At the word "labyrinth" everyone remembers the Minotaur's Labyrinth or at least the Solovetsky labyrinths. So what is this Egyptian labyrinth?
Many travelers and simply lovers of antiquity associate Egypt with the pyramids, however, the most outstanding construction of the Egyptians was not pyramids, but a huge labyrinth that was built next to Lake Moiris, now known as Lake Birket-Karun, located west of the Nile River - 80 kilometers south of the modern city of Cairo.
The Egyptian labyrinth, described by the ancient historian Herodotus, was built in 2300 BC and was a building surrounded by a high wall, where there were one and a half thousand above ground and the same number of underground rooms. The labyrinth occupied a space with a total area of 70 thousand square meters. This entire colossus was used as a tomb for the pharaohs and crocodiles, which were considered sacred in Egypt. Although there is evidence that the labyrinth was the center from which the kings ruled the country, but mainly for religious purposes. It was a temple complex in which sacrifices were made to the gods of Egypt.
Visitors were not allowed to inspect the labyrinth underground, which contained the tombs of the kings, as well as the tombs of the sacred crocodiles. Above the entrance to the Egyptian labyrinth were inscribed the following words: "madness or death - this is what the weak or the vicious finds here, only the strong and good find life and immortality here." Many frivolous have entered this door and did not leave it. This is an abyss that brings back only the courageous in spirit.
Herodotus wrote: "I saw this labyrinth: it is beyond any description. After all, if you collect all the walls and great structures erected by the Hellenes, then in general it would turn out that they spent less labor and money than this one labyrinth." He added: "The maze is larger than … the pyramids."
The complex system of corridors, courtyards, rooms and colonnades was so intricate that without a guide, an outsider could never find a way or an exit in it. For the most part, the labyrinth was immersed in absolute darkness, and when some of the doors were opened, they made a terrible sound, similar to the rolling of thunder. Before big holidays, mysteries were held in the labyrinth and ritual sacrifices, including human ones, were made. So the ancient Egyptians showed their respect to the god Sebek - a huge crocodile. In ancient manuscripts, information has been preserved that crocodiles actually lived in the labyrinth, reaching 30 meters in length.
The Egyptian "labyrinth" is not a confusion labyrinth, but a funerary temple, which was built by the greatest of the XII dynasty pharaohs Amenemkhet III south of his pyramid near Hawara, not far from El-Fayum. This is an unusually large structure - the dimensions of its base are 305 meters long and 244 meters wide. The Greeks admired this labyrinth more than any other Egyptian building, with the exception of the pyramids. In antiquity, it was called the "labyrinth" and served as a model for the labyrinth in Crete.
Except for a few columns, it is now completely destroyed. Everything we know about him is based on ancient evidence, as well as on the results of excavations carried out by Sir Flinders Petrie, who attempted to reconstruct this structure.
The earliest mention belongs to the Greek historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus (about 484-430 BC), he mentions in his "History" that Egypt is divided into twelve administrative districts, which are ruled by twelve rulers.
Manetho, the Egyptian high priest from Heliopolis, who wrote in Greek, notes in his surviving work from the third century BC.e. and dedicated to the history and religion of the ancient Egyptians (which has come down to us in the form of quotes cited by other authors) that the creator of the labyrinth was the fourth pharaoh of the XII dynasty, Amenemkhet III, whom he calls Lahares, Lampares or Labaris and about whom he writes: “He ruled eight years. In the Arsinoi nome, he built himself a tomb - a labyrinth with many rooms."
The authors of antiquity do not offer any single, consistent definition of this outstanding structure. However, since in Egypt during the time of the pharaohs only sanctuaries and structures dedicated to the cult of the dead (tombs and burial temples) were built from stone, then all their other buildings, including palaces, were built of wood and clay bricks, so the labyrinth could not be a palace, an administrative center or a monument (provided that Herodotus, speaking of “a monument, a monument”, does not mean “a tomb, which is quite possible).
Here is what the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus writes about him in the "Historical Library", who in the period between 60 and 57 BC. e. visited Egypt:
"This Labyrinth is remarkable not so much for its size as for the cunning and skillfulness of its internal structure, which cannot be reproduced."
Manetho, the high priest of Egypt from Heliopolis, notes in his, preserved in fragments, "Egyptiac" that the creator of the labyrinth was the fourth pharaoh of the XII dynasty, Amenemhat III, whom he calls Lampares or Labaris, and about whom he writes: "… (He) ruled for eight years. In the Arsinoi nome, he built himself a tomb - a labyrinth with many rooms."
On the other hand, since the pharaohs of the XII dynasty built pyramids as tombs, the only possible purpose of the "labyrinth" remains the temple.
The answer to the question of how this "labyrinth" got its name also remains unconvincing. Attempts have been made to derive this term from the Egyptian words "al lopa-rohun, laperohunt" or "ro-per-ro-henet", meaning "the entrance to the temple by the lake." But between these words and the word "labyrinth" there is no phonetic correspondence, and nothing similar was found in the Egyptian texts. It has also been suggested that the throne name of Amenemhat III, Lamares, the Hellenized version of which sounds like "Labaris", comes from the name of the temple of Labaris.
The German Jesuit and scientist Athanasius Kircher tried to reconstruct the Egyptian "labyrinth", apparently based on ancient descriptions. In the center of the drawing is a labyrinth, which Kircher may have modeled from Roman mosaics. Around there are images symbolizing twelve nomes - administrative units of Ancient Egypt, described by Herodotus (II. 148).
From other sources: The Egyptian labyrinth was a gigantic quadrangular structure with a base measuring 305 x 244 meters. The Greeks admired the labyrinth more than all other Egyptian buildings, with the exception of the pyramids.
Pliny the Elder (23 / 24-79 AD) in his "Natural History" also gives a description of the labyrinth: "To this day, the one that was created first, as reported, 3600 years ago by the king still exists in Egypt in the Heracleopolis Petesukh or Titoes, although Herodotus says that all this structure was created by 12 kings, the last of whom was Psammetichus. Its purpose is interpreted in different ways: according to Demotel, it was the royal palace of Moteris, according to Lyceus - the tomb of Merida, according to the interpretation of many, it was built as a sanctuary of the Sun, which is most likely”. And then he reports on the extraordinary strength of the Labyrinth and that it was divided between twelve nomes: In the Egyptian (labyrinth), which surprises me personally, the entrance and the columns are made of stone from Paros, the rest is made of blocks of syenite [pink and red granite], which can hardly destroy even centuries, even with the assistance of the Herculeopolitan people, who treated this structure with extraordinary hatred …
It is impossible to describe in detail the location of this structure and each part separately, since it is divided into regions, as well as into prefectures, which are called nomes, … in addition, it has temples of all the gods of Egypt, and, in addition, Nemesis in 40 edicules (closed chapels of funeral temples) concluded many pyramids of forty girths each, occupying six arur (0, 024 hectares) at the base …
And further: It is also said that during the construction of the vaults from hewn stone, the supports were made from the trunks of the back (Egyptian acacia), boiled in oil."
Historians testify that the Egyptian Labyrinth competed with the famous wonders of the world.