« PreviousContinue »
mentioned. But where its length is the greatest, I have heard that it is a two months' journey from east to west; and that eastward its confines produce frankincense. On that side of Egypt which borders upon Libya extends another rocky mountain, and covered with sand, on which the pyramidsstand; and this stretches in the same direction as that part of the Arabian mountain that runs southward. So that from Heliopolis, the territory which belongs to Egypt is not very extensive; but for four days' sail up the river it is very narrow. Between the mountains before mentioned the land is level, and in the narrowest part appeared to me to be not more than two hundred stades in breadth, from the Arabian mountain to that called the Libyan; but above this Egypt again becomes wide. Such then is the character of this country. 9. From Heliopolis to Thebes is a voyage up of nine days; the length of this journey is in stades four thousand eight hundred and sixty, which amount to eighty-one schoeni. Now, if we compute these stades together, the coast of Egypt, as I before explained, contains in length three thousand and six hundred stades: how far it is from the sea inland as far as Thebes, I will next show, namely, six thousand one hundred and twenty stades; and from Thebes to the city called Elephantine, one thousand eight hundred stades. 10. The greater part of all this country, as the priests informed me, and as appeared to me also to be the case, has been acquired by the Egyptians. For the space between the abovementioned mountains, that are situate beyond the city of Memphis, seem to me to have been formerly a bay of the sea; as is the case also with the parts about Ilium, Teuthrania, Ephesus, and the plain of the Maeander, if I may be permitted to compare small things with great; for of the rivers that have thrown up the soil that forms these countries, not one can justly be brought into comparison, as to size, with any one of the five mouths of the Nile. But there are other rivers not equal in size to the Nile, which have wrought great works; of these I could mention the names, and amongst them one of the most remarkable is the Achelous, which, flowing through Acarnania, and falling into the sea, has already converted one-half of the Echinades islands into continent. 11. There is also in the Arabian territory, not far from Egypt, branching from the Red Sea, a bay of the sea, of the H
length and width I shall here describe: the length of the voyage, beginning from the innermost part of this bay to the broad sea, occupies forty days for a vessel with oars; and the width, where the bay is widest, half a day's passage: and in it an ebb and flow takes place daily; and I am of opinion that Egypt was formerly a similar bay; this stretching from the Northern Sea towards Ethiopia; and the Arabian Bay, which I am describing, from the south towards Syria; and that they almost perforated their recesses so as to meet each other, overlapping * to some small extent. Now, if the Nile were to turn its stream into this Arabian gulf, what could hinder it from being filled with soil by the river within twenty thousand years? for my part, I think it would be filled within ten thousand. How then, in the time that has elapsed before I was born, might not even a much greater bay than this have been filled up by such a great and powerful river? 12. I therefore both give credit to those who relate these things concerning Egypt, and am myself persuaded of their truth, when I see that Egypt projects beyond the adjoining land; that shells are found on the mountains ; that a saline humour forms on the surface so as even to corrode the pyramids; and that this mountain which is above Memphis is the only one in Egypt that abounds in sand: add to which, that Egypt, in its soil, is neither like Arabia or its confines, nor Libya, nor Syria, (Syrians occupy the sea-coast of Arabia,) but is black and crumbling, as if it were mud and alluvial deposit, brought down by the river from Ethiopia; whereas we know that the earth of Libya is reddish, and somewhat more sandy; and that of Arabia and Syria is more clayey and flinty.
13. The priests told me this also, as a great proof of what they related concerning this country, that in the reign of Moeris, when the river rose at least eight cubits, it irrigated all Egypt below Memphis; and yet Moeris had not been nine hundred years dead when I received this information. But now, unless the river rises sixteen cubits, or fifteen at least, it does not overflow the country. It appears to me, therefore, that if the soil continues to grow in height, in the same proportion, and to contribute in like manner towards its increase, those Egyptians below Lake Moeris, who inhabit other districts and that which is called Delta, must, by reason of the Nile not overflowing their land, for ever suffer the same calamity which they used to say the Greeks would suffer from. For having heard that all the lands of Greece were watered by rain, and not by rivers, as their own was, they said “that the Grecians at some time or other would be disappointed in their great expectations, and suffer miserably from famine;” meaning, “that if the deity should not vouchsafe rain to them, but visit them with a long drought, the Greeks must perish by famine, since they had no other resource for water, except from Jupiter only.” 14. And the Egyptians are right in saying this to the Greeks; but now let me state how the matter stands with the Egyptians themselves: if, as I said before, the land below Memphis (for this it is that increases) should continue to increase in height in the same proportion as it has in time past, what else will happen but that the Egyptians who inhabit this part will starve, if their land shall neither be watered by rain, nor the river be able to inundate the fields 2 Now indeed they gather in the fruits of the earth with less labour than any other people, and than the rest of the Egyptians, for they have not the toil of breaking up the furrows with the plough, nor of hoeing, nor of any other work which all other men must