Richard Pococke

RICHARD POCOKE was born at Southampton, some time in the year 1704. After having received a classical education, and acquired a knowledge of several oriental languages, he, in August, 1733-4, about which time he took the degree of LL. D., visited France and Italy; and in 1736, he set out on an expedition to the east. He reached Alexandria in September, 1737, and proceeded thence to Rosetta, where he visited Cosmas, the Greek patriarch, and observed the veneration of the people for 'two of those naked saints, who are commonly natural fools, and are held in great esteem in Egypt.' On the 11th of November, he reached Cairo, when he took great pains in ascertaining the modern condition of the country, and the customs of the people, with every description of whom he associated and conversed. After descending the well of Joseph, visiting and examining the pyramids near Cairo and Saccara, and endeavoring to discover the site of ancient Memphis, which in accordance with Bruce and others, he places at Metrahenny, he made an excursion to Faiume, the Fake Moeris, and ancient Arsinoe; in which province he discovered, at Baiamont, the ruins of two pyramids; where, he observes, 'saw the people sifting the sand in order to find seals and medals, there being no part in all the east where the former are found in such great abundance.' About two miles distant from Lake Moeris, he explored the remains of the Temple of the Labyrinth, a building which once contained three thousand rooms, 'contrived in such a manner that no stranger could find his way out and he relates a tradition, prevalent among the inhabitants near the lake, of King Caroon, 'who had keys to his treasures that loaded two hundred camels.' 'One would imagine from this,' he observes, 'that the fable of Charon might have its rise here, and that this name might be the title of the chief person who had the care of the labyrinth and of the sepulchres in and about it.'

Mr. Pococke embarked in the beginning of December, for Upper Egypt; and, on the 9th of January, 1738, reached Dendera, where he discovered the remains of all the ancient buildings choked with ashes, and the inhabitants of the Arabs fixed on the Temple of Athor-Aphrodite, or the Egyptian Venus. He then visited the ruins of Thebes, Elephantina, Philoe, and the cataracts; and returning to Cairo, the latter end of February, prepared for an excursion to Mount Sinai; but a war just breaking out between the monks and Arabs in that part, he changed his course and, sailing down the Nile to Damietta, arrived at Jaffa on the 14th of March. Proceeding immediately to Jerusalem, he explored every spot worthy of notice in that, city; and his topographical observations have removed much obscurity respecting several parts of it. After making an excursion to Jericho and Jordan, he proceeded along the brook of Kedron to the Dead Sea, where he bathed, in order to ascertain the truth of Pliny's assertion that 'no living bodies would sink in it stayed in it,' says Mr. Pococke, 'near a quarter of an hour, and found I could lay on it in any posture without motion and without sinking; it bore me up in such a manner, that when I struck in swimming, my legs were above the water, and I found it difficult to recover my feet.' His face was covered with a crust of salt on coming out of the lake, and he describes the water as having the effect of constringing his mouth, in the same manner as strong alumn juice. In May, he returned to Jaffa, whence he sailed to Acra, and visited the northern parts of Palestine and Galilee, particularly Mounts Carmel and Tabor, Cana, Nazareth, the lake of Tiberias, and Mount Hermon; whence he proceeded towards the sea, and sailed to Tyre, Sidon, and Mount Lebanon. He next explored Balbec and its magnificent temple; proceeded to Damascus, Horus, and Aleppo; and after crossing the Euphrates to Orfah, continued his route through Antioch and Scanderoon to Tripoli, where on the 25th of October, he embarked for Cyprus. After passing some time in this island, he returned to Egypt; visited Mount Sinai; followed the track of the Israelites through the wilderness; embarked at Alexandria for Crete; ascended Mount Ida, and continued his course to Smyrna and Constantinople. He then visited the principal cities of Greece, and returned to England in 1741; two years after which, he published, in one folio volume, an account of his travels, with maps and plates, under the title of A Description of the East, and some other Countries, which was succeeded by two other volumes of the same size.

Mr. Pococke, on his return to England, was spoken of with great reputation through Europe; and having taken orders, was made, in 1756, Archdeacon of Ossory; in 1765, Bishop of Elphin; in the July of the same year, Bishop of Meath; and died of apoplexy in the following month of September.