry of the Valley of the Vale —Inde Bellum.’ This was at the close of 1831.
The moment was favourable for the Viceroy’s great designs. Europe was sufficiently agitated to leave him no apprehensions of an intervention on the part of Russia. The Albanians and the Borneans were in open revolt, and insurrections had broken out also in several Pashalics on the side of Upper Asia. The Sultan was considered the slave of the Russians, and his conduct excited the contempt and hatred of the whole empire. In the meantime, since the revolution the exactions of the government had extended to every object of production and industry, while the conscription decimated the most industrious portion of the population; and if to this organised system of spoliation we farther add the ravages of the plague and cholera, we may form some idea of the wretched state of those provinces, and shall be no longer surprised that the Egyptians were everywhere hailed as deliverers.
Ibrahim Pasha, the step-son of Mehemet Ali, was placed at the head of the Egyptian army. Of a short, thick-set figure, he possesses that gigantic strength which Homer so loved in his heroes, and which inspires such respect among barbarous nations. To strike off the head of a bull with a blow of his scimitar — to execute, like Peter the Great, his victims with his own hand — to fall, dead drunk, amid the broken wrecks of champagne bottles, are three diversions of his. But latterly his manners, from his intercourse with Europeans, have been somewhat polished, and in deference to them, he has displayed both clemency and dignity — in fact, Ibrahim is excessively anxious to acquire the good opinion of Europe. He possesses all that strong common-sense that so distinguishes the Turks, rather than an elevated intelligence of mind. Soliman Bey, a renegade Frenchman, formerly an officer on the staff of Marshal Grouchy, was associated with him, and it is to him that the success of the Egyptian army may be chiefly attributed.
Syria, with her various productions, was the first country which offered itself to the conquest of the Egyptians. Closed entirely on the side of Asia by Mount Amanus, which belongs to the chain of Taurus, and extends from the Gulf of Scanderoun to the Euphrates, she is bounded on one side by the Mediterranean, and on the other by the desert. Her length from Aintab to Gaza is one hundred and fifty leagues, and the mean breadth about thirty. By a single glance at the map we perceive the most important military points for the defence of Syria are the fortress of Saint Jean d’Acre; Tyre, which ought to be fortified; Bolbeck, as the key to several valleys; Antakea, the passage of the Beilan; Alexandretta, situated upon a tongue of land between the marshes and the sea; and lastly, Aentab and Zenyma, which command the two passages on the right side of Mount Amanus.
We have entered into details in order to show how destitute of all strategetical combinations was the whole plan of campaign in Syria. Malte Brun estimates the population of the district of Sham at two millions, but we are inclined to question the accuracy of this calculation, since no two travellers are agreed as to the numbers of the Druses, some estimating them at 120,000, others at a million. The Turks form two-fifths of the population — they inhabit the large towns with the Greeks; the remainder of the population is composed of Arab fellahs, of Kurds, and of Turcomans, who wander in the valley of the Orontes; of Bedouin Arabs, who pitch their tents on the banks of the Jordan and along the edge of the desert of Ansarich, worshippers of the sun, the descendants of the servants of the Old Man of the Mountain of Maronites, who profess the Catholic ritual; of Druses, whose creed is doubtful; of all the inhabitants of Mount Lebanon; of Mebualis, Mussulmans of the sect of Ali; of Naplonsins and other tribes who have preserved a state of independence. We shall not be astonished to know that amidst this prodigious diversity of races Syria is more easy to conquer than to keep possession of. With the exception of the Ansarich, who inhabit the north of Syria, all of them obeyed, at the moment when the war broke out, the Emir Bechir, a Druse, prince of the family of the celebrated Fakr el Din, who revolted against Amurath the Fourth. The Emir Bechir, when Abdallah raised the standard of revolt in 1822, sought the protection of Mehemet Ali, who reestablished him in his government.
Let us now follow Ibrahim in his march. At the head of 32,000 regular troops, and four or five thousand Bedouin Arabs and Hassouras, he took the same route as Bonaparte, and rapidly advanced against Saint Jean d’Acre. Without firing a shot, he made himself master of Jaffa, Caipha, Jerusalem, Naplonsia. Tabaneh and all the country between Gaza and Acre submitted at his approach. Master of the sea, by which he expected reinforcements both in men and material, he made haste to occupy the whole line of coast as far as Ladikich, and set down on the 27th of November, before Saint Jean d’Acre, with a corps of 15,000 regular infantry, two regiments of lancers, 1,000 Bedouins, two companies of sappers, one of cannoniers, one of bombardiers, and a train of field and siege artillery. The place is situated on a promontory surrounded on three sides by the sea, and defended on the fourth by a fort, crowned by a tower, which serves as a citadel. This last fort, the bastions of which, from their retiring flanks being too short, is the only one accessible on the land side, but it was enfiladed from a neighbouring height. Bonaparte, at the siege of Saint Jean d’Acre, was destitute of siege artillery, and was not master of the sea. He had, therefore, many more obstacles to encounter than Ibrahim.
During the first ten days the cannonade of the besiegers was not very vigorous, but on the 9th of December, five frigates having cast anchor before the place, with some gun-boats under sail, a general attack was made, and from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon the fleet and the batteries on shore kept up a well-directed fire. The besieged on their side were not inactive. The Egyptians experienced a heavy loss, and several of their ships were much cut up. From the 9th to the 18th the bombardment lasted night and day. On the 10th some heavy guns were placed in battery. The operations of the siege were now pushed forward with great ardour, but yet nothing denoted the immediate reduction of the place. The defence of Ab-dallah Pasha was marked by the most determined energy. He had sworn, it was reported, that he would blow up the town. It was, however, of the utmost importance to push forward the operations with the greatest activity. The first disposition of the population, which had been favourable, might undergo a change should not Ibrahim succeed in striking a great blow. The mountaineers of Lebanon and of Naplonsia had sent their chiefs to the Egyptian camp, and were ready to furnish a contingent of their warriors.
The news of the invasion of Syria by the army of Mehemet Ali, spread terror at Constantinople. The Porte, with her usual craft, dissimulated, and feigning to see in this event but a quarrel between two Pashas, she summoned them to lay before her their respective griefs; but finding her orders were disregarded, she made preparations for war. On the 16th of December, 1831, Mehemet Pasha, already governor of Racca, was appointed governor of Aleppo, and Seraskier of Syria and Arabia. Orders were sent to the directors of the Imperial Mines, Osman Pasha, to the Musselims of Marash, of Sevas, of Adana, and of Payas, to levy troops. Strict injunctions were also given to the governors of Caramania, and of Caesarea, to hold themselves in readiness; but this movement of Tartars was insufficient to produce a numerous army; the lukewarm devotion of the subjects of the Porte found ample means of evasion; and every day the efforts of the Turkish government in Syria to reestablish its authority, encountered new obstacles.
The son of the Emir Bechir assembled troops in the mountains, and held out for Mehemet Ali. Damascus armed itself through fear, but retained as an hostage the Pasha appointed to conduct the caravan to Mecca. Memiran Osman Pasha had been selected by the Porte for the government of Tripoli, but it was necessary to take possession of it by force of arms. -This port was already occupied, in the name of Mehemet Ali, by Mustapha Agar Barbar, a man of considerable note in the country. The Seraskier Mehemet Pasha consented to furnish Osman with some thousand irregular horsemen, and fourteen small field-pieces.
The latter arrived before his capital early in April. Believing the Egyptian Commander-inChief still occupied with the siege of Saint Jean d’Acre, all his dispositions of attack consisted in scattering his troops over the surrounding hills, and in ordering his artillery to play upon the town, which did not displace a single stone; the guns of the castle were also so badly pointed that the Turkish horsemen galloped up to the very houses, and were only beaten off by a brisk fire of musketry, which, galling them severely, drove them across the heights. Night put an end to the affair.
A few days after this skirmish, Ibrahim Pasha, having left to one of his lieutenants the direction of the siege of Saint Jean d’Acre and wishing to reconnoitre the country, appeared at the head of 800 men, with six field-pieces, before Osman’s camp, who, seized with a panic, immediately abandoned it to the enemy, and hastened to form a junction with the Pasha of Aleppo, who was posted near Hameh. The Egyptian general immediately pursued him, and took up a position at Horn. But, threatened upon this point by three brigades of the Seraskier Mehemet Pasha, he retired, after some skirmishes, to Bolbeck, where he established his camp, and was joined by Abaz Pasha, his nephew, at the head of 800 men. But his presence was required in other quarters. Divisions had broken out at several points, and the slowness with which the operations of the siege of Saint Jean d’Acre was carried on had damped the ardour of his partisans.
At Tripoli a conspiracy was discovered, in which were implicated the Cadi, the Mufti, and the principal Turks. After receiving a considerable reinforcement of troops from Candia, and making some defensive dispositions to the south of Bolbeck, Ibrahim encamped before Saint Jean d’Acre, to bring the siege to a conclusion by a decisive attack. On the 19th of May the fire was recommenced with great vigour; the Egyptians made the most extraordinary efforts to get into the city, and experienced a heavy loss; but no sooner was a breach effected than it was again closed up. Nothing was left standing in the town. The palace was destroyed, and Abdullah Pasha obliged to retire to the caves dug by Djezzar. The garrison was reduced to less than 2,000 men. At last, on the 27th of May, a general assault was made. Three breaches were practicable, one on the tower of Kapon Bourdjon, the other two at Nebieh Zaleh, and at Zavieh. Six battalions had the horrors of the attack, which commenced at daybreak and lasted twelve hours.
At Kapon Bourdjon the Arabs were on the point of giving ground, but Ibrahim having with his own hand struck off the head of a captain, and having turned a battery against them, they returned to the assault. Unfortunately for Abdullah, his gunners ran from their pieces, and he was obliged to capitulate. The Egyptians confessed a loss but of 1,429 wounded, and 512 killed. Thus fell Saint Jean d’Acre, after a memorable defence of six months. The capture of this place insured to Ibrahim the possession of Lower Syria, and enabled him to advance in perfect security.
While the son of Mehemet Ali was thus vigorously pushing forward the war, the Porte was still occupied with her preparations. In the month of March, Hussein Pasha, celebrated by the destruction of Janizaries, and by the extraordinary bravery he displayed in the Russian Campaign, but in other respects, a soldier à la Turc, was appointed chief of the expedition to Arabia. To this soldier was confided the safety of the empire, with the title of field-marshal of Anatolia. He was solemnly invested with the Har-vani (a short cloak) with an embroidered collar. He received a sabre set in brilliants, and two Arabian horses, superbly caparisoned; and, on the 17th of April, he received orders to join the army which Horsen Pasha had organised, the headquarters of which was at Konisk.
