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the Unexplained => the Unexplained => Topic started by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:10:30 pm

Title: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:10:30 pm
Mazes and Labyrinths
by W.H. Matthews


Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:11:01 pm


Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:11:46 pm

Fig. 86. Maze at Hatfield House, Herts.
(see page 115)

p. iv p. v

whose innocent prattlings on the
summer sands of Sussex
inspired its conception
this book
is most affectionately

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:12:07 pm
p. vii

ADVANTAGES out of all proportion to the importance of the immediate aim in view are apt to accrue whenever an honest endeavour is made to find an answer to one of those awkward questions which are constantly arising from the natural working of a child's mind. It was an endeavour of this kind which formed the nucleus of the inquiries resulting in the following little essay.

It is true that the effort in this case has not led to complete success in so far as that word denotes the formulation of an exact answer to the original question, which, being one of a number evoked by parental experiments in seaside sand-maze construction, was: "Father, who made mazes first of all?" On the other hand, one hesitates to apply so harsh a term as "failure" when bearing in mind the many delightful excursions, rural as well as literary, which have been involved and the alluring vistas of possible future research that have been opened up from time to time in the course of such excursions.

By no means the least of the adventitious benefits enjoyed by the explorer has been the acquisition of a keener sense of appreciation of the labours of the archaeologist, the anthropologist, and other, more special, types of investigator, any one of whom would naturally be far better qualified to discuss the theme under consideration--at any rate from the standpoint of his particular branch of learning--than the present author can hope to be.

The special thanks of the writer are due to Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie for permission to make use of his diagram of the conjectural restoration of the

p. viii

[paragraph continues] Labyrinth of Egypt, Fig. 4, and the view of the shrine of Amenemhat III, Fig. 2, also for facilities to sketch the Egyptian plaque in his collection which is shown in Fig. 19 and for drawing the writer's attention thereto; to Sir Arthur Evans for the use of his illustrations of double axes and of the Tomb of the Double Axe which appear as Figs. 9, 10, 11 and 12 respectively (Fig. 8 is also based on one of his drawings); to M. Picard (of the Librairie A. Picard) for leave to reproduce the drawing of the Susa mosaic, Fig. 37; to Mr. J. H. Craw, F.S.A. (Scot.), Secretary of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club, for the use of the illustrations of sculptured rocks, Figs. 128 and 129; to the Rev. E. A. Irons for the photograph of the Wing maze, Fig. 60, and to the Rev. G. Yorke for the figure of the Alkborough "Julian's Bower," Fig. 59.

The many kind-hearted persons who have earned the gratitude of the writer by acceding to his requests for local information, or by bringing useful references to his notice, will perhaps take no offence if he thanks them collectively, though very heartily, in this place. In most cases where they are not mentioned individually in the text they will be found quoted as authorities in the bibliographical appendix. The present is, however, the most fitting place in which to express a cordial acknowledgment of the assistance rendered by the writer's friend, Mr. G. F. Green, whose skill and experience in the photographic art has been of very great value.

Grateful recognition must also be made of the help and courtesy extended to the writer by the officials of several libraries, museums, and other institutions, notably the British Museum, the Society of Antiquaries, Sion College, and the Royal Horticultural Society.

W. H. M.

Ruislip, Middlesex.



Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:12:30 pm
p. ix



The Lure of the Labyrinth--Difficulties of Definition--The Subject and Object of this Book--The Lore of the Labyrinth--Some Neglected British Monuments--Destructive Dogmatism: a Plea for Caution


(i) Accounts of the Ancient Writers

Enormous Edifices of Egypt--Herodotus: his Account of the Labyrinth, its Vastness and Complexity, and its Lake--Strabo's Description--The Sacred Crocodiles--Accounts of Diodorus, Pomponius Mela, and Pliny


(ii) Accounts of Later Explorers

Decay of the Labyrinth--Travels of Lucas and Pococke--French and Prussian Expeditions--Researches of Flinders Petrie--Speculations regarding Original Plan--Purpose and Date of Construction
p. x



(i) The Story of Theseus and the Minotaur

Plutarch's Life of Theseus; the Cretan Exploit--The Athenian Tribute--The Labyrinth of Daedalus--The Clue of Ariadne--The Fight with the Minotaur--The Crane Dance--Tragedies of the Hero's Return--Other Accounts of the Legend--Speculations concerning Minos and Daedalus


(ii) The Caverns of Gortyna--Statements by Later Classic Writers--Tournefort's Voyage--Visits of Pococke and Savary--Cockerell's Diary--Travels of Capt. Spratt--Connection of Gortyna Caverns with Traditional Labyrinth very improbable.


(iii) Knossos

Explorations of Sir Arthur Evans--Momentous Discoveries--Unearthing of the Palaces--Their Antiquity--Description of the Great Palace--The Maze on the Wall--The Hall of the Double Axes--The Cult of the Bull--Schliemann's Researches--The Sport of Bull-Leaping--Possible Identity of the Palace with the Labyrinth


Other Labyrinths mentioned by Pliny--Varro's Description of the Etruscan Labyrinth; the tomb of Lars Porsena--Speculations regarding it--Travels of Dennis--Labyrinthine Caverns in Etruria; Volterra and Toscanella--Extended use of the term "Labyrinth" by Strabo and Pliny--Reference to Mazes formed in Fields for Amusement
p. xi



The Meander and other Rudimentary Forms--Seal-impressions--Coins of Knossos--"Unicursal" Nature of the Knossian Design--Graffito of Pompeii--The Casa del Labirinto--Roman Mosaic Pavements--The Tholos of Epidaurus--Labyrinthine Structure at Tiryns--Greek Pottery--Etruscan Vase--The Labyrinth on Gems and Robes


Algeria, Orléansville--Italy: Lucca, Pavia, Piacenza, Cremona, Rome and Ravenna--France: Chartres, St. Quentin, Amiens, Rheims, Bayeux, Sens, Auxerre, Arras, St. Omer, Poitiers, Chalons, Pont l’Abbé, Caen and Aix--Modern examples: Lille, Ely, Bourn and Alkborough--Meaning of Church Labyrinths--Lack of Support for Accepted Theory


Local Names--The Alkborough "Julian's Bower"--Juxtaposition to Ancient Ecclesiastical Site--A Fragment of Folk-lore--De la Pryme's Diary--The Breamore Mizmaze--Romantic Situation--The Wing Maze--The Boughton Green Shepherd's Race--Its Literary References--A Victim of the Great War--Mazes of Ripon and Asenby--The Song of the Fairies--Other Lincolnshire and Yorkshire Mazes--Stukeley on Julian's Bowers--Wide Distribution of British Turf Mazes


The Winchester Mizmaze--The Vanished Mazes of Dorset: Leigh, Pimperne, Dorchester and Bere Regis--Aubrey's Notes on Wiltshire and Cotswold Mazes--The Saffron Walden Maze--The Comberton "Mazles"--The p. xii Hilton Maze and its Obelisk--The Cumberland "Walls of Troy": Burgh and Rockcliffe--The Nottingham Mazes: Sneinton and Clifton--The Somerton "Troy-town"--Records of Old Mazes at Guildford, the Malverns, and in Kent--"Julaber's Barrow"


An old Welsh Custom--"Troy" or "Turnings"?--Dr. Trollope on the Ecclesiastical Origin of Turf Mazes--The Welsh Figure--Criticism of the Ecclesiastical View--"Treading the Maze" in Tudor Times--Shakespearean References--Alchemy and the Labyrinth of Solomon--Figure in a Greek Monastery--Heraldic Labyrinths--The Question of the Roman Origin of Turf Mazes


The Dwarf Box--Its use by Tudor and Roman Gardeners--Floral Labyrinths by De Vries--Some Quaint Horticultural Books: Parkinson, Estienne, Hill, and Lawson--Designs of Islip and Commelyn--"Queen Mary's Bower"


Topiary work of the Romans--Pliny's "Hippodromus"--Dubious Mediaeval References--Rosamond's Bower--Early French "Daedales"--Mazes painted by Holbein and Tintoretto--Du Cerceau's Sketches--Elizabethan Mazes: Theobalds and Hatfield--Versailles and other Famous Labyrinths of France--Some German Designs--Belgian, Spanish, Italian and Dutch Mazes--William III and his Gardeners


Hampton Court: the Maze and the Little Maze--Other English Mazes of the Period--Batty Langley and Stephen Switzer--Allegorical Labyrinth of Anhalt--A Wimbledon Maze--The Mazes of Westminster and Southwark
p. xiii



Latter-day Developments

Decline of the Hedge-Maze Vogue--Mazes in "Pleasure Gardens": North London, Smith London--Modern Mazes in Essex, Suffolk, Cheshire, Lincolnshire, and Gloucestershire--Some Modern Continental Mazes--The Case For and Against the Hedge Maze


The Stone Labyrinths of Finland--Their Local Traditions and Nomenclature--Their Antiquity--Aubrey's Acute Observation--Some Maze-like Rock Engravings in England, Ireland, and Brittany--A Curious Discovery in Arizona and a Spanish Manuscript--American Indians and the Cretan Labyrinth--Another Indian Pictograph--Zulu Mazes--Distribution of Labyrinth Cult


"Troy" in Labyrinth Names--An old French Reference--The Vase of Tragliatella--Virgil's Account of the Troy Game--The Delian Crane-Dance--Knossos and Troy--Ariadne's Dance--Spring-Rites--"Sympathetic Magic"--Sword and Morris Dances--Troy-dances in Mediaeval Germany and in Modern Serbia--Preservation of the English Traditions


"Fair Rosamond," Henry, and Eleanor--The Dagger or the Bowl--History of the Legend--Accounts of Brompton and Higden--Delone's Ballad--Rosamond in Verse and Prose--Her Epitaph--A Question of Taste--Late Remains of the Bower--A Modern Play--Rosamond's Alleged Portrait
p. xiv



The Question of Definition again--Bowers and Julian-Bowers--What was a Bower and who was Julian?--The Labyrinth and the Double Axe--Chaucer and the Maze--Metaphorical Labyrinths--The Labyrinth in Scientific Nomenclature--The Meanings of "Maze"--Troy-towns and the New Troy


The Need of a Definition--Practical Limitations--Classification of Mazes and Labyrinths--Unicursal and Multicursal, Compact and Diffuse Types--Modes of Branching--Straight-line Diagrams--Speculations on the Knossian Figure--Hints on Maze Design--Principles of Maze Solution--A Word on Mnemonics--Harris at Hampton Court


Romance, Mystery, and Allegory--Labyrinthine Book Titles--Some Literary Monstrosities--Spiritual and Theological Labyrinths--Love, Labyrinths, and Anonymity--The Labyrinth in Modern Book Titles--Emblems--Melancholy Meditations in the Maze


A Maze Collector--The Labyrinth in Queer Places--The Maze on Paper and on the Sands--Mirror Mazes--A Temporary Hedge Maze--Maze Toys--A Verbal Labyrinth--The Maze in Place-names--A Plea for the Preservation of some Ancient Monuments



Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:12:47 pm

1. EGYPTIAN LABYRINTH. Portion of Ruins, circ. 1700. (P. Lucas)
 facing page12
2. EGYPTIAN LABYRINTH. Shrine of Amenemhat III. (Flinders Petrie)
 f.p 13
3. EGYPTIAN LABYRINTH. Restored Plan. (Canina)
4. EGYPTIAN LABYRINTH. Restored Plan. (Flinders Petrie)
5. CRETAN LABYRINTH. (Florentine Picture Chronicle)
 f.p 18
6. CRETAN LABYRINTH. (Italian Engraving: School of Finiguerra)
 f.p 28
8. KNOSSOS. Maze-pattern on Wall of Palace. (After Evans)
 f.p 32
10. TOMB OF DOUBLE AXES. Plan. (Evans)
11. TOMB OF DOUBLE AXES. View of the Cist. (Evans)
 f.p 33
 f.p 41
13. TOMB OF LARS PORSENA AT CLUSIUM. Restoration. (Q. de Quincy)
 f.p 38
14. POGGIO CAJELLA. Labyrinthine Cemetery. (Dennis)
 f.p 40
15, 16, 17, 18. EARLY EGYPTIAN SEALS AND PLAQUES. (British Museum)
 f.p 41
19. EARLY EGYPTIAN PLAQUE OR AMULET. (Prof. Flinders Petrie's Collection, Univ. Coll., London).
20 to 25. COINS OF KNOSSOS. (British Museum)
 f.p 44
26 to 31.
 f.p 45
32. GRAFFITO AT POMPEII. (Mus. Borb. XIV. 1852)
 f.p 48
 f.p 48
37. MOSAIC AT SUSA, TUNIS. (C. R. Acad. Inscriptions, Paris, 1892)
 f.p 52
p. xvi
39. ANOTHER THESEUS KYLIX. (British Museum)
 f.p 52
41. BRONZE PLAQUETTE. Italian XVIth Century. (British Museum).
 f.p 60
 f.p 56
 f.p 56
 f.p 60
 f.p 61
 f.p 61
56. LABYRINTHS ON TILES. Toussaints Abbey, Chalons. (Amé)
 f.p 74
59. "JULIAN'S BOWER," ALKBOROUGH, LINCS. (Litho., Rev. G. Yorke)
60. TURF LABYRINTH AT WING, RUTLAND. (Photo, W. J. Stocks; by permission of Rev. E. A. Irons)
 f.p 74
 f.p 84
 f.p 84
69. "TROY-TOWN," SOMERTON, OXON. (From sketch by O. W. Godwin)
70. "CAERDROIA." (After P. Roberts)
p. xvii
 f.p 100
73.     "           "             "       
74.     "           "             "       
 f.p 101
75, 76. HERBAL LABYRINTHS. (T. Hill)
82. MAZE AT CHARLEVAL. (After Du Cerceau)
83, 84. MAZES AT GAILLON. (After Du Cerceau)
85. MAZE AT THEOBALDS, HERTS. (After Trollope)
86. MAZE AT HATFIELD, HERTS. (Photo, G. F. Green)
 f.p 118
89. LABYRINTH OF VERSAILLES. Fable Group: "Hare and Tortoise"
90. LABYRINTH OF VERSAILLES. Fable Group: "Fox and Crow"
91. LABYRINTH OF VERSAILLES. Fable Group: "Snake and Porcupine"
 f.p 120
 f.p 120
95, 96. MAZE DESIGNS BY ANDRÉ MOLLET. ("Le Jardin de Plaisir," 1651)
 f.p 121
97 to 106. MAZE DESIGNS BY G. A. BOECKLER. ("Architectura Curiosa Nova," 1664)
107. MAZE AT GUNTERSTEIN, HOLLAND. (Nicholas Visscher)
 f.p 126
 f.p 126
 f.p 127
110. MAZE AT HAMPTON COURT. (Photo, G. F. Green)
 f.p 128
111. MAZE AT HAMPTON COURT. Plan. (W. H. M.)
112. HAMPTON COURT. Mazes and "Plan-de-Troy" in XVIIIth Century. (Engraving, J. Rocque, 1736)
113. HAMPTON COURT. "The Little Maze." (Photo, G. F. Green)
 f.p 128
114. LABYRINTH DESIGN BY L. LIGER. (From London and Wise)
115. MAZE DESIGN BY BATTY LANGLEY. ("New Principles of Gardening," 1728)
 f.p 131
116. MAZE DESIGN BY BATTY LANGLEY. ("New Principles of Gardening," 1728)
 f.p 130
 f.p 132
 f.p 133
p. xviii
119. MAZE DESIGN BY STEPHEN SWITZER. ("Ichnographia Rustica," 1742)
120. MAZE IN R.H.S. GARDENS, STH. KENSINGTON. (After Nesfield)
 f.p 140
 f.p 140
123. MAZE AT SOMERLEYTON HALL, SUFFOLK. (W. H. M., from sketch by G. F. Green)
 f.p 151
 f.p 151
 f.p 152
134, 135. ETRUSCAN WINE-VASE FROM TRAGLIATELLA. "Troy Dance" Details. (After Deecke)
136. STRAIGHT-LINE DIAGRAM. Hampton Court Maze
140. ALLEGORICAL LABYRINTH. (Old German Print)
 f.p 194
141, 142. SEA-SIDE SAND MAZES. (W. H. M.)
 f.p 202
144. MAZE TOY BY A. BRENTANO. (After Patent Specification)
145. MAZE TOY BY S. D. Nix. (After Patent Specification)
147. MAZE TOY BY J. PROCTOR. (After Patent Specification)
148. MAZE TOY BY H. BRIDGE. (After Patent Specification)
149, 150, 151. PATH OF RAT IN LABYRINTH. Three Stages. (After Szymanski)



Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:13:04 pm
p. 1

A DELIGHTFUL air of romance and mystery surrounds the whole subject of Labyrinths and Mazes.

The hedge-maze, which is the only type with which most of us have a first-hand acquaintance, is generally felt to be a survival of a romantic age, even though we esteem its function as nothing higher than that of a playground for children. Many a tender intrigue has been woven around its dark yew alleys. Mr. Compton Mackenzie, for example, introduces it most effectively as a lovers' rendezvous in "The Passionate Elopement," and no doubt the readers of romantic literature will recall other instances of a like nature. The story of fair Rosamond's Bower is one which will leap to the mind in this connection.

This type of maze alone is worth more than a passing thought, but it is far from being the only, or even the most interesting, development of the labyrinth idea.

