« PreviousContinue »
lands; to each of whom, under former kings, twelve chosen acres had been assigned. After this, Sennacherib, King of the Arabians and Assyrians, marched a large army against Egypt, whereupon the Egyptian warriors refused to assist him; and the priest, being reduced to a strait, entered the temple, and bewailed before the image the calamities he was in danger of suffering. While he was lamenting, sleep fell upon him, and it appeared to him in a vision that the god stood by and encouraged him, assuring him that he should suffer nothing disagreeable in meeting the Arabian army, for he would himself send assistants to him. Confiding in this vision, he took with him such of the Egyptians as were willing to follow him, and encamped in Pelusium, for here the entrance into Egypt is; but none of the military caste followed him, but tradesmen, mechanics, and sutlers. When they arrived there, a number of field-mice, pouring in upon their enemies, devoured their quivers and their bows, and moreover, the handles of their shields; so that on the next day, when they fled bereft of their arms, many of them fell. And to this day a stone statue of this king stands in the Temple of Vulcan, with a mouse in his hand, and an inscription to the following effect: “Whoever looks on me, let him revere the gods.”
Thus much of the account the Egyptians and the priests related, showing that from the first king to this priest of Vulcan who last reigned, were three hundred forty and one generations of men; and during these generations, there were the same number of chief priests and kings. Now, three hundred generations are equal to ten thousand years, for three generations of men are one hundred years: and the forty-one remaining generations that were over the three hundred make one thousand three hundred and forty years. Thus, they said, in eleven thousand three hundred and forty years no god had assumed the form of a man; neither, they said, had any such thing happened before, or afterward, in the time of the remaining Kings of Egypt. During this time they related that the sun had four times risen out of his usual quarter, and that he had twice risen where he now sets, and twice set where he now rises; yet, that no change in the things in Egypt was occasioned by this, either with regard to the productions of the earth or the river, or with regard to diseases, or with respect to deaths. In former time the priests of Jupiter did to Hecatæus the historian, when he was tracing his own genealogy, and connecting his family with a god in the sixteenth degree, the same as they did to me, though I did not trace my genealogy. Conducting me into the interior of an edifice that was spacious, and showing me wooden colossuses to the number I have mentioned, they reckoned them up; for every high priest places an image of himself there during his lifetime; the priests, therefore, reckoning them and showing them to me, pointed out that each was the son of his own father; going through them all, from the image of him that died last, until they had pointed them all out. But when Hecatæus traced his own genealogy, and connected himself with a god in the sixteenth degree, they controverted his genealogy by computation, not admitting that a man could be born from a god; and they thus controverted his genealogy, saying that each of the colossuses was a Piromis, sprung from a Piromis; until they pointed out the three hundred and fortyfive colossuses, each a Piromis sprung from a Piromis, and they did not connect them with any god or hero. Piromis means, in the Grecian language, “a noble and good man." They pointed out to me, therefore, that all those of whom there were images were of that character, but were very far from being gods; that, indeed, before the time of these men gods had been the rulers of Egypt, and had dwelt among men; and that one of them always had the supreme power, and that Orus, the son of Osiris, whom the Greeks call Apollo, was the last who reigned over it; he, having deposed Typhon, was the last who reigned over Egypt. Now, Osiris in the Grecian language means Bacchus.
Among the Greeks, the most recent of the gods are thought to be Hercules, Bacchus, and Pan; but by the Egyptians Pan is esteemed the most ancient, and one of the eight gods called original; but Hercules is among the second, among those called the twelve; and Bacchus is of the third, who were sprung from the twelve gods. I have already declared how many years the Egyptians say there were from Hercules to the reign of Amasis; but from Pan a still greater number of years are said to have intervened, and from Bacchus fewest of all; and from him there are computed to have been fifteen thousand years to the reign of Amasis. The Egyptians say they know these things with accuracy, because they always compute and register the years. Now from Bacchus, who is said to have been born of Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, to my time, is about sixteen hundred years, and from Hercules, the son of Alcmena, about nine hundred years; but from Pan, born of Penelope (for Pan is said by the Greeks to have sprung from her and Mercury), is a less number of years than from the siege of Troy, about eight hundred, to my time. Of these two accounts, each person may adopt that which he thinks most credible; I have therefore declared my own opinion respecting them. For if these deities had been well known, and had grown old in Greece, as Hercules, who was sprung from Amphitryon, and especially Bacchus, the son of Semele, and Pan, who was borne by Penelope, some one might say that these later ones, though mere men, bore the names of the gods who were long before them. Now, the Greeks say of Bacchus that Jupiter sewed him into his thigh as soon as he was born, and carried him to Nyssa, which is above Egypt in Ethiopia; and concerning Pan, they are unable to say whither he was taken at his birth. It is evident to me, therefore, that the Grecians learned their names later than those of the other gods; and from the time when they learned them they trace their origin, therefore they ascribe their generation to that time, and not higher. These things then the Egyptians themselves relate.