By the formation and rapid assembly of the new regular regiments, the army had been raised to 60,000 men, including artillery and engineers. The mass of their forces was composed of Beckir Pasha’s brigade of infantry, with the 2nd regiment of cavalry and a strong brigade of irregulars, under the orders of the governor of Silistria; of Skender Pasha’s brigade of infantry, and the 6th cavalry; and Delaver Pasha’s brigade, with the cavalry of the guard. Each of these corps was accompanied by its batteries. An European organisation had been given to the different services, such as the paymaster-general’s department, commissariat, etc. The Sultan had written out many of the regulations with his own hand.
The young general of division, Mehemet Pasha, a manumitted slave of Hussein, was specially charged with the direction of the regular troops, under the orders of Hussein Pasha. He was tolerably well acquainted with all our manoeuvres, and possessed some military talent. The European instructors were attached to his suite. They were the captain of artillery, Thernin, whose counsels would have saved the Turkish army had they been listened to; the engineer officer, Reully, a brave and experienced soldier; and the captain of the cavalry, Colosso. The two former (Frenchmen) saw almost the whole of the war. Taken prisoners by the Egyptians, they refused to enter their service, and were sent back. As for Colosso, he sojourned but a short time in the camp; for, on his endeavouring to put a stop to the frightful abuses that pervaded every branch of the service, the generals and colonels formed a league against him, and he retired in disgust.
On the 14th of May the field-marshal arrived at Koniah, where he displayed the most culpable negligence and carelessness. It was in vain that the European inspectors requested him to put in force ‘the regulation for troops in the field,’ of the French general Prevan, which had been translated into Turkish; they were no more listened to than were their complaints on the bad state of the camp, and on the indolence and negligence of the chiefs.
The generalissimo never even deemed it once requisite to review his army. The most frightful disorder prevailed in the Turkish military administrations, which subsequently led to all their reverses; in fact, it was evident to every experienced eye that an army so constituted, once overtaken by defeat, would soon be totally disorganised, and that the Porte ought to place no reliance upon its army. But there was an arm which, in the flourishing times of Islamism, was worth 100,000 Janizaries. This was excommunication. The Sultan at last resolved to unsheathe this weapon. The fatal fetva was launched against the traitor Mehemet Ali, and his son, the indolent Ibrahim. Those who have studied the Turkish history must have thought that the Viceroy of Egypt would find at last his master — the executioner; but since the late victories of the Russians, all national faith is extinguished among the Osmanlis. Excommunication is an arm as worn out at Constantinople as at Rome.
Whilst the Porte was fulminating her bull of excommunication, she directed a note to the corps diplomatique at Constantinople, in which she explained the quarrel with her subjects, and in which she demanded the strictest neutrality on the part of the great powers, and declared Egypt in a state of blockade. The Emperor Nicholas recalled his consul from Alexandria, and even made an offer of a fleet, and an auxiliary corps d’armee. Austria, an enemy to all revolutions, went so far as to threaten the Viceroy. England appeared to preserve the strictest neutrality, while France strenuously employed all her influence to bring about an accommodation; but in vain.
The Divan refusing the demands of Mehemet Ali, the solution of the question was referred to Field–Marshal Hussein, who proceeded with that calculated exertion which the Ottomans take for dignity; and thus three weeks were lost before the army advanced on Mount Taurus. It was only on the 1st of June that Mehemet Pasha arrived with the vanguard and Beker’s brigade at Adana. A reconnaissance, pushed forward as far as Tarsons, brought back the news of the fall of Saint Jean d’Acre. It became, therefore, an imperative necessity to occupy the passes of Syria, and to march upon Antioch, in order to cover Beylau. A Tartar was despatched to Hussein, who posted off in great haste to Adana, only to halt there for a fortnight. At last the movement was effected, and the army reached Antioch, where the cholera broke out in its ranks, and where eight days were lost. Instead of profiting by Ibrahim’s delay to take up a more advanced position, the latter descended into the valley of the Orontes, and entered Damascus on the 15th of June, after a short engagement with the Turkish irregulars.
But all Ibrahim’s operations were marked by a want of rapidity. After securing Antioch, the Turkish army should have marched upon Horns, which offered an excellent position, where they might have established a communication with the Druses, upon whom some hopes were founded, and whence they would have commanded the road to Damascus. But it was not till the 6th of July that Hussein would execute this movement. Mehemet Pasha commenced his march; but in their haste they forgot to issue rations to the troops, who reached Horns at ten in the morning, almost dead with hunger and fatigue. The Seraskier of Aleppo was encamped, with his irregular troops, at the gates of the city; but without deigning even to think of the enemy, whom they thought to be at some distance, or to issue rations to the serving troops, they wasted their time in vain ceremonies.
The young Mehemet Pasha was carried, under a salute of artillery, into a magnificent tent pitched upon the bank of the river. There the two viziers made a long interchange of compliments, and smoked the hargueleh.
Midst of all this mummery, intelligence was brought in that the Egyptian army was within two hours’ march of them. The disorder that ensued was dreadful. The hungry soldiers dragged themselves in masses to meet the Arabs. The latter waited for them, with their front masked by light troops, presenting twenty-seven battalions deployed in line, the left of which rested on the Orontes, and the right upon a hamlet at the foot of a hill. The Egyptians, who were ignorant of the presence of the Turkish regular infantry, had adopted this vicious disposition against their irregular cavalry. But no one really commanded among the Turks, and thus the opportunity of striking a decisive blow was lost. Every colonel had an opinion of his own. One Pasha wished to retreat, while the European instructors insisted on an immediate attack. In short, the artillery even refused to advance to the front. However, Ibrahim Pasha did not remain inactive; he pressed the Turks closely, doubled his line from right to left, and pushed forward some battalions on the side of the Orontes, but they were checked by part of Beker’s brigade and two pieces of cannon. Then the whole Egyptian line halted and opened their fire. In the course of twenty minutes the left of the Turks suffered considerably.
Mehemet Pasha resolved to charge the enemy with the bayonet; but instead of remaining with the second line in order to direct the movement, he put himself at the head of his soldiers to attack the Arabs, who immediately formed in column. Before he reached them, he was abandoned by his artillery, while his cavalry, which should have turned the enemy, fell back in disorder before a battery which they might have carried. The second line of infantry did not support the movement with vigour; and on the Egyptian columns deploying into line, preparatory to a decisive charge, the whole Turkish army went to the right-about in the most disgraceful manner, pursued by the enemy’s cavalry. It was a general sauve qui peut. The approach of night alone saved the Turkish army from total destruction. The loss of the Sultan’s forces in this affair amounted to 2,000 killed and 2,500 prisoners.
The wrecks of the Turkish corps retired pell-mell upon Antioch. Instead of rallying them, Ned-geb Pasha’s brigade, which was encamped at two hours’ march from the field of battle, fled with them.
The field-marshal, on learning this disaster, took post at the tête du pont on Djezzer, on the Orontes. He received the fugitives at the point of the bayonet, and cut off the heads of the first mutineers who endeavoured to cross. It was in such moments that Hussein showed himself to be above the ordinary stamp of mankind. His energy was admirably calculated for quelling a revolt; but, on the other hand, though he was able to master the confusion of a retreat, he knew not how to avoid it. Such was his military incapacity that he was incapable of foreseeing anything. In a short time he expended all the money in the military chest, impoverishing all the districts through which he passed, paying nowhere and holding up the name of his master to universal execration. At the action of Horns, the mass of his forces were not engaged, so that there yet remained 40,000 regular troops; but the field-marshal allowed an army to perish, to which Horsen Pasha had given a tolerable organisation. Instead of taking any measures of defence, he set out for Antioch, with the view of effecting a junction with some troops in the neighbourhood of Aleppo; but finding no provisions in those districts, he returned by forced marches to Alexandretta, after fatiguing his troops by a march of eight hundred leagues.
However, Ibrahim was advancing, having recalled all his garrisons, and made new levies in the mountains. As he advanced, the whole country declared in his favour, and the castle of Aleppo was delivered up to him. His conduct was marked by great skill and generosity. Under his protection the numerous Christians began to raise their heads. There now only remained, to complete the entire occupation of Syria, to seize Antioch and Alexandretta; but his operations were pushed forward with extreme slowness, because he always expected from Constantinople a decision favourable to the pretensions of his father-in-law. The Turkish field-marshal had thus plenty of time to stop his passage into Carmania.
Antioch offered a position for an entrenched camp; but this he disregarded, and made his advanced posts fall back upon the defile of Beylau. This defile, formed by a deep valley, is so narrow in some places that a camel can scarcely pass. Nevertheless, this is the grand route of the Mecca caravan. Nothing was more easy than to defend it; yet on the 5th of August the Egyptians made themselves masters of it, after an action of two hours. The passage of the Beylau delivered to the conqueror Alexandretta, its immense magazines, and one hundred pieces of cannon. The Turks, instead of rallying in the rear, in the favourable positions which the ground afforded, fled in the direction of Adana. Ibrahim pursued them with his cavalry, which passed the Djihun at a ford, Hussein Pasha having blown up the superb bridge of nine arches that crossed that river at Missis.
The Ottoman troops continued their retreat across the plain of Adana, but they had scarcely reached that city before they were dislodged by the enemy, who were on the point of capturing the field-marshal. The whole district of Adana declared for Ibrahim, who had at length reached the new line of frontiers which Mehemet Ali wished to make the boundaries of his empire. There was now nothing to prevent the march of the Egyptians upon Constantinople itself, for the demoralised soldiers of Hussein Pasha deserved not the name of an army. The Kurds and the Anatolian peasantry murdered the Turkish regulars wherever they could find them, which was not difficult, for, deserted by platoons, the provinces of Upper Asia were in such a state of insurrection that a single officer of Ibrahim’s would have been sufficient to make the most considerable town capitulate.
The Viceroy, at one moment, had the insane idea of himself attacking the Turkish capital by sea, while Ibrahim should threaten it from Scutari. But his prudence doubtless prevented the execution of the enterprise, for however popular the cause of Mehemet Ali may have been, he would have appeared in Constantinople only as a subject, and certainly could not have prevented the intervention of Russia. And lastly, had he succeeded in these projects of unbounded ambition, what would have been the result? Instead of a compact state bounded by Mount Taurus, he would have found himself embarrassed with a great empire, tottering to its base, which no human power can regenerate.
