« PreviousContinue »
style of the work are similar to those found in the maştabas of Şaşkâra.
Atfiḥ, 57 miles from Cairo, on the east bank of the Nile, marks the site of the Greek city of Aphroditopolis, the Per-nebt-tepu-aḥ –
& of the ancient Egyptians, where the goddess Hathor was worshipped.
At Wastā, a town 57 miles from Cairo, is the railway junction for the Fayyûm. The line from Wasțâ runs westwards, and its terminus is at Madînat al-Fayyûm, a large Egyptian town situated a little distance from the site of Arsinoë in the Heptanomis,* called Crocodilopolist by the Greeks, because the crocodile was here worshipped. The Egyptians called the Fayyûm Ta-she 707 the lake district,' and the name Fayyûm is the Arabic form of the Coptic ølou, I 'the sea.' The Fayyûm district has an area of about 850 square miles, and is watered by a branch of the Nile called the Bahr-Yûsuf, which flows into it through the Libyan mountains. On the west of it lies the Birket al-Ķurûn. This now fertile land is thought to have been reclaimed from the desert by Amenemḥāt III., a king of the XIIth dynasty. The Birket al-Ķurûn is formed by a deep depression in the desert scooped out of the Parisian limestone, which has become covered in great part by thick belts of salted loams and marls. On these Nile mud has been deposited. The Birket al-Ķurûn is all that is left of
* Heptanomis, or Middle Egypt, was the district which separated the Thebaïd from the Delta; the names of the seven nomes were : Memphites, lleracleopolites, Crocodilopolites or Arsinoites, Aphroditopolites, Oxyrrhynchites, Cynopolites, and Hermopolites The greater and lesser Oases were always reckoned parts of the Heptanonis.
+ In Egyptian 10 a, Neter het Sebek.
the ancien Lake Moeris, * and its water surface is about 130 feet below sea level. Its cubic contents are estimated at 1,500,000,000 of cubic metres.
The Bahr-Yûsuf is said by some to have been excavated under the direction of the patriarch Joseph, but there is no satisfactory evidence for this theory; strictly speaking, it is an arm of the Nile, which has always needed cleaning out from time to time, and the Yûsuf, or Joseph, after whom it is named, was probably one of the Muḥammadan rulers of Egypt.
The descriptions of Lake Moeris given by classical authorities are as follows:
Herodotus says (ii. 149) “ Although this Labyrinth is such, yet the Lake named from Moeris, near which this Labyrinth is built, occasions greater wonder ; its circumference measures 3,600 stades, or 60 schoenes, equal to the sea-coast of Egypt. The Lake stretches lengthways north and south, being in depth in the deepest part 50 orgyæ (300 feet). That it is made by hand and dry, this circumstance proves, for about the middle of the lake stand two pyramids, each rising 50 orgyæ above the surface of the water, and this 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 100 orgyæ (600 feet) in height; and 100 orgyæ are equal to a stade of 6 plethra ; the orgya measuring 6 feet or 4 cubits; the foot being 4 palms, and the cubit 6 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 6 months it flows into the Lake, and 6 months out again into the Nile. And during the 6 months that it flows out it yields a talent of silver (£240) every day to the
king's treasury from the fish ; but when the water is flowing into it, 20 minæ (£80).
The people of the country told me that this Lake discharges itself under ground into the Syrtis of Libya, running westward towards 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, 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 during the 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.”
Diodorus says (i. 51, 52): “Meris came to the crown of Egypt, and built a portico in Memphis towards the north, more stately and magnificent than any of the rest. And, a little above the city he cut a dyke for a pond, bringing it down in length from the city 325 furlongs, whose use was admirable, and the greatness of the work incredible. They say it was in circumference 3,600 furlongs ; and in many places 300 feet in depth. Who is he, therefore, that considers the greatness of this work, that may not justly ask the question--How many ten thousand
men were employed, and how many years were spent in finishing it ? Considering the benefit and advantage (by this great work) brought to the government, none ever sufficiently could extol it, according to what the truth of the thing deserved. For, being that the Nile never kept to a certain and constant height in its inundation, and the fruitfulness of the country ever depended upon its just proportion, he dug this lake to receive such water as was superfluous, that it might neither immoderately overflow the land, and so cause fens and standing ponds, nor by Aowing too little, prejudice the fruits of the earth for want of water. To this end he cut a trench along the river into the Lake, 80 furlongs in length, and 300 feet broad; into this he let the water of the river sometimes run, and at other times diverted it, and turned it over the fields of the husbandmen, at seasonable times, by means of sluices which he sometimes opened, and at other times shut up, not without great labour and cost ; for these sluices could not be opened or shut at a less charge than 50 talents. This lake continues to the benefit of the Egyptians for these purposes to our very days, and is called the Lake of Myris or Meris to this day.
The king left a place in the middle of the lake, where he built a sepulchre and two pyramids, one for bimself, and another for his queen, a furlong in height ; upon the top of which he placed two marble statues seated on a throne, designing, by these monuments, to perpetuate the fame and glory of his name to all succeeding generations. The revenue arising from the fish taken in this lake, he gave to his wife to buy her dresses, which amounted to a talent of silver every day. For there were in it two-and-twenty sorts of fish, and so vast a number were taken, that those who were employed continually to salt them up, (although they were multitudes of people), could hardly perform it. And these are the things which the Egyptians relate of Meris.”
Strabo says (XVIII, I, 35): “The Herakleopolitan nome has also the remarkable Lake Moeris, which in extent is a sea, and the colour of its waters resembles that of the sea. Its borders are also like the sea-shore, so that we may make the same suppositions respecting these as about the country near Ammon. For they are not very far distant from one another and from Parætonium; and we may conjecture from a multitude of proofs, that as the temple of Ammon was once situated upon the sea, so this tract of country also bordered on the sea at some former period. The Lake Moeris, by its magnitude and depth, is able to sustain the superabundance of water which flows into it at the time of the rise of the river, without overflowing the inhabited and cultivated parts of the country. On the decrease of the water of the river, it distributes the excess by the same canal at each of the mouths ; and both the lake and the canal preserve a remainder, which is used for irrigation. These are the natural and independent properties of the Lake, but in addition, on both mouths of the canal are placed locks, by which the engineers store up and distribute the water which enters or issues from the canal."
According to Pliny (v. 9), Lake Moeris was artificially constructed, and was made by king Moeris ; it was 250 miles (Mucianus says 450 miles) in circumference, and 50 paces deep.
What, however, concerns us most here is the fact that Major Brown believes that Lake Moeris was nothing more than the Fayyûm in a submerged state, and thus he supports the opinion on the subject which was tolerably general before Linant temporarily overthrew it. He thinks that “the submerged Fayûm, with the entry and exit of its waters kept under control by regulators, and its water-levels ranging between Reduced Level 22.50 and 19.50, was the Lake Moeris of Herodotus,” and that