labour at to obtain a crop of corn; but when the river has come of its own accord and irrigated their fields, and having irrigated them has subsided, then each man sows his own land and turns swine into it; and when the seed has been trodden in by the swine, he afterwards waits for harvest-time: then having trod out the corn with his swine, he gathers it in. 15. But if we should adopt the opinion of the Ionians respecting Egypt, who say that the Delta alone is properly Egypt, stating that its sea-coast extends from what is called the tower of Perseus to the Tarichaea of Pelusium, forty schoeni in length ; and who say that from the sea inland it stretches to the city of Cercasorus, where the Nile divides, and flows towards Pelusium and Canopus; and who attribute the rest of Egypt, partly to Libya, and partly to Arabia, if we adopted this account, we should show that the Egyptians had not formerly any country of their own; for the Delta, as the Egyptians themselves acknowledge, and as I think, is alluvial, and (if I may so express myself) has lately come to light. If then they formerly had no country, how foolish they were to think themselves the most ancient of all people ! nor was there any use in their having recourse to the experiment of the children, to ascertain what language they would first speak. For my own part, I am not of opinion that the Egyptians commenced their existence with the country which the Ionians call Delta; but that they always were, since men have been ; and that as the soil gradually increased, many of them remained in their former habitations, and many came lower down. For, anciently, Thebes was called Egypt, and is six thousand one hundred and twenty stades in circumference. 16. If, therefore, Ijudge correctly of these things, the Ionians are mistaken with respect to Egypt; but if their opinion is correct, then I will show that neither the Greeks nor the Ionians themselves know how to reckon, when they say, that the whole earth consists of three divisions, Europe, Asia, and Libya; for they ought to add a fourth, the Delta of Egypt, if it be not a part either of Asia or of Libya. For, by this account, the Nile does not separate Asia from Libya, but is divided at the point of Delta, so that it must be between Asia and Libya. But I will dismiss the opinion of the Ionians, and proceed to give my own account of the matter. 17. I consider that the whole country inhabited by Egyptians is Egypt, as that inhabited by Cilicians is Cilicia, and that by Assyrians, Assyria. And, strictly speaking, I know of no other boundary to Asia and Libya, except the frontier of Egypt. But if we follow the opinion received by the Greeks, we shall suppose that all Egypt, beginning from the cataracts and the city of Elephantine, is divided into two parts, and partakes of both names; and that one part belongs to Libya, and the other to Asia. For the Nile, beginning from the cataracts, flows to the sea, dividing Egypt in the middle. Now, as far as the city of Cercasorus, the Nile flows in one stream ; but from that point it is divided into three channels: and that which runs eastward is called the Pelusiac mouth ; another of the channels bends westward, and is called the Canopic mouth; but the direct channel of the Nile is the following: descending from above, it comes to the point of the Delta, and after this it divides the Delta in the middle, and discharges itself into the sea, supplying by this channel, not by any means the least quantity of water, nor that the least re
* I have adopted the meaning given to trapa)\éorgouras by Liddell and Scott, instead of the usual interpretation, that “the two bays were but little distant from each other.”
nowned; this is called the Sebennytic mouth. There are also two other mouths, that diverge from the Sebennytic and flow into the sea; to these the following names are given, to one the Saitic, to the other the Mendesian mouth. The Bolbitine and Bucolic mouths are not natural, but artificial. 18. My opinion that Egypt is of the extent I have above declared it to be, is confirmed by an oracle delivered at Ammon. which I heard after I had formed my own opinion respecting Egypt. For the people who inhabit the cities of Marea and Apis, in the part of Egypt bordering on Libya, deeming themselves Libyans and not Egyptians, and being discontented with the institutions regarding victims, were desirous not to be restricted from the use of cow's flesh, and therefore sent to Ammon, saying, “that they had no relation to the Egyptians, because they lived out of Delta, and did not speak the same language with them ; and desired to be allowed to eat all manner of food.” The god, however, did not permit them to do so, saying, “that all the country which the Nile irrigated was Egypt, and that all those were Egyptians who dwell below the city Elephantine, and drink of that river. Such was the answer given them. 19. But the Nile, when full, inundates not only Delta, but also part of the country said to belong to Libya and Arabia, to the extent of about two days' journey on either side, more or less. Respecting the nature of this river, I was unable to gain any information, either from the priests or any one else. I was very desirous, however, of learning from them why the Nile, beginning at the summer solstice, fills and overflows for a hundred days; and when it has nearly completed this number of days, falls short in its stream, and retires; so that it continues low all the winter, until the return of the summer solstice. Of these particulars I could get no information from the Egyptians, though I inquired whether this river have any peculiar quality that makes it differ in nature from other rivers. Being anxious, then, of knowing what was said about this matter, I made inquiries, and also how it comes to pass, that this is the only one of all rivers that does not send forth breezes from its surface. 20. Nevertheless, some of the Greeks, wishing to be distinguished for their wisdom, have attempted to account for these inundations in three different ways: two of these ways are scarcely worth mentioning, ex