1743: publication of the visit of Charles Perry to Antinoupolis

The English traveller Charles Perry visited Antinoupolis in the early 18th century, although I have not been able to see in his book the exact year without reading the whole thing through.  His account was published in 1743 as A view of the Levant: particularly of Constantinople, Syria, Egypt and Greece (London: Woodward & co, 1743; online here; better copy with plates at UCL here).  His account of Insine, or Antinoupolis, is on p.328.  There is a plate also, at the end of the volume (although missing, I notice, in many Google copies), which has two items from Insine, but mostly the pyramid of Giza (which is what the diagram in the middle relates to).  I’ve chopped off the bottom.  Click to enlarge.

Charles Perry
Charles Perry

The choice of images is pretty clearly derived from Lucas;  Perry tells us that the “triumphal arch” had been damaged since Lucas, but his image does not show this.

His dependence on the words of Father Sicard appears at one or two points.  But let’s hear him.  Note that I have slightly modernised the spelling, and capitalisation.

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…we prevail’d on him[the boat captain, who was afraid of bandits], though not without much difficulty, to fall down to Insine, which is about four miles lower, on the east of the river, to visit the ruins and remaining antiquities of that once famous city. Indeed we had made very strict inquiry after it, with design to visit it in our way from Minio to Meloue, being inform’d it was not above three leagues below the latter; but notwithstanding we carry’d a pilot with us extraordinary, who had once been as far as the third cataract, and had many times been as far as Asoan with his own bark, and pretended to know every creek and corner of the Nile so far, yet he could give us no manner of intelligence where Insine was. But here lay the mistake, or the cause of our difficulty – though Insine was the ancient name of the city, and is the name given it by all writers, as well modern as ancient, yet the people of the Country call it Sheik Abadie from a Turkish saint that lies buried there. Whenever we talk’d to the Pilot of Insine, he imagin’d, and consequently would persuade us we meant Esne, which is another village about 150 leagues higher, lying on the west of the Nile, 35 leagues below the cataract of Asoan.

The extent of the present ruins of Insine (which we judge to be near four miles in circuit) serve to shew that of the ancient city, as the great Number of porphyry, and other pillars, do to shew its ancient splendor and magnificence.

A certain French Author (a reverend father) says, there are no less than fourteen pillars of red granite yet standing and whole, besides many others broken. But though the travellers of that nation seldom undervalue or under-rate the marvels they see and recite, yet this gentleman has been very short in this particular, though he has made amends for it in others; for we told so many pillars, that the account grew too perplex’d and heavy for our memory; and, at least, we can aver they far exceed the number by him given. Many of these fine pillars are disposed in lines, in a regular good order, before the Triumphal Arch of Marcus Aurelius, as ’tis called, and have doubtless been parts of some very superb edifice: But there are several others of them, further to the left-hand, which now serve as parts of, or props to miserable Arab houses, or rather huts.

The edifices, or parts of edifices yet extant, are the Triumphal Arch of Marcus Aurelius afore-mentioned, the Porta Ferrea, and the palace called Abulkerun. We compar’d the two former with Lucas’s draughts of them, and found them to agree very exactly, which we shall therefore exhibit for the curious reader to see. Of these the Triumphal Arch is the most considerable, being yet perfect and entire, as represented by Lucas; except only that since the time when he took a draught of it, the front is broken, just under the angle, which discovers, that the stone work, which terminates in a triangle, was sustained by an arch of brick-work.

Of the Triumphal Arch of Marcus Aurelius.

This edifice is seventeen yards in front, and half that sum in flank: its height is about fifty-six feet: the grand arch is five yards and an half wide, and eight yards high: Each of the small arches is two yards broad, and six yards and an half high. Besides those three arches, which pass from side to side, there is another which runs from end to end, and intersects all the other arches at right angles. But this Lucas does not mention in his reading, nor does he give it any appearance in his draught, which might have been done by drawing the face a little obliquely, or sideways. This edifice has in its front four pillars, made of square stones, with beautiful capitals, all which are very well express’d by Lucas. A few paces distant from this portico, on the left side of it, are three noble pillars of porphyry, placed regularly in a line. When we see and consider so many fine pillars, some in front, and others in flank of this portico, which seem to have been appendages to it, we are at a loss to guess what this fabric may formerly have been, and to what use and purpose designed.

For though ’tis commonly called the Triumphal Arch of Marcus Aurelius, yet it may have preceded his era many centuries, and have had another name, use, and design originally. However, we neither do, nor can suppose this city, or any of its remains were coeval with the ancient Egyptians; because throughout all its ruins we discover neither hieroglyphics, nor any of their divinities in relief; which are look’d upon as the only undoubted arguments and testimonies, that things were of their time, because none of their works (whether temples, statues, or grots) are without them.

