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Pyramid

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PYRAMID, (from the Greek, Trvpaptc—de•ived from 7vQ, fire) a solid standing on a square, triangular, or polygonal basis, and terminating at top in a point ; or a body whose i base is a regular rectilinear figure, and whose sides are plain triangles ; their several verticals meeting together in one point.

Euclid defines it a solid figure, consisting of several triangles, whose bases are all in the same plane, and have one common vertex.

The pyramid is said to he triangular, quadrangular, quinquongular, &c., according as the base is triangular, quadrangular, &c. The pyramid may be called a square, triangular, &c. cone ; or the cone may be denominated a round pyramid. When very narrow at bottom, i. e. their base very small, they are called obelisks and needles.

Some derive the word from 7rrpog, wheal, and allow, eolligo ; pretending that the first pyramids were built by the patriarch Joseph, for granaries. But Villalpandus and Bryant, with much better reason, derive the word from rvp, fire; because of their ending in a point like flame ; whence the latter writer conceives them to have been originally altars dedicated to the sun.

Wilkins, conversant with the Coptic tongue, suggests another derivation from that language, in which pouro signi fies a king, and mini, a race or generation ; and he says, the pyramids were thus called, because they were erected to preserve the memories of the Egyptian kings and their families ; and that those who descended from them had recourse to these pillars in order to prove their pedigree : but this supposition can have very little weight, when it is recollected that the memory of' the founder of the largest of the Egyptian pyramids was lost long before the days of Ilerodotus. And as to their having been erected for granaries, their internal capacity is so limited, that the nation could have derived no just benefit from them. We therefore prefer the idea of Villalpandus and Bryant as to the deriva tion of the term.

Pyramids are now, sometimes, erected to preserve the memory of singular events, or to transmit to posterity the glory and magnificence of princes ; but, as they are the sym bols of immortality, they are more commonly used as funeral monuments. Such is that of Cestius at Rome, the mausoleum of that distinguished Roman, who was one of the seven officers called Epulones, and is said to have lived under Augustus ; it was repaired in 1673 by Pope Alexander VII.

The pyramids of Egypt, comprehending the great and small, are very numerous ; of these there are about twenty of the largest size. The most remarkable are the three pyramids of Memphis, or, as they are now called, of Gheisa, Geeza, or Gize. The dimensions of the greatest of these have been differently stated both by ancient and modern writers. Herodotus (lib. ii.) makes the base of it to be S00 Grecian feet long ; Diodorus (lib. i.) 700 ; Strabo (lib. xvii.) less than 600; and Pliny (lib. xxvi. c. 12.) SS3 feet. Among the moderns, Sandys found it to be 300 paces ; Bellonius, 324; Greaves, 693 English feet ; Le Bruyn, 704 French feet, or 750 English feet ; Prosper Alpinus, 750 French feet ; Thevenot, 6S2; Niebuhr, 710; Chazelles, 704.S0 English feet. In order to reconcile these differences, Dr Shaw observes that none of the sides of this pyramid are exactly upon a level ; so that it is difficult to find a true horizontal base ; besides, it is impossible to say how much the drifts of sand, to which it is exposed, may have been accumulated above the foundation of it ; and, therefore, all calculations depending upon the time and circumstances of the situation, when they were made, must be exceedingly precarious. The perpendicular altitude of it, according to Grcavcs, is 499 feet ; but its oblique height is equal to the breadth of the base, or 693 feet. The whole area of the base contains 4S0,249 square feet, or I laaO55i English acres. The height, accord ing to Herodotus, is 800 French feet; according to Strabo, 6°5 ; according to Diodorus Siculus, 600 and a fraction; as stated by Le Bruyn, 616; by Prosper Alpinus, 625; by Thevenot, 520 ; by Niebuhr, 440. The ascent to the top of this pyramid is by steps, the lowermost being nearly four feet high and three broad ; the second, of the same dimensions, but retiring inward from the first about three feet ; and in the same manner the third row is placed upon the second, and the rest in the same order, to the top, which terminates in a small flat or square ; and they are so disposed, that a line stretched from the bottom to the top would touch the angle of every step. These steps are called by Ilerodotus little altars, on account of their form ; and their number has been variously assigned : Greaves states them at 207 ; Maillet at 208; Pococke at 212 ; Belon at 250 ; Thevenot at 20S, and Chazelles at 498.222 English feet.

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