Mehemet Ali listened, therefore, to the sagacious counsel of France, and endeavoured to obtain the recognition of his independence. But the Porte, listening to the perfidious suggestions, and governed by the blind obstinacy that led to the battle of Navarino and the victories of the Russians, would make no terms, and reduced Ibrahim, after an armistice of five months, to conquer her again. Hussein Pasha was succeeded by the Grand Vizier, Redchid Pasha, the same who had distinguished himself in Greece, and quelled the revolt of Scodro Pasha. Brave and accustomed to the camp, a sound politician, Redchid was superior to his predecessor, but even he was only a Turkish general. He had been selected principally on account of his great influence in Turkey in Europe. He therefore received orders to repair to Constantinople, with considerable levies of Bosnians and Albanians, of which they knew he could dispose, and with the six regiments of infantry and cavalry that belonged to them.
In the meantime the indefatigable Hussein Pasha had succeeded in reorganising an army with about 40,000 regulars of the reserve; it was echeloned between the capital and Koniah, reinforced by the troops brought by the Grand Vizier; it was sufficiently numerous to have prevented Ibrahim’s further advance; but there was neither skill in the general nor ardour among the troops; the councils of the European instructors were, as usual, disregarded, while the Egyptian army, on the contrary, was almost exclusively under the direction of European officers. A single piece of artillery would have sufficed to defend the passage of the Taurus, and yet when Ibrahim appeared on its northern declivity he had to encounter but a few irregulars, of whom he soon gave a good account. He then fixed his camp on the plain of Erekli, at one hundred and sixty days’ march of a camel from Constantinople, and then advanced upon Koniah.
Reuff Pasha, who had provisionally assumed the command of the Turkish army until the arrival of Red-chid Pasha, prudently fell back upon Acken at the approach of the Egyptians. But forgetting the disastrous day of Koulaktche, the Grand Vizier merely assumed the offensive instead of taking up a position in the mountains; and, allowing the unusual rigour of the season to thin the ranks of the enemy, he precipitately advanced. The cold was so excessive, the weather so dreadful, and the roads rendered so impassable by the snow, that only a small portion of the artillery and ammunition could follow the movement, so that they found themselves, as at Horns, without provisions in the presence of the enemy.
Some distance from Koniah, Redchid Pasha sent forward his selector at the head of a body of irregulars, with orders to advance across the mountains up the village of Lilé, which was occupied by a strong detachment of Arabs, while the Grand Vizier on his side with the grand army, was to pursue the route of the plain. The attack was to have been simultaneous, but unfortunately the selector arrived too soon on the scene of action, and was totally defeated. Undaunted by this check, the Grand Vizier continued his advance, and did not halt till he was in presence of the enemy, whom he found strongly entrenched, and prepared to give him a warm reception. It was the 29th of the Redgeb (21st of December), and from the advanced hour of the day there was no alternative but to attack, otherwise he must have passed a night upon the field, without bread, exposed to the action of an intense cold that would have paralysed the ardour of the troops.
Redchid Pasha made therefore no dispositions for attack, but his order of battle was best: he drew up his army in four lines, thus rendering useless a great part of his troops, and when he at length resolved to alter his dispositions for a more extended order of battle, he did not reconnoitre the ground to ascertain if it would permit such an extension of front. His left wing therefore was unable to deploy, and remained formed in columns of attack, while the enemy’s artillery committed dreadful havoc on their profound masses. He committed also another fault, that of placing his artillery between the interval of the lines, so that it did not reach the Egyptians, while theirs on the contrary, posted in their front, did great execution.
Mehemet Redchid’s main plan of battle was to attack with the mass of his forces, composed chiefly of Albanians, the centre of the enemy’s army, whilst the cavalry should make a demonstration upon the wings. But Ibrahim, who had foreseen this manoeuvre, leaving only on the point attacked a sufficient force to make ahead for a short time, turned his adversary to the gorges of the mountains. On gaining the flanks of the Ottoman party, he impetuously attacked and routed their cavalry, and afterwards advanced against the principal Turkish corps, which thus found itself attacked on both sides. The Albanians, in spite of all the efforts of the Grand Vizier, broke and fled.
Redchid Pasha then put himself at the head of his guard for a last effort, but after performing prodigies of valour, he was again repulsed, and fell, severely wounded, into the hands of the Egyptians. The loss of the Turks was immense; one regiment alone, the first infantry of the line, left 3,000 men upon the field of battle.
The battle was decisive. The second army of the Grand Seigneur was annihilated, and the road to Constantinople again open to Ibrahim; and the tottering empire of Mahmoud was saved by the intervention of the Russian Autocrat, who felt that it was his own property that was at stake rather than that of the unfortunate Sultan. Mehemet Ali is now on independent sovereign, and it is to the military genius of Europe that he owes this glory; while the once formidable empire of Mahomet is rapidly sinking under an accumulation of evils, the operation of which European diplomacy will in vain attempt to arrest.
Two or three miles from Cairo, approached by an avenue of sycamores, is Shoubra, a favourite residence of the Pasha of Egypt. The palace, on the banks of the Nile, is not remarkable for its size or splendour, but the gardens are extensive and beautiful, and adorned by a kiosk, which is one of the most elegant and fanciful creations I can remember.
Emerging from fragant bowers of orange trees, you suddenly perceive before you tall and glittering gates rising from a noble range of marble steps. These you ascend, and entering, find yourself in a large quadrangular colonnade of white marble. It surrounds a small lake, studded by three or four gaudy barques, fastened to the land by silken cords. The colonnade terminates towards the water by a very noble marble balustrade, the top of which is covered with groups of various kinds of fish in high relief. At each angle of the colonnade the balustrade gives way to a flight of steps which are guarded by crocodiles of immense size, admirably sculptured in white marble. On the farther side the colonnade opens into a great number of very brilliant banqueting-rooms, which you enter by withdrawing curtains of scarlet cloth, a colour vividly contrasting with the white shining marble of which the whole kiosk is formed. It is a frequent diversion of the Pasha himself to row some favourite Circassians in one of the barques and to overset his precious freight in the midst of the lake. As his Highness piques himself upon wearing a caftan of calico, and a juba or exterior robe of coarse cloth, a ducking has not for him the same terrors it would offer to a less eccentric Osmanli. The fair Circassians shrieking, with their streaming hair and dripping finery, the Nubian eunuchs rushing to their aid, plunging into the water from the balustrade, or dashing down the t marble steps — all this forms an agreeable relaxation after the labours of the Divan.
All the splendour of the Arabian Nights is realised in the Court of Egypt. The guard of Nubian eunuchs with their black, glossy countenances, clothed in scarlet and gold, waving their glittering Damascus sabres, and gently bounding on their snow-white steeds, is, perhaps, the most picturesque corps in the world. The numerous harem, the crowds of civil functionaries and military and naval officers in their embroidered Nizam uniforms, the vast number of pages and pipe-bearers, and other inferior but richly attired attendants, the splendid military music, for which Mehemet Ali has an absolute passion, the beautiful Arabian horses and high-bred dromedaries, altogether form a blending of splendour and luxury which easily recall the golden days of Bagdad and its romantic Caliph.
Yet this Court is never seen to greater advantage than in the delicious summer palace in the gardens of Shoubra. During the festival of the Bairam the Pasha usually holds his state in this enchanted spot, nor is it easy to forget that strange and brilliant scene. The banqueting-rooms were all open and illuminated, the colonnade was full of guests in gorgeous groups, some standing and conversing, some seated on small Persian carpets smoking pipes beyond all price, and some young grandees lounging, in their crimson shawls and scarlet vests, over the white balustrade, and flinging their glowing shadows over the moonlit water: from every quarter came bursts of melody, and each moment the river breeze brought gusts of perfume on its odorous wings.
Upper Egypt is a river flowing through a desert; the banks on each side affording a narrow margin of extreme fertility. Rocks of granite and hills of sand form, at slight intervals, through a course of sev-earl hundred miles, a chain of valleys, reaching from the rapids of the Nile to the vicinity of Cairo. In one of these valleys, the broadest and the most picturesque, about half-way between the cataracts and the modern capital, we find the most ancient, the most considerable, and the most celebrated of architectural remains. For indeed no Greek, or Sicilian, or Latin city — Athens, or Agrigentum, or Rome; nor the platforms of Persepolis, nor the columns of Palmyra, can vie for a moment in extent, variety, and sublime dimensions, with the ruins of ancient Thebes.
These remains may be classed, generally, in four considerable divisions: two of these great quarters of ruins being situated on each side of the river Nile — Karnak and Luxor towards the Red Sea; the Memnonion and Medcenet Habu towards the great Libyan Desert. On this side, also, are the cemeteries of the great city — the mummy-caves of Gornou, two miles in extent; above them, excavated in the mountains, are the tombs of the queens; and in the adjacent valley of Beban-el-Maluk, the famous tombs of the kings.
The population of the city of a hundred gates now consists of a few Arab families, who form four villages of mud huts, clustered round those gigantic columns and those mighty obelisks, a single one of which is sought for by the greatest sovereigns of Europe for their palaces and museums. Often, indeed, have I seen a whole Arab village rising from the roof of a single Egyptian temple. Dendera is an instance. The population of Gornou, numbering between three and four hundred, resides solely in the tombs.
I think that Luxor, from its situation, usually first attracts the notice of the traveller. It is close on the river, and is built on a lofty platform. Its enormous columns are the first specimens of that colossal genius of the Pharaohs, which the Ptolemies never attempted to rival. The entrance to this temple is through a magnificent propylon;-that is, a portal flanked by massy pyramidal moles. It is two hundred feet in breadth, and rises nearly sixty feet above the soil. This gate is entirely covered with sculpture, commemorating the triumph of a conquering monarch.
On each side of the portal are two colossal statues of red granite, buried in the sand up to their shoulders, but measuring thence, to the top of their crowns, upwards of twenty feet. On each side of them, a little in advance, at the time of my visit, were the two most perfect obelisks remaining. One of them is now at Paris; — that famous obelisk of Luxor, of which we have heard so much. From the propylon, you pass into a peristyle court — about two hundred and thirty feet long, by one hundred and seventy — the roof of which was once supported by double rows of columns, many of which now remain: and so on through other pyramidal gates, and courts, and porticoes, and chambers, which are, in all probability, of a more ancient date than those first described.
From Luxor you proceed to Karnak, the other great division on this side of the river, through an avenue of sphinxes, considerably above a mile in extent, though much broken. All the marvels of the world sink before the first entrance into Karnak. It is the Alps-the Andes — of architecture. The obelisks of Luxor may be unrivalled; the sculptures of Medoenet Habu more exquisite; the colossus of the Memnonion more gigantic; the paintings of the royal tombs more curious and instructive: but criticism ceases before the multifarious wonders of the halls and courts of Karnak, and the mind is open only to one general impression of colossal variety.