What is the difference, it may be asked, between a maze and a labyrinth? The answer is, little or none. Some writers seem to prefer to apply the word "maze" to hedge-mazes only, using the word "labyrinth" to denote

p. 2

the structures described by the writers of antiquity, or as a general term for any confusing arrangement of paths. Others, again, show a tendency to restrict the application of the term "maze" to cases in which the idea of a puzzle is involved.

It would certainly seem somewhat inappropriate to talk of "the Cretan Maze" or "the Hampton Court Labyrinth," but, generally speaking, we may use the words interchangeably, regarding "maze" as merely the northern equivalent of the classic "labyrinth." Both words have come to signify a complex path of some kind, but when we press for a closer definition we encounter difficulties. We cannot, for instance, say that it is "a tortuous branched path designed to baffle or deceive those who attempt to find the goal to which it leads," for, though that description holds good in some cases, it ignores the many cases in which there is only one path, without branches, and therefore no intent to baffle or mislead, and others again in which there is no definite "goal." We cannot say that it is a winding path "bounded by walls or hedges," for in many instances there are neither walls nor hedges. One of the most famous labyrinths, for example, consisted chiefly of a vast and complicated series of rooms and columns. In fact, we shall find it convenient to leave the question of the definition of the words, and also that of their origin, until we have examined the various examples that exist or are known to have existed.

It may be necessary, here and there, to make reference to various archaeological or antiquarian books and other writings, but the outlook of the general reader, rather than that of the professed student, has been mainly borne in mind.

The object of this book is simply to provide a read-able survey of a subject which, in view of the lure it has exercised throughout many ages and under a variety of forms, has been almost entirely neglected in our literature--the subject of mazes and labyrinths treated from

p. 3

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:13:14 pm
a general and not a purely archæological, horticultural, mathematical, or artistic point of view.

Such references as have been made have therefore been accompanied in most cases by some explanatory or descriptive phrase, a provision which might be considered unnecessary or out of place in a book written for the trained student.

For the benefit of such as may wish to verify, or to investigate more fully, any of the matters dealt with, a classified list of references has been compiled and will be found at the end of the book.

The first summary of any importance to be published in this country on the subject was a paper by the Venerable Edward Trollope, F.S.A., Archdeacon of Stow, which appeared in the Archaeological Journal and in the "Proceedings" of a provincial archaeological society in 1858. Nearly all subsequent writers on the subject--in this country at any rate--have drawn largely upon the paper in question and have made little advance upon it.

The "Encyclopaedia Britannica" contains an illustrated article, written originally by a botanist and chiefly concerned with hedge-mazes. Such books as Rouse Ball's "Mathematical Recreations," Andrews' "Ecclesiastical Curiosities," and Dudeney's "Amusements in Mathematics" devote each a chapter or so to the matter, and from time to time there have been brief displays of interest in some aspect or other of the topic in popular periodicals, the most notable being a pair of richly illustrated articles in Country Life in 1903. A condensed and scholarly review of the subject, in so far as it is relevant to his main thesis, is contained in the first volume of Mr. A. B. Cook's ponderous work on "Zeus" (1914). A similar remark applies to the recently published (1921) Volume I of Sir Arthur Evans's magnificent summary of his Cretan researches, "The Palace of Minos at Knossos." There is a characteristically Ruskinian discourse on Labyrinths in "Fors Clavigera"

p. 4

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:13:24 pm
 (Fors No. 23); and an interesting, if not convincing, section of Mr. E. O. Gordon's "Prehistoric London" adduces a certain amount of labyrinth lore in support of the Trojan origin of the metropolis. So far as the writer has been able to ascertain, no book dealing solely with the subject has hitherto appeared in our language.

In 1915-16 there appeared posthumously in the Revue Archéologique a very remarkable series of articles on "Les Fallacieux Détours du Labyrinthe" by a brilliant young French archaeologist, M. Robert de Launay, who was killed on the field of honour at Neuville-St.-Vaast in May 1915. The articles are characterised by great boldness and enthusiasm and show a wide range of knowledge, but it is probable that, if the author had lived, mature consideration would have led him to modify some of his conclusions. This is the most recent work of importance on the subject, though the new work by Sir A. Evans mentioned above contains much interesting and valuable information on certain aspects.

In the following chapters an attempt is made to set forth, as readably as may be, an account of the various devices in which the labyrinth-idea has been embodied, to indicate where examples may be found, to give some notion of the speculations which have been made regarding their origins, and to consider the possibilities of the idea from the point of view of amusement and recreation.

The earliest labyrinths of which mention is made by the classic writers are those of Egypt and Crete, and we shall find it convenient to consider these first of all. We will then notice the other labyrinths alluded to by the writers of antiquity, and pass on to a consideration of labyrinthine designs introduced by way of ornament or symbolism in various objects of later classic art. We shall see that the labyrinth-idea was adopted and developed by the Christian Church in the Middle Ages, and will note its progress as a medium of horticultural embellishment. It will be interesting to examine the mathematical principles,

p. 5

such as they are, which underlie the construction or solution of mazes, also to see in what a number of ways these principles may be applied.

We shall find that our inquiry will bring us into contact with a greater variety of subjects than one would at first be inclined to imagine, and that labyrinths and mazes need not by any means be considered as exclusively a concern of archaeologists and children.

Incidentally we may help to rescue from threatened oblivion a certain class of native antiquities, small and diminishing in number, but surely worth sufficient attention to ensure their preservation, namely, the turf-labyrinths.

As to the actual origin and primary purpose of these devices we cannot be dogmatic on the evidence before us, and herein, perhaps, lies a good deal of their charm. When we can classify and date with precision any object which is not of a utilitarian nature we relegate it at once to our mental museum, and a museum is only too apt to become an oubliette. But when there is a considerable margin for speculation, or, as we usually say, a certain amount of "mystery" in the case, we are more likely to find pleasure in rehandling it, looking at it from different points of view and wondering about it. Let us grant, by all means, that there are quite sufficient unsolved riddles in nature and life without raising up artificial mysteries. Let us even admit that when evidence is available (which, by the way, is not the same thing as existent) it is better to settle a question straight away than to leave it open to further argument. At the same time, let us not be too hasty in accepting speculations, however shrewd, as proved facts. Antiquarian books should naturally be as free as possible from actual misstatements, but they have lost all their charm when they become collections of bald dogmatic statements or mere descriptive catalogues.


Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:13:39 pm
p. 6

(i) Accounts of the Ancient Writers

THE earliest structure of any kind to which we find the word labyrinth applied was a huge building situated in the North of Egypt, a land always noted for its stupendous monuments, and was probably constructed more than 2000 years before the commencement of the Christian era.

We live in an age when the use of constructional steel enables the dreams of the architect to materialise in many ways that would astonish the builders of old; nevertheless, the modern citizen, whatever his nationality, can rarely resist a feeling akin to awe when making his first acquaintance with such works as the Pyramids of Egypt. One can imagine, then, what a profound effect these massive edifices must have exerted on the minds of travellers in earlier ages.

We find, as we might expect, many wild exaggerations in individual descriptions and corresponding discrepancies between the various accounts of any particular monument, and this is to some extent the case with regard to the Egyptian Labyrinth.

A fairly detailed and circumstantial account has come down to us from the Greek writer Herodotus.

Herodotus, who is rightly spoken of as the Father of History, was born about 484 B.C. and lived about sixty

p. 7

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:13:48 pm
years, of which he spent a considerable number in travelling about over most of the then known world. Those who are fortunate enough to be able to read his works in their original tongue are charmed by their freshness, simplicity, and harmonious rhythm, but those who look to him for accurate information on any but contemporary events or matters with which he was personally acquainted are apt to find a rather too credulous acceptance of the wonderful. No doubt the poetical instinct in Herodotus was stronger than the critical spirit of the true historian, but, so far as the records of his personal observations are concerned, there seems to be no reason to accuse him of gross exaggeration.

The Labyrinth of Egypt he himself visited, as he tells us in his second book, and seems to have been consider-ably impressed by it. After describing how the Egyptians divided the land into twelve parts, or nomes, and set a king over each, he says that they agreed to combine together to leave a memorial of themselves. They then constructed the Labyrinth, just above Lake Moeris, and nearly opposite the city of crocodiles (Crocodilopolis). "I found it," he says, "greater than words could tell, for, although the temple at Ephesus and that at Samos are celebrated works, yet all of the works and buildings of the Greeks put together would certainly be inferior to this labyrinth as regards labour and expense." Even the pyramids, he tells us, were surpassed by the Labyrinth. "It has twelve covered courts, with opposite doors, six courts on the North side and six on the South, all communicating with one another and with one wall surrounding them all. There are two sorts of rooms, one sort above, the other sort below ground, fifteen hundred of each sort, or three thousand in all." He says that he was allowed to pass through the upper rooms only, the lower range being strictly guarded from visitors, as they contained the tombs of the kings who had built the Labyrinth, also the tombs of the sacred crocodiles.

p. 8

The upper rooms he describes as being of super-human size, and the system of passages through the courts, rooms, and colonnades very intricate and bewildering. The roof of the whole affair, he says, is of stone and the walls are covered with carvings. Each of the courts is surrounded by columns of white stone, perfectly joined. Outside the Labyrinth, and at one corner of it, is a pyramid about 240 feet in height, with huge figures carved upon it and approached by an underground passage.

Herodotus expresses even greater admiration, however, for the lake beside the Labyrinth, which he describes as being of vast size and artificially constructed, having two pyramids arising from its bed, each supporting a colossal seated statue. The water for the lake, he says, is brought from the Nile by a canal.

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:14:03 pm
The Labyrinth and the lake are also described at some length by another great traveller, Strabo, who lived about four centuries after Herodotus. He wrote, amongst other works, a Geography of the World in seventeen volumes, the last of which treats of Egypt and other parts of Africa. Like Herodotus, he speaks of the Labyrinth from personal observation. After referring to the lake and the manner in which it is used as a storage reservoir for the water of the Nile, he proceeds to describe the Labyrinth, "a work equal to the Pyramids." He says it is "a large palace composed of as many palaces as there were formerly nomes. There are an equal number of courts, surrounded by columns and adjoining one another, all in a row and constituting one building, like a long wall with the courts in front of it. The entrances to the courts are opposite the wall; in front of these entrances are many long covered alleys with winding intercommunicating passages, so that a stranger could not find his way in or out unless with a guide. Each of these structures is roofed with a single slab of stone, as are also the covered alleys, no timber or any other material being used." If one

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ascends to the roof, he says, one looks over "a field of stone." The courts were in a line, supported by a row of twenty-seven monolithic columns, the walls also being constructed of stones of as great a size.

"At the end of the building is the royal tomb, consisting of a square pyramid and containing the body of Imandes."

Strabo says that it was the custom of the twelve nomes of Egypt to assemble, with their priests and priestesses, each nome in its own court, for the purpose of sacrificing to the gods and administering justice in important matters.

He mentions that the inhabitants of the particular nome in the vicinity worshipped the crocodile which was kept in the lake and answered to the name of Suchus (Sebek). This animal was apparently quite tame and used to be presented by visitors with offerings of bread, flesh, wine, honey, and milk.

In certain parts of his works Strabo speaks rather disrespectfully of Herodotus as a writer, classing him as a marvel-monger, but it will be seen that in several important respects these two accounts of the Egyptian Labyrinth are in fair agreement.

Another writer of about the same period as Strabo, known as Diodorus the Sicilian, wrote a long, rambling compilation which he called a "Historical Library" and in which he describes the Egyptian Labyrinth and Lake Moeris. He says the latter was constructed by King Moeris, who left a place in the middle where he built himself a sepulchre and two pyramids--one for himself and one for his queen--surmounted by colossal seated statues. Diodorus says that the king gave the money resulting from the sale of the fish caught in the lake, amounting to a silver talent a day, to his wife "to buy her pins."

A generation or so later the Roman writer Pomponius Mela gives a short account of this labyrinth, probably at second-hand, and early in the first century of the

p. 10

[paragraph continues] Christian era Pliny, in his "Natural History," has a good deal to say on the subject. He refers to labyrinths generally as "the most stupendous works on which mankind has expended its labours."

Regarding the Egyptian Labyrinth he says, "there exists still, in the nome of Heracleopolites, a labyrinth first built, it is said, three thousand six hundred years ago, by King Petesuchis or Tithoës," but he goes on to quote Herodotus, to the effect that it was built by twelve kings, the last of whom was Psammetichus, and two other writers who give the king's name as Moiris and Moteris respectively, "whilst others, again, assert that it was a building dedicated to the Sun-god, an opinion which is generally accepted."

He also refers to the fact that the roof was of stone, and notes as a surprising point that the parts around the entrance were constructed of Parian marble, whilst the columns of the other parts were of syenite. "This great mass is so solidly built that the lapse of time has been quite unable to destroy it, but it has been badly ravaged by the people of Heracleopolites, who have always detested it. To describe the whole of it in detail would be quite impossible, as it is divided up into regions and prefectures, called nomes, thirty in number, with a great palace to each; in addition it must contain temples of all the gods of Egypt and forty statues of Nemesis in the same number of sacred shrines, as well as numerous pyramids." He describes it further as having "banquet halls reached by steep ascents, flights of ninety steps leading down from the porticoes, porphyritic columns, figures of gods and hideous monsters, and statues of kings. Some of the palaces are so made that the opening of a door makes a terrifying sound as of thunder. Most of the buildings are in total darkness. Outside the labyrinth there is another great heap of buildings, called the 'Pteron,' under which are passages leading to other subterranean palaces."


Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:14:51 pm
(ii) Accounts of Later Explorers

A STRUCTURE which evoked so much wonder and admiration in ancient times can hardly fail to have aroused the curiosity of later generations, but no serious attempts to locate it seem to have been made by Europeans until several centuries later. It was then far too late to observe any of its glories, for it was all but destroyed in Roman times, and a village sprang up on its site, largely constructed from its debris.

The Italian traveller Gemelli-Careri, who visited Egypt in 1693, refers to a subterranean labyrinth which he saw in the neighbourhood of the Pyramids. In the English version of his account we read: ". . . the Arabs conducted us to see a Labyrinth, where the Ancients bury’d Birds. We went down a narrow Passage into a Room out of which we crept on our Bellies through a Hole to certain ways where a man may walk well enough upright. On both sides of these there are Urns, in which the Birds were bury’d; there is now nothing in them but a little dust. These Ways are cut out of a nitrous Stone, and run several miles like a City under ground, which they call a Labyrinth." There is nothing in this description, however, to suggest that these works had any connection with the Labyrinth of the ancients.

In 1700 Paul Lucas, the Antiquary to Louis XIV,

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went on a voyage to Egypt, and, in the book in which he subsequently published the account of his travels, gives us some idea of the state of the remains in his time, but his account is very rambling and unreliable. Fig. 1 is a view which he gives of part of the ruins of the alleged labyrinth.

Lucas states that an old Arab who accompanied his party professed to have explored the interior of the ruins many years before, and to have penetrated into its subterranean passages to a large chamber surrounded by several niches, "like little shops," whence endless alleys and other rooms branched off. By the time of Lucas's visit, however, these passages could not be traced, and he concluded that they had become blocked up by debris.

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:15:00 pm
The next explorer to visit the spot seems to have been Dr. Richard Pococke, whose "Description of the East" appeared in 1743. "We observed at a great distance," he says, "the temple of the Labyrinth, and being about a league from it, I observed several heaps as of ruins, covered with sand, and many stones all round as if there had been some great building there: they call it the town of Caroon (Bellet Caroon). It seemed to have been of a considerable breadth from east to west, and the buildings extended on each side towards the north to the Lake Moeris and the temple. This without doubt is the spot of the famous Labyrinth which Herodotus says was built by the twelve kings of Egypt." He describes what he takes to be the pyramid of the Labyrinth as a building about 165 feet long by 80 broad, very much ruined, and says it is called the "Castle of Caroon."

The neighbourhood was also explored by the archaeologists who accompanied that remarkable expedition sent out by Napoleon at the end of the eighteenth century, and one of them, Jomard, believed that he had discovered the ruins of the Labyrinth.

In 1843 a Prussian expedition, under K. R. Lepsius, carried out considerable excavations in the locality and

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:15:22 pm

Fig. 1. Egyptian Labyrinth. Portion of Ruins, circ. 1700. (Paul Lucas)

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Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:15:46 pm

Fig. 2. Egyptian Labyrinth. Shrine of Amenemhat III. (Flinders Petrie)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:15:56 pm
claimed to have established the actual site of the Labyrinth, attaching great importance to a series of brick chambers which they unearthed. The data furnished by this party, however, were not altogether of a convincing character, and it was felt that further evidence was required before their conclusions could be accepted.

G. M. Ebers, a pupil of Lepsius, and one who did much to popularise the study of Egyptology by a series of novels, said that, if one climbed the pyramid hard by, one could see that the ruins of the Labyrinth had a horseshoe shape, but that was all.

The actual site of the Egyptian Labyrinth was finally identified by Professor Flinders Petrie in 1888. He found that the brick chambers which Lepsius took to be part of the Labyrinth were only remains of the Roman town built by its destroyers, the Labyrinth itself being so thoroughly demolished that only a great bed of fragments remained. Even from this dreary waste of stone chips, however, a few items of interest were discovered, including scattered bits of foundations, a great well, two door-jambs--one to the north and one to the south--two granite shrines and part of another, several fragments of statues and a large granite seated figure of the king who is now generally recognised to have been the builder of the Labyrinth, namely Amenemhat (or Amenemhe) III of the XIIth Dynasty (also known as Lampares), who reigned about twenty-three centuries B.C. Fig. 2, which, like the diagram shown in Fig. 4., is reproduced by the kind permission of Professor Petrie from his book "The Labyrinth, Gerzeh and Mazghuneh" (1912), represents one of the shrines dedicated to the founder. Sufficient of the original foundations remained to enable the size and orientation of the building to be roughly determined.

