Stirring the Ancient Imagination
Of all the archaeological treasures that Egypt can still boast for today’s intrepid traveler, those monuments based in the Nile Delta have suffered the worst due to the onslaught of the centuries. Once a region teeming with some of the most resplendent and beautiful temples in Egypt, along with numerous metropolitan areas that were the artistic envy of the classical Mediterranean world, little is left to entice the wonder-lit hopeful eager to revisit Egypt’s glorious past.
Temples once lauded for their monumental beauty by men like Herodotus, Plutarch, and Alexander the Great were quick to be dismantled after the collapse of the Egyptian culture while Rome was declining as an empire. First, the rise of Christianity amid the majestic streets of old Alexandria prompted desecration of the old “pagan” sanctuaries, which ended-up serving as quarries for the erection of church buildings after the Constantinian watershed of the Fourth Century. Even more damage was done to the incomparable majesty of the archaeological landscape when the spread of Islam in the early Medieval Period demanded yet greater amounts of stonework for the building of mosques and palaces.
Priceless examples of historical learning and glory were thus erased by the successive priorities of the world’s two greatest religions, sending much of Egypt’s own, unrivaled five thousand-year architectural, religious, and engineering glory into the shadows. What a tremendous loss for humanity’s self-understanding has been occasioned by the utter destruction of colossal landmarks like the Library of Alexandria, the Serapeum in the same city, the temples of Neith at Sais and Naukratis, the shrines of Bastet and Wadjet in Bubastis and Buto, and the mysterious Labyrinth not far from the Fayyum. This kind of ruination is nevertheless part of the human story itself, with one empire and its traditions eventually conquering and erasing the evidence of great empires that came before.
Luckily, new and exciting discoveries are still rising from the silty farmlands and remaining marshes of the vast Nile Delta. THIS ARTICLE details some of the latest excavation work that has been completed at the site of the temple of Wadjet in the fabled city of Buto. It was in this prehistoric settlement that the mighty shrine of Egypt’s greatest cobra-goddess once rose to thousands of years of religious prominence as the symbolic center of Pharaonic rule in the northern portion of the Egyptian empire. Admittedly, not much remains to generate excitement for the average tourist, but the pithy remnants of once-grandiose colonnades can lead the careful observer on a trip back in time, telling the story of over forty centuries of Egyptian learning and ritual grandeur. The avid seeker of ancient Egyptian history and wisdom will be rewarded by sites like this as they are further developed to receive visitors from around the world … just as they did in the days of Herodotus, who wrote of such places with words of unequivocal awe.
Contact your travel agent and Egyptian tourist associations to plan your own trip into the magical, mystical past today. Heaven only knows what the next fifty years will bring to some of the human race’s greatest cultural achievements and touchstones.
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