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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Un(s)even: Sesostris

by Selkis; a detail

In Tasso's long poem Il Mondo Creato, Ancient Egypt is no longer the "symbolical" place being referred to in the Bible (and Dante), nor the fantastical setting of some episodes in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, but the real thing: Egypt with its Pharaohs, gods, pyramids, hieroglyphs. For example, Tasso mentions Pharaoh Sesostris because of his majestic projects of hydraulic engineering. This rediscovery of Egypt during the Renaissance depended on the rediscovery of ancient Greek literary sources; a direct archaeological knowledge on the spot will come with the Napoleonic campaigns.

P.S. As it has been pointed out by Heinrich C. Kuhn in a different "site," in the Renaissance, artifacts and true Egyptian hieroglyphs could be seen (esp. on obelisks) in Italy. But, of course, the latter were symbolically interpreted without any knowledge of the actual Egyptian language.