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size for unless they reach above its lofty banks, they are often prevented from benefiting by a side wind at that season of the year; but the number of accidents which occur are a great objection to the use of such disproportionate sails.
The cabins of the Egyptian pleasure-boats were lofty and spacious; but even in the smallest they did not extend over the whole breadth of the boat, as they do in the modern cangias, and merely occupied the centre; the rowers sitting on either side, generally on a bench or stool. They were made of wood, with a door in front, or sometimes on one side, and they were painted within and without with numerous devices, in brilliant and lively colours. The same custom continued to the latest times, long after the conquest of the country by the Romans; and when the Arabs invaded Egypt in 638, under Amer, the general of the Caliph Omer, one of the objects which struck them with surprise was the gay appearance of the painted boats of the Nile.
The lotus was one of their favourite devices, as on their furniture, the ceilings of rooms, and other places, and it was very common on the blade of the rudder, where it was frequently repeated at both ends, together with the eye of Osiris. But the place considered peculiarly suited to the latter emblem was the bow of the boat; and the custom is still retained in some
countries to the present day. In India and China it is very general; and we even see the small barks that ply in the harbour of Malta bearing the eye on their bows, in the same manner as the boats of ancient Egypt. The Egyptians, however, appear to have confined it to boats used in the funeral ceremonies.
Streamers were occasionally attached to the pole of the rudder, and a standard was erected near the head of the vessel; the latter generally a sacred animal, a sphinx, or some emblem connected with religion or royalty, like those belonging to the infantry; and sometimes the top of the mast bore a shrine, or feathers, the symbol of the deity to whose protection they committed themselves during their voyage.
There is a striking resemblance, in some points, between the boats of the ancient Egyptians and those of India; and the form of the stern, the principle and construction of the rudder, the
cabins, the square sail, the copper eye on each side of the head, the line of small squares at the side, like false windows,* and the shape of the oars of boats used on the Ganges, forcibly call to mind those of the Nile, represented in the paintings of the Theban tombs.
The head and stern of the Egyptian pleasure-boats were usually ornamented with, or terminated in the shape of, a flower richly painted; in the boats of burden they were destitute of ornament, and simply rounded off; and I have met with two only in which there was any resemblance to a beak. But this was in Nile boats, and is a mode of construction common in those of the present day. Nor are the ships of war, represented at Medeenet Haboo, furnished with beaks.
At the head, a forecastle frequently projected above the deck, in which the man who held the fathoming pole sometimes stood, and which answered as a small lock-up box, like the hôn of modern Nile boats; and occasionally there was at the
stern another of similar form, where the steersman sat. were both very generally adopted in the war galleys; where they were found of great service: the archers profiting by these
* Woodcut 402.
+ Woodcut 402, a and e. Woodcut 351, vol. i. p. 412.
commanding positions to rake the enemy's decks, as they bore down upon a hostile galley.
There are no instances of boats with a rudder at both ends, said to have been used by some ancient nations; nor have any more than one mast and a single sail. Sometimes the rudder, instead of traversing in a groove, merely rested on the taffrel, and was suspended and secured by a rope, or band; but that imperfect method was confined to boats used in religious ceremonies on the Nile. The mallet and pegs for fastening the boat to the bank were kept in a particular place in the bows, as well as the landing plank, which were always in readiness, and under the surveillance of the man at the prow.
In some boats of burden, the cabin, or raised magazine, was very large, being used for carrying cattle, horses, and numerous stores; and it was sometimes made of open framework. As they often quitted these boats, to fetch other cattle, or to put them ashore, a boy was left on board to take charge of the stores; but this was not the only precaution: a dog was also kept tied up in the magazine; and its utility was often shown when the idle boy either wandered away during the absence of his masters, or fell asleep; for either of which delinquencies he was, if found out, liberally treated to the stick. Both the sleeping underling and the bastinado are common representations in the paintings.
Unlike the modern Egyptians, they paid great attention to the cleanliness of their boats, the cabins and decks being frequently washed and swept; and this the Theban artists thought of sufficient importance to be indicated in the sculptures.