I well remember the morning when I stood before the propylon, or chief entrance of Karnak. The silver stars were still shining in the cold blue heaven, that afforded a beautiful relief to the mighty structure, built of a light yellow stone, and quite unstained by the winds of three thousand years. The front of this colossal entrance is very much broader than the front of our cathedral of St. Paul, and its height exceeds that of the Trajan column. It is entirely without sculpture — a rare omission, and doubtless intended that the unity of effect should not be broken. The great door in the centre is sixty-four feet in height.
Through this you pass into colonnaded courts, which in any other place would command undivided attention, until you at length arrive in front of a second propylon. Ascending a flight of steps, you enter the great hall of Karnak. The area of this hall is nearly fifty-eight thousand square feet, and it has recently been calculated that four such churches as our St. Martin’s-inthe-Fields might stand side by side in this unrivalled chamber without occupying the whole space. The roof, formed of single stones — compared with which the masses at Stonehenge would appear almost bricks — has fallen in; but the one hundred and thirty-four colossal columns which supported it, and which are considerably above thirty feet in circumference, still remain, and with the walls and propyla are completely covered with sculptured forms.
I shall not attempt to describe any other part of Karnak;-the memory aches with the effort. There are many buildings attached to it, larger than most temples; and infinite number of gates and obelisks, and colossi; but the imagination cannot refrain from calling up some sacred or heroic procession, moving from Luxor to Karnak, in melodious pomp, through the great avenue of sphinxes, and ranging themselves in groups around the gigantic columns of this sublime structure. What feudal splendour, and what Gothic ceremonies; what tilts and tournaments, and what ecclesiastical festivals, could rival the vast, the beautiful, and the solemn magnificence of the old Egyptians?
Crossing the river to Western Thebes, we arrive at two seated colossi, one of which is the famous musical statue of Memnon. It is fine to see him still seated on his throne, dignified and serene, on the plain of Thebes. This colossus is fifty feet in height; and its base is covered with inscriptions of Greek and Roman travellers, vouching that they had listened to the wild sunrise melody. This statue and its remaining companion, though now isolated in their situation, were once part of an enormous temple, the ruins of which yet remain, and the plan of which may yet be traced.
The Memnonion itself is now near at hand. In the colossal Caryatides we recognise the vast genius that excavated the rocks of Ipsambul, and supported a cavern temple upon the heads of giants. From the Memnonion came the statue that is now in the British Museum. But this figure, though a fine specimen of Egyptian sculpture, sinks, so far as magnitude is concerned, into insignificance, when compared with the statue of the supposed Sesostris, which, broken off at the waist, now lies prostrate in the precincts of the sanctuary. This is, probably, the most huge colossus that the Egyptians ever constructed. The fragment is of red granite, and of admirable workmanship. Unfortunately, the face is entirely obliterated. It lies upon its back, and in its fall has destroyed all the temple within reach. It measures more than sixty feet round the shoulders, the breadth of the instep is nearly seven feet, and the hieroglyphical figures engraven on the arm are large enough for a man to walk in.
Perhaps the most interesting group of ruins at Thebes is the quarter of Medoenet Habu, for here, among other vast remains, is that of a palace; and it is curious, among other domestic subjects, that we find represented on the walls, in a very admirable style, a Pharaoh playing chess with his queen. It is these domestic details that render also the sepulchres of Thebes so interesting. The arts of the Egyptians must be studied in their tombs; and to learn how this remarkable people lived, we must frequent their burial-places. A curious instance of this is, that, in a tomb near Beni-hassan, we learn by what process the Egyptians procured from the distant quarries of Nubia those masses of granite with which they raised the columns of Karnak and the obelisks of Luxor.
If I were called upon to describe in a word the principal and primary characteristic of Egyptian architecture, I should at once say Imagination, as Grace is the characteristic of the architecture of the Greeks. Thus, when the Ptolemies assumed the sceptre of the Pharaohs, they blended the delicate taste of Ionia t with the rich invention of the Nile, and produced Philoe, Dendera, and Edfou. It is from the Pharaohs, however, that you must seek for the vast and the gigantic: the pyramid, the propylon, the colossus, the catacomb, the obelisk, and the sphinx.
It was in the early part of the year of the invasion of Syria by the Egyptians, some eight years gone, that I first visited Thebes. My barque was stowed against the bank of the river, near the Memnonion; the last beam of the sun, before it sunk behind the Libyan hills, quivered on the columns of Luxor; the Nubian crew, after their long and laborious voyage, were dispersed on shore; and I was myself reposing in the shade, almost unattended, when a Turk, well mounted, and followed by his pipe-bearer, and the retinue that accompanies an Oriental of condition, descended from the hills which contain the tombs of the queens, and approached the boat. I was surprised, on advancing to welcome him, to be hailed in my native tongue; and pleased, at such a moment and in such a place, to find a countryman. While we smoked the pipe of salutation, he told me that he had lived at Thebes for nearly ten years, studying the antiquities, the history, and the manners of its ancient inhabitants. I availed myself of his invitation to his residence, and, accompanying him, I found that I was a visitor in a tomb, and yet by no means a gloomy dwelling-place. A platform, carved in the mountain, was surrounded by a mud wall and tower, to protect it from hostile Arabs. A couple of gazelles played in this front court, while we, reposing on a divan, arranged round the first chamber of the tomb, were favoured with a most commanding view of the valley outspread beneath. There were several inner chambers, separated from each other by hangings of scarlet cloth. Many apartments in the Albany have I seen not half as pleasant and convenient. I found a library, and instruments of art and science; a companion full of knowledge, profound in Oriental manners, and thoroughly master of the subject which naturally then most interested me. Our repast was strictly Eastern, but the unusual convenience of forks was not wanting, and my host told me that they were the very ones that he had used at Exeter College. I shall never forget that first day at Thebes, and this my first interview with one then unknown to fame, but whom the world has since recognised — the learned, the ingenious, and amiable Mr. Wilkinson.
The characteristic of Egyptian architecture is Imagination; of Grecian architecture, Grace. When the Ptolemies assumed the sceptre of the Pharaohs, they blended the delicate taste of Ionia with the rich invention of the Nile; and they produced the most splendid creations of architectural power that can now be witnessed. Such is the refined Philoe — such the magnificent Dendera — such the sumptuous Edfou!
All the architectural remains of the most famous nations and the greatest empires — the amphitheatres, and arches, and columns of the Romans; the fanes of the Greeks; the temples of the Syrians and Sicilians; the Colosseum, the Parthenon, the courts of Baalbec, the pillars of Palmyra and Girgenti — sink into insignificance when compared with the structures that line the banks of an African river. The mind makes a leap amid their vastness, their variety, and their number. New combinations rise upon our limited invention and contract the taste — the pyramid, the propylon, the colossus, the catacomb, the obelisk, the sphinx.
Take the map; trace the windings of the mysterious stream, whose source baffles even this age of enterprise, and which remains unknown even when the Niger is discovered. It flows through a wilderness. On one side are the interminable wastes of Libya; on the other, a rocky desert, leading to the ocean: yet its banks are fertile as a garden; and within 150 miles of the sea it divides into two branches, which wind through an immense plain, once the granary of the world.
A Nubian passed me in a state of nudity, armed with a poisoned spear, and guarded by the skin of a hippopotamus, formed into a shield. In this country, the animal called man is fine, although his wants are few — some rice, a calabash of palm wine, and the fish he himself spears. Are his ancestors the creators of the adjoining temple, covered with beautiful sculptures, and supported by colossal figures fifty feet in height? It is well to ponder, by the roar of the cataracts of the Nile, over the perfectibility of man.
A light has at length broken into the darkness of Egyptian ages; and although we cannot discover the source of the Nile, we can at least decipher its hieroglyphics. Those who are ignorant of the study are incredulous as to its fruits; they disbelieve in the sun, because they are dazzled by its beams. A popular miscellany is not the place to enter into a history, or a vindication, of the phonetic system. I am desirous here only of conveying to the general reader, in an intelligible manner, some idea of the discoveries that are now unfolding themselves to the Egyptian antiquarian, and of wandering with him for a moment amid the marvellous creations of the Pharaohs and the Ptolemies, with a talisman which shall unfold for his instruction and amusement their mystical and romantic history.
I approach this mighty temple. A goose and globe, encircled in an oval, at once inform me that it was constructed by a ‘Son of the Sun,’ or a ‘Phrah,’ or ‘Pharaoh.’ It is remarkable that the Greeks never once mention this memorable title, simply because they have always translated it by their celebrated personification, ‘Sol,’ or ‘Apollo.’ In the obelisk of Hermapion, given by Ammianus Marcellinus, we should therefore read, in the third column, instead of ‘the powerful Apollo,’ ‘the powerful Phrah, the all-splendid Son of the Sun.’ Proceeding with the inscription, I also discover that the temple was constructed by Rameses the Second, a monarch of whom we have more to hear, and who also raised some of the most wonderful monuments of Thebes.
The first step of the Egyptian student should be to eradicate from his mind all recollection of ancient authors. When he has arrived at his own results, he may open Herodotus with interest, read Diodorus with suspicion; but, above all, he will then learn to estimate the value of the hitherto reviled Manetho, undoubtedly the fragments of the work of a genuine Egyptian writer. The history and theology of ancient Egypt must be studied on the sculptured walls of its palaces and temples, breathing with sacred mysteries and heroic warfare; its manners and customs in its catacombs and sepulchres, where the painter has celebrated the minutest traits of the social life and the domestic economy of the most ancient of nations.
Even in the time of Strabo, Egyptian Thebes was a city of enormous ruins, the origin of which no antiquary could penetrate. We now know by the inscriptions we decipher that these mighty monuments chiefly celebrate the achievements of a great conqueror — Rameses the Second, or the Great, whom the most rigid critic would be rash to place later than fifteen hundred years before Christ. These great creations, therefore, demonstrate the mature civilisation of Egypt far beyond three thousand years back. Rameses and his illustrious predecessors, the Thothmes and the Amunophs, are described as monarchs of the eighteenth dynasty. Thothmes the Fourth, one of these ancestors, cut the great Sphinx of the Pyramids; as for the Pyramids themselves, it is now undeniable that they were not raised at the comparatively late period ascribed to them by Herodotus and Diodorus. No monuments in Egypt can be compared in antiquity with these buildings; and the names of the predecessors of Rameses the Great are found in their vicinity, evidently sculptured at a much later epoch. ‘The Pyramids are at least ten thousand years old,’ said Champollion to a friend of mine in Egypt, rubbing his hands, with eyes sparkling with all the enthusiasm of triumphant research.