What things both other men and the Egyptians agree in saying occurred in this country, I shall now proceed to relate and shall add to them some things of my own observation. The Egyptians having become free, after the reign of the priest of Vulcan, for they were at no time able to live without a king, established twelve kings, having divided all Egypt into twelve parts. These having contracted intermarriages, reigned, adopting the following regulations : That they would not attempt the subversion of one another, nor one seek to acquire more than another, and that they should maintain the strictest friendship. They made these regulations and strictly upheld them, for the following reasons: It had been foretold them by an oracle when they first assumed the government, that whoever among them should offer a libation in the Temple of Vulcan from a brazen bowl should be King of all Egypt; for they used to assemble in all the temples. Now, they determined to leave in common a memorial of themselves; and having so determined, they built a labyrinth a little above the lake of Moeris, situated near that called the city of Crocodiles; this I have myself seen, and found it greater than can be described. For if any one should reckon up the buildings and public works of the Grecians, they would be found to have cost less labour and expense than this labyrinth; though the temple in Ephesus is deserving of mention, and also that in Samos. The pyramids likewise were beyond description, and each of them comparable to many of the great Grecian structures. Yet the labyrinth surpasses even the pyramids. For it has twelve courts inclosed with walls, with doors opposite each other, six facing the north, and six
the south, contiguous to one another; and the same exterior wall incloses them. It contains two kinds of rooms, some under ground and some above ground over them, to the number of three thousand, fifteen hundred of each. The rooms above ground I myself went through and saw, and relate from personal inspection. But the underground rooms I only know from report; for the Egyptians who have charge of the building would, on no account, show me them, saying that there were the sepulchres of the kings who originally built this labyrinth, and of the sacred crocodiles. I can therefore only relate what I have learned by hearsay concerning the lower rooms; but the upper ones, which surpass all human works, I myself saw; for the passages through the corridors, and the windings through the courts, from their great variety, presented a thousand occasions of wonder as I passed from a court to the rooms, and from the rooms to halls, and to other corridors from the halls, and to other courts from the rooms. The roofs of all these are of stone, as also are the walls; but the walls are full of sculptured figures. Each court is surrounded by a colonnade of white stone, closely fitted. And adjoining the extremity of the labyrinth is a pyramid, forty orgyæ in height, on which large figures are carved, and a way to it has been made under ground.
Although this labyrinth is such as I have described, yet the lake named from Mæris, near which this labyrinth is built, occasions greater wonder: its circumference measures three thousand six hundred stades, or sixty schoni, equal to the sea-coast of Egypt. The lake stretches lengthways, north and south, being in depth in the deepest part fifty orgyæ. That it is made by hand and dry, this circumstance proves, for about the middle of the lake stand two pyramids, each rising fifty orgyæ above the surface of the water, and the part built under water extends to an equal depth : on each of these is placed a stone statue, seated on a throne. Thus these pyramids are one hundred orgyæ in height: and a hundred orgyæ are equal to a stade of six plethra; the orgya measuring six feet, or four cubits; the foot being four palms, and the cubit six palms. The water in this lake does not spring from the soil, for these parts are excessively dry, but it is conveyed through a channel from the Nile, and for six months it flows into the lake, and six months out again into the Nile. And during the six months that it flows out it yields a talent of silver every day to the king's treasury from the fish; but when the water is flowing into it, twenty minæ. The people of the country told me that this lake discharges itself under ground into the Syrtis of Libya, running westward toward the interior by the mountain above Memphis. But when I did not see anywhere a heap of soil from this excavation, for this was an object of curiosity to me, I inquired of the people who lived nearest the lake where the soil that had been dug out was to be found; they told me where it had been carried, and easily persuaded me, because I had heard that a similar thing had been done at Nineveh, in Assyria. For
certain thieves formed a design to carry away the treasures ; of Sardanapalus, King of Nineveh, which were very large, and
preserved in subterranean treasuries; the thieves, therefore, beginning from their own dwellings, dug under ground by estimated measurement to the royal palace, and the soil that was taken out of the excavations, when night came on, they threw into the river Tigris, that flows by Nineveh : and so they proceeded until they had effected their purpose. The same method I heard was adopted in digging the lake in Egypt, except that it was not done by night, but during the day; for the Egyptians who dug out the soil carried it to the Nile, and the river receiving it soon dispersed it. Now, this lake is said to have been excavated in this way.
While the twelve kings continued to observe justice, in course of time, as they were sacrificing in the Temple of Vulcan, and were about to offer a libation on the last day of the festival, the high priest, mistaking the number, brought out eleven of the twelve golden bowls with which he used to make the libation. Whereupon he who stood last of them, Psammitichus, since he had not a bowl, having taken off his helmet, which was of brass, held it out and made the libation. All the other kings were in the habit of wearing helmets, and at that time had them on. Psammitichus, therefore, without any sinister intention, held out his helmet: but they having taken into consideration what was done by Psammitichus, and the oracle that had foretold to them that whoever among them should offer a libation from a brazen bowl, should be sole King of Egypt; calling to mind the oracle, they did not think it right to put him to death, since upon examination they found that he had done it by no premeditated design. But they determined to banish him to the marshes, having divested him of the greatest part of his power; and they forbade him to leave the marshes, or have any intercourse with the rest of Egypt. This Psammitichus, who had before fled from Sabacon the Ethiopian, who had killed his father Neco-having at that time fled into Syria, the Egyptians, who belong to the Saitic district, brought back when