The Labyrinth must have covered an area of about moo feet from east to west by Boo feet from north to south, and was situated to the east of Lake Moeris, opposite the ancient town of Arsinoë (Crocodilopolis),

p. 14

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:16:09 pm
and just to the south of the pyramid of Hawara, in the district known nowadays as the Fayűm.

The mummified remains of the builder of the Labyrinth, King Amenemhat III, and of his daughter Sebekneferu, have been discovered in this pyramid, which is symmetrical about the same N.--S. meridian as the Labyrinth.

Professor Petrie reviewed all that the classic writers had reported concerning the Labyrinth, and concluded that, in spite of their differences, each had contributed some item of value. The discrepancies between the descriptions of Herodotus and Strabo he attributes to the probable decay or destruction of the upper storey in the intervening centuries.

Many attempts have been made to visualise the Labyrinth as it existed in the time of Herodotus. Fig. 3 shows, in plan, one such reconstruction, according to the Italian archaeologist Canina. The actual plan of the Labyrinth would appear to have differed from this in many respects, judging by the indications found by Professor Petrie. The latter drew up a tentative restoration based upon the descriptions of Herodotus and Strabo so far as these tallied with the remains discovered by him.

He suggests that the shrines which he found formed part of a series of nine, ranged along the foot of the pyramid, each attached to a columned court, the whole series of courts opening opposite a series of twenty-seven columns arranged down the length of a great hall running east and west; on the other side of this hall would be another series of columned courts, six in number and larger than the others, separated by another long hall from a further series of six (Fig. 4).

In spite of the scantiness of the present remains and the discrepancies between the various reports that have reached us from ancient times, we can at least be reasonably certain that this, the earliest structure to which the term "labyrinth" (λαβύρινθος) is known to have been applied, did actually exist; that it was of the nature of a

p. 15

stupendous architectural monument, that it is of great antiquity--having been built over 4000 years ago at any rate--and that its site is definitely known.

Its original object is still a matter of conjecture. It is quite possible that it was used as a meeting-place for the

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:17:14 pm

FIG. 3.--Egyptian Labyrinth. Restored Plan. (Canina.)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:17:19 pm
nomes, which would have been about twenty-two in number at the time of the XIIth Dynasty, but it is perhaps more probable that it was intended as a sepulchral monument. In any case it is plain, from the fragments of various gods and goddesses found on the site, that it was a centre of worship of a great variety of deities.

From an almost illegible inscription on a great weather-beaten block of granite, deciphered, with great difficulty,

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as a dedication by a King Ptolemy to a Queen Cleopatra, Professor Petrie concluded that as late as the beginning of the second century B.C. the building was still in royal

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 18, 2009, 03:18:07 pm

Restored Plan of Western Half. (Flinders Petrie.)

care, but not very long afterwards it was considerably despoiled. Whatever may have been its original object, it afforded several generations the advantages of a most convenient stone-quarry.


Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 19, 2009, 01:17:21 pm
p. 17

(i) The Story of Theseus and the Minotaur

CHARLES KINGSLEY in "The Heroes" and Nathaniel Hawthorne in "Tanglewood Tales" have familiarised most English-speaking people with the story of the exploits of Theseus, and doubtless most folk have some acquaintance with the first volume of Plutarch's "Lives," but it will not be out of place here to recall the portions of the legend which are associated with our particular theme, the parts, that is to say, which concern the Labyrinth of Crete. In doing so we will follow the version given by Plutarch.

This Greco-Roman historian flourished in the latter half of the first century of our era. His information as to the deeds of Theseus, already for many centuries a staple ingredient in popular legendry, was drawn from the accounts of the early Greek writers Bacchylides (fifth century B.C.), Cleidemus (circ. 420-350 B.C.), Philochorus (circ. 306-260 B.C.), and others.

The Cretan exploit was perhaps the most romantic of the long series of heroic ads attributed to Theseus. Let us briefly recall it.

Aegeus, the father of Theseus, was King of Athens. At that time there reigned at Knossos, in Crete, a monarch called Minos, who held sway over what was then

p. 18

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 19, 2009, 01:17:33 pm
the most powerful maritime state in the Mediterranean. Minos had a son named Androgeos, who, during his travels in Attica, was treacherously set upon and slain, or so his father was informed. In consequence of this Minos imposed a penalty on the Athenians in the form of a tribute to be paid once every nine years, such tribute to consist of seven youths and seven maidens, who were to be shipped to Knossos at the appointed periods.

There was at the court of Minos an exceedingly clever and renowned artificer or engineer, Daedalus by name, to whom all sorts of miraculous inventions are ascribed. This Daedalus had devised an ingenious structure, the "Labyrinth," so contrived that if anybody were placed therein he would find it practically impossible to discover the exit without a guide.

The Labyrinth was designed as a dwelling for, or at any rate was inhabited by, a hideous and cruel being called the Minotaur, a monstrous offspring of Queen Pasiphaë, wife of Minos. The Minotaur is described as being half man and half bull, or a man with a bull's head, a ferocious creature that destroyed any unfortunate human beings who might come within its power. According to report, the youths and maidens of the Athenian tribute were periodically, one by one, thrust into the Labyrinth, where, after futile wanderings in the endeavour to find an exit, they were finally caught and slain by the Minotaur.

When Theseus arrived at the court of Aegeus, having been brought up hitherto by his mother in a distant seclusion, he was distressed to find that his father's joy in the reunion was overcast by a deepening sadness. On inquiring the reason for this, he learned of the vindictive tribute laid upon the kingdom, and that the time for the third payment was approaching.

"Let me make one of the fourteen," said the valiant youth. "I will find a way to slay this Minotaur, and then there will be no further need for the tribute."

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 19, 2009, 01:17:57 pm

Fig. 5. Cretan Labyrinth. (Florentine Picture Chronicle.)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 19, 2009, 01:18:13 pm
After various attempts to dissuade him, Aegeus at length consented, but stipulated that if Theseus were successful in his design the tribute ship should, on its return voyage, hoist a white sail in place of the black one which it customarily bore.

In due course Theseus came to Knossos, where, shortly after his arrival, he attracted the attention of Ariadne, the fair-haired daughter of Minos. Youth and love conspired against age and rancour, and the fair damsel arranged to provide the hero with a clue of thread and a sword before he was cast into the Labyrinth. One end of this thread was to be fastened at the entrance and the rest unrolled as he advanced.

Theseus followed his instructions, met the Minotaur in its lair and, after a terrific combat, overcame and slew it, after which he retraced his steps by means of the thread and made his escape from the Labyrinth.

By some means or other he contrived to liberate the other prisoners and to obtain possession of the tribute ship. Then, with the fair Ariadne on board, they set sail for Athens.

They do not appear to have been too eager to reach their destination, however, for the party found time to celebrate their escape with dance and song on the islands en route. It is said that on the island of Delos they performed a peculiar dance called the Geranos, or "Crane Dance," in which they went through the motions of threading the Labyrinth, and that this dance was perpetuated by the natives of that island until fairly recent times.

Theseus seems to have marred his home-coming by two little displays of thoughtlessness that might be considered reprehensible in anybody but a Greek hero. In the first place, he left fair Ariadne behind on the island of Naxos; secondly, he entirely overlooked his father's request concerning the change of sail, with the result that poor old Aegeus, on the look-out for the returning ship,

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Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 19, 2009, 01:18:28 pm
saw the black sail in the distance, concluded that his son had failed in his encounter with the Minotaur, threw himself into the sea and was drowned. Hence that sea was called the Aegean, and is so called to this day.

In Fig. 5 we reproduce an early Italian drawing in which the various incidents in the story are seen simultaneously. This picture is one of a remarkable series, attributed to Baccio Baldini and known as the Florentine Picture Chronicle. The collection was for many years the property of John Ruskin, but is now jealously treasured by the British Museum. A contemporary engraving, of the school of Finiguerra, seems to be based on this picture (Fig. 6).

There are many versions of the legend, some of them greatly at variance with others. For instance, Philochorus, an eminent writer on the antiquities of Athens, gives in his "Atthis" a very rationalistic account of the affair, stating that the Labyrinth was nothing but a dungeon where Minos imprisoned the Athenian youths until such time as they were given as prizes to the victors in the sports that were held in honour of his murdered son. He held also that the monster was simply a military officer, whose brutal disposition, in conjunction with his name, Tauros, may have given rise to the Minotaur myth.

The Cretan poet Epimenides, who lived in the sixth century B.C., says that Theseus was aided in his escape from the dark Labyrinth by means of the light radiated by a crown of blazing gems and gold which Bacchus gave to Ariadne.

Aristotle, according to Plutarch, stated in a work which has not come down to us his belief that the Athenian youths were not put to death by Minos but were retained as slaves. Plutarch, moreover, deplores the abuse which Greek tradition had heaped upon the name of Minos, pointing out that Homer and Hesiod had referred to him in very honourable terms, and

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Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 19, 2009, 01:18:37 pm
that he was reputed to have laid down the principles of justice.

According to the classic faith, he was born of Zeus, the supreme God of the Greeks, and Europa, daughter of man, both marriage and birth taking place in the Dictaean Cave, not far from Knossos. He received the

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 19, 2009, 01:18:59 pm

FIG. 6.--Cretan Labyrinth. (Italian Engraving; School of Finiguerra.)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 19, 2009, 01:19:12 pm
laws, like another Moses, direct from God, and after administering them during his life on earth continued to do so in the underworld after his death.

The probability is, as Professor Murray has suggested, that Minos was a general name, like "Pharaoh" in Egypt, or "Caesar" in Rome, bestowed upon each of a number of Cretan kings of a certain type. A mark either of the respect in which the name was held or of the colonising power of the monarch or monarchs in

p. 22

question is seen in the application of the name Minoa to several towns and villages scattered along the northern shores of the eastern Mediterranean.

The name Daedalus has likewise been thought by some to have been applied indiscriminately to various artificers and inventors of unusual ingenuity. The principal feats associated with this name are, in addition to the planning of the Labyrinth, the construction of a Choros, or dancing-place, for Ariadne, the modelling of a great hollow cow for Pasiphaë, wife of Minos, in order that she might interview the great white bull for which she had conceived an unnatural affection (the outcome being, in the words of Euripides, "A form commingled, and a monstrous birth, half man, half bull, in twofold shape combined"), and the invention of wings, wherewith Daedalus escaped from the Labyrinth when imprisoned there by Minos for his share in the Pasiphaë episode. Daedalus was also credited with the invention of the auger, the plumb-line and other tools, and of masts and sails for ships.

The Theseus-Minotaur incident has been often celebrated in ancient and mediaeval art, instances of which we shall later have occasion to mention. Modern artists, also, have not disdained the theme; a particularly fine example is the colossal marble group by Canova (1819), now at the Museum of Art History at Vienna, formerly in the Theseus Temple in the Volksgarten.

The question naturally arises: Was there actually such a thing as the Labyrinth, and, if so, where was it and what was its nature?


Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 19, 2009, 01:19:30 pm
p. 23

(ii) The Caverns of Gortyna

ACCORDING to the Romano-Greek writer Apollodorus, 1 whose "Bibliotheke" consisted of a history of the world from the fall of Troy onwards, Daedalus built the Labyrinth at Knossos for King Minos on the lines of the Egyptian Labyrinth, but of only one-hundredth part of the magnitude of the latter. This statement, which was repeated by various other ancient writers such as Pliny and Diodorus, caused many subsequent inquirers to look for evidence in Crete of a building similar to, though smaller than, that described by Herodotus and Strabo.

Nothing corresponding to such a description appeared to exist, but at Gortyna, on the south side of Crete, there was a remarkable series of winding passages, opening on the side of Mount Ida. Some authors of antiquity, such as the Roman poets Catullus and Claudian, held the opinion that this cavern, or one of the many other caves or quarries in Crete, was the real Labyrinth, and this view has been largely entertained in recent times, right up to the beginning of the present century.

The first modern traveller of note to explore the cavern was the French botanist, G. P. de Tournefort,

p. 24

who spent three years, from 1700 to 1702, travelling about Asia Minor and the Levant.

Tournefort's book, as well as being a mine of information on various subjects, makes delightful reading, whether in the original French or in John Ozell's English translation of 1718, from which we quote.

"This famous place," he says, referring to the Labyrinth, which he visited on July 1, 1700, "is a subterranean Passage in manner of a Street, which by a thousand Intricacies and Windings, as it were by mere Chance, and without the least Regularity, pervades the whole Cavity or Inside of a little Hill at the foot of Mount Ida, southwards, three miles from Gortyna. The Entrance into this Labyrinth is by a natural Opening, seven or eight Paces broad, but so low that even a middle-siz’d Man can't pass through without stooping.

"The Flooring of this Entrance is very rugged and unequal; the Ceiling flat and even, terminated by divers Beds of Stone, laid horizontally one upon another.

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 19, 2009, 01:19:44 pm
"The first thing you come at is a kind of Cavern exceeding rustick, and gently sloping: in this there is nothing extraordinary, but as you move forward the place is perfectly surprizing; nothing but Turnings and crooked By-ways. The principal Alley, which is less perplexing than the rest, in length about 1200 Paces, leads to the further end of the Labyrinth, and concludes in two large beautiful Apartments, where Strangers rest themselves with pleasure. Tho’ this Alley divides itself, at its Extremity, into two or three Branches, yet the dangerous part of the Labyrinth is not there, but rather at its Entrance, about some thirty paces from the Cavern on the left hand. If a Man strikes into any other Path, after he has gone a good way, he is so bewildered among a thousand Twistings, Twinings, Sinuosities, Crinkle-Crankles and Turn-again Lanes, that he could scarce ever get out again without the utmost danger of being lost."

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He refers to various inscriptions in charcoal, mostly names of former visitors, and notes various dates ranging from 1444 to 1699. "We too," he says, "wrote the Year of the Lord 1700 in three different places, with a black stone." "After a thorow Examination of the Structure of this Labyrinth we all concurred in Opinion, that it could never have been what Belonius and some other of the Moderns have fancy’d; namely, an antient Quarry, out of which were dug the Stones that built the Towns of Gortyna and Gnossus. Is it likely that they would go for Stone above a thousand paces deep, into a place so full of odd Turnings? . . . Again, how could they draw these Stones through a place so pinch’d in, that we were forc’d to crawl our way out for above a hundred paces together? Besides, the Mountain is so craggy and full of Precipices that we had all the difficulty in the World to ride up it. . . . It is likewise observable, that the Stone of this Labyrinth has neither a good Hue nor a competent Hardness; it is downright dingy, and resembling that of the Mountains near which Gortyna stands.

". . . It is therefore much more probable, that the Labyrinth is a natural Cavity, which in times past some body out of curiosity took a fancy to try what they could make of, by widening most of those Passages that were too much straitened. . . . Doubtless some Shepherds having discovered these subterraneous Conduits, gave occasion to more considerable People to turn it into this marvellous Maze to serve for an Asylum in the Civil Wars or to skreen themselves from the Fury of a Tyrannical Government: at present it is only a Retreat for Bats and the like."

Tournefort stayed for a while with an ignorant priest, "who would have persuaded us in his balderdash Italian that there was an ancient Prophecy wrote on the Walls of the Labyrinth importing that the Czar of Muscovy was very soon to be Master of the Ottoman Empire and deliver the Greeks from the Slavery of the Turks." He

p. 26

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 19, 2009, 01:20:03 pm
adds: "Whatever Scrawlings are made upon the Walls of the Labyrinth by Travellers, these Simpletons swallow down for Prophecies." He mentions also a labyrinth at Candia, but says it must not be confused with the Labyrinth of tradition, "which, from antique Medals, appears to have been in the town of Gnossus."

Dr. Richard Pococke, to whose description of the Egyptian Labyrinth we referred in Chapter III, paid a visit to Gortyna about forty years after Tournefort. He says that the "labyrinth" was shown to him, but that it was evidently nothing more than the quarry out of which the town was built. He points out that the real Labyrinth was at Knossos and that nothing was left of it in Pliny's time.

Another French traveller, C. E. Savary, visited the spot about 1788. He came to the conclusion that this was the Labyrinth of the Minotaur, but regarded it as something distinct from that built by Daedalus at Knossos.

A very interesting account of the Gortyna cavern is that contained in the Journal of C. R. Cockerell, R.A., 1 who travelled in Southern Europe and the Levant during the years 1810 to 1817. He and his party entered the "labyrinth" by an inconspicuous hole in the rock in a steep part of the hill (Mount Ida) and found themselves in an intricately winding passage. They had taken the precaution to bring with them a great length of string wound upon two sticks, and it was fortunate that they did so, for "the windings," says Cockerell, "bewildered us at once, and, my compass being broken, I was quite ignorant as to where I was. The clearly intentional intricacy and apparently endless number of galleries impressed me with a sense of horror and fascination I cannot describe. At every ten steps one was arrested, and had to turn to right or left, sometimes to choose one of

p. 27

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on March 19, 2009, 01:20:18 pm
three or four roads. What if one should lose the clue!" He relates how a poor lunatic had insisted on accompanying them all the way from Candia and following them into the cavern. This man, together with a boy who had a lantern, wandered off and caused the rest of the party--except some Turks, who philosophically remarked that God takes care of madmen--to feel much alarm on their account. They were, however, discovered again an hour later, the boy half dead with fright.

