IN this view, looking towards the north, the eye commands the whole of the ruins of the Great Temple of Karnak, and ranges from the furthest extremity, beyond the wall of circumvallation, over its most sacred precincts, to the entrance facing the Nile; passing by its obelisks, through its stupendous Hall of Columns, and across its vast courts, to the enormous masses of masonry which compose its great propylon: beyond this lies the intervening plain to the river. Then across the Nile the eye stretches over the plains of Medinet-Abou and Goorna, to where it is bounded by the Lybian Mountains, within which lies the valley known as Babán-el Molook, where are the tombs of the kings of Thebes, or Diospolis, the city of Ammon.

    It is difficult for the mind to conceive a scene of more impressive interest. Where busy millions have trod, all is now decayed and desolate; leaving only as a record of the greatness of its Pharaohs, structures so vast, even in their ruins, that nothing exists in any other country, within thousands of years of the age of their erection, to mark such power and greatness in any other former age and people. Everywhere around the spectator lies evidence of the immense buildings which covered the plains of Thebes. Bases of columns, substructures of temples, and enormous masses of which it would be difficult to trace the purport, are everywhere seen. The large lake on the left, formerly enclosed as a reservoir, will enable the observer to connect this scene with the other General View of Karnak in this work, in which the lake is seen on the right, and where the lateral view of the Temple in its entire length lies before the spectator, from the great propylon to the southern gate in the wall of circumvallation.

    “Endless it would be,” says Warburton,* “to enter into details of this marvellous pile; suffice it to say, that the Temple is about one mile and three quarters in circumference, the walls eighty feet high and twenty-five thick. With astonishment, and almost with awe, I rode on through labyrinths of courts, cloisters, and chambers, and only dismounted where a mass of masonry had lately fallen in, owing to its pillars having been removed to build the Pasha’s powder manufactory. Among the infinite variety of objects of art that crowd this Temple, the Obelisks are not the least interesting. Those who have only seen them at Rome, or Paris, can form no conception of their effect where all around is in keeping with them. The eye follows upward the finely tapering shaft, till suddenly it seems not to terminate but to melt away and lose itself in the dazzling sunshine of its native skies. The very walls of outer enclosures were deeply sculptured with whole histories of great wars and triumphs, by figures that seemed to live again. In some places these walls were poured down like an avalanche, not fallen: no mortar had been ever needed to connect the cliff-like masses of which they were composed, so accurately was each fitted to the  place it was destined to occupy.

    “From the desert to the river, from within or from without, by sunshine or by moonlight – however you contemplate Carnak, – appears the very aspect in which it shews to most advantage. And when this was all perfect, when its avenues opened in vista upon the noble temples and palaces of Sesostris, upon Gournou, Medinet Abou, and Luxor; when its courts were paced by gorgeous priestly pageants, and busy life swarmed on a river flowing between banks of palaces, like those of Venice magnified a hundred fold; when all this was in its prime, no wonder that its fame spread even over the barbarian world, and found immortality in Homer’s song.”


                       *The Crescent and the Cross.