It is highly probable that Rameses the Great was the Sesostris of Herodotus. This name is entirely a Greek invention, and is found on no Egyptian monuments. The splendid tomb, first opened by Belzoni, in the Valley of the Kings, is of the grandfather of this monarch — Rameses the First. It is evident from the Theban sculptures and inscriptions, that Rameses and his predecessors were engaged in a long war with a most powerful enemy,’ and that that enemy was an Oriental people, a nation with fair countenances and flowing robes, dwelling in a hilly and well-wooded country. It is probable that this nation was the Assyrians, who, according to ancient writers, invaded Egypt under Ninus and Semiramis. Thothmes the Third and Fourth, Amunoph, and Rameses the First, carried on this war with uncertain success. The successor of Rameses the First, whose phonetic name is doubtful, was not unworthy of the son whom the gods accorded to him as a reward for his valour and magnificence. This anonymous sovereign led the war in person, and probably against degenerate princes. On the walls of Karnak — a sculptured scroll, more durable than those of his poets and historians — we find him in his triumphal chariot, leading a host of infantry and chariots, attacking fortified places, defended by lofty walls and surrounded by water. The enemy is seen clearing their country in advance, driving away their cattle, and felling forests to impede the progress of the invader’s chariots; but at length the victorious Pharaoh returns to his Nile with crowds of prisoners, bearing every variety of rich and fantastic tribute.
The son of this chieftain was Rameses the Second, or the Great. Following the example of his illustrious predecessor, he soon led a numerous and chosen army to extend the Oriental conquests of the Egyptians. He passed along the sea-coast of a country, which is, without doubt, Syria, since the name of Rameses the Second is still found on that shore, near the ancient Berytus and modern Beirut. He continued his march into the interior, where we at length find him opposed by a powerful force on the banks of a great river, probably the Euphrates. On the opposite bank of the river is a vast and strongly-fortified city. The battle is fought and won. The Orientals are defeated, and sue for peace. The city is not represented as taken, yet sieges are often sculptured on these walls, and the Egyptian army is always supplied with scaling-ladders and the testudo. And what was this city? Was it Babylon? Was it Nineveh? How wonderful is it at this remote period, to read for the first time, the Gazettes of the Pharaohs! It does not appear to have been the object of the Egyptians to make a permanent settlement in these conquered countries. They laid waste the land, they accumulated plunder, they secured peace by the dread of their arms, and, returning home with the same rapidity that they advanced, they enjoyed and commemorated their victories in the embellishment of their majestic cities. The remainder of the long reign of Rameses the Great was passed in the cultivation of the arts. A greater number of monuments, statues, and temples bear the name of this king than of any other who ruled in Egypt, and there are few remains of any city in that country where it is not met with. To him we are indebted alike for the rock temples of Nubia, and the inimitable obelisks of Luxor. He raised that splendid structure on the western side of Thebes, supported by colossal statues, which is foolishly styled the Memnonion; he made great additions to Karnak; he built the temple of Osiris at Abydus; he adorned the great temple of Memphis with colossal statues, for which he evidently had a passion; and, finally, amid a vast number of other temples, especially in Nubia, which it would be tedious to recount, and other remains, he cut the famous Monticoelian obelisk now at Rome. Whatever may have been the actions recorded of Sesostris, one thing is certain, that no Egyptian king ever surpassed or equalled the second Rameses. Let us then allow that history has painted in too glowing colours the actions of the former-too great for the limited power of Europe — and remain persuaded, that, so far from aiming at the conquest of the world, the utmost extent of his march was confined to the countries bordering on Assyria, Arabia, and part of Æthiopia, from which country he is represented as receiving tribute. The conquests of Rameses the Second secured a long peace to Egypt. The reigns of his two successors, however, are celebrated for the creation of the great avenue of sphinxes at Thebes, leading from Luxor to Karnak, a mile and a quarter in extent, a sumptuous evidence of the prosperity of Egypt and of the genius of the Pharaohs. War, however, broke out again under Rameses the Third, but certainly against another power, and it would appear a naval power. Returning victorious, the third Rameses added a temple to Karnak, and raised the temple and the palace of Medcenet Habu. Here closes the most interesting period of Egyptian history. A long succession of princes, many of whom bore the name of Rameses, followed, but, so far as we can observe, they were distinguished neither in architecture nor war. There are reasons which may induce us to believe that the Trojan war happened during the reign of the third Rameses. The poetical Memnon is not found in Egyptian records. The name is not Egyptian, although it may be a corruption. It is useless to criticise this invention of the lying Greeks, to whose blinded conceit and carelessness we are indebted for the almost total darkness in which the records of antiquity are enveloped. The famous musical statue of Memnon is still seated on its throne, dignified and serene, on the plain of Thebes. It is a colossus, fifty feet in height, and the base of the figure is covered with inscriptions of the Greek and Roman travellers, vouching that they had listened to the wild sunrise melody. The learned and ingenious Mr. Wilkinson, who has resided at Thebes upwards of ten years, studying the monuments of Egypt, appears to me to have solved the mystery of this music. He informed me that having ascended the statue, he discovered that some metallic substance had been inserted in its breast, which, when struck, emitted a very melodious sound. From the attitude of the statue, a priest might easily have ascended in the night, and remained completely concealed behind the mighty arms while he struck the breast; or, which is not improbable, there was probably some secret way to ascend, now blocked up; for this statue, with its remaining companion, although now isolated in their situation, were once part of an enormous temple, the ruins of which yet remain, and the plan of which may yet be traced. Thanks to the phonetic system, we now know that this musical statue is one of Amunoph the Second, who lived many centuries before the Trojan war. The truth is, the Greeks, who have exercised almost as fatal an influence over modern knowledge as they have a beneficial one over modern taste, had no conception of anything more ancient than the Trojan war, except Chaos. Chaos is a poetic legend, and the Trojan war was the squabble of a few marauding clans.
‘Where are the records of the great Assyrian monarchy? Where are the books of the Medes and Persians? Where the learned annals of Pharaohs?
‘Fortunate Jordan! Fortunate Ilissus! I have waded through the sacred waters; with difficulty I traced the scanty windings of the classic stream. Alas! for the exuberant Tigris; alas! for the mighty Euphrates; alas! for the mysterious Nile!’
It is curious that no allusion whatever to the Jews has yet turned up on any Egyptian monuments. But upon the walls of Medoenet Habu I observed, more than once repeated, the Ark borne in triumph. This is not a fanciful resemblance. It responds in every particular.
I have noticed the history of Ancient Egypt, because some knowledge of it is necessary to illustrate Thebes. I quit a subject which, however curious, is probably of too confined an interest for the general reader, and I enter in his company the City of the Hundred Gates.
The Nile winds through the valley of Thebes — a valley formed by ranges of mountains, which on one side defend it from the great Lybian desert, and on the other from the rocky wilderness that leads to the Red Sea. On each side of the stream are two great quarters of ruins. On the side of the Red Sea are Luxor and Karnak, on the opposite bank the great temple called the Memnonion, and the various piles which, under the general title of Medoenet Habu, in all probability among other structures comprise the principal palace of the more ancient Pharaohs. On the Lybian side, also, are the cemeteries of the great city-the mummy caves of Gornou, two miles in extent; above them, excavated in the mountains, the tombs of the Queens, and in the adjacent valley of Beban-el-Maluk the famous tombs of the Kings. The population of the City of the Hundred Gates now consists of a few Arab families, who form four villages of mud huts clustered round those gigantic columns and mighty obelisks, a single one of which is sought for by the greatest sovereigns of Europe for their palaces and museums as the rarest of curious treasures. Often, indeed, have I seen a whole Arab village rising from the roof of a single Egyptian temple. Dendera is an instance. The population of Gornou, in number between three and four hundred, reside solely in the tombs.
I think that Luxor, from its situation, first attracts the notice of the traveller. It is close on the river, and is built on a lofty platform. Its enormous columns are the first specimen of that colossal genius of the Pharaohs which the Ptolemies never attempted to rival. The entrance to this temple is through a magnificent propylon, that is, a portal flanked by massy pyramidal moles. It is two hundred feet in breadth, and rises nearly sixty feet above the soil. This gate is entirely covered with sculpture, commemorating the triumph of Rameses the Great over the supposed Assyrians. On each side of the portal are two colossal statues of red granite, buried in the sand up to their shoulders, but measuring thence, to the top of their crowns, upwards of twenty feet. On each side of them, a little in advance, rise the two most perfect obelisks that remain, also of red granite, and each about eighty feet high. From the propylon you pass into a peristyle court, about two hundred and thirty feet long by one hundred and seventy, the roof of which was once supported by double rows of columns, many of which now remain; and so on through other pyramidal gates and courts and porticoes and chambers which are, in all probability, of a more ancient date than the gates and obelisks and colossi first described, which last were perhaps added by Rameses, who commemorated his triumph by rendering a celebrated building still more famous.
From Luxor you proceed to Karnak, the other great division on this side of the river, through an avenue of sphinxes considerably above a mile in extent; and here I should observe that Egyptian sphinxes are either andro or crio sphinxes, the one formed by the union of the lion with the man, and the other of the lion with the ram. Their mystery is at length penetrated. They are male and never female. They are male and they are monarchs. This great avenue, extending from Luxor to Karnak, was raised by the two immediate successors of the great Rameses, and represents their long line of ancestry.
All the marvels of the world sink before the first entrance into Karnak. It may vie with the Alps and the Andes. The obelisks of Luxor may be unrivalled, the sculptures of Medcenet Habu more exquisite, the colossus of Memnonion more gigantic, the paintings of the royal tombs more curious and instructive, but criticism ceases before the multifarious wonders of the halls and courts of Karnak and the mind is open only to one general impression of colossal variety.
I well remember the morning I stood before the propylon, or chief entrance of Karnak. The silver stars were still shining in the cold blue heaven, that afforded a beautiful relief to the mighty structure, built of a light yellow stone, and quite unstained by the winds of three thousand years. The front of this colossal entrance is very much broader than the front of our cathedral of St. Paul’s, and its height exceeds that of the Trajan column. It is entirely without sculptures, a rare omission, and doubtless intended, that the unity of the effect should not be broken. The great door in the centre is sixty-four feet in height.