Herodotus states that the mast was made of the acanthus (Acacia, or Mimosa, Nilotica); but the trunk and limbs of this tree are not sufficiently long or straight; and for that purpose they doubtless preferred the fir, with which they were well acquainted, great quantity of the wood being annually imported into Egypt from Syria. The planks, the ribs, and the keel were of the acacia, which, from its resisting the effect of water for a length of time, was found well adapted for this purpose, as is fully proved by
* Woodcut 400.
modern experience. The foot of the mast was let into a strong beam, which crossed the whole breadth of the boat; it was supported by and lashed to a knee, rising to a considerable height before it; and the many stout stays, fastened at the head, stern, and sides, sufficiently secured it, and compensated for the great pressure of the heavy yards and sail it carried. The sheets, halliards, and standing rigging, were all fastened "within” the gunwale, as at the present day, and the monuments confirm the statement of Herodotus respecting this peculiarity of the Egyptian boats.
In ships of war, the yard was allowed to remain aloft after the sail had been reefed; but in the boats of the Nile, which had a yard at the top and bottom of the sail, as soon as it was furled, they lowered the upper yard, and in this position it remained until they again prepared for their departure. To loosen the sail from the lower yard must have been a tedious operation, if it was bound to it with the many lacings represented in some of the paintings; but in these cases it may have been folded up between the two yards, as soon as the upper one was lowered; the whole being lashed together by an outer rope.
It is uncertain whether they used blocks or pullies for raising and lowering the yards, or if the halliards merely passed through a smooth dead-sheave-hole near the top of the mast. The yards were evidently of very great size, and of two separate pieces, scarfed or joined together at the middle,* sometimes supported by five or six lifts, and so firmly secured that men could stand or sit upon them, while engaged in arranging the sail; and from the upper yards were suspended several ropes, resembling the horses of our square-rigged ships,† and perhaps intended for the same purpose when they furled the sail. They had also braces and sheets to the upper and lower yards, for trimming the sails; and each yard had its own halliards. Nor were the Egyptians ignorant of the pulley; and one has actually been found in Egypt, which is now in the museum of Leyden. It was apparently intended for drawing water from a well. The sides Woodcut 402 gg.
*Woodcut 402 h.
are of tamarisk wood, the roller of fir; and the rope, of leef or fibres of the date-tree, which belonged to it, was found at the same time. But it is uncertain whether they introduced the pulley into the rigging of their boats.
Many of the sails were painted with rich colours, or embroidered with fanciful devices, representing the emblem of the soul of the king, flowers, and various patterns; some were adorned with cheques, and others were merely striped, like those of the present day. This kind of cloth, of embroidered linen, appears to have been made in Egypt expressly for sails, and was bought by the Tyrians for that purpose; but its use was confined to the pleasure-boats of the grandees, or of the king himself, ordinary sails being white; and the ship in which Antony and Cleopatra went to the battle of Actium was distinguished from the rest of the fleet by its purple sails, which were the peculiar privilege of the admiral's vessel. The sail of the large ship of Ptolemy Philopater, mentioned by Atticus, was, in like manner, of fine linen, ornamented with a purple border. Nor was this custom of late introduction; and the most highly decorated sails are those represented in the tomb of the third Remeses, at Thebes.*
The devices, painted or embroidered upon them, depended on fancy, and the same monarch had ships with sails of different patterns; but the boats used in sacred festivals upon the Nile were probably decorated with appropriate symbols, according to the nature of the ceremony, or the deity in whose service they were engaged. The edges of the sails were furnished with a strong hem or border, also neatly coloured, serving to strengthen it, and prevent an injury, and a light rope was generally sewed round it for the same purpose.
Some of the Egyptian vessels were of very great size. Diodorus mentions one of cedar wood, dedicated by Sesostris to the god of Thebes, 280 cubits, or 420 feet, long; another built in much later times by Caligula in Egypt, to transport one of the obelisks to Rome, carried 120,000 pecks of lentils as ballast; and Ptolemy Philopater built one of forty banks of oars, which was 280 cubits (about 420 feet) long, and 48 (about 72 feet) in "See woodcut at the end of this chapter."