Old Masters Academy

Elegant Art Jokes: THE LABYRINTH OF EGYPT




A labyrinth, with the ancients, was a building containing a great number of chambers and galleries, running into one another in such a manner as to make it very difficult to find the way through the edifice. The most famous was the Egyptian labyrinth, situated in Central Egypt, above Lake Moeris, not far from Crocodilopolis, in the country now called Fejoom. Herodotus, who visited and examined this edifice with great attention, affirms that it far surpassed everything he had conceived of it. It is very uncertain when, by whom, and for what purpose it was built, though in all probability it was for a royal sepulchre. The building, half above and half below the ground, was one of the finest in the world, and is said to have contained 3,000 apartments. The arrangements of the work and the distribution of the parts were remarkable. It was divided into sixteen principal regions, each containing a number of spacious buildings, which taken together, might be defined an assemblage of palaces. There were also as many temples as there were gods in Egypt, the number of which was prodigious, besides various other sacred edifices, and four lofty pyramids at the angles of the walls. The entrance was by
vast halls, followed by saloons, which conducted to grand porticos, the ascent to which was by a flight of ninety steps. The interior was decorated with columns of porphyry and colossal statues of Egyptian gods. The whole was surrounded by a wall, but the passages were so intricate that no stranger could find the way without a guide. The substructions of this famous labyrinth still exist, and Milizia says, “as they were not arched, it is wonderful that they should have been so long preserved, with so many stupendous edifices above them.” The Cretan labyrinth was built by Dædalus on the model of the Egyptian, but it was only a hundredth part the size; yet, according to Diodorus Siculus, it was a spacious and magnificent edifice, divided into a great number of apartments, and surrounded entirely by a wall. What would the ancients say, could they see our modern imitations of their labyrinths?

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