Through this you pass into columned courts, which, in any other place, would command undivided attention, until you at length arrive in front of a second propylon. Ascending a flight of steps, you enter the great hall of Karnak. The area of this hall is nearly fifty-eight thousand square feet, and it has recently been calculated that four such churches as our St. Martin’s-inthe-Fields might stand side by side in this unrivalled chamber without occupying the whole space. The roof, formed of single stones, compared with which the masses at Stonehenge would appear almost bricks, has fallen in; but the one hundred and thirty-four colossal columns which supported it, and which are considerably above thirty feet in circumference, still remain, and, with the walls and propyla, are completely covered with sculptured forms. I shall not attempt to describe any other part of Karnak. The memory aches with the effort; there are many buildings attached to it, larger than most temples; there are an infinite number of gates, and obelisks, and colossi; but the imagination cannot refrain from calling up some sacred or heroic procession, moving from Luxor to Karnak, in melodious pomp, through the great avenue of sphinxes, and ranging themselves in glorious groups around the gigantic columns of this sublime structure. What feudal splendour, and what Gothic ceremonies, what tilts and tournaments, and what ecclesiastic festivals, could rival the vast, the beautiful, and solemn magnificence of the old Egyptians?
Crossing the river to Western Thebes, we arrive at the two seated colossi, one of which I have already noticed as the musical Memnon. These doubtless once guarded the entrance of some temple more ancient than any remaining, for they were raised by Amunoph the Second, a predecessor, by some generations, of the great Rameses. They were, doubtless, once seated on each side of a propylon, as at Luxor, and in all probability were flanked by obelisks. Whether the temple were destroyed for materials, for more recent structures, or whether it has sunk under the accumulations of the slimy soil, may be decided by the future excavator.
We arrive at the Memnonion. This temple was raised by Rameses the Great. In the colossal Caryatides we recognise the same genius that excavated the rocks of Ipsambul, and supported a cavern temple upon the heads of giants. From the Memnonion came the statue that is now in the British Museum. But this figure, though a fine specimen of Egyptian sculpture, sinks, so far as magnitude is concerned, into insignificance when compared with the statue of Rameses himself, which, broken off at the waist, now lies prostrate in the precincts of the sanctuary. This is probably the most huge colossus that the Egyptians ever constructed. The fragment is of red granite, and of admirable workmanship. Unfortunately the face is entirely obliterated. The statue lies upon its back, and in its fall has destroyed all the temple within reach. It measures more than sixty feet round the shoulders, the breadth of the instep is nearly seven feet, and the hieroglyphical figures engraven on the arm are large enough for a man to walk in.
Perhaps the most interesting group of ruins at Thebes is the quarter of Medcenet Habu. Most of the buildings are of the time of Rameses the Third.
The sculptured walls of the great temples, covered with battles, chariots, captives, and slaves, have been worthily described by the vivid pen of Mr. Hamilton. They celebrate the victorious campaigns of the monarch. Here also the Third Rameses raised his palace. And it is curious, among other domestic subjects, that we find represented on the walls, in a very admirable style, Rameses playing chess with his Queen. Chess is, probably, a most ancient Oriental game. Rameses the Third lived before the Trojan war, to which the Greeks, as usual, ascribe the invention of chess.
The sepulchres of Thebes still remain to be described, a theme more fertile in interest and instruction than even its palaces and temples. The arts of the Egyptians must be studied in their tombs, and to learn how this remarkable people lived, we must even go where they were buried. To cite no other instances in a sketch which is already too long, it is from a painting in a tomb near Beni-hassan that we learn how the Egyptians procured from the distant quarries of Nubia those masses of stone and granite with which they raised the columns of Karnak and the obelisks of Luxor.
But we must conclude. We have touched a virgin subject rich with delightful knowledge, and if our readers be not wearied with wandering on the banks of the Nile, we may perhaps again introduce them to the company of the Pharaohs.
Oriental palaces, except perhaps in the great Indian peninsula, do not realise the dreams and glittering visions of the Arabian Nights, or indeed the authentic histories written in the flush and fullness of the success of the children of the desert, the Tartar and the Saracen. Commerce once followed in the train of the conquerors of Asia, and the vast buildings which they hastily threw up of slight and perishing materials, were filled, not only with the plunder of the East, but furnished with all the productions of art and curious luxury, which the adventurous spirit of man brought from every quarter of the globe to Samarcand and Bagdad. The site of these mighty capitals is almost erased from the map of the modern traveller; but tribute and traffic have also ceased to sustain even the dilapidated serail of the once omnipotent Stamboul, and, until very recently, all that remained of the splendour of the Caliphs of Egypt was the vast Necropolis, which still contains their palatial sepulchres.
How the bold Roumelian peasant who in our days has placed himself on the ancient throne of the Pharaohs and the Ptolemies, as Napoleon on the seat of the Merovingian kings, usurping political power by military prowess, lodged and contented himself in the valley of the Nile, was not altogether an uninteresting speculation; and it was with no common curiosity that some fifteen years ago, before he had conquered Syria and scared Constantinople, I made one morning a visit to Shoubra, the palace of Mehemet Ali.
Nothing can be conceived more animated and picturesque than Cairo during the early morning or at night. It seems the most bustling and populous city in the world. The narrow streets, abounding with bazaars, present the appearance of a mob, through which troops of richly dressed cavaliers force with difficulty their prancing way, arrested often in their course by the procession of a harem returning from the bath, the women enveloped in inscrutable black garments, and veils and masks of white linen, and borne along by the prettiest donkeys in the world. The attendant eunuchs beat back the multitude; even the swaggering horsemen, with their golden and scarlet jackets, rich shawls and scarfs, and shining arms, trampling on those around, succeed in drawing aside; but all efforts are vain, for at the turning of the street appears the first still solemn visage of a long string of tall camels bearing provisions to the citadel, a Nubian astride on the neck of the leader, and beating a wild drum, to apprise the people of his approach. The streets, too, in which these scenes occur are in themselves full of variety and architectural beauty. The houses are lofty and latticed, abounding in balconies; fountains are frequent and vast and as richly adorned as Gothic shrines; sometimes the fortified palace of one of the old Mamlouks, now inhabited by a pasha, still oftener the exquisite shape of an Arabian mosque. The temples of Stamboul cannot vie with the fanes of Cairo. Their delicate domes and airy cupolas, their lofty minarets covered with tracery, and the flowing fancy of their arabesques recalled to me the glories of the Alhambra, the fantastic grace of the Alcazars and the shrines of Seville and Cordova.
At night the illuminated coffee-houses, the streaming population, each person carrying a lantern, in an atmosphere warmer and softer than our conservatories, and all the innocent amusements of an out-door life — the Nubian song, the Arabian tale, the Syrian magic — afford a different, but not less delightful scene.
It was many hours before noon, however, that I made my first visit to Shoubra, beneath a sky as cloudless as it remained during the whole six months I was in Egypt, during which time I have no recollection that we were favoured by a single drop of rain; and yet the ever-living breeze on the great river, and the excellent irrigation of the earth, produce a freshness in the sky and soil, which are missed in other Levantine regions, where there is more variety of the seasons.
Shoubra is about four or five miles from the metropolis. It rises on the banks of the Nile, and the road to it from Cairo is a broad but shady avenue, formed of sycamores, of noble growth and colour; on one side delightful glimpses of the river, with its palmy banks and sparkling villages, and on the other, after a certain tract of vivid vegetation, the golden sands of the desert, and the shifting hillocks which it forms; or, perhaps, the grey peaks of some chain of pyramids.
The palace of Shoubra is a pile of long low buildings looking to the river — moderate in its character, and modest in its appointments; but clean, orderly, and in a state of complete repair; and, if we may use such an epithet with reference to oriental life, comfortable. It possesses all the refined conveniences of European manners, of which the pasha at the time I am referring to was extremely proud. Most of these had been the recent gift of the French government, and his highness occasionally amused his guests — some sheikh from Arabia, or some emir from the Lebanon — by the exhibition of some scientific means of domestic accommodation with which use has made us familiar, but which I was assured had sensibly impressed the magnates of the desert and the mountain with the progress of modern civilisation.
The gardens of Shoubra, however, are vast, fanciful, and kept in admirable order. They appeared to me in their character also entirely oriental. You enter them by long, low, winding walks of impenetrable shade; you emerge upon an open ground sparkling with roses, arranged in beds of artificial forms, and leading to gilded pavilions and painted kiosks. Arched walks of orange trees, with the fruit and the flowers hanging over your head, lead again to fountains, or to some other garden-court, where myrtles border beds of tulips, and you wander on mosaic walks of polished pebbles. A vase flashes amid a group of dark cypresses, and you are invited to repose under a Syrian walnut tree by a couch or a summer-house.
The most striking picture, however, of this charming retreat is a lake surrounded by light cloisters of white marble, and in its centre a fountain of crocodiles, carved in the same material. That material as well as the art, however, are European. It was Carrara that gave the pure and glittering blocks, and the Tuscan chisel called them into life. It is a pity that the honourable board of directors, in their recent offering of the silver fountain to the pasha, had not been aware of the precedent thus afforded by his highness’s own creation for the introduction of living forms into Moslem sculpture and carving. They might have varied their huge present with advantage. Indeed, with the crocodile and the palm-tree, surely something more beautiful and not less characteristic than their metallic mausoleum might easily have been devised.
This marble pavilion at Shoubra, indeed, with its graceful, terraced peristyles, its chambers and divans, the bright waters beneath, with their painted boats, wherein the ladies of the harem chase the gleaming shoals of gold and silver fish, is a scene worthy of a sultan; but my attendant, a Greek employed in the garden, told me I ought to view it on some high festival, crowded by the court in their rich costumes, to appreciate all its impressive beauty. This was a scene not reserved for me, yet my first visit to Shoubra closed with an incident not immemorable.
I had quitted the marble pavilion and was about to visit the wilderness where roam, in apparent liberty, many rare animals, when I came, somewhat suddenly, on a small circular plot into which several walks emptied, cut through a thick hedge of myrtle. By a sun-dial stood a little man, robust, though aged, rather stout, and of a very cheerful countenance; his attire plain and simple, a pelisse of dark silk, and a turban white as his snowy beard; he was in merry conversation with his companion, who turned out to be his jester. In the background, against the myrtle wall, stood three or four courtiers in rich dresses — courtiers, for the little old man was their princely master — the great Pasha of Egypt.
I Found myself high among the mountains, and yet amid a series of green slopes. All around me sparkled with cultivation — vineyards, gardens, groves of young mulberry trees, clustering groups of the sycamore and the walnut. Falling around, the cascades glittered in the sun, until, reaching the bottom of the winding valley, they mingled with the waters of a rivulet that glided through a glade of singular vividness.