Chambers opened off from the passages, and contained much evidence of former visitors, in the shape of names scratched on the walls, such as "Spinola," "Hawkins, 1794," "Fiott," and many of a Jewish character. All of the passage ends were infested with bats, which rose in thousands when one of the party fired a pistol. Lichens grew here and there, and in one place arose a spring. There were signs of metallic substances in the rock, but not sufficient, thought Cockerell, to warrant the supposition that the place was a mine. The stone was sandy, stratified and easily cut, and the air was dry. The surface of the rock appeared to have been prepared with a chisel.

The passage was 8 or 10 feet wide, and from 4 to 10 feet high; in many places it had fallen in. Cockerell concluded that the excavation was probably made in the days of Minos as a storehouse for corn and valuables. He mentions that he was informed by natives that the cavern extended right through the mountain and was three miles in length; also that a sow once wandered in and emerged some years later with a litter of pigs!

About fifty years after Cockerell's visit, the cavern was explored by Capt. T. A. B. Spratt, R.N., who, in his "Travels and Researches in Crete" (1865), tells us that the Cretans "have long since walled and stopped up its inner and unknown extremes, so as not to be lost in its inner intricacies." He discusses the probable location of the traditional Labyrinth and concludes that probably

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the latter is to be found in some similar cavern in the neighbourhood of Knossos. He mentions that there is, in fact, an excavation in the side of the ridge overlooking Knossos which the natives state to be the entrance to extensive catacombs, but that it is choked up by the falling in of its sides.

He reproduces a sketch by Sieber of the Gortyna Cavern (Fig. 7); this, he says, took the artist three days to make. Capt. Spratt, by the way, points out that the meander pattern, which is so common a feature of Greek ornament, and is associated by some writers with the origin of the labyrinth idea, may very well have been derived from the square-spiral trenches which are commonly constructed by Eastern gardeners for irrigational purposes. (See also Chapter VIII.)

Whatever the original purpose and function of the Gortyna Cavern may have been, it was certainly a "labyrinth" in the extended sense, and no doubt the classic writers themselves would have had no hesitation in admitting the use of that word to describe it, but, as we shall see, discoveries of recent years have considerably diminished its claim to be considered as the original Labyrinth of the Minotaur.


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Fig. 7. Cavern of Gortyna. (Sieber)



23:1 Often erroneously alluded to as "the Athenian Grammarian."

26:1 Edited and published by his son, S. P. Cockerell, in 1903.

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(iii) Knossos

A FEW miles to the north-east of Gortyna, and not far south of the north coast town of Candia, lay, at the base of the hill of Kephala, a few ruined walls indicating the site of the ancient city of Knossos. These walls consisted of large blocks of gypsum and bore curious engraved marks.

For many years Dr. A. J. Evans (now Sir Arthur Evans) had been convinced that excavation of this site would probably bring to light evidence of a system of writing which might be of interest in connection with the origin of the Greek system, but it was not until the year 1900 that he finally obtained a concession enabling him to explore the spot. The resulting discoveries were of such an astonishing nature, and of such absorbing interest, that one is greatly tempted to digress and to mention them in some detail. However, they have been summarised and discussed by many able writers (see Appendix III, ii.), and it must suffice here to refer simply to the main points in which they bear upon the story of the Labyrinth.

After about two months' work, with a staff of from 80 to 150 men, about two acres of the remains of a great prehistoric building, showing strong evidence of having

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been destroyed by fire, were uncovered, and later excavations showed that it was yet more extensive, covering altogether about five acres. Not only this palace, but the multitude of objects found within it, or associated with it, were of surpassing importance in their bearing on the nature of the ancient civilisation of which they demonstrated the existence, and to which Sir A. Evans has given the name "Minoan." Vast quantities of pottery of widely different designs and workmanship, written tablets, wall paintings--often of great beauty--reliefs, and sculptured figures, shrines, seals, jewellery, a royal gaming-board, and even a throne, were discovered as the work went on, and eventually the whole area was excavated down to the virgin rock, remains of an earlier and smaller palace being found beneath the other, and below this again a great thickness of deposits containing many remains of neolithic man.

By means of occasional discoveries of imported Egyptian objects, by comparison of Minoan pottery and paintings with some found in Egyptian tombs, and by various other indications, it was possible to date the upper remains, say from 1580 B.C. onwards, fairly nearly. The dating of the older remains is much more difficult, chiefly because, although they can often be equated with certain periods of Egyptian culture, the chronology of the latter admits of widely different views, but it seems safe to say that the earliest traces of the Minoan civilisation date from quite 3000 years B.C., and possibly many centuries before that.

The earlier palace and town seem to have been built before 2000 B.C. and destroyed a few centuries after that date. The later palace was begun somewhere in the eighteenth or nineteenth century B.C., was elaborated in succeeding centuries, and was sacked and burned, just as it had attained the height of its glory, about I400 B.C.

The discovery of this palace was one of the first-class "finds" of archaeology. Those who based their estimates

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of the architectural capabilities of ancient Crete on their knowledge of the development of the builder's art in classic Greece, a millennium later, were amazed to find that in many respects the product of the older civilisation was superior.

To mention but a few of the most remarkable facts about the palace, it was of several storeys, grouped around a central court and pierced by "light-wells"; it contained several staircases, one of them at least being of a very imposing character and composed of many flights. Moreover, it possessed a quite modern system of drainage, with jointed underground pipes and with inspection manholes to the main drains. Along the west side of the basement ran a long straight gallery flanked by a series of great storage-rooms or magazines. It was near one end of this gallery that Dr. Evans discovered a store of tablets with pictographic inscriptions, in proof of his suspicion that the Phoenician script was not the original parent of European written language.

Not far from this spot was the room containing the throne (or Worshipful Master's Chair, as the masonic Dr. Churchward prefers to call it) which may actually have been occupied by King Minos.

A definite distinction can be recognised between state and domestic apartments and subsidiary offices and workshops.

To the north-west of the palace was a "stepped theatral area" (orchestra), which suggests the "dancing ground" of Ariadne.

From the point of view of our subject, however, the most interesting features were the frequent occurrence of the sign of the double axe, which was obviously an object of great importance in Minoan worship, and the profusion of evidence concerning the cult of the bull. On the fallen plaster of one of the walls of a corridor, too, was a repeated meander pattern, painted in red on a white ground, very suggestive of a sort of maze (Fig. 8).

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The significance of the axe symbol from our point of view lies in its bearing on the derivation of the word "labyrinth," a question that will be referred to in rather more detail in a later chapter.

One room of the palace, a stately hall about 80 ft. in length by 26 ft. in breadth, traversed by a row of square-sectioned pillars, has been named by its discoverer

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FIG. 8.--Knossos. Maze-pattern on Wall of Palace. (After Evans.)

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"the Hall of the Double Axes," from the frequent occurrence of this symbol therein. Not only does the sacred axe occur as a more or less crude engraving on the stone blocks composing certain pillars in the palace, but little models of it were found associated with an altar, and, in the Dictaean cave, some miles distant, several bronze specimens of the axe were discovered in circumstances which show that they were votive offerings. Sometimes the sacred symbol was set up on a socketed pedestal

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Fig. 9. Double Axe and Stepped Steatite Socket from Dictaean Cave. (Psychro)
(From Archæolagia, by kind permission of the Society of Antiquaries, and Sir Arthur Evans)

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Click to enlarge
Fig. 11. Knossos. View of Cist, showing shape of Double Axe.
(From Archæolagia, by kind permission of the Society of Antiquaries and Sir Arthur Evans.)


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 (Fig. 9). Moreover, in more recent excavations a curious "tomb" was found (Figs. 10 and 11) which was double-axe

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FIG. 10--Knossos. Plan of Tomb of Double Axes, showing position in which relics were found.
(From ''Archæolagia,'' by kind permission of the Society of Antiquaries and Sir Arthur Evans.)

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shaped in plan and was evidently the repository of a giant emblem (Fig. 12. See plate, p. 42).

Long before Dr. Evans' excavations in Crete the great

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[paragraph continues] German archaeologist Schliemann, during his researches at Mycenae on the mainland, unearthed from one of the graves an ox-head of gold plate, with a double axe between the upright horns. The double axe was also the sign of the Zeus worshipped at Labraunda in Caria, a country to the north-east of Crete, on the mainland of Asia Minor, where the implement was known as the labrys.

The cult of the bull was also much in evidence in the palace remains. Schliemann, in excavating the site of Tiryns in 1884, came across an extraordinary wall-painting depicting a man holding one horn of a great bull whilst he leaps over its back, the animal meanwhile charging at full speed. Several examples of such scenes have since been discovered, painted upon walls, engraved on gems, or stamped on seal-impressions. Amongst the debris of one of the rooms in the palace at Knossos was found a painting of a scene in which two girls are engaged in dodging the charge of a bull, whilst a boy, who has evidently just left hold of its horns, turns a somersault over its back.

Near the main north entrance to the palace was brought to light a large plaster relief of a bull's head, no doubt originally forming part of the complete beast. This relief was a masterpiece of Minoan art. It was of life-size and beautifully coloured, and particular attention had been given to the modelling and colour of the eye, the fierce stare of which, in conjunction with the open mouth, conveys a fine effect of frenzied excitement.

These are only a few examples, amongst many, which go to demonstrate that the sport of "bull-leaping"--or ταυρωκαθαψια, as it was called by the Greeks--was beloved of the Minoans and was probably practised in the precincts of the palace.

In the light of these discoveries Dr. Evans concludes that the palace of Knossos was the Labyrinth, or House

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of the Labrys, which gave rise to the classic legend, the idea of the Minotaur originating in the practice of training captives to participate in the dangerous sport of bull-leaping. (Tauros = bull, hence Minotaur = Bull of Minos.) We will refer further to the etymology of "labyrinth" in a later chapter. The palace was certainly of sufficient complexity to render it difficult for the uninitiated to find their way about it, but the plan of its remains exhibits no resemblance to a designed labyrinth of the conventional type. There is, however, a suggestion of the latter in the meander pattern painted on one of the walls, to which reference has been made above. The notion as to the Labyrinth having been a prison from which escape was impossible may also have some connection with two deep pits beneath the palace, whose function was possibly that of dungeons for prisoners.

In considering the origin of the legend, we must remember that a period of several centuries elapsed between the destruction of the Knossian buildings and the first written account of the Labyrinth, and must take into account the probability that the people who in later ages became the dominant race in Crete would be likely to make ample use of their imagination in formulating an explanation of the vast and complicated ruins of the burnt city, with their mysterious frescoes and enigmatic symbols.

It may also be borne in mind that the excavations in Crete have by no means reached a final stage, and that, although no architectural remains of a plan conforming to the usual conception of a formal labyrinth are yet forthcoming, there is a possibility that something of the kind may yet turn up, though indeed the chance seems very remote. Even as this book is going to press appears an article in The Times by Sir Arthur Evans announcing yet further enthralling discoveries; he finds abundant signs of a great earthquake, causing ruin over the whole Knossian area, about i 600 B.C., also evidence

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[paragraph continues] --including portable altars and huge ox-skulls--indicating an expiatory sacrifice recalling Homer's words, "in bulls doth the Earthshaker delight"; and finally, on a floor-level about thirty feet down, the opening of an artificial cave with three rough steps leading down to what was apparently the lair of some great beast. "But here, perhaps," says Sir Arthur, "it is better for imagination to draw rein."


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IN addition to the Egyptian and Cretan labyrinths, a few other structures are referred to as being in the same category, but not until a fairly late period.

Pliny (died A.D. 79) mentions one built by Smilis of Aegina, after the Egyptian model, on the island of Lemnos, and says that it was renowned for the beauty of its 150 columns and that remains of it existed in his time. He also mentions one at Samos, said to have been built by Theodorus, and says that "all of these buildings are covered with arched roofs of polished stone." No other details concerning these edifices have come down to us, but Pliny quotes from Varro (116-27 B.C.) a detailed description of a very extraordinary tomb at Clusium (the modern Chiusi), said to be that of the great Etruscan general Lars Porsena. This is the only Etruscan tomb described by the ancient writers, and is mentioned by Pliny solely because it was alleged to contain a subterranean labyrinth. It must have been a most elaborate, not to say extravagant, monument. Even Pliny feels some qualms about accepting responsibility for the description, and therefore makes it clear that he is simply quoting from information received.

"It is but right that I should mention it," he says, "in order to show that the vanity displayed by foreign princes, great though it is, has been surpassed. But in

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view of the exceedingly fabulous nature of the story I shall use the words given by M. Varro himself in his account of it: 'Porsena was buried below the city of Clusium in the place where he had built a square monument of dressed stones. Each side was three hundred feet in length and fifty in height, and beneath the base there was an inextricable labyrinth, into which, if any-body entered without a clue of thread, he could never discover his way out. Above this square building there stand five pyramids, one at each corner and one in the centre, seventy-five feet broad at the base and one hundred and fifty feet high. These pyramids so taper in shape that upon the top of all of them together there is supported a brazen globe, and upon that again a petasus 1 from which bells are suspended by chains. These make a tinkling sound when blown about by the wind, as was done in bygone times at Dodona. Upon this globe there are four more pyramids, each a hundred feet in height, and above them is a platform on which are five more pyramids.' The height of the latter, Varro is ashamed to add, but, according to the Etruscan stories, it was equal to that of the rest of the building. What utter madness is this, to attempt to seek glory at a great cost which can never be of use to anyone; not to mention the drain upon the resources of the country. And all to the end that the artist may receive the greater share of the praise!"

There have been many discussions as to the possibility of a monument of this nature having existed, and various reconstructions have been attempted, notably one (Fig. 13), based on Varro's account, by a celebrated French scholar of a century ago, M. Quatremère de Quincy.

One enthusiast, a certain Father Angelo Cortenovis, even wrote a treatise to prove that the whole contrivance was nothing more nor less than a huge electrical machine!


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Fig. 13. Tomb of Lars Porsena at Clusium.
Conjectural restoration by Quatremère de Quincy after Varro's description.


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Most writers on the subject have been inclined to look upon Varro's description as at best a gross exaggeration, but Professor Müller gave it as his opinion that the labyrinth described did actually exist, and that the upper part, though no doubt highly embellished in the description, was not the mere offspring of fancy. He thought it quite probable that there was a square basement of regular masonry supporting five pyramids as recounted by Varro, but that the latter described the upper part from hearsay. He drew attention to the fact that a tomb somewhat of this nature is still in existence on the Appian Way at Albano, the pyramids being represented in this case by cones. It is commonly called the Tomb of the Horatii and Curiatii.

In the early part of last century a British traveller, G. Dennis, made a study of the antiquities of Etruria and gave particular attention to the remarkable rock-cut labyrinths of which that province furnishes several examples.

He pointed out that the possession of a labyrinth was the distinguishing feature of Porsena's tomb which alone caused Pliny to mention it. The expression "Sub Clusio" used by Pliny, he says, led subsequent writers to infer that the subterranean passages beneath Chiusi were intended, but such an arrangement would be at variance with the general sepulchral practice of the Etruscans, and the tomb of Porsena must be looked for outside the city walls. Dennis then goes on to describe the great cemetery that had recently been discovered in the hill called Poggio Gajella, about three miles to the north-east of Chiusi. His sketch of the principal "storey" of this labyrinthine excavation is shown in Fig. 14.

Here again we may note that the design of the passages, although perhaps puzzling to a stranger, especially with imperfect illumination, in no respect approaches the traditional "labyrinth" pattern. That the conventional form was not unknown to the Etruscans, however,

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is shown by the occurrence of a design of this type on a vase found at Tragliatella which we shall mention later.

It is, of course, possible that the tomb of Porsena was erected on the hill above this labyrinth, but we have not much evidence on the point. If the tomb possessed a labyrinth, no doubt the latter would have been something of this type. Dennis also mentions various other labyrinths of this nature in Etruria--for example, one near Volterra, "a long passage cut in the rock, six feet wide but only three high, so that you must travel on all-fours. From time to time the passage widens into chambers, yet not high enough to permit you to stand upright, or it meets the passages of similar character opening in various directions and extending into the heart of the hill, how far no one can say. In short, this is a perfect labyrinth in which, without a clue, one might very soon be lost."

He also mentions one at San Pietro, Toscanella, "in the cliffs below the Madonna dell’ Olivo, about half a mile from the town. Here a long, sewer-like passage leads into a spacious chamber of irregular form, with two massive columns supporting its ceiling and a rude pilaster on the wall behind. But the peculiarity of the tomb lies in a cuniculus or passage cut in the rock, just large enough for a man to creep through on all-fours, which, entering the wall on one side after a long gyration and sundry branchings, now blocked with earth, opens in the opposite wall of the tomb."

These Etruscan labyrinths were all of a sepulchral character, and one is naturally reminded of the catacombs of Rome, Paris, and Naples, to which, however, the term "labyrinth" is not customarily applied. Strabo uses the word in reference to a catacomb near Nauplia, which he calls the Labyrinth of the Cyclops. In Pliny's time the word would appear to have been used to denote a winding path following a more or less formal design of intricate

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Fig. 14. Poggio Cajella. Labyrinthine Cemetery. (Dennis)

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Fig. 12. Bronze Double Axe from Tomb of the Double Axes.
(From Archæolagia, by kind permission of the Society of Antiquaries and Sir Arthur Evans)

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Figs. 15, 16, 17, 18. Early Egyptian Seals and Plaques. (British Museum)

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pattern, but not necessarily connected with sepulchral purposes.

