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52 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

 

authority of the Egyptian priests that the immense masses of stone used in constructing the pyramids were brought from Arabia, and were put into place by building up beneath them huge mounds of earth from which the blocks could be slid into position as from an inclined plane. Certain it is that in many instances the stone used in the pyramids is not found within many miles of where the structures are erected.

Ancient fable and modern ingenuity have been put on the rack to explain the purpose of the pyramids on some hypothesis other than that they were the burial places of the kings. Some authors have found in the mechanical exactness with which the great structures were reared an evidence that their dimensions were intended as the basis of a system of weights and measures. Others have discovered that the pyramids were constructed with a geometrical design, and with the purpose of teaching astronomy. Others still, disdaining such humble theories, have declared that nothing less than a divine origin, plan, and purpose could account for the wonderful skill and hidden mystery of the great monuments. As it respects all such theories, the historian can say no more than that the pyramids are solely, plainly, and indubitably the sepulchers of the dead kings of Egypt. That they stand with their faces to the four cardinal points of the compass signifies no more than that men in all ages have by preference built their houses with the four sides set to the north, south, east, and west. That the tomb of Khufu stands on the thirtieth parallel, whether it was so placed fortuitously or with design, implies no more at most than that the thirtieth degree was known to the men who built the pyramid a thing by no means marvelous.

The principal reigns of Dynasty IV. were of extraordinary length. According to Manetho, Khufu reigned for sixty-three years; Khafra, for sixty-six years, and Menkera for sixty-three years. But according to Diodorus the first is reduced to fifty and the second to fifty-six years. Even these figures are to be accepted with some caution, for it is related in an inscription that Queen Mertitef, who had been a wife of Snefru, last king of Dynasty III., was a favorite of both Khufu and Khafra an impossible thing unless her charms survived for more than a century.

The reigns of the three great kings were marked by military exploits as well as domestic progress and architectural grandeur. Khufu made war in Ethiopia and completed the conquests which had been undertaken by Snefru. On the rocks of the Wadi Maghara, in the peninsula of Sinai, is a sculptured image of Khufu lifting on high a war-club over an enemy kneeling before him. To this king is also ascribed the authorship of a part of the Funeral Ritual one of the few existing remnants of Egyptian literature.

To the great monarch, Khafra, is attributed the building of the enigmatical colossus called the Sphinx. This great image stands north of the second pyramid of Gizeh, which bears the name of Khafra. The effigy is the symbolical form of the god Harmachu, meaning Horus the Resplendent, to whom the ad- jacent temple was dedicated. The figure is hewn out of the living rock, hag the body of. a crouching lion and the head of a man, capped and bearded, and is one hundred and ninety feet in length. Between the paws, which are extended to a distance of fifty feet, is a monumental stone bearing the name of Khafra, who is said to have dedicated the image. The shoulders are thirty-six feet in breadth, and the head measures from top to chin twenty-eight feet and six inches. The drifting sands of centuries have fallen around the mighty effigy until only the solemn visage, looking out toward the Nile, and a small part of the shoulders and back remain above the level of the desert.

The heavy drain made upon the labor and the public revenues by the monumental enterprises of Khufu and Khafra gave rise to the tradition, current in the times of Herodotus, that those kings were the oppressors of the people and enemies to the worship of the gods. It appears that the priests gave countenance to this report, as well as to that which made Menkera the restorer of the national religion which had been despised and neglected by his predecessors. Careful examination of contemporaneous sculptures have