vendredi 15 avril 2011

“La construction des pyramides pourrait amplement, à elle seule, prouver que l’Égypte est la mère des arts et des sciences” (Samuel Griswold Goodrich - XIXe s.)

S. Griswold Goodrich
L’auteur américain Samuel Griswold Goodrich (1793-1860), est davantage connu sous son pseudonyme Peter Parley.Autodidacte, il exerça tout d’abord le métier de libraire et d’éditeur. De 1828 à 1842, il publia la revue annuelle The Token  au contenu de laquelle il apporta sa fréquente contribution. Puis il s’associa avec son frère Charles A. Goodrich pour la publication d’ouvrages destinés à la jeunesse, sur des sujets tels que l’histoire, la géographie, la science...
L’ouvrage Lights and shadows of  African history, 1844, dont j’ai extrait le texte ci-dessous, se situe dans cette veine.
Lorsqu’il y est question des pyramides égyptiennes majeures, il apparaît que l’auteur se réfère au témoignage de “travellers” (voyageurs) et que, selon toute vraisemblance, il n’a pas visité lui même le site de Guizeh. Il n’empêche que, sur la foi d’écrits antérieurs, son éloge du savoir-faire égyptien est soutenu, avec une argumentation somme toute généraliste, mais propre à susciter l’admiration des jeunes lecteurs. N’était-ce pas là l’essentiel du propos ?
“The erection of the pyramids would alone go far to prove that Egypt was the mother of the arts and sciences, for no nation has, as yet, been able to surpass or rival them. These gigantic monuments, built before the period at which authentic history begins, have ever excited the curiosity and wonder of mankind. Their vast antiquity, their amazing magnitude, the mystery which hangs over their origin and design, contribute to render them objects of intense interest.
There are great numbers of these structures in Egypt, and about eighty in Nubia. Those of the former country are all situated on the west side of the I Nile, and extend, in an irregular line, to the distance of nearly seventy miles.

The most famous are those of Jizeh, opposite the city of Cairo. The largest, which is said to have been built by Cheops, a king of Egypt, about 900 years before Christ, is by far the greatest structure in stone that has been reared by the hand of man. Near this great pyramid are two others, of considerable size, and several smaller ones. All have square foundations, and their sides face the cardinal points. The largest pyramid excited the wonder of Herodotus, who visited Egypt 450 B. C. He says that one hundred thousand men were employed twenty years in building it, and that the body of Cheops was placed in a room beneath the bottom of the pyramid. The second pyramid is said to have been built by Cephrenes, the brother of Cheops, and the third by Mycerines, the son of Cheops.
The great pyramid consists of a series of platforms, each of which is smaller than the one on which it rests, and consequently presents the appearance of steps. Of these steps there are two hundred and three. They are of unequal thickness, from two feet and eight inches to four feet and eight inches. The stones are cut and fitted to each other with great nicety. The whole height is four hundred and fifty-six feet. The top is a platform, thirty-two feet square. The foundation is seven hundred and sixty-three feet on each side, and covers a space of about thirteen acres.
The pyramid has been entered, and has been found to consist of chambers and passages, some of great extent.
The material of which the pyramids are built is limestone, and it is probable that this was obtained from quarries contiguous to the place where they now stand. The stones of the great pyramid rarely exceed nine feet in length, six and a half in breadth, and four feet eight inches in thickness. The ascent is attended with great difficulty and danger, on account of the broken state of the steps ; yet it is frequently accomplished, and sometimes by females. The scene from the top is described by travellers as inconceivably grand.
The purpose for which these monuments were reared has been a question of great interest. It has been conjectured that they were built as observatories ; but this seems to be an absurd supposition ; for why build three or four close together, of nearly the same elevation ? There is no good reason to doubt that they were erected as burial-places for the Egyptian kings, who caused them to be constructed. The natural pride of man, the desire of being remembered for ages, and some superstitious notions connected with the religion of the country, doubtless furnished the motives for the construction of these vast monuments. Nothing can better show the folly of human ambition, than that, while these senseless stones remain, their builders have perished, and their memories been blotted out for ever !
The sphinxes are also stupendous monuments of the skill and perseverance of this people. The largest and most admired of them seems partly the work of nature and partly that of art, being cut out of a solid rock. The larger portion of the entire fabric is covered with the sands of the desert, which time has so accumulated around these ancient masterpieces, that the pyramids themselves have lost much of their apparent elevation. The number of sphinxes found in Egypt, together with their shape, countenanced the oldest and most commonly received opinion, that they refer to the rise and overflow of the Nile, which lasted during the passage of the sun through the constellations Leo and Virgo ; both these signs are, therefore, combined in the figure, which has the head of a virgin and the body of a lion. But it has been more recently concluded that the sphinxes were mysterious symbols of a religious character, not now to be explained.”
Les illustrations sont extraites de l'ouvrage de l'auteur