Belzoni was obviously in Egypt at just the right moment. The Napoleonic wars had opened the country to Westerners. The local government was weak and distracted. And Egyptology as a discipline was just getting started. In a few more years with the decyphering of the Rosetta Stone much more was understood. And although archaeological hi-jinks persisted through the 19th century-apparently the Third Great Pyramid was opened by blasting!-the free for all grabbing of antiquities eventually diminished.
After Egypt Belzoni's life was a bit more commonplace. He wrote a moderately succesful account of his adventures, he arranged a display of his personal collection as well as elaborate casts made from the Temple of Seti. He traveled a bit, he was something of a socialite. He also expended considerable effort trying to get Henry Salt to pay monies he felt he was entitled to, especially as pertains to a remarkable alabaster sarcophagus Belzoni removed from Seti's tomb.
But he is not without monument. He literally left his mark on Egypt.
|On the fallen colossus of Rameses at Thebes|
|Also at Thebes. Note the Salt graffiti .|
Belzoni might deserve a minor credit in regards to the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem "Ozymandias". It was published in 1818 and was apparently inspired by the impending arrival of the Younger Memnon bust excavated by Belzoni. I did not realize that there were actually two versions of the same basic poem, one by Shelley another by a Horace Smith. Ozymandias In one account I read it was speculated that there was a competition for a poem on this topic, sort of a publicity stunt for the arrival of the statue.
Giovanni Belzoni was a complicated man, more motivated by a desire for recognition than by monetary gain. So he would likely be happy to know that there is actually a city named after him, Belzoni Mississippi.
But were his restless shade to walk the earth again it would find peace in the wild places of Egypt, where the modern world still only extends a few miles on either side of the Nile. Oh, I suppose he might choose to occasionally haunt London, a city that brought him much frustration. But he would likely confine himself to the British Museum where his most substantial accomplishment still smiles enigmatically.
Tomorrow: Belzoni as Indiana Jones?