On the broad bosom of a sunny hill, behind which rose a pyramid of bare rock, was a most beautiful village — flat cottages with terraced roofs, shaded by spreading trees, and surrounded by fruit and flowers. A cerulean sky above; the breath of an infinite variety of fragrant herbs around; and a land of silk and wine; everywhere the hum of bees and the murmur of falling streams; while, on the undulating down, a band of beauteous children were frolicking with the kids.
The name of this village, the fairest spot in the region of Lebanon, is Eden, which, rendered from the Arabic into the English tongue, means a ‘Dwelling of Delight.’
I ascended the peak that overhung this village. I beheld ridges of mountains succeeding each other in proportionate preeminence, until the range of the eternal glaciers, with their lustrous cones, flashed in the Syrian sun. I descended into the deep and solemn valleys, skirted the edges of rocky precipices, and toiled over the savage monotony of the dreary table-land. At length, on the brow of a mountain, I observed the fragments of a gloomy forest — cedar, and pine, and cypress. The wind moaning through its ancient avenues and the hoarse roar of a cataract were the only sounds that greeted me.
In the front was a scanty group of gigantic trees, that seemed the relics of some preAdamite grove. Their grey and massive trunks, each of which must have been more than twelve yards in girth, were as if quite dead; while, about twenty feet from the ground, they divided into five or six huge limbs, each equal to a single tree, but all, as it were, lifeless amid their apparent power.
Bare of all foliage, save on their ancient crests — black, blasted, riven, and surrounded by deep snows — behold the trees that built the palaces of Solomon!
When I recall the scene from which I had recently parted, and contrasted it with the spectacle before me, it seemed that I had quitted the innocence and infancy of Nature to gaze on its old age — of exhausted passions and desolate neglect.
The sun was quivering above the horizon, when I strolled forth from Jaffa to enjoy the coming breeze amid the beautiful gardens that environ that agreeable town. Riding along the previous day, my attention had been attracted by a marble gate, the fragment of some old temple, that now served as the entrance to one of these enclosures, their secure boundary otherwise formed by a picturesque and impenetrable hedge of Indian fig.
It is not a hundred yards from the town; behind it stretches the plain of Ramie — the ancient Arimathea-broad and fertile, and, at this moment, green; for it was just after the latter rains, when Syria is most charming. The caravan track winding through it led to Jerusalem.
The air was exquisitely soft and warm, and sweet with the perfume of the orange bowers. I passed through the marble portal, adorned with some florid yet skilful sculptures, and found myself in a verdant wilderness of fruit-trees, rising in rich confusion from the turf, through which not a single path seemed to wander. There were vast groups of orange and lemon-trees, varied occasionally with the huge offspring of the citron-tree, and the glowing produce of the pomegranate; while, ever and anon, the tall banana raised its head aloft with its green or golden clusters, and sometimes the graceful and languid crest of the date-bearing palm.
While I was in doubt as to the direction I should bend my steps, my ear was caught by the wild notes of Turkish music; and, following the sounds, I emerged upon a plot of turf, clear from trees, in the middle of which was a fountain, and, by its margin, seated on a delicate Persian carpet, a venerable Turk. Some slaves were near him, one of whom, at a little distance, was playing on a rude lyre; in the master’s left hand was a volume of Arabian poetry, and he held in his right the serpentine tube of his narghileh, or Syrian pipe. When he beheld me, he saluted me with all the dignity of the Orient, pressing his hand to his heart, but not rising. I apologised for my intrusion; but he welcomed me with serene cordiality, and invited me to share his carpet and touch his pipe.
Some time elapsed in answering those questions respecting European horses and European arms, wherein the Easterns delight. At length, the solemn and sonorous voice of the muezzin, from the minarets of Jaffa, came floating on the air. The sun had set; and, immediately, my host and his companions performed their ablutions in the fountain; and kneeling towards Mecca, repeated their accustomed prayers. Then rising, the Turkish aga, for such was his rank, invited me to enjoy the evening breeze, and accompany him in a walk round his garden.
As we proceeded, my companion plucked an orange, and taking a knife from his girdle, and cutting the fruit in half, offered me one moiety, and threw the other away. More than once he repeated this ceremony, which somewhat excited my surprise. At length he inquired my opinion of his fruit. I enlarged, and with sincerity, on its admirable quality, the racy sweetness of its flavour, which I esteemed unequalled; but I could not refrain from expressing my surprise, that of fruit so exquisite he should studiously waste so considerable a portion.
‘Effendi,’ said the Turk, with a grave though gracious smile, ‘to friends we give only the sunny side.’
The stranger whose felicity it has been to float between the shores of the Bosphorus will often glance back with mingled feelings of regret and satisfaction to the memory of those magical waters. This splendid strait, stretching from the harbour of Constantinople to the mouth of the Euxine, may be about twenty miles in length, and its ordinary breadth seldom exceeds one mile. The old Greek story tells that one might hear the birds sing on the opposite shore. And thus two great continents are divided by an ocean stream narrower than many rivers that are the mere boundaries of kingdoms. Yet it is strange that the character of these two famous divisions of our earth is nowhere more marked than on the shores of the Bosphorus. The traveller turns without disappointment from the gay and glittering shores of Europe to the sublimer beauty and the dusky grandeur of Asia.
The European side, until you advance within four or five miles of the Black Sea, is almost uninterruptedly studded with fanciful and ornamental buildings: beautiful villages, and brilliant summer palaces, and bright kiosks, painted in arabesque, and often gilt. The green background to the scene is a sparkling screen of terraced gardens, rising up a chain of hills whose graceful undulations are crowned with groves of cypress and of chestnut, occasionally breaking into fair and delicate valleys, richly wooded, and crossed by a grey and antique aqueduct.
But in Asia the hills rise into mountains, and the groves swell into forests. Everything denotes a vast, rich and prolific land, but there is something classical, antique, and even mysterious in its general appearance. An air of stillness and deep repose pervades its less cultivated and less frequented shores; and the very eagles, as they linger over the lofty peak of ‘the Giant’s grave,’ seem conscious that they are haunting some heroic burial-place.
I remember that one of the most strange, and even sublime, spectacles that I ever beheld occurred to me one balmy autumnal eve as I returned home in my caique from Terapia, a beautiful village on the Bosphorus, where I had been passing the day, to Pera. I encountered an army of dolphins, who were making their way from the Ægean and the Sea of Marmora through the Strait to the Euxine. They stretched right across the water, and I should calculate that they covered, with very little interval, a space of three or four miles. It is very difficult to form an estimate of their number, but there must, of course, have been many thousands. They advanced in grand style, and produced an immense agitation: the snorting, spouting, and splashing, and the wild panting rush, I shall never forget. As it was late, no other caique was in sight, and my boatmen, apprehensive of being run down, stopped to defend themselves with their oars. I had my pistols with me, and found great sport, as, although the dolphins made every effort to avoid us, there were really crowds always in shot. Whenever one was hit, general confusion ran through the whole line. They all flounced about with increased energy, ducked their round heads under water, and turned up their arrowy tails. We remained thus stationary for nearly three-quarters of an hour, and very diverting I found the delay. At length the mighty troop of strangers passed us, and, I suppose, must have arrived at the Symplegades about the same time that I sought the elegant hospitality of the British Palace at Pera.
When I was in Egypt the great subject of political speculation was the invasion of Syria; not that the object of the formation of the camp at Alexandria was generally known; on the contrary, it was a secret,-but a secret shared by many ears. Forty thousand well-disciplined troops were assembled at Cairo; and it was whispered at Court that Abdallah Pasha of Acre might look to himself, a young and valiant chief, by-the-bye, whom I well know, but indulging in dissipation, extraordinary even in the Levant. I was exceedingly anxious of becoming in some manner attached to this expedition; and as I was not without influence in the proper quarters, there appeared little probability of my wish not being gratified. With these views I remained in Egypt longer than I had intended, but it would seem that the invaders were not quite as ardent as their intended volunteer, for affairs at Alexandria progressed but indifferently. Orders and counter-orders, marches and counter-marches, boats pressed on the Nile for the passage of troops from the capital, which were all liberated the next day, many divans and much smoking; but still the troops remained within pistol-shot of the citadel, and months glided away apparently without any material advancement.
I had often observed that although there was in most subjects an excellent understanding between the two Pashas, Mehemet Ali and Ibrahim, a degree of petty jealousy existed between them on the point of their mutual communications with foreigners; so that if I happened one morning to attend the divan of the Grand Pasha, as the Franks styled the father, I was sure, on some excuse or other, of being summoned the next day to the levee of the son; I was therefore not surprised when, one day, on my return from paying my respects to the divan at the citadel of Cairo, I found a Nubian eunuch in attendance at my quarters, telling me that Ibrahim Pasha was anxious to see me.
I accordingly repaired without loss of time to the sumptuous palace of that chieftain: and being ushered into his presence, I found the future conqueror of Syria attended only by his dragoman, his secretary; and an aide-decamp.
A pipe was immediately brought me, but Ibrahim himself did not smoke. After the usual compliments, ‘Effendi,’ said Ibrahim, ‘do you think the English horses would live in Egypt?’
I was too practised an observer of the Turkish character to suppose that English horses were really the occasion of my summons. The Turks are very diplomatic, and are a long time coming to the point. I answered, however, that, with English grooms, I was of opinion that English horses would flourish in any climate. A curt, dry, uninteresting conversation about English horses was succeeded by some queries, which I had answered fifty times before, about English pistols: and then came a sly joke or two about English women. At length the point of the interview began to poke its horns out of this shell of tittle-tattle.
‘If you want to go with the army,’ said his Highness, ”tis I who am the person to speak to. They know nothing about those things up there’ (meaning the citadel).
I answered his Highness that I had attended the divan merely as a matter of ceremony, and that I had not interchanged a word with the Grand Pasha on the subject of the expedition.
‘I suppose you talked with Boghaz?’ said Ibrahim.
Boghaz was the favourite of Mehemet Ali.
‘Neither with Boghaz nor any one else. Your Highness having once graciously promised me that I should attend you, I should have thought it both impertinent and unnecessary to apply to any other person whatever.’
‘Tahib!’ exclaimed his Highness, which meant that he was satisfied. ‘After all, I do not know whether the army will march at all. You have been in Syria?’
I answered, in the affirmative, a question which had often been addressed to me.
‘Do you think I could march as far as Gaza?’ inquired Ibrahim, with a smile.