When speaking of the Labyrinth of Crete he says, "We must not compare this to what we see traced upon our mosaic pavements or to the mazes formed in the fields for the entertainment of children, and thus suppose it to be a narrow path along which we may walk for many miles together, but we must picture to ourselves an edifice with many doors and galleries which mislead the visitor. . . ." This passage shows that the term "labyrinth" had come to have a fairly broad significance. It had long been used in a metaphorical sense, even as we find Plato, over four centuries earlier, employing it to describe an elaborate argument. We also find it applied by extension to other objects, such as traps for fish, to judge by a certain passage in the works of Theocritus.

The only buildings to which the ancient writers applied the term, however, were those to which we have already referred.

Of the two phrases which we have italicised in the above quotation from Pliny, the second is of interest in connection with a matter we shall deal with later on, whilst the former brings us to the subject of our next chapter.


38:1 A sort of low-crowned round hat with a broad brim.


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THERE has been considerable speculation as to how the typical labyrinth form first came into existence. It became stereotyped long before the Christian era and retained its character for many centuries.

The coins of Knossos furnish us with abundant examples of it, and, from the fact that in certain of the earlier specimens the corresponding figure is a simple repeated meander, it has been supposed that the typical labyrinth design arose by elaboration of the meander. The resemblance between this form and the very wide-spread and primitive sign known as the fylfot or swastika has also attracted some attention. It is a somewhat long step, however, from a loose combination of meanders like that shown in, say, Fig. 20, to the compact conventional labyrinth of Fig. 30. The adoption of the former design may possibly have been inspired by the fresco on one of the walls of the Minoan palace, to which we have made reference in Chapter VI (Fig. 8), portions of which may have been visible among the ruins for several generations. There does not appear to be any evidence that the complex meander pattern of the fresco was an allusion on the part of the Minoans to an actual constructional labyrinth; it may quite well have been a purely ornamental conception, without any symbolical significance. Meander designs were used by the Minoans at a

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much earlier date than this, one example, though of simpler charmer, having been found in the older palace, and others, either snake-like or of a squarish nature, on ivory seals unearthed at other Minoan sites (Zakro and Hagia Triada). Similar designs exist on certain Egyptian "button-seals" of an approximately contemporary period--from the VIth Dynasty onwards--and Sir Arthur Evans has expressed the opinion that these will possibly prove to constitute the source of the Labyrinth in Art. Figs. 15, 16, 17, 18 show


FIG. 19.--Early Egyptian Plaque or Amulet.
(Prof. Petrie's Collection, University College, London.)
specimens of early Egyptian seals and plaques of this character in the British Museum. Professor Flinders Petrie very kindly drew the writer's attention to a steatite plaque in his collection at University College, London, which is somewhat similar to one of those mentioned above, but of rather more elaborate design (Fig. 19). The labyrinthine pattern on this is surmounted by a representation, in the peculiar "linear" fashion often adopted by early Egyptian artists, of two seated human figures facing one another, the knees being drawn up. Professor Petrie acquired the plaque at Memphis. He considers that it dates from a period round about 3000 B.C., and points out that if the broken lines be completed there would appear to be five false turns to be avoided before reaching the centre.

In discussing the designs on these seals and plaques, Sir A. Evans alludes to a possible connection with two of the hieroglyphs of the period, which are of the nature of simple square meanders of a kind extensively employed in ancient ornament. One of them (mer) is the sign used for indicating irrigated land. The other (aha)

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is a simplified form of a more elaborate sign representing the plan of a palace court, a figure to which one of the Minoan signs bears a close resemblance.

The Knossian coins shown in Figs. 20 are from the British Museum collection and are reproduced by the courtesy of the Keeper of the Coins and Medals Department, who supplied the writer with plaster casts for the purpose. They date, of course, from times greatly posterior to those of the Minoan civilisation, from times when the culture of Greece had long replaced that of the Mycenaeans, or whatever similar race it was that succeeded the Minoans (see Appendix IV, i.).

Figs. 20, 21, and 22 show silver coins dating from about 500 to 430 B.C. They portray on one side the Minotaur and on the other a symmetrical meander pattern which, it needs very little imagination to see, has reference to the labyrinth in which the monster was alleged to dwell.

Fig. 23 shows a silver coin of a rather later date, representing on its obverse a female head which is thought to be that of Demeter or Persephone, and on the reverse a meander-labyrinth containing a star at its centre.

Fig. 24 shows a similar obverse, but on the reverse we see a bull's head surrounded by a simple meander frame.

Fig. 25, the obverse of which is likewise adorned with a female head, gives on the reverse the design of a square labyrinth of the conventional type that thereafter predominates.

Fig. 26 shows a bronze coin having on one side the head of Apollo and on the other a labyrinth with a star.

The four coins last described date from a period between 430 and 350 B.C. The next (Fig. 27) is rather later in date and shows on its obverse the head of Hera and on the reverse a square labyrinth together with an arrow-head and thunderbolts and the Greek characters ΚΝΩΣΙΩΝ.

The bronze coin of about 220 B.C., shown in Fig. 28,

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Figs. 20 to 25. Coins of Knossos. (British Museum).

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Figs. 26 to 31. Coins of Knossos. (British Museum).

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bears on its obverse the figure of Europa seated on a bull, with two dolphins below, and on the reverse a square labyrinth, the Knossian superscription being again evident.

The remaining three figures represent silver coins of the two succeeding centuries, but not later than 67 B.C.

Fig. 29 exhibits on one side the head of Pallas, and on the reverse a little square labyrinth placed beside an owl standing upon a prostrate amphora.

In Fig. 30 the obverse is occupied by the head of Apollo, the reverse by a labyrinth of circular shape, but conforming to the conventional plan.

The head on the coin shown in Fig. 31 may be intended for that of Minos or Zeus. On the reverse is a square labyrinth.

Labyrinthine designs are also found on certain Lydian, Phrygian, and Ionian coins.

It will be noticed that when once the labyrinth pattern has been definitely conventionalised it remains very constant in principle, whether its general conformation be rectangular or circular. Starting from the exterior, the "path" runs inwards a short distance, turns so as to run parallel with the outer wall until nearly a full circuit has been completed, then doubles back on itself and runs round in the opposite direction, doubles upon itself again, and so on until it finally comes to a stop in a blind end, having traversed all of the space within the outer walls without covering any part twice and without forming any branches or loops.

Obviously there is no "puzzle" about this kind of labyrinth; one has simply to follow the one path, either to penetrate to the inner goal or to escape thence to the exterior.

A labyrinth of precisely this type was discovered traced on the surface of a crimson-painted pillar in the peristyle of the building known as the House of Lucretius, in the excavated portion of Pompeii (Fig. 32). It

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was evidently scratched with a nail or stylus by some idler of 2000 years ago (Pompeii was overwhelmed by Vesuvius in A.D. 79) and is accompanied by the words "LABYRINTHUS. HIC HABITAT MINOTAURUS," possibly in waggish reference to the owner or occupier of the premises.

Another house has, in consequence of its mosaic and pictorial references to the Cretan Labyrinth, received the name of the Casa del Labirinto or House of the Labyrinth. One mosaic discovered therein depicts Theseus

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FIG. 32.--Graffito at Pompeii. (Museo Borbonico.)

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and the Minotaur struggling on the ground, watched by a group of affrighted maidens.

The Romans excelled in the art of designing and executing mosaic pavements, abundant remains of which have been preserved. These were of various kinds. There was the pavimentum sectile, composed of pieces of marble of various sizes, shapes, and colours arranged in uniform sets, so as to form when put together an ornamental pattern; the pavimentum tessellatum, in which the pieces of marble, though variously coloured, were all of the same size and shape, generally small squares; the pavimentum vermiculatum, composed of very small pieces of coloured

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marble of irregular shape so arranged as to portray objects in their natural shapes and colours; and finally the pavimentum scalpturatum, in which the design was engraved or inlaid. Opus alexandrinum is a variant of sectile.

Several Roman pavements embodying labyrinthine devices, and in some cases commemorating the victory of Theseus over the Minotaur, or other exploits of

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FIG. 33.--Mosaic at Salzburg. (Kreuzer.)

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the hero, have come to light from time to time, not only on the continent of Europe but also in England; they are usually executed in opus alexandrinum.

Fig. 33 shows in outline a beautiful specimen, 18 ft. long and 15 ft. broad, discovered at Salzburg, in Austria. It bears the device of a labyrinth, with, at the centre, a representation of Theseus about to give the fatal blow to the Minotaur.

On the left side we see Theseus and Ariadne joining hands over the altar. In the upper panel Theseus appears

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to be putting Ariadne ashore, and to the right we see the disconsolate maiden deserted by her lover, presumably on the Isle of Naxos.

A labyrinth of the type shown also occurs on a Roman mosaic which was unearthed in the churchyard at Caerleon-on-Usk. It was in a poor state of preservation, but sufficient remains to show that the labyrinth, of a design similar to that of the Salzburg specimen, is surrounded by scrolls proceeding from two vases (Fig. 34).

A very fine specimen of this type of labyrinth was discovered in 1904 beneath a ploughed field at Harpham, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Another, of which details are not to hand, is said to have been found in Northamptonshire.

In 1790 a pavement, about eighteen feet by twelve, was unearthed at Aix, near Marseilles. It portrayed the combat between Theseus and the Minotaur, within a framed square, the remainder of the mosaic consisting of a complicated interlaced meander representing the labyrinth.

In Fig. 35 is reproduced from A. de Caumont's "Abécédaire d’Archéologie" a rough sketch of the Roman baths at Verdes (Loir-et-Cher), showing a pavement with a labyrinth mosaic.

A pavement found in 1830 at Cormerod, in the Canton of Friburg, Switzerland, is shown in Fig. 36. A few years afterwards another was brought to light in the neighbouring Canton of Vaud, from beneath the ruins of the ancient town of Orbe.

A splendid mosaic labyrinth of Roman times was found some forty or fifty years ago on a family tomb in the ancient necropolis of Susa, Tunis (Hadrumetum). It was afterwards destroyed by looters, but a careful drawing of it was fortunately made on its first discovery (Fig. 37). The whole mosaic measured about seventeen feet by ten, and contained a very finely executed labyrinth of four paths, like the Harpham and Caerleon examples


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Fig. 34. Mosaic at Caerleon, Mon. (O Morgan, in Proc. Mon. and Caerleon Ant. Ass’n, 1866)

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Fig. 36. Mosaic at Cormerod, Switzerland. (Mitt. Ant: Ges. Zurich, XVI.)


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mentioned above, the central space being occupied by the Minotaur, who is shown in an attitude of defeat.

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Fig. 35.--Roman Baths at Verdes, Loir-et-Cher, showing Labyrinth Mosaic. (From De Caumont's Abécédaire.)

[paragraph continues] Sailing towards the labyrinth was a boat containing figures which presumably represented Theseus and his

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companions. The design was accompanied by the words "HIC INCLUSUS VITAM PERDIT."

Another well-preserved mosaic of this character was

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Click to enlarge
FIG. 37.--Mosaic at Susa, Tunis. (C.R. Acad. Inscriptions, Paris.)

discovered in 1884 at Brindisi, and placed in the municipal museum of that town. It measures 17 ft. by 10 ft. 6 in., and shows within a square labyrinth Theseus in the act of clubbing the Minotaur, who has fallen on his

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knees. Around the labyrinth are various perches with birds thereon, perhaps in allusion to the automatic birds reputed to have been made by Daedalus (cf. Fig. 36).

We shall examine other mosaic and pavement labyrinths when we come to consider the question of the use of this symbol by the Church.

Apart from the designs on Knossian coins, Greek art does not appear to have left us any definite representations of the labyrinths, although with the Romans, who acquired the idea at a later date, it was a favourite motif.

We cannot, however, ignore the suggestion that has been made that certain structures discovered in the ruins of Tiryns and Epidaurus, two cities in that part of ancient Greece known as the Argolid, are architectural labyrinths, used for ritual purposes. The foundations of the tholos, or rotunda, of the sanctuary of Aesculapius at Epidaurus, which was excavated by P. Kabbadias, Director of the Greek Archaeological Society, in the ’eighties, do certainly suggest something of the kind. They consist of concentric circular walls, the three innermost being connected by a radial wall, separated by narrow spaces which intercommunicate by an opening or doorway in each wall, forming in plan a figure somewhat in the style of the "Pigs in Clover" toy mentioned in a later chapter. When the peculiar nature of the upper part of the building is considered, however, it seems very reasonable to suppose that these walls, with their passages, were designed only with a view to the requirements of the superstructure which they had to support.

As for the slightly similar concentric foundations unearthed by German excavators at Tiryns in 1912, the analogy is too imperfect to afford reliable grounds for the statement in question.

Greek ceramic art, on the other hand, furnishes us with very many allusions to the Theseus-Minotaur myth, and also with a profusion of frets and meanders, which are thought in some cases to be symbolical of the labyrinth.

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Consider, for instance, the "kylix" or bowl in the British Museum which is shown in Fig. 38. (A similar bowl is preserved in Harrow School Museum.) On it are represented most of the exploits of the hero up to his Knossian adventure. All who are familiar with the legend will recognise at a glance Periphetes the Club-bearer, Sinis the Pine-bender, the Wild Sow of Krommyon, Kerkyon the Wrestler, Procrustes of the Standard Bed, and other gentlefolk that Theseus successively encountered and appropriately dealt with on his initial journey to Athens. In the centre of the bowl is shown the adventure of the Labyrinth, the hero being seen in the act of despatching the monster at the very door of his lair. The meander on the door-post has been thought to symbolise the Labyrinth, but there is more reason to suppose that it is purely decorative.

The Minotaur exploit is also shown on the smaller bowl shown in Fig. 39.

In the previous chapter we have already referred to an Etruscan vase found at Tragliatella. This was very roughly decorated with incised figures, representing amongst other things a circular labyrinth of the traditional type and some horsemen who are thought to be engaged either in the attack on Troy or in the game known as the Lusus Trojae or Game of Troy. That there can be no doubt about the artist's identification of the labyrinth in some way with the celebrated city in question is clear from the word Truia scratched within it (Fig. 133).

Representations of the labyrinth were sometimes en-graved on ancient gems, a fine specimen of which is figured in P. A. Maffei's "Gemme Antiche" (Fig. 40), published in 1707. The Minotaur in this case is shown as a centaur. A similar representation appears on a sixteenth-century bronze plaquette of Italian workmanship exhibited in the Plaquette Room at the British Museum (Fig. 41. See plate, p. 60).

Before leaving the subject of the Labyrinth in ancient


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Figs. 38, 39. Greek Kylices shewing Exploits of Theseus. (British Museum)

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art we must take notice of a reference in an ancient manuscript which tends to show that the symbol figured on the robes of Roman Emperors. This manuscript was discovered by A. F. Ozanam in the Laurentian Library at Florence. It is entitled "Graphia Aurea Urbis Romae" and contains, under the heading "De diarodino imperatoris," the following passage:

Habeat et in diarodino laberinthum fabrefactum ex auro et margaritis, in quo sit Minotaurus, digitum ad os tenens ex

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FIG. 40.--Labyrinth engraved on an ancient gem. (Maffei.)

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smaragdo factus, quia sicut non valet quis laberinthum scrutare, ita non debet consilium dominatoris propalare.

"Let there be represented on it (the Emperor's robe) a labyrinth of gold and pearls, in which is the Minotaur, made of emerald, holding his finger to his mouth, thus signifying that, just as none may know the secret of the labyrinth, so none may reveal the monarch's counsels."

It has been pointed out by Mr. A. B. Cook that in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge is a painting by Bartolommeo Veneto (1502-1530) representing an unknown man who wears on his breast a labyrinth resembling that described above.


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THE consideration of labyrinths worked in Roman mosaic pavements leads us on to a very interesting development of the subject which deserves a chapter to itself, namely, the Labyrinth in the Church.

Probably the oldest known example of this nature is that in the ancient basilica of Reparatus at Orléansville (Algeria), an edifice which is believed to date from the fourth century A.D. In the pavement near the north-west entrance of the church is the design shown in outline in Fig. 42. It measures about 8 ft. in diameter and shows great resemblance to the Roman pavement found at Harpham and the tomb-mosaic at Susa. At the centre is a jeu-de-lettres on the words SANCTA ECLESIA, which may be read in any direction, except diagonally, commencing at the centre. But for the employment of these words the labyrinth in question might well have been conceived to be a Roman relic utilised by the builders of the church to ornament their pavement. Such pavement-labyrinths, however, with or without central figures or other embellishments, and of various dimensions and composition, are found in many of the old churches of France and Italy.

They seem to have been constructed chiefly during the twelfth century, and although several of them have been destroyed many fine examples still remain. Some

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FIG. 42.--Labyrinth in Church of Reparatus, Orléansville, Algeria.

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FIG. 43.--Labyrinth in Lucca Cathedral. (Durand.)

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are formed on the walls instead of the pavements, and in such cases are of smaller dimensions.

On the whole, too, those in the Italian churches are much smaller than the French specimens. On the wall of Lucca Cathedral (Fig. 43) is one of a diameter of only 1 ft. 7½ in. It formerly enclosed at the centre a representation of Theseus and the Minotaur, but owing to the friction of many generations of tracing fingers this has

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FIG. 44.--Labyrinth in S. Michele, Pavia. (Ciampini.)

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become effaced. Opposite the "entrance" is the inscription:


A similar small labyrinth, with a central Theseus-Minotaur design, is to be found on the wall of the church of San Michele Maggiore at Pavia (Fig. 44). It is thought to be of tenth-century construction. This is one of the few cases where the Minotaur is represented with a human head and a beast's body--as a sort of Centaur, in fact. It is accompanied by the words "TESEUS INTRAVIT MONSTRUMQUE BIFORME NECAVIT."

