Vivant Denon's Travels

Vivant Denon, Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt in Company with Several Divisions of the French Army, During the Campaign of General Bonaparte in that Country . . . Translated by Arthur Aikin. 3 Volumes. London: Printed for T. N. Longman and O. Rees, Paternoster-Row; and Richard Phillips, 71, St. Paul's. By T. Gillet, Salisbury Square. 1803. Vol. 1, 197-98; vol. 2, pp. 89-91.

[Denon was an artist and archaeologist who accompanied Napoleon's forces into Egypt. Here he is writing about a city called Benesech, which he saw as he traveled up the Nile:]

Benesech was built on the ruins of the ancient city of Oxyrinchus . . . . Nothing, however, remains of this city but some fragments of stone pillars, marble columns in the mosques, and a single column left standing, along with its capital, and part of its entablature. . . . This solitary monument brings a melancholy sensation to the mind. Oxyrinchus, once a metropolis surrounded by a fertile plain . . . has disappeared beneath the sand.

[Here Denon is describing a temple at Thebes:]

At some paces from this gate are the remains of an enormous colossus; it has been wantonly shattered, for the parts which are left have so well preserved their polish, and the fractures their edges, that it is evident, if the spirit of devastation in mankind had trusted to time alone to ruin this monument, we should still see it entire and uninjured. Suffice it to say, to give an idea of its dimensions, that the breadth of the shoulders is twenty-five feet, which would give about seventy-five for the entire height: the figure is exact in its proportions, the style middling, but the execution perfect; when overset, it fell upon its face, which hides this interesting part; the drapery being broken, we can no longer judge by its attributes whether it is the figure of a king or a divinity. Is it the statue of Memnon, or that of Osymandyas?--the descriptions hitherto given of this monument throw more confusion than light upon this question. If it is the statue of Memnon, which appears to me the more probable, every traveller for two thousand years must have mistaken the object of their curiosity, as will be seen by the inscription of the names on another colossal statue, of which I shall directly speak.

One foot of this statue remains, which is broken off and in good preservation; it may be easily carried away, and may give those in Europe a scale of comparison of the monuments of this species, and will serve as a companion to the colossal feet which are in the court of the capitol at Rome. The spot where this figure stood might be either a temple or a palace, or both at the same time; for if the bas-relief would belong more properly to a royal residence, the figures of eight priests, which are in the front of two porticoes in the inner part, would peculiarly indicate a temple, except indeed they were introduced to remind the sovereign that, conformably to the law, the priests ought always to serve and assist in the exercise of monarchical power.

To Shelley's "Ozymandias"