This was a question of mockery. It was like asking whether the Life Guards could take Windsor. I therefore only returned the smile, and said that I did not doubt the enemy would agree to settle affairs upon that condition.
‘Tahib! Well I think I can march as far as they speak Arabic!’ This was a favourite phrase of his Highness.
I answered that I hoped, if I had the honour of attending his Highness, the army would march till we could see another ocean.
‘It is all talk up there,’ replied Ibrahim; ‘but my life is a life of deeds.’
‘Words are very good things sometimes,’ I replied; ‘that is, if we keep marching at the same time.’
‘God is great!’ exclaimed Ibrahim; and looking round to his officers, ‘the Effendi speaks truth; and thus it was that Redchid beat the beys.’
Ibrahim alluded to the Albanian campaign of the preceding year, when the energy of the grand vizier crushed the rebellious beys of the ancient Epirus.
‘What do you think of Redchid?’ he inquired.
‘I think he is worthy of being your Highness’s rival.’
‘He has always been victorious,’ said Ibrahim; ‘but I think his sabre is made of gold. That will not do with me.’
‘It’s a pity,’ I observed, ‘that if your Highness find time to march into Syria, you had not acted simultaneously with the Albanians, or with the Pasha of Scutari.’
‘May I kill my mother but it is true; but up there, they will watch, and watch, and watch, till they fall asleep.’
The truth is, the Orientals have no idea of military diversions; and even if they combine, each strives to be the latest in the field, in order that he may take advantage of the other’s success or discomfiture. Mehemet Ali, at an immense expenditure, had excited two terrible revolts in European Turkey, and then waited to invade Syria until the armies of the Porte were unemployed. The result with some will justify his policy; but in the conquest of Syria, the truth is, Ibrahim himself used a golden sabre, and the year, before, the contingents of the pashas, whom he was obliged to bribe, were all busied in Europe.
The night previous to this conversation the style of the military oath of the Egyptian army had been altered; and the troops, instead of swearing allegiance to the Sultan, had pledged themselves to Mehemet Ali. The Grand Pasha was so nervous about this change, that the order for it was countermanded twice in four hours; however, what with gratuities to the troops, and the discreet distribution of promotion among the officers, everything went off very quietly. There was also a rumour that Mehemet Ali intended immediately to assume the title of Caliph.
This piece of information is necessary to explain the following striking observation of Ibrahim Pasha.
‘Effendi, do you think that a man can conquer Syria, who is not called a caliph? Will it make 40,000 men 80,000?’
I replied, that I thought the assumption of the title would have a beneficial effect at foreign courts.
‘Bah! before the Yahoos hear of it, I shall be at Damascus. Up there, they are always busying themselves with forms. The eagle in his flight does not think of his shadow on the earth!’
The destiny of nations appears to have decreed that a society should periodically, though rarely, flourish, characterised by its love of the Fine Arts, and its capacity of ideal creation. These occasional and brilliant ebullitions of human invention elevate the race of man; they purify and chasten the taste of succeeding generations; and posterity accepts them as the standard of what is choice, and the model of what is excellent.
Classic Greece and Christian Italy stand out in our universal annals as the epochs of the Arts. During the last two centuries, while manners have undergone a rapid transition, while physical civilisation has advanced in an unprecedented degree, and the application of science to social life has diverted the minds of men from other pursuits, the Fine Arts have decayed and vanished.
I wish to call the attention of my countrymen to another great movement in the creative mind of Europe; one yet young and little recognised, but not inferior, in my opinion, either to that of Athens or of Florence.
It was on a cloudless day of the autumn of last year, that I found myself in a city that seemed almost visibly rising beneath my eye. The street in which I stood was of noble dimensions, and lined on each side with palaces or buildings evidently devoted to public purposes. Few were completely finished: the sculptor was working at the statues that adorned their fronts; the painter was still touching the external frescoes; and the scaffold of the architect was not in every instance withdrawn. Everywhere was the hum of art and artists. The Byzantine style of many of these buildings was novel to me in its modern adaptation, yet very effective. The delicate detail of ornament contrasted admirably with the broad fronts and noble façades which they adorned. A church with two very lofty towers of white marble, with their fretted cones relieved with cerulean blue, gleamed in the sun; and near it was a pile not dissimilar to the ducal palace at Venice, but of nobler and more beautiful proportions, with its portal approached by a lofty flight of steps, and guarded by the colossal statues of poets and philosophers — suitably guarded, for it was the National Library.
As I advanced, I found myself in squares and circuses, in every instance adorned by an obelisk of bronze or the equestrian statue of some royal hero: I observed a theatre with a lofty Corinthian portico, and a pediment brilliantly painted in fresco with designs appropriate to its purpose; an Ionic museum of sculpture, worthy to enshrine the works of a Phidias or a Praxiteles; and a palace for the painter, of which I was told the first stone had been rightly laid on the birthday of Raffaelle. But what struck me most in this city, more than its galleries, temples, and palaces, its magnificent buildings, splendid paintings, and consummate statues, was the all-pervading presence and all-inspiring influence of living and breathing Art. In every street, a school: the atelier of the sculptor open, the studio of the painter crowded: devoted pupils, aspiring rivals: enthusiasm, emulation, excellence. Here the long-lost feudal-art of colouring glass rediscovered; there fresco-painting entirely revived, and on the grandest scale; while the ardent researches of another man of genius successfully analyses the encaustic tenting of Herculaneum, and secures the secret process for the triumph of modern Art. I beheld a city such as I had mused over amid the crumbling fanes of Pericles, or, aided alike by memory and fancy, had conjured up in the palaces and gardens of the Medici.
Such is Munich, a city which, half a century ago, was the gross and corrupt capital of a barbarous and brutal people. Baron Reisbech, who visited Bavaria in 1780, describes the Court of Munich as one not at all more advanced than those of Lisbon and Madrid. A good-natured prince, fond only of show and thinking only of the chase; an idle, dissolute, and useless nobility; the nomination to offices depending on women and priests; the aristocracy devoted to play, and the remainder of the inhabitants immersed in scandalous debauch.
With these recollections of the past, let us enter the palace of the present sovereign. With habits of extreme simplicity, and a personal expenditure rigidly economical, the residence of the King of Bavaria, when completed, will be the most extensive and the most sumptuous palace in the world. But, then, it is not merely the palace of a king: it is a temple dedicated to the genius of a nation. The apartments of state, painted in fresco on the grandest scale, bold in design, splendid in colour, breathe the very Teutonic soul. The subjects are taken from the ‘Nibelungenlied,’ the Gothic epic, and commemorate all the achievements of the heroic Siegfried, and all the adventures of the beautiful Chrimhilde. The heart of a German beats as he gazes on the forms and scenes of the Teutonic Iliad; as he beholds Haghen the fierce, and Dankwart the swift; Volker, the minstrel knight, and the beautiful and haughty Brunhilda. But in point of harmonious dimension and august beauty, no chamber is perhaps more imposing than the Kaiser Saal, or Hall of the Sovereigns. It is, I should think, considerably above one hundred feet in length, broad and lofty in exact proportion. Its roof is supported on either side by columns of white marble; the inter-columniations are filled by colossal statues, of gilded brass, of the electors and kings of the country. Seated on his throne, at the end of this imperial chamber, Louis of Bavaria is surrounded by the solemn majesty of his ancestors. These statues are by Schwanthaler, a sculptor who to the severe and classic taste and profound sentiment of his master, Thorwaldsen, unites an exuberance of invention which has filled Munich with the greatest works since Phidias. Cornelius, Julius Schnorr, and Hess are the principal painters who have covered the galleries, churches, and palaces of Munich with admirable frescoes. The celebrated Klenze is known throughout Europe as the first of living architects, and the favourite of his sovereign when that sovereign did not wear a crown; but we must not forget the name of Gartner, the architect who has revived the Byzantine style of building with such admirable effect.
But it was in the private apartments of the king that I was peculiarly impressed with the supreme genius of Schwanthaler. These chambers, eight in number, are painted in encaustic, with subjects from the Greek poets, of which Schwanthaler supplied the designs. The ante-chambers are devoted to Orpheus and Hesiod, and the ornaments are in the oldest Greek style; severely simple; archaic, but not rude; the figures of the friezes in outline, and without relief. The saloon of reception, on the contrary, is Homeric; and in its colouring, design, and decoration, as brilliant, as free, and as flowing as the genius of the great Mæonian. The chamber of the throne is entirely adorned with white bas-reliefs, raised on a ground of dead gold; the subjects Pindaric; not inferior in many instances to the Attic remains, and characterised, at the same time, by a singular combination of vigour and grace. Another saloon is devoted to Æschylus, and the library to Sophocles. The gay, wild muse of Aristophanes laughs and sings in his Majesty’s dressing-room; while the king is lulled to slumber by the Sicilian melodies and the soothing landscapes of Theocritus.
Of these chambers, I should say that they were a perfect creation of Art. The rooms themselves are beautifully proportioned; the subjects of their decorations are the most interesting in every respect that could be selected; and the purity, grace, and invention of the designs, are equalled only by their colouring, at the same time the most brilliant and harmonious that can be conceived; and the rich fancy of the arabesques and other appropriate decorations, which blend with all around, and heighten the effect of the whole. Yet they find no mean rivals in the private chambers of the queen, decorated in an analogous style, but entirely devoted to the poets of her own land. The Minnesingers occupy her first apartments, but the brilliant saloon is worthy of Wieland, whose Oberon forms it frieze; while the bedchamber gleams with the beautiful forms and pensive incidents of Goethe’s esoteric pen. Schiller has filled the study with his stirring characters and his vigorous incidents. Groups from ‘Wallenstein’ and ‘Wilhelm Tell’ form the rich and unrivalled ceiling: while the fight of the dragon and the founding of the bell, the innocent Fridolin, the inspired maiden of Orleans, breathe in the compartments of the walls.
When I beheld these refined creations, and recalled the scenes and sights of beauty that had moved before me in my morning’s wanderings, I asked myself, how Munich, recently so Boeotian, had become the capital of modern Art; and why a country of limited resources, in a brief space, and with such facility and completeness, should have achieved those results which had so long and utterly eluded the desires of the richest and most powerful community in the world?
It is the fashion of the present age to underrate the influence of individual character. For myself, I have ever rejected this consolation of mediocrity. I believe that everything that is great has been accomplished by great men. It is not what witnessed at Munich, or know of its sovereign, that should make me doubt the truth of my conviction. Munich is the creation of its king, and Louis of Bavaria is not only a king but a poet. A poet on a throne has realised his dreams.
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005