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Fig. 45. Labyrinth in S. Maria-di-Trastavera, Rome. (Durand)

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Fig. 46. Labyrinth in S. Vitale, Ravenna. (Durand)


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Of about the same period was the example in the church of San Savino at Piacenza. It is described by P. M. Campi in his "Ecclesiastical History of Piacenza" (1651), under the year A.D. 903. The signs of the Zodiac were placed in juxtaposition to it. The accompanying legend in this case consisted of four hexameters, to the effect that the labyrinth represented the world we live in, broad at the entrance, but narrow at the exit, so that he who is ensnared by the joys of this world, and weighed down by his vices, can regain the doctrine of life only with difficulty.


In the Cathedral of Cremona, which, like Pavia and Piacenza, is on the banks of the River Po, is a mutilated mosaic of early date--possibly eighth or ninth century--showing part of an interlaced pattern which was evidently intended to refer to the Cretan Labyrinth, as it was placed close to two figures in fighting attitudes and armed with swords and shields, the right-hand figure having the head of a beast and the label "CENTAVRVS." (There was apparently little distinction between a Minotaur and a Centaur in the minds of some mediaeval artists.)

A rather larger specimen, 5 ft. in diameter, may be seen in the church of Sta. Maria-in-Aquiro, Rome. It is composed of bands of porphyry and yellow and green marble, surrounding a central plate of porphyry, and is similar in design to that at Lucca. Another church in the same city, Sta. Maria-di-Trastavera, has a labyrinth composed of variously coloured marbles worked in the floor.

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It is 11 ft. across and was probably constructed about 1190 A.D. (Fig. 45). It is now somewhat mutilated, but was originally a most beautiful example. The fact that the inner paths consist of a series of concentric rings rather suggests that it has at some time been repaired without regard to the original design; unless we accept the hypothesis of M. Durand that they bore a symbolic

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FIG. 47.--Labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral. (Gailhabaud.)

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reference to the various degrees of beatitude by which the soul approaches heaven, as figured by Dante. Fig. 46 shows another old Italian specimen. It is nearly 11½ ft. in diameter and is to be found in the church of San Vitale, Ravenna.

Designs of this nature were widely employed by the mediaeval church builders in France, and, although many of them were destroyed at the Revolution and at other times, several fine examples still exist. They seem to have

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been mostly built at a rather later date than those already described. The largest now remaining is that in Chartres Cathedral (Fig. 47). It is formed of blue and white stones and is about 40 ft. in diameter. The French poet Bouthrays, in his "Histoire de Chartres" (1624), describes it in a set of Latin verses. A fine sketch of it appears in the "Album" of the thirteenth-century architect, Villard de

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FIG. 48.--Labyrinth in Amiens Cathedral. (Gailhabaud.)

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Honnecourt. In a ninth-century French manuscript, formerly belonging to the Abbey of St.-Germain-des-Prés, there is a sort of frontispiece consisting of a labyrinth of similar type, with a funny little horned Minotaur at the centre, seated, hands on knees, on a kind of throne.

The Chartres labyrinth formerly went by the name of "La Lieue," an expression which would ordinarily be rendered as "the league." The French league, however, was about 2282 yards, a much greater length than the

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total extent of the path in any of the existing pavement-labyrinths, that at Chartres, for example, having a length of only about 150 yards. Possibly the term had some etymological connection with the old Gaulish measure leuca, leuga or leuva, which was 1500 paces.

In other cases the labyrinth was known as a "Chemin de Jérusalem" "daedale," or "meandre," terms which need

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FIG. 49.--Labyrinth in Parish Church, St. Quentin. (Gailhabaud).

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no explanation. The centre was called "ciel" or "Jérusalem." The labyrinth formerly in the nave of Amiens Cathedral was larger than that at Chartres, being 42 ft. in diameter (Fig. 48). It was constructed in 1288 and was destroyed in 1825. In plan it was similar to that at the entrance to the parish church of St. Quentin (Fig. 49). The latter, however, is only 34½ ft. in diameter.

Rheims Cathedral formerly possessed a fine design of this class (Fig. 50). It was laid down in 1240 and was

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Bronze Plaquette, Italian, XVIth Century. (British Museum)

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Fig. 50. Labyrinth in Rheims Cathedral. (Gailhabaud)

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Fig. 51. Amiens.
Central Plate of Labyrinth. (Gailhabaud)

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Fig. 52. Labyrinth in Bayeux Cathedral. (Amé)


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composed of blue stones or marbles. It was destroyed in 1779 by order of a certain Canon Jacquemart, who objected to the noise made by children and others in tracing its course during the progress of divine service.

The labyrinths of Rheims, Chartres, and Amiens possessed in common a feature which has given rise to much discussion, namely, a figure or figures at the centre representing, it is believed, the architects of the edifices.

That of Amiens is preserved in Amiens Museum and consists of an octagonal grey marble slab (Fig. 51) with a central cross, between the limbs of which are arranged figures representing Bishop Evrard and the three architects, Robert de Luzarches, Thomas de Cormont and his son Regnault, together with four angels. A long inscription accompanied it, relating to the foundation of the Cathedral.

There is a very fine labyrinth in the chapter-house of Bayeux Cathedral (Fig. 52). It measures 12 ft. across and is composed of circles of tiles ornamented with shields, griffins and fleur-de-lis, separated by bands of small, plain, black tiles.

Sens Cathedral formerly possessed a circular labyrinth (Fig. 53), 30 ft. in diameter and formed of incised lines filled in with lead, but it was destroyed in 1769. A similar specimen in Auxerre Cathedral was demolished about 1690.

In The Builder for May 12, 1916, appeared a diagram accompanied by a note from a firm of publishers who stated that they had received the sketch from one of their travellers who was then serving on the Arras front. "He informs us," they state, "that it is not a puzzle, but a plan of the labyrinth under the cathedral. He found the prints in a ruin in the vicinity, a house which appears to have been occupied by a librarian from what he saw among the debris." The sketch in question is of an octagonal pattern resembling that of the St. Quentin

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labyrinth, and represents the pavement-labyrinth that formerly existed in the now ruined cathedral, not, of course, a system of subterranean passages, as the correspondent evidently inferred. It was about 34½ ft. in diameter and was composed of small blue and yellow squares. The destruction of this labyrinth cannot be debited to the account of the aggressors in the Great War, as it was carried out during the French Revolution.

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FIG. 53.--Labyrinth in Sens Cathedral. (Gailhabaud.)

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A labyrinth of rather striking design (Fig. 54) was formerly in the pavement of the old Abbey of St. Bertin, an edifice which has long been a picturesque ruin, in the lower part of the town of St. Omer. A description of it was first published nearly a century ago by Emmanuel Wallet (or Vallet). Our figure, which accords with his notes, differs slightly from that which has usually accompanied the references of subsequent writers--many of whom, by the way, erroneously speak of it as being in the cathedral, which is in the upper part of the town, and at some distance from St. Bertin. Most illustrations of

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the labyrinth in question show the path as crossing itself at one point, an arrangement which is most unlikely to have been adopted. Wallet based his description on a manuscript which, judging by the watermark in the paper, he attributed to a former English student at the college in the vicinity.

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FIG. 54.--Labyrinth in Abbey of St. Bertin, St. Omer. (Wallet.)

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This labyrinth was apparently destroyed at about the same time as that at Rheims, and for a similar reason.

In the cathedral there is no pavement-labyrinth, although it may possibly have possessed one in former times, but beneath the organ, at the west end of the nave, is a curiously engraved slab which is worth mentioning

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in this connection, for it represents a sort of "chemin de Jérusalem," though not indeed of the usual type. It shows, around a large circle, mountains, rivers, towns, roads, and animals, together with the word IhERVSALEM, whilst the interior of the circle is divided into three horizontal compartments, in each of which are placed various objects indistinguishable through wear. The slab was very

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FIG. 55.--Labyrinth in Poitiers Cathedral. (Auber.)

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much worn when described by Wallet and has possibly been replaced by now.

A queer type of labyrinth was formerly represented in the Cathedral of Poitiers. It perished long ago, but for some time subsequently there remained on the wall of the north aisle a sketch of it (Fig. 55), which, however, gave no clue to the dimensions of the original. It will be seen that the construction is such that he who traces the path eventually emerges--like the poet of the "Rubaiyat"--by that same door at which he entered; he will have

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encountered no "stops," but he may have "looped the loop" an indefinite number of times.

In the old abbey of Toussaints, Châlons-sur-Marne, which was destroyed in 1544, there was a series of tiles each bearing a small labyrinth of the conventional Cretan type (Fig. 56. See plate, p. 74). Pavement-tiles with labyrinths were also found in the Abbaye de Pont l’Abbé (Finistère).

A pavement labyrinth has been described as existing in the floor of the guard chamber of the Abbey of St. Stephen at Caen. Dawson Turner, in his "Tour in Normandy," thus refers to it: "The floor is laid with tiles, each near five inches square, baked almost to vitrification. Eight rows of these tiles, running east to west, are charged with different coats of arms, said to be those of the families who attended Duke William in his invasion of England. The intervals between these rows are filled up with a kind of tessellated pavement, the middle whereof represents a maze or labyrinth, about ten feet in diameter, and so artfully contrived that, were we to suppose a man following all the intricate meanders of the volutes, he could not travel less than a mile before he got from one end to the other. The remainder of the floor is inlaid with small squares of different colours, placed alternately and formed into draught or chess boards, for the amusement of the soldiers while on guard." The pavement was destroyed in 1802.

It has frequently been stated that a pavement labyrinth existed in a church at Aix near Marseilles, but probably this is due to confusion with the Roman pavement already referred to.

The only examples recorded as having existed in Germany were situated in two churches at Cologne, but these have long since disappeared.

In view of the widespread occurrence of these devices in mediaeval churches it would be surprising if the idea were not sometimes utilised by modern architects

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attempting to reproduce the spirit of the old buildings, and in fact this was done in the case of the prize plans submitted 1 by the English architects Clutton and Burges for the Church of Notre-Dame de la Treille at Lille. Burges designed for the nave a "Chemin de Jérusalem" of a wonderful pattern, the topography of "Jerusalem" being based upon the account in the "Ecclesiastical History" of the Venerable Bede (V. ch. 16). A good modern

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FIG. 57.--Labyrinth in Ely Cathedral. (W. H. M.)

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example, 20 ft. square, may be seen in the pavement of Ely Cathedral, near the west door (Fig. 57). It was constructed by Sir Gilbert Scott during his restorations in 18 70. Some other modern specimens will be mentioned presently.

As to the function and meaning of the old church labyrinths, various opinions have been held. Some authorities have thought that they were merely introduced as a

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symbol of the perplexities and intricacies which beset the Christian's path. Others considered them to typify the entangling nature of sin or of any deviation from the rectilinear path of Christian duty. It has often been asserted, though on what evidence is not clear, that the larger examples were used for the performance of miniature pilgrimages in substitution for the long and tedious journeys formerly laid upon penitents. Some colour is lent to this supposition by the name "Chemin de Jérusalem." In the days of the first crusades it was a common practice for the confessor to send the peccant members of his flock either to fight against the infidel, or, after the victory of Geoffrey of Bouillon, to visit the Holy Sepulchre. As enthusiasm for the crusades declined, shorter pilgrimages were substituted, usually to the shrine of some saint, such as Our Lady of Loretto, or St. Thomas of Canterbury, and it is quite possible that, at a time when the soul had passed out of the crusades and the Church's authority was on the ebb, a journey on the knees around the labyrinth's sinuosities was prescribed as an alternative to these pilgrimages. Perhaps this type of penance was from the first imposed on those who, through weakness or any other reason, were unable to undertake long travels.

In the case of the wall labyrinths, of course, the journey would be less arduous still, being performed by the index finger.

Whether such practices ever obtained or not, most writers who have had occasion to mention church labyrinths during the past century have adopted, more or less without question, the view that not only were the labyrinths used in this way, but that they were in fact designed for the purpose.

This view seems to rest chiefly on a statement by J. B. F. Géruzez in his "Description of the City of Rheims" (1817), to the effect that the labyrinth which formerly lay in the cathedral was in origin an object of

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Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:33:55 pm
devotion, being the emblem of the interior of the Temple of Jerusalem, but Géruzez quotes no authority for his assertion. Another explanation, based upon the occurrence of the figures of the architects or founders in certain of the designs, is that the labyrinth was a sort of masonic seal, signifying that the pious aim of the builder had been to raise to the glory of God a structure to vie with the splendours of the traditional Labyrinth. It is also said that in some cases the "Chemins" were used for processional purposes.

Some writers have held that the labyrinth was inserted in the church as typifying the Christian's life or the devious course of those who yield to temptation. Some have thought that it represented the path from the house of Pilate to Calvary, pointing out that Chateaubriand, in his "Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem," mentioned two hours as the period which he took to repeat Christ's journey, and that the same time would be taken in traversing the average pavement labyrinth on the knees.

The use of the labyrinth as a simile for the Christian's life is shown in a stone inscription in the Museum at Lyons:

                  STEPHANVS • FECIT OC.

Whether this inscription was ever attached to a labyrinthine design is not known.

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Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:34:24 pm
It is strange if, amongst all the great mass of mediaeval ecclesiastical literature, there is actually no indication of the use or significance of these monuments in the service of the Church; but no light appears to be forthcoming from this source, and certainly the writings of the chief authorities of these times give no support to any of the theories mentioned above.

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:34:55 pm

FIG. 58.--Labyrinth in Church at Bourn, Cambs. (W. H. M.)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:35:07 pm
It is noteworthy that in none of the known examples do any distinctively Christian emblems occur, and that, amongst all the myriad inscriptions, paintings, and carvings of the early Christians, in the catacombs of Rome and elsewhere, the labyrinth never once figures.

So far as these islands are concerned the practice of placing labyrinths in churches does not seem to have become common.

In the "Architectural Dictionary" (1867) mention is

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Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:35:22 pm
made of one formerly existing in Canterbury Cathedral, but no particulars are given.

On the floor below the tower of the church at Bourn, Cambridgeshire, is a maze (Fig. 58) worked in black and red tiles, the centre being occupied by the font, the step of which forms the terminus of the path. From the fact that an intermediate portion of the path is concealed beneath the base of the font it is plain that the position of the latter is an after-thought, and from the design of the maze, no less than from the character of the tiles of which it is composed, the work would appear to be of comparatively modern date. The modern specimen at Ely has already been mentioned.

There is also a labyrinth, in this case engraved on the floor of the church porch, at Alkborough, Lincolnshire, but this is a modern replica of the turf maze in the locality--a point which brings us to the subject of our next chapter.


66:1 These plans, although awarded the prize, were not adopted, the designs actually carried out being some by a native architect who obtained tenth place in the competition.


Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:35:57 pm
WE have just remarked that the custom of placing labyrinth designs in churches does not appear to have become general on this side of the English Channel. We have in England, however, a class of survivals peculiar to this country which may be regarded as the equivalent of the former. These are the turf mazes which are to be found in various counties, usually under some local name, such as "Mizmaze," "Julian's Bower," "Troy Town," or "Shepherd's Race."

One of the best-preserved examples is that at Alkborough, or Aukborough, a pretty village on the east side of the Trent falls, where the Ouse and Trent join to form the Humber. Crowning the hill is a square earth-work called the Countess Close, supposed to be the remains of a Roman Camp, and possibly the site of the ancient Aquis. On the side of the hill is a basin-shaped depression, in the turf of which is cut, to a depth of about 6 in., a labyrinth known as "Julian's Bower," or "Gilling Bore," about 40 ft. in diameter. Our illustration (Fig. 59) is reproduced from a drawing kindly supplied by the Rev. G. Yorke, Vicar of Alkborough. The configuration of the maze is exactly the same as in a figure published about a century ago in a little book called "Terra Incognita of Lincolnshire," by Miss S. Hatfield.

In recent years it has been several times cleared out

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and trimmed up at the expense of Mr. J. Goulton Constable, J.P., F.S.A., of Walcot Hall, who is lord of the manor. Mr. Constable also caused the design of the maze to be cut in the stone floor of the church porch, the

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:36:49 pm

FIG. 59.--''Julian's Bower,'' Alkborough, Lincs. (From a litho. supplied by Rev. G. Yorke.)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:37:01 pm
grooves being filled with cement, when the church was restored in 1887.

In Saxon and Norman times, from about A.D. 1080 to 1220, there was a small monastic grange in the neighbourhood, an offshoot of a Benedictine Monastery at Spalding. Its site is now occupied by a farm-house belonging to Magdalene College, Cambridge. The

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proximity of the maze to an ancient ecclesiastical site is not peculiar to this particular specimen, as we find a similar juxtaposition in the case of many of the other earth-mazes.

A correspondent, "J. F.," writing to Notes and Queries about the Alkborough Julian's Bower in 1866, says that he has lively impressions of the oft-repeated pleasure derived from the feat of "running it in and out," in company with others, sixty years previously, and of seeing the villagers playing May-eve games about it, "under an indefinite persuasion of something unseen and unknown co-operating with them." If this last-quoted phrase is anything more than a whim of retrospective old age it affords an interesting fragment of material for the student of "folk-memory." There is a description of this maze, under the name of Gillian's Bore, in the Diary, written between 1671 and 1704, of Abraham de la Pryme, "the Yorkshire Antiquary." He mentions at the same time one situated at Appleby, about six miles away, towards Brigg. This, he says, is called "Troy's Walls." He describes them both as Roman games and says "they are nothing but great labarinths cut upon the ground with a hill cast up round them for the spectators to sit round about on to behold the sport." The Appleby maze was placed close to the Roman road that runs through there, and has long since perished. No trace of it remained when Allen's "History of Lincolnshire" was published in 1834.

