John Baptist Belzoni
Our traveler, accompanied by his wife, left Boolak on the 30th of June, 1815, examined the ruins of ancient Antinoe, and arrived at Ashoumain, where he met with the first remains of Egyptian architecture, which he supposes to have been of a date anterior to those of Thebes. Having ar rived at Siout, he requested of the bashaw's physician, permission to employ the workmen necessary to remove the head of Memnon; but not receiving a favorable reply, he, by means of his interpreter, procured the requisite assistance, and after viewing the tombs of Issus, proceeded to Thebes. On his way thither, he visited, near Dendera, the Temple of Tentyra, before which he remained seated some time, lost in admiration, at the singularity of its preservation, and the extent and magnificence of its structure.' On his return to Dendera, the inhabitants insisted on detaining his interpreter, imagining him to be the same who had joined the French army, some years ago, and declaring that he had been long enough among Christian dogs.' With much difficulty he procured the man's release, and in a few days, came in sight of the ruins of Thebes, of which he thus writes The most sublime ideas that can be formed from the most magnificent specimens of our present architecture, would give a very incorrect picture of these ruins: for such is the difference, not only in magnitude, but in form, proportion, and construction, that even the pencil can convey but a faint idea of the whole. It appeared to me like entering a city of giants, who, after a long conflict, were all destroyed, leaving the ruins of their various temples as the only proofs of their former existence.' After pausing with wonder before the two colossal figures in the plain, he proceeded to examine the bust, which it was the object of his expedition to remove. I found it,' he observes, 'near the remains of its body and chair, with its face upwards, and apparently smiling on me, at the thought of being taken to England.' Finding the distance to his boat on the Nile too far to go every night, he built a small hut with the stones of the Memnonium, in which, with Mrs. Belzoni, he determined to remain till he had accomplished the removal of the bust. This, after much difficulty and persuasion, he procured sufficient men to raise from the ground; which,' says Belzoni, 'so astonished the Arabs, that, though it was the effect of their own efforts, they said it was the devil that did it.' On the 5th of August, he reached, with the head, that part of the land which he was afraid of being prevented from crossing by the rising of the water; and on the 12th, he observes, Thank God, the young Memnon arrived on the bank of the Nile.' Next day he entered acave in the mountains of Gornou, for the purpose of taking out a sarcophagus which had been mentioned to him by Mr. Drouetti; and which, after having more than once lost his way in the different avenues that led to it, he was preparing to remove, when the Arabs, who were working for him, were put into prison by the cacheff of Erments, who replied, on his complaining of such conduct, that the sarcophagus had been sold to the French consul, and that no one else should have it.'
Whilst waiting the arrival of a boat from Cairo, he made an excursion to the Temple of Ybsambul, the entrance of which, though choked up by an accumulation of sand to the height of thirty-six feet, he determined on using his utmost endeavors to open. Previously, however, to commencing his operations, he made a voyage to the second cataract of the Nile; in reference to which he says, though some authors assert that the Nile has no waves, but runs quite smooth, I can assure the reader that we were this day tossed about as if by a gale at sea.' On his return to Ybsambul, he immediately began to clear the entrance to the temple, and after five days' labor, had succeeded in uncovering twenty feet of sand, when, finding that he had neither sufficient time nor money for the completion of his undertaking, he obtained a promise from the cacheff to keep the place untouched till his return, and descended the Nile to Deboade, where he took possession of an obelisk, twenty-two feet long, 'in the name of his Britannic majesty's consul in Cairo.' On arriving at Thebes, he met two Frenchmen, who made some remarks on the head of Memnon to deter him from taking it away, and was told by their dragoman, that if he persevered in his researches, he should have his throat cut, by order of two personages.' After hiring a boat to convey the bust to Cairo, he proceeded to Carnak, where he employed twenty men to dig away the sand from a large temple, from the ruins of which he transported to Luxor six sphinxes and a white statue of Jupiter Ammon, which he subsequently conveyed to England, and are now in the British Museum. The merit of the discoveries he made here, was attempted to be taken from him by Count de Forbin, who published an account, extracted from Belzoni's letters.