Of what they call the Porta Ferreat there remains no more, at present, than two large pillars, with beautiful capitals, which are very well taken off by Lucas.

The palace called Abul Kerun, or the Horn’d Building, is now so far gone to ruin, as to admit of no good description. We find lying on the ground, before this palace, two capitals of pillars, whose angles are extravagantly large and prominent; and from thence, as ’tis said, the palace was called the Horn’d Building.

We found the remains of another public edifice, which we could learn no name for: it appears in front much like the Triumphal Arch above-describ’d, having one large arch in the middle, with a small one on each side, but ’tis not above seven feet thick. It had four noble large pillars, with beautiful capitals standing before it, at four yards distance, and as many behind it. These latter are partly standing and entire, but the former are all broken, and lying on the ground. At the distance of about 500 paces from thence, to the north-east, we find one pillar yet standing and entire: Its shaft consists of five stones, each seven feet high. The capital, and lower stone of the shaft, are each adorn’d with a very noble beautiful foliage. The pedestal is composed of several stones, is about four yards high, and has a Greek inscription on it, which is so much effaced by the injuries of time, that we could not make it out. ’Tis evident that there were formerly four of these pillars, disposed in form of a square; for there is the pedestal of another yet standing, with an inscription on it, which agrees, far as we could read it, with the other: there are likewise three capitals, besides many other fragments of the pillars, lying upon the ground. What assures us, that they were disposed in form of a square, is the position of the pedestal, now standing, with regard to the entire column ; for we found them bearing thus, to one another.


The Square c represents the situation of the entire Pillar, and d that of the pedestal, yet standing; so that, without doubt, a and b were the situation of the other two. But what may serve as a further proof of the ancient splendor and magnificence of this city, there are now extant two rows of marble pillars, or at least their bases in the earth; which run in right and parallel lines, at about twelve paces distance from each other, for about a mile; and those were of no other use or design, than to support a range of large balconies, which ran along on each side of the principal street; so that People might walk secure from the inclemencies and injuries of weather, whether of heat or rain. This principal street was cut in its middle, at right angles, by another street of equal form, bigness, and beauty, adorn’d in like manner with large balconies, supported with marble pillars. These two streets (according to ancient history, and what we may conclude from its present ruins) constituted the major part of the city; and the four pillars stood in that part where the streets crossed each other. Besides what we have made particular mention of, we found, as we rang’d over the ruins, a great many other stately pillars, yet on foot and entire. Without the limits of the present ruins, and consequently without those of the ancient city, doubtless, is a place about half a mile long, but not above sixty paces broad, which they now call the Meidan. This doubtless was the Circus, where they celebrated the Sports instituted by the Emperor Adrian, in Honour of his Favourite Antinous, after his Death, (being drowned, as ’tis commonly thought, in the River Nile near that City) for which he was inconsolable. History informs us, that the Emperor Adrian had (to his eternal ignominy) a most extravagant and unnatural passion for that youth; and therefore he omitted nothing that might serve to perpetuate his Memory. He called this City Antinopolis, in honour to him: He dedicated temples to him, in which he established oracles; and caused his deification to be celebrated with great pomp and solemnity. But before we finish our observation on this city, we must observe, that besides the two capital streets above-mentioned, there were several other streets, though of less extent and bigness, which were laid out with the utmost order and exactness, and ran in right and parallel lines: And these likewise had their ranges of balconies before the houses, sustain’d by fine marble pillars, as the others; so that the whole city seemed to be one continued peristylion. The ruins of this city are indeed very great, and far exceed any others that we found in all Upper Egypt, But, O tempora! O Mores! its ancient grandeur, glory, and splendor, are now reduced to a poor miserable village, consisting only of a few huts made of dirt; but their materials, however, are very well proportioned to their height, as they are both emblems of great humility, or rather poverty.

All places of the Turkish Dominions, which we have as yet visited, are very well stock’d with mosques, for their public worship; but no other Part is in any Proportion so full of them as Egypt, and especially Cairo; in which, according to the report of the people, there are no less than 8000, with minarets, besides a great many others: And when one sees what an infinite number of fine pillars, and other precious remains of antiquity are employ’d in them, (which they place without any beauty, order, or symmetry, mixing pillars of different orders, materials, and magnitudes promiscuously) ’tis astonishing to think where they found them. But whoever has seen what Egypt, especially the upper part of it, is, and well considers what it has been, will necessarily conclude, that there must have been an inexhaustible fund of them.

We return’d on board our Vessel that evening, and the next morning set forward under a fair, but gentle gale. In about an hour and half we went ashore again, near a Coptic Convent, call’d Abuhennis, which is situate on the same side of the Nile, about two or three Miles above Insine. ….


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