mercredi 26 janvier 2011

Les pyramides “donnent l’impression d’une indescriptible grandeur” (J.O. Noyes - XIXe s.)

En consultant leur revue The Young men’s magazine, vol. 1, 1858, les jeunes Américains du XIXe siècle étaient à bonne école !
Avec cette livraison de leur publication (favorite ?), ils avaient la possibilité de lire les propos de James O. Noyes, sous le titre “The Origin and the Design of the Pyramids”, autrement dit de s’initier à la culture égyptienne.
Dans cet article en deux parties, l’auteur propose une revue de détail de diverses théories relatives à la fonction des pyramides, dont les auteurs, par-delà les frontières du temps, ne devaient pas être déçus du voyage !
Hérodote ? Des écrits indignes de l’histoire ! Diodore et Strabon ? Même école, donc même sanction ! Platon ? De la pure spéculation ! Les “greniers de Joseph” ? Incohérent ! Les auteurs arabes ? La “saveur de la fiction orientale” ! Diderot ? Des discours de “savant” annihilés par les découvertes ultérieures sur les hiéroglyphes ! Jomard ? Des propos “profondément stupides” !
Et l’on en vient finalement à un certain de Persiogny qui, lui, semble être digne d’un regard infiniment plus bienveillant : les pyramides n’ont-elles pas été les “meilleures barrières possibles” contre la progression du désert ?
Au terme de ce parcours, James O. Noyes se livre enfin lui-même pour reconnaître dans les pyramides des oeuvres de science et de génie. Ouf ! Il était temps...

Photo extraite de "Tulipe Noire" (FlickR),

 avec autorisation de l'auteur du site
“The secret of the origin and design of the Pyramids appears to have been sacredly guarded by the sacerdotal caste of Egypt, even down to the time of its extinction, which happened soon after the close of the dynasty of the Logidae. Not the least marvelous circumstance connected with the history of the Pyramids is that the object for which they were constructed was kept secret, not only from foreigners but also from the great mass of the Egyptians themselves. (...)
It is affirmed that [Herodotus] was initiated into the sacred order of priests, but his youth must have stood in the way of his passing beyond the first degree. His account of the Pyramids, whether derived from the testimony of the priests of Heliopolis and Memphis, or being, as is most probable, merely a reflection of the popular belief, is singularly vague, and altogether unworthy the dignity of history. (...)
The version of Herodotus, relative to the construction of the Pyramids for tombs, is precisely the same as that given four centuries later by Diodorus Siculus and the geographer Strabo, who, doubtless, derived their information from the same source. But the former of these more modern authors remarks, that "neither the historians nor the Egyptians themselves were of accord upon the subject of the Pyramids". (...)
The hypothesis of Plato, that the Pyramids were astronomical observatories, is merely a flight of speculative philosophy. The three largest of the Ghizeh group at least were originally cased with polished stone, rendering their ascent impracticable, as is now the case, to a certain extent, with the second pyramid. Moreover, for astronomical purposes they would not have been erected within a few hundred feet of each other, while a more elevated situation, such as the Mokattam ridge, on the opposite side of the Nile, would doubtless have been selected.
Equally absurd were the ancient ideas that the Pyramids of Ghizeh were the granaries of Joseph, or the treasuries of the kings by whom they had been built. The inference is, that the treasures of the latter were exhausted at the completion of these stupendous monuments, and moreover, the borders of the Libyan desert - the home of marauding tribes, as nomadic as its sands - would hardly have been chosen for the site of the royal treasuries.
The accounts given by the Arab authors relative to the Pyramids savor of eastern fiction. (...) These are a few of the thousand and one allusions to the Pyramids in the Arab authors, based doubtless upon the traditions of the ancient Egyptians, and varying but little during a period of several centuries. They do not, of course, assume the dignity of history, nor have they the sublime audacity of the conceptions of the ancient poets, who described the Pyramids as mountains piled up by the Titans in attempting to scale high Olympus. (...)
Diderot, instead of considering the Pyramids the mementos of the pride and stupidity of the Egyptian kings, regards them as memorials of their wisdom and love of science. He supposes that their erection was antecedent to the invention of letters, but that, having reached a high degree of perfection in the arts and sciences, the ancient Egyptians made use of these immense structures to transmit to posterity the elements of their knowledge. (...) but it is difficult to conceive how the Egyptians could have attained to a degree of culture enabling them to build the Pyramids without a knowledge of letters ; and the arguments of these savans have been annihilated by the discovery of hieroglyphics within the structures themselves.
M. Jomard, however, gave the greatest eclat to the scientific theory of the origin and design of the Pyramids, by bringing forward the idea that the great pyramid presented, in each of its dimensions, an aliquot part of the terrestrial degree in Egypt. But could anything have been more profoundly stupid on the part of the ancient Egyptians than the erection of this immense structure, a labor more Herculean than that of building a city, merely to show the value of the terrestrial degree and the linear measure adopted in Egypt ? This theory, although supported by a long list of illustrious names, does not so well account for the erection of the Pyramids as that hazarded by Jancourt and accepted by Volney, to the effect that the kings constructed tombs, impenetrable and eternal, in accordance with the dogma that the souls of the dead would return, after wandering six thousand years, to reanimate the bodies they had left. (...)
Although F. de Persigny never visited Egypt, he has had the satisfaction of seeing most of his learned contemporaries in France adopt the ingenious theory developed by a careful study of the double question of the pyramids and the desert. (...)
Want of space forbids even an allusion to the reasons for giving the pyramidal form to these cyclopean structures, as also to the pneumatical facts and principles, whereby it can be shown that they were the best possible barriers to interrupt the progress of the desert. Suffice it to say, they answered admirably the purpose for which they were constructed. For centuries they protected the fertile land of Egypt, the domain of Osiris, from the rage of Typhon, and it was not until after many of them were thrown down or greatly mutilated that the desert passed beyond its ancient boundaries. Even in the time of the Romans the province of Ghizeh was so free from sand that the Sphynx could be seen and studied in all its parts. The pyramids suffered greatly under the Caliphs, and the consequences soon became apparent. Macrisi, an Arab historian of the 14th century, relates, that the province of Ghizeh having been overrun by the desert, the inundation of sand was attributed to the mutilation of the Sphynx by a fanatical scheik. But in demolishing the pyramids, in overturning these artificial mountains, they unconsciously destroyed the veritable talismans protecting their territory.
Philosophers and writers have in all ages declaimed against the pyramids. But it is to be remembered that whatever exalts the imagination, whatever carries us beyond ourselves, and exercises a moral utility is not in vain. These Titanian temples were raised by genius ; and even regarded as tombs, as funereal and eternal gateways built upon the confines of eternity, they give the impression of indescribable grandeur. Diodorus says : " All the people of Egypt, regarding the duration of life as very short and of little importance, make much, on the contrary, of the memorial of virtue, which is to be left behind. Hence they call the dwellings of the living inns, where one sojourns but for a day, but give the name of eternal mansions to the tombs of the dead, from which there is no departure."
Thus the kings of Egypt have been indifferent as to the erection of palaces, but have exhausted themselves in the construction of their tombs. What the works of Shakespeare and the songs of Homer are among the productions of the human mind, the pyramids of Egypt are among the monuments erected by the hand of man. But when the Sphynx is compelled to reveal the secret of ages, when we find that the pyramids were works of the greatest public utility, and that both science and the mild genius of religion determined and guided their erection, we can but regard them with increased admiration and regret that the labors of men and the wealth of nations are not always, even in this enlightened age, so judiciously employed.”

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