There is a turf labyrinth of a design similar to that at Alkborough in a secluded romantic spot on land forming part of the estate of the Hulse family, to the rear of their beautiful country seat, Breamore House, Hants. It is known as the Mizmaze, and consists of a grassy path 3 ft. in width, the overall diameter being 87 ft. The "goal" in the centre is 18 ft. in diameter, and forms a low mound. Every curved portion of the path is slightly inclined towards the centre of the maze, as if to afford a firmer footing

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Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:37:26 pm
to runners. When the writer visited it in July 1920 the grooves were rather overgrown, but the maze receives periodical attention from its owners, and is in no present danger of becoming obliterated. It lies in that sparsely populated corner of Hampshire which protrudes into Wiltshire, between Salisbury and Cranborne Chase, and is somewhat difficult to discover without directions, as it is on a hilltop, and is surrounded by a thick copse, with many other wooded hilltops in the neighbourhood. In the few references that have been made to it by writers, it has been variously described as being situated at Breamore, at Rockbourne, Hants, and at Wickdown Hill, Wilts. It is remote from the villages, but is best approached from Breamore (pronounced Bremmer or Brimmer), which is on the main road from Fordingbridge to Salisbury. From this village to Breamore House is a pleasant twenty-minutes' walk, and thence through the beautifully wooded and gently rolling grounds of the estate to the Mizmaze, a delightful half-hour's stroll. It is advisable to seek precise directions before setting out, because the path through the woods disappears after a while in a meadow, and the copse in which the maze is embedded appears at first impenetrable, having a narrow opening on one side only, on the side remote from the direction of approach. A local tradition says that a man could run from the maze to Gallows Hill, more than half a mile distant, and back again, while another ran round the maze.

A charming little sketch of this maze, by Heywood Sumner, accompanies a reference in Williams-Freeman's "Field Archaeology in Hants."

Near Wing, in Rutland, a few miles to the north-east of Uppingham, there is preserved a maze of very similar design (Fig. 60). It is maintained in good condition and is still the object of periodical visits by the village folk on certain holidays. Just to the south of it is a flat-topped bowl-shaped tumulus, over 70 ft. in diameter and


Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:37:53 pm

Labyrinths on Tiles, Toussaints Abbey, Chalons-sur-Marne. (Amé)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:38:16 pm

Fig. 60. Turf-Labyrinth at Wing, Rutland.
(Photo, W. J. Stocks. By permission of Rev. E. A. Irons)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:38:32 pm
4 ft. high. It may be that the frequent association of turf mazes with ancient earthworks of various kinds is something more than accidental, but we do not seem to have sufficient evidence to establish a necessary connection between the two things.

Lyddington, another Rutland village, has also been mentioned as possessing a turf maze. A writer in the Rutland Magazine in 1907, for instance, says, in speaking of Priestly Hill, which overlooks the village on the east, "at one time there was a turf maze on its slope, where, as our old people tell us, their grandparents, when children, used to play." The writer in question, however, does not make it clear whether he is really quoting an oral tradition of the locality or is basing his statement on the brief mention of Lyddington as a reputed maze-site which appears in Trollope's 1858 memoir. It is at any rate very difficult to trace any reliable evidence of such a maze, and it seems not unlikely that Trollope's reference, which is quite devoid of detail, may have had its origin in a misinterpretation of the elaborate series of ancient trenches situated in a field to the north-east of the church. These trenches have been identified as the "fish-stews" belonging to the old manor-house of the Bishops of Lincoln.

The similarity between the designs of the turf mazes mentioned above and those of some of the French pavement labyrinths, that in Chartres Cathedral for example, cannot fail to be noticed.

At Boughton Green, in Northamptonshire, about half a mile from the village of Boughton and near the ruined church of St. John the Baptist, was, until recently, a turf maze of like design but having the innermost convolutions of purely spiral form (Fig. 61). It was 37 ft. in diameter and was called the "Shepherd Ring" or "Shepherd's Race." The "treading" of it was formerly a great feature of the three days' fair in June, an event dating from a charter by Edward III. in 1353.

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Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:39:07 pm
In a "Guide-book to Northampton" by G. N. Wetton, published in 1849, the maze is spoken of as being in a neglected condition. In a later book, however, a novel named "The Washingtons," written by the Rev. J. N. Simpkinson in 1860, occurs the following passage: "He had just been treading the 'Shepherd's Labyrinth,' a complicated spiral maze traced there upon the turf; and

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:39:32 pm

FIG. 61.--''Shepherd's Race,'' Boughton Green, Northants. (After Trollope.)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:39:43 pm
was boasting of his skill, how dexterously and truly he could pursue its windings without a single false step, and how with a little more practice he would wager to go through it blindfold."

Another novel, "The Last of the Climbing Boys," by George Elson, contains a reference to it, in which it is spoken of as being "An attraction which was the origin of the fair"--a statement which it would be interesting to verify if possible.

Unfortunately, this famous relic was destroyed by

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some of our soldiers in training during the Great War; trenches were driven right across it, and practically all traces of it are now obliterated.

There was formerly a specimen of somewhat similar design on Ripon Common, Yorkshire, but this was ploughed up in 1827. One of identical pattern at Asenby, in the same county, was preserved until recent times. According to Mr. A. H. Allcroft ("Earthwork of England," 1908), it was sunk in a hollow at the top of a hillock called "The Fairies' Hill," and is in a ruinous condition, being quite unknown to most of the villagers, although persons still living (in 1908) relate that they have often trodden it on a summer's evening and knelt at the centre "to hear the fairies singing."

The counties of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire seem to have been particularly rich in records of these devices, for in addition to those already mentioned we read of one on the wold overlooking Louth, one at Horncastle, a dozen miles to the south-west of Louth, one in Holderness, between Marfleet and Paul, about four miles from Hull, and another at Egton, near Whitby, where the late Canon Greenwell in 1872 saw traces of it near the main road to the north of the village. "July Park," or "St. Julian's," near Goathland, is also said to have possessed a specimen, a fact which probably accounts for the name of the place. The Horncastle maze is referred to by Dr. Stukeley, a noted eighteenth-century antiquary, as a "Julian's Bower" which is "much talked of." He also mentions the Alkborough specimen and others, coming to the conclusion that they were ancient British relics, having been constructed as places of exercise, or cursus, for the soldiery of those times. He observes, somewhat contemptuously, that "lovers of antiquity, especially of the inferior classes, always speak of ’em with great pleasure, as if there was something extraordinary in the thing, though they cannot tell what."

The Louth "Gelyan Bower" is mentioned in a record

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Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:40:09 pm
of 1544, "To nych mason for making at gelyan bower a new crose, iijs." In an old hostelry in Mercer Row, Louth, stood for some centuries a boulder of dolerite called the "Blue Stone," which is stated to have formerly occupied the centre of the maze. Trees planted at the maze served as a landmark to ships out at sea.

The Horncastle example occupied a site to the south-west of the town still known as the Julian Bower Close. It has long been effaced by the agriculturist, and numerous coins, fibulae, and other Roman remains which have been turned up on the spot have lent colour to the theory, still maintained in the current county directory, that the maze was a Roman work. The question whether this, or any other turf maze in this country, is a relic of Roman times we will discuss presently.

The maze near Hull was dodecagonal in outline, 40 ft. across, and formed of grass paths 14 in. wide. Its plan was much like that of the Alkborough maze, but the paths were straight instead of curved. It was called "The Walls of Troy." A coloured illustration of it was given in Ackermann's "Repository of Arts" in 18 15.

Although, as we have seen, Lincolnshire furnishes us with records of more of these labyrinths than any other county, there is no conclusive evidence that they were in fact more numerous there than elsewhere. The reason for our comparative wealth of information concerning their existence in that part of the country may be due to the fact that Dr. Edward Trollope, who first made a serious study of these antiquities, and whose paper in the Archaeological Journal for 1858 has been a fount of inspiration to subsequent writers on the subject, was Archdeacon of Stow, afterwards Bishop of Nottingham.

Turf labyrinths were formerly of general occurrence throughout the country, for, in addition to those we have already described, we find remains of them in counties so widely separated as Kent and Cumberland. They are also recorded as having existed in Wales and Scotland.


Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:42:25 pm
A MILE or two outside Winchester and rising up above the village of Chilcombe is the rounded shoulder of St. Catherine's Hill, on the summit of which lies a curious squarish "Mizmaze," the execution of which is often ascribed by guide-books to a Winchester boy who, detained at school during the vacation, beguiled his time by the fashioning of this earthwork and by the composition of the Wintonian "Dulce Domum." The interest of this maze lies not so much in the fanciful ascription of its origin as in the fact that it has apparently been cut, or re-cut, by somebody who did not understand the meaning of the plan given him to work upon. For, as will be seen from our illustration (Fig. 62), the actual labyrinth is made, not by the turfed path, but by the narrow channel by which it is delimited. In the few drawings of this maze which the writer has been able to find the lines are all straight, instead of being slightly curved as in our figure, which was sketched on the spot, and it seemed possible that they might represent an earlier condition of it, but in each instance the labyrinth is formed by the groove, which is hardly likely to have been the case in the original design. The maze was re-cut by the Warden of Winchester, who was guided by a plan in the possession of a lady residing in the neighbourhood, about the middle of last century, when it had become almost effaced. Possibly

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the misinterpretation of the plan occurred on this occasion. The maze is backed by a clump of pines, planted by Lord Botetourt in 1770.

There used to be, until a generation ago, a turf maze at Leigh, in the north-west of Dorset. A writer in Notes and Queries in 1868 describes it as being slightly hollow, circular, thirty-three paces in diameter, and

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:43:06 pm

FIG. 62.--''Mizmaze,'' St. Catherine's Hill, Winchester. (W. H. M.)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:43:16 pm
enclosed by a bank three feet high. He adds: "I am sorry to say the turf has grown over the little trenches and that it is now impossible to trace the pattern of the maze." Sir Frederick Treves, in his "Highways and Byways in Dorset," 1906, speaks of this maze as having consisted of "low banks and trenches arranged in an intricate figure, which the youths of the village, accompanied no doubt by the maidens, were wont to thread at certain seasons of the year." He states that it is on high ground

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Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:43:32 pm
in an open field and that of the winding passages no trace now survives. Only the low bank and ditch surrounding the maze remain visible.

At Pimperne, not far from Blandford, there was formerly a maze of a unique design (Fig. 63). John Aubrey,

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:44:01 pm

63.--''Troy-town,'' Pimperne, Dorset. (Hutchins.)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:44:22 pm
writing in 1686, says it was "much used by the young people on Holydaies and by ye School-boies." The path was bounded by ridges about a foot in height. The maze was destroyed by the plough in 1730. The memory of another turf maze in the same country is preserved in the name of Troy-town, applied to a locality about three

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Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:44:36 pm
miles north-east of Dorchester. One is also said to have existed near Bere Regis. Aubrey goes on to refer to another at West Ashton, near Trowbridge, Wiltshire, and one "on the Cotteswold Downes, where Mr. Dover's Games were celebrated." He mentions them also in his "Natural History and Antiquities of Surrey," and concludes his reference by quoting what he calls a "Poetical Description" of them, by Thomas Randolph, a poet and dramatist of the seventeenth century, the so-called description being nothing more than an indictment of the lazy shepherd swain, who prefers to spend his leisure in sleeping under a bush when, according to the poet, he ought

". . . to tune his Reed and chant his layes
Or nimbly run the windings of the Maze."

[paragraph continues] This is from Thomas Randolph's (or Randall's) "Eglogue on the Palilia and Noble Assemblies revived on Cotswold Hills by Mr. Robert Dover," one of a collection of eulogies--the Annalia Dubrensia--by various poets of the day of the then famous annual sports organised by Captain Dover on the hills near Chipping Campden. Mazes, or "laborinths," are referred to in the contributions of several of the other poets concerned, of whom we may mention Francis Izod, Nicholas Wallington, William Bellas and William Denny. A figure in the crude frontispiece conveys a similar allusion.

In Essex we have an example of rather larger dimensions than the majority, namely, that on the east side of the common at Saffron Walden (Fig. 64). A tall bank hides it from the Thaxted road, which runs within a few yards of it. The four bastions (or "bellows") and the centre are slightly raised. The overall dimensions are approximately 91 ft., excluding the bastions, and 138 ft. from corner to corner.

This maze is referred to in the Corporation account books for the year 1699, when it was apparently re-cut.

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Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:44:46 pm
On several subsequent occasions it became neglected and almost obliterated, but fortunately there has always been some person sufficiently interested to cause its renovation. According to a local record, re-cuttings have taken place in 1828, 1841, 1859, 1887, and 1911. On

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:45:25 pm

FIG 64.--Turf Labyrinth, Saffron Walden, Essex. (W. H. M.)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:45:38 pm
the last occasion it was underlaid with bricks, to facilitate future renovations.

As in the case of the Winchester example, the "path" consists of the narrow and shallow groove instead of the raised turf, and this gives some weight to the tradition that it is only a copy of a much larger maze which formerly existed further to the east.

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Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:45:49 pm
In a manuscript book of the latter part of the eighteenth century the maze is spoken of as a favourite resort for the young bloods of the town, a complicated system of rules and wagers (in gallons of beer) being laid down in connection with walking the maze.

It is stated that a large ash tree at one time occupied the centre, but that it perished by fire in the Guy Fawkes celebrations of November s, 1823.

A few years ago some boys, playing on the central mound, discovered a Roman coin. This does not, of course, prove that the work is of Roman origin.

In the 1789 edition of Camden's "Britannia" a drawing of the maze exhibits merely a series of concentric circles with extensions on the outermost pair forming the "bastions." This illustration could hardly have been prepared on the spot.

About twenty miles to the north-west of Saffron Walden and a few miles to the west of Cambridge lies the little village of Comberton (Cambs). The play-ground of the village school occupies one corner at the cross-roads, and in the south-west angle of this, enclosed by iron railings, lies a turf maze of a pattern similar to that at Alkborough. Owing to the use which the school children make of it the paths are nearly denuded of grass, but the ridges are well defined, as shown by the photograph (Fig. 65), which was taken in March 1921. The present maze is a faithful copy of that which was formerly situated a few yards away, and which, when the school was built, occupied an inconvenient position just outside the scholars' entrance. The old maze was known as the "Mazles." It used to be the custom in the village to have a feast once every three years, and at such times the maze was re-cut.

Comberton, by the way, is almost the next village to Bourn, where, as we have seen, a peculiar pavement maze occupies the floor of the church tower.

In the neighbouring county of Huntingdon we find

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:46:21 pm

Fig. 65. ''The Mazles,'' Comberton, Cambs. [Photo: W.M.H.]

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Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:46:52 pm

Fig. 67. Turf-Labyrinth, Hilton, Hunts. [Photo: W.M.H.]


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p. 85

a splendidly preserved maze, of curious plan, in a corner of the green in the rambling and out-of-the-way but charming village of Hilton (Fig. 66).

These turf labyrinths are in most cases liable to escape the notice of all but the intentional seeker, owing

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:48:18 pm

Fig. 67. Turf-Labyrinth, Hilton, Hunts. [Photo: W.M.H.]


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p. 85

a splendidly preserved maze, of curious plan, in a corner of the green in the rambling and out-of-the-way but charming village of Hilton (Fig. 66).

These turf labyrinths are in most cases liable to escape the notice of all but the intentional seeker, owing

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:49:04 pm

FIG. 66.--Turf Labyrinth, Hilton, Hunts. (W. H. M.)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:49:14 pm
to their flat and grassy nature, and the difficulty is accentuated in the case of Hilton by reason of the fact that the maze is at some little distance from the road, and is, moreover, sunk to a depth of several inches below the general level of the surrounding turf. It may easily be located, however, if one remembers that the centre is marked by a square stone obelisk surmounted by a ball.

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Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:49:28 pm
This obelisk has indications of a sun-dial on the north face, with the words "A.B. hoc." On its south face it bears a coat of arms, engraved within a circle, and the inscription: "Sic transit gloria mundi. Gulielmus Sparrow, Gen., natus ano. 1641. Aetatis sui 88 quando obiit, hos gyros formavit anno 1660." On the east face is engraved, "William Sparrow departed this life the 25th August, Anno Domini 1729, aged 88 years." The west face bears only the words "Dep. hoc." Our photograph (Fig. 67) shows the obelisk and as much of the maze as could conveniently be included with the camera used. It will be noticed that the trenches between the paths are fairly wide and deeply cut.

The good state of preservation is no doubt greatly due to the fact, remarked by a writer of half a century ago, that the paths are made up with pebbles. No sign of the latter is now evident amongst the thick turf. The plan of the maze shows some interesting variations on the older and more conventional designs of Alkborough, Comberton, etc., the most remarkable point being that the path from the exterior to the centre is almost direct, the labyrinth proper being composed of paths which commence and terminate at the central plot. The Hilton maze appears to be unique in this respect.

Whatever may have been the original purpose of turf labyrinths in this country as a whole, it is fairly clear that the Hilton example at any rate was not made for ecclesiastical purposes if, as stated on the obelisk, it was constructed in 1660. On the other hand, the reflection that at that date Puritan influences were on the decline and the restoration of the Monarchy was imminent leads one to conclude that this somewhat exuberant design of a youth of nineteen was intended for purposes of rustic enjoyment.

