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56 UNIVERSAL HISTORY- THE ANCIENT WORLD

 

been preserved to our day, bears witness to the grandeur of his works and reputation.

The policy of this great monarch was still further advanced by his successor, AMENEMHA II., and USERTESEN II., the details of whose reigns are not so fully known. But of the next king, USERTESEN III., the materials are again abundant. No former sovereign had a reign so glorious as this, the most illustrious of the Usertesidae. The boundary of Egypt on the south was now fixed at Semneh and Kummeh, beyond the Second Cataract. Here were built outposts and fortresses, and stone tablets were erected, defining the established limits of the kingdom.

But these triumphs of political enterprise and military prowess were eclipsed by the great works of engineering belonging to this reign. The most noted of these were the great temple called the Labyrinth and the famous artificial lake of Moeris. Both of these wonders were constructed in the peculiar urn-shaped valley called the Feiyoom, a few miles south-west from Memphis. In this place there is a cleft in the Libyan hills, through which the valley of the Nile spreads out, bayou-like, for a considerable distance to the west.

Through this opening in the hills the engineers of Amenemha cut a broad canal, leading from the Nile into the valley of Feiyoom, and there, by excavation and dykes, discharged the waters from the annual inundation into the artificial lake. A large part of the valley was enclosed within the strong dams which held this overflow. The western part of the Feiyoom was on a lower level, and to all the region the waters of the lake were distributed in season, making the whole a luxuriant garden throughout the year. The reservoir was abundantly stocked with fish, furnishing food and amusement to the people.

More marvelous than the waters of Moeris was the national temple called the Labyrinth, built near the entrance of the canal into the lake. Perhaps no structure of antiquity was more justly celebrated. Herodotus declares, after personal inspection, that its merits were greater than its fame, insomuch that not alt the temples of the Greeks put together could

equal, either in cost or splendor, this solitary wonder of Egypt. The Labyrinth contained twelve roofed courts, abutting on each other, with opposite entrances, six to the north and six to the south. The whole was enclosed with a vast wall. The temple was half above ground and half subterranean, each division containing fifteen hundred apartments. Those above ground were visited and examined by Herodotus himself, who seems to have been struck dumb with wonder at the elaborate magnificence of the structure. The subterranean chambers were the sepulchers of the kings and the halls of the sacred crocodiles. So great and complicated were the winding ways, the system of colonnades, and the hidden entrances, that a traveler without a guide could not extricate himself from the infinite complexity of the palaces around him.

In addition to the great monuments which mark the reigns of the Usertesidae, the domestic life of the times was of a sort to excite equal admiration. In the tombs of Beni Hassan, belonging to this epoch, five varieties of plows are depicted. The farming life is shown in detail; sheep and goats treading the seed into the ground; wheat gathered into sheaves, threshed, measured, carried in sacks to the granary; flax bundled on the backs of asses; figs gathered; grapes thrown in the press; wine carried to the cellar; the overseer and the hands in the fields and gardens; the bastinado laid on the backs of laggards. The scene changes to herds and flocks; fine breeds of bullocks; calves, asses, sheep, goats; cows milked; butter made; cheese handled; fowls strutting in the yard; fine varieties of geese and ducks.

In other sculptures we see the spinners and weavers at their work; the potter manipulating the clay or burning the ware in the furnace; the smith manufacturing javelins and lances; the painter with his colors; the mason with his trowel; the shoemaker at his bench; the glassblower, with distended cheeks, plying his art.1 In another part the interior of the Egyptian home is shown, furnished according to the wealth and taste of the occupant;

1 Duncker's History of Antiquity, Vol. I, p. 118.