May 10, 2012

Karnak at Last, 1799 | Luxor - Walking Through Egypt

Karnak at Last, 1799 
Vivant Denon

Karnak
Unable, by myself, to take the plan of Karnac temple, or make large views of this mass of ruins, which, at first sight resembles the saw-yard of a quarry, or rather piled mountains, my design was to employ the two hours there in making draughts of the historical low-reliefs. . . .

. . . The day advanced, and the soldiers had not yet obtained anything to eat: travellers are not like Roman heroes, they sometimes feel the want of refreshment: the sun gained upon them, and it was resolved to sleep at Karnac. . . .

[Even so, Denon decided that he would need eight days to make a plan, ‘in the least degree satisfactory.’] I was unable to measure the surface of this group of edifices; but, in encompassing, it several times on horseback, at a full trot, I always performed the ride in twenty-five minutes.

[Denon worked on the next day until heat overcame him.] It was so hot that the sun had burned my feet, through my boots; I could remain in one place only by causing my servant to walk between the sun and myself, that the rays might be interrupted, and a litde shade thrown upon me by his body; the stones had acquired so much heat, that, in picking up some comelean agates which are found in great number even within the enclosure of the town, I was so burnt by them, that, in order to carry them, I was obliged to throw them on my handkerchief, as I would have touched hot coals.

Worn out with fatigue, I threw myself down in a little Arabian tomb, which had been prepared for me for the night, and which appeared a delicious chamber, till I was told that, at the time of our passing Karnac before, the throat had there been cut of a Frenchman who had lagged behind the column: the marks of this assassination, still imprinted on the walls filled me with horror; but 1 was laid down, I was sleepy, and so weary that I believe I should not have risen off the dead body itself of the unfortunate victim.

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