Fig. 68 shows a labyrinth formerly incised in the turf of the marshes of Rockcliffe in Cumberland, near the shores of the Solway Firth. It covered a space of

p. 87

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:49:47 pm
26 ft. by 24 ft. and had a 9-in. path bounded by an 8-in. groove. It went by the name of "The Walls of Troy." The two villages of Burgh and Rockcliffe are distant from one another about two miles and a half, and the river Eden bisects the intervening marshes and occasionally floods them. A certain point on the marsh is known as "Willie of the Boats," from the fact that prior to 1816, when the main road from Carlisle to Glasgow passed this way, a man of that name lived here and

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:50:31 pm

FIG. 68.--''Walls of Troy,'' Rockcliffe Marsh, Cumberland. (After Ferguson.)

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Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:53:02 pm
acted as guide through the marshes and over the river fords. A maze existed close to this spot and is said to have been cut in 1815 by a man named Christopher Graham. Whether Graham designed the maze himself or whether he copied an already existing specimen cannot now be determined, but it is stated that a smaller and probably older maze existed side by side with his. Both have now entirely disappeared. The maze figured, however, was about a mile from this spot and was still in existence in 1883, though much overgrown. The local tradition declared it to have been cut by Robert Edgar, a sailor, who was subsequently drowned at sea. All three

p. 88

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:53:44 pm
of the mazes mentioned were apparently of similar design. A friend of the writer was unable to find any traces of a maze in the locality in 1920.

On the summit of a hill by St. Anne's Well, Sneinton, Nottingham, there formerly existed a maze called "Robin Hood's Race," or "Shepherd's Race." It was of a design somewhat similar to that at Saffron Walden, but having each of the four bastions ornamented with an incised figure of the type known in heraldry as a "Cross, crosslet, fitchy." The path was stated to be 535 yards in total length. When the lordship of Sneinton was en-closed, in February 1797, the maze was ploughed up. An enterprising printer of Nottingham, J. Wigsby by name, preserved for us the plan by publishing in the following month an illustrated pamphlet in commemoration of the maze, "Sixpence plain, eightpence coloured."

Another turf maze used to exist in the same neighbourhood, namely, at Clifton, about four miles or so from Sneinton, on the opposite side of Nottingham. This was of a square design similar to that of the garden maze shown in Fig. 75.

At Somerton, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, there has been well preserved a very good "Troy-town" (Fig. 69), of a plan which recalls that on the tiles of Toussaints Abbey. It is situated in the garden of a farm-house, named after it "Troy," and is surrounded by beautiful trees and shrubs. Our drawing is made from a sketch kindly supplied by the brother of the present occupier, Mr. J. F. Godwin. Its dimensions are 57 ft. by 50 ft., and the turf path, one foot in width, has a total length of 400 yards.

Near Piddington, on the border of the same county, rises to a height of nearly 400 ft. above the village the eminence known as Muswell Hill. Close to the summit of the hill is an earthwork having the form of a square turfed level surrounded by a low bank and bearing the traditional name of "The Wilderness." It is often spoken of locally as a Roman camp, but there is nothing in its structure

p. 89

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:53:51 pm
to suggest such an origin: no satisfactory explanation of its origin or purpose has, in fact, been hitherto forth-coming. Now the word "wilderness," as we shall see in a subsequent chapter, was employed during a certain period to denote a maze of the horticultural type, and it

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:54:21 pm

FIG. 69.--''Troy-town,'' Somerton, Oxon. (From sketch by O. W. Godwin.)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:54:35 pm
is not improbable that it was used in connection with mazes in general. May we not, therefore, allow it to be within the realms of legitimate surmise that this mysterious work constitutes the remains of a square turf maze, perhaps of a design similar to that of the Clifton maze mentioned above? The situation, the enclosing bank, and the regular outline of the latter accord well with this supposition, though the dimensions--250 ft. square--are

p. 90

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:54:51 pm
rather excessive unless we allow for a considerable margin between the bank and the maze itself.

Another Oxfordshire locality, Tadmarton Heath, is mentioned as a turf-maze site in a manuscript by the Rev. T. Leman, quoted in a county history published in 1861, but if such a work ever existed there all traces of it have now disappeared; the same is true with regard to another reputed maze site to which reference is made in the manuscript, namely, the Herefordshire Beacon, in the Malvern Hills. In both cases the situations are such as might well have been selected for the purpose, judging by analogy with other known turf-maze sites. Sixty years is none too long a period to allow of the complete obliteration of the turf figures, if such existed, in the absence of care and attention, so that it is not surprising if we now find ourselves unable to trace them, especially if they possessed no circumscribing bank or ditch.

In Surrey a "Troy-town" was formerly well known in the neighbourhood of Guildford. It was cut in the turf on Hillbury, between Guildford and Farnham. It may be that the earth-rings of which traces are yet visible on St. Martha's Hill, on the other side of Guildford, constitute the remains of a similar work. It is said that the youths and maidens of the town used to congregate here on Good Friday and indulge in boisterous celebrations, the origin of which is not known. Another Surrey spot formerly alluded to as having a turf maze is Putney Heath. Unfortunately, however, we cannot at present point to any authentic traces of a single specimen in the whole of the county.

At Chilham, near Godmersham, in Kent, is an earth-work on the downs known as Julaber's Barrow or Juliberry's Grave. It bears no traces of mazy paths, but the name carries strong suggestion of "Julian's Bower," and there is perhaps as much force in this suggestion as in the opposing view that the mound is the grave of Quintus Laberius Durus, one of Julius Caesar's tribunes (hence

p. 91

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:55:27 pm
Julii Laberius), who was killed by the Britons. The latter theory was, however, maintained by a writer to The Times as recently as April 5, 1920. The fact that as late as 1893, according to a letter to Notes and Queries of that year, traces of a "bower" or "Troy-town" were still observable in the neighbourhood of Walmer, shows that the Chilham work, if a turf maze, would not have been unique in the county. It is also said that one formerly existed near Westerham; the name "Troy-town," moreover, survives in other parts of the county (see p. 211). Additional support for the theory of a turf maze site at Chilham is found in the occurrence of the name Bowerland, applied to a district to the north of the village. We find, too, a hamlet of Bower, only a few miles to the south-west.

In Bedfordshire, not far from Dunstable, there is a circular earthwork on the downs called "Maiden Bower." Stukeley refers to it in his discussion on Julian's Bowers as being in his opinion the site of a former turf maze, and there is some force in this contention. He mentions in the same reference a similar work at Ashwell.

Dr. Trollope stated that specimens had been reported also from the county of Devonshire and in Scotland, but actual details are not at the moment available.

There is no doubt that the custom of cutting these devices in the turf was formerly very widespread throughout the land, although comparatively few examples now exist. Even during the past generation, as we have seen, some are known to have disappeared. Let us therefore hope that all possible care will be taken to preserve those that remain to us.


Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:56:43 pm
p. 92

IN 1858--the year in which Archdeacon Trollope published the results of his researches--Capt. W. H. Mounsey drew attention to the description in a Welsh history book ("Drych y Prif Oesoedd," published in 1740) of a curious custom formerly prevalent among the Welsh shepherds. This custom consisted of cutting in the turf a figure in the form of a labyrinth, which they called Caerdroia, i.e. the walls, or citadel, of Troy. He also remarked that the herdsmen of Burgh and Rockcliffe "at the present day are in the habit of cutting this labyrinthine figure, which they also call 'the Walls of Troy.'" He drew the tentative conclusion that this name "would seem to be an after-thought of pure Cymric origin, suggested by the similarity between Caerdroia, the City of Troy, and Caer y troiau, the city of windings or turnings." A similar suggestion had already been made in the Transactions of the Cymmrodorion Society in 1822, the writer ("Idrison") holding that the turf figures, and also those on the Knossian coins, had reference to the courses of the sun as conceived by ancient worshippers of that orb.

Captain Mounsey was promptly answered by Dr. Trollope, who referred to the wide distribution of these devices throughout England and commented on their total absence from Brittany, where, if they were of ancient Cymric origin, one would have expected to find at least

p. 92

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:57:15 pm
some trace of them. He also stated that they first received the name of "Troy-towns" in Tudor days, when "subtleties" of all kinds were in vogue, the term being used simply to indicate, by analogy with the Troy of legend, the difficulties to be overcome before the centre could be reached. Dr. Trollope gave it as his considered opinion that they were originally cut for penitential purposes by ecclesiastics, and this opinion has since his time remained practically unchallenged. In his memoir on the subject he reproduces a sketch showing the St. Anne's Hill maze with two gowned and kneeling persons in the act of performing a penitential circuit. Both the sketch and Dr. Trollope's conclusion are based on inference, however; there does not appear to be any direct evidence in the matter.

The theory of an ecclesiastical origin of the turf mazes is chiefly supported by analogy with the continental church-labyrinths which many of them so strongly resemble. Against the argument of their frequent proximity to an ecclesiastical site we may place that of their equally frequent proximity to known Roman remains and the fact that many of our old churches were founded on Roman sites.

The Welsh custom above referred to was also described by P. Roberts in his "Cambrian Popular Antiquities," published in 1815. He gives a plan of the figure as usually cut--a design resembling the circular labyrinths on Knossian coins, but flattened on the side where the entrance is situated--and expresses dissatisfaction with it because there are "no means of losing the way into the citadel, the supposed way continuing regularly through all its windings unbroken, which could scarcely have been the design of the inventor" (Fig. 70).

This figure, he says, is the plan of a labyrinth which is sometimes cut out in the turf by shepherd boys whilst they are tending their flocks on the mountains of Wales, and is sometimes drawn and presented as a puzzle by

p. 94

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:57:54 pm
boys to exercise the ingenuity of their school-fellows, either in finding their way to the citadel at the centre or in drawing the plan. The tradition which accompanies the plan is that the city of Troy was defended by seven walls represented by the seven exterior lines and the entrance made as intricate as possible in order to frustrate an attacking force.

On the question whether turf mazes were, as Dr. Trollope affirmed, constructed by ecclesiastics for penitential purposes, there does not appear to be sufficient
FIG. 70.--''Caerdroia.'' (After P. Roberts.)
evidence to form a final decision. Even if it be true that they, and the pavement labyrinths, were actually used in the manner mentioned--a statement for which we do not seem to have definite proof--it by no means follows that they were designed with that object. We do know for certain that they were, from Tudor times onwards, used for recreational purposes. In his "Midsummer Night's Dream" (Act II., Sc. i.) Shakespeare makes Titania say, in her reply to Oberon (after the latter had twitted her with her love for Theseus):

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:58:14 pm
". . . the quaint mazes in the wanton green,
For lack of tread are undistinguishable."

In "The Tempest" also (Act III., Sc. iii.) he makes the old counsellor Gonzalo say:

"By’r lakin, I can go no further, sir,
My old bones ache: here's a maze trod indeed
Through forth-rights and meanders: by your patience
I needs must rest me";

p. 95

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:58:35 pm
and further on (Act V., Sc. i.) he puts a similar phrase into the mouth of Alonso:

"This is as strange a maze as e’er man trod:
And there is in this business more than nature
Was ever conduct of."

It is most likely that the turf mazes were in existence long before Shakespeare's time. The similarity of design between some of them and certain of the continental church labyrinths, which has already been alluded to, furnishes some grounds for supposing that they were contemporary with the latter in origin, in which case they would most probably have been constructed in the twelfth or thirteenth centuries. The fact that several of them were situated in the neighbourhood of some religious institution also lends support to the assertion that they were of monastic workmanship. There is no reason, however, to suppose that their construction and the handing on of the labyrinth tradition was confined to ecclesiastics.

According to M. Berthelot, who made a special study of the work of the ancient and mediaeval alchemists, a similar figure was employed by the latter. At any rate he found in an eleventh-century alchemistic manuscript, which he refers to as the Manuscript of St. Mark, Venice, a labyrinth drawing closely resembling the ecclesiastical type, accompanied by a commentary in Greek verse. He, however, expresses the opinion that both the labyrinth and the verses are an addition of the fourteenth or fifteenth century. The figure, he says, is referred to as "The Labyrinth of Solomon."

The name of Solomon was in use at least as late as 1844 in connection with labyrinthine figures. In that year M. Didron, a noted French archaeologist, whilst making a tour through Greece, visited the convent of St. Barlaam, a building perched high up on a huge crag and approached only by a rope. On the wall of the guest-room

p. 96

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:58:47 pm
he observed a red tracing of a labyrinth resembling that on the floor of Chartres Cathedral. M. Didron inquired as to the origin of it, and was informed that it was called the "Prison de Salomon" and that it had been copied on the wall long before by a monk who had found the design in a book. The monk was dead and the book lost. This "Solomon's Prison" was of the same character as the "Solomon's Labyrinth" described by M. Berthelot, but very probably these and similar terms were at one time as popular as "Chemin de Jérusalem," "Julian's Bower," and so on, in their application to all sorts of labyrinthine devices.

A simple "interrupted-circle" type of labyrinth was adopted as a heraldic device by Gonzalo Perez, a Spanish ecclesiastic who aged as Secretary to Charles V and Philip II, and published in 1566 a translation of Homer's "Odyssey." The labyrinth was shown in perspective, with the Minotaur, in fighting attitude, at the centre. It was surmounted by the motto In silentio et spe.

No doubt continental heraldry could furnish us with many similar references of the sort, although nothing of the kind seems to occur in English heraldry. In Fig. 71, for instance, is shown one used by Bois-dofin de Laval, Archbishop of Embrun. The motto in this case was Fata viam invenient ("The Fates will find a way"), a motto adopted in England by the Berkshire Vansittarts. Our illustration is copied from an early seventeenth-century book entitled "Devises Héroïques et Emblemes," by Claude Paradin.

In the text it is stated that "par ce labyrinthe . . . se pourroit entendre que pour rencontrer la voye, & chemin de vie eternelle, la grace de Dieu nous adresse: nous mettant entre les mains le filet de ses saincts commandemens. A ce que le tenans & suivans tousiours nous venions a nous tirer hors des dangereux foruoyemens des destroits mōdains." In other words, the device may be taken as emblematical of the temptation-labyrinth of this

p. 97

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:59:05 pm
worldly life, which can only be safely traversed by means of the Ariadne thread of divine grace.

The design in this case is of a peculiar type, but it may be very easily derived from the simple split-ring or "Pigs in Clover" design (Fig. 144).

We have in the two cases just mentioned, as in the case of the pavement labyrinths, an association with the

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:59:39 pm

FIG. 71.--Labyrinth Device of Archbishop of Embrun. (After C. Paradin.)

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 04, 2009, 11:59:51 pm
Church or with ecclesiastics. At the same time we know that, in England at any rate, the turf mazes were used for sportive purposes in the days of Elizabeth, and there is, so far, a lack of contemporary reference to their employment in a devotional or penitential capacity. "Treading" or "threading" the maze was a favourite game for several generations. Seeing that the path in the turf maze has as a rule no branches or dead-ends, the sport in question would appear to have been rather simple in

p. 98

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 05, 2009, 12:00:10 am
character, unless we imagine the participants to have been blindfolded for the purpose or primed with a tankard or two of some jocund beverage.

Let us refer once more to that chapter of Pliny's "Natural History" in which he says that we must not compare the Egyptian and other labyrinths with "what we see traced on our mosaic pavements or to the mazes formed in the fields for the entertainment of children." The italicised words clearly show that the construction of something akin to our turf mazes was practised by the Romans. It seems very reasonable to infer that, if the custom were so common as Pliny seems to imply, it would have been carried to the Roman colonies in these islands. An argument which has often been brought forward in this connection is that from very early times the game of Troy, the lusus Trojae, was played by Roman youths. Virgil describes it in the fifth book of his "Aeneid," and draws attention to the similarity between the mazy windings of this sport--which was performed on horseback--and the sinuous path of the Cretan labyrinth (see Chapter XVIII). The inference drawn from this is that our "Troy-towns" and the sports connected with them are in the direct line of descent from this classic game and are therefore a legacy of the Roman occupation of Britain.

Dr. Stukeley, whom we had occasion to mention with reference to the Horncastle maze, suggested that the term Julian's Bower was derived from the name of Iulus, the son of Aeneas, who is described as having taken part in the game. We see, then, that there is a good deal to be said for the claim of a Roman origin.

Assuming for the moment that such was the case, we are faced with some difficulty in accounting for the preservation throughout the intervening ages of a class of earthwork which, without attention, is liable to become effaced in a few decades.

Is it likely that the Britons, after the Roman recall,

p. 99

Title: Re: Mazes and Labyrinths
Post by: Kabrina Teppe on April 05, 2009, 12:00:38 am
would trouble to preserve the playgrounds of their late rulers' children? Is it at all probable that the successive waves of immigrants, Anglo-Saxons, Danes and Norse-men, would concern themselves with the maintenance of such alien frivolities?

Is there not a chance that perhaps some of these invaders brought the custom with them?

If we had to rely solely on our own historical records, we should find it extremely difficult to arrive at any conclusion in the matter. Researches of recent decades have, however, rendered it possible to approach the matter from a much wider angle, and, before we attempt any further to inquire into the origin of our own turf mazes, we shall find it necessary to go back very far indeed in the history of European civilisation, and to look at the question of labyrinth origins from another point of view.

Before doing so, however, we will review a development which, in the eyes of the archaeologist an insignificant side-line, is perhaps to many readers a matter of greater interest than anything we have yet dealt with, embracing as it does that type of labyrinth which is familiar to all in the famous Hampton Court specimen.