James Reuel Smith.

Springs and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations online

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Athenaeus; II. 15.



331

Rhacotis

Rhacotis was the name of a spot that always retained
that designation, even after it became a section of the
city of Alexandria.

In the days when it was only a spot in the wastes,
between Lake Mareotis and the sea, it was the station of
a solitary Egyptian guard that the government posted
there to keep foreigners from landing, and from ascending
the western branch of the Nile.

The Springs of Rhacotis no doubt located the station
and supplied water for the guard and the few herdsmen
of the neighborhood, who, on occasion assisted him in
repelling trespassers.

A mile out in the sea, on the southern side of the island
of Pharos, lay "Pirates' Haven," another lonely spot
that was the lurking place of Greek and Phoenician cor-
sairs on the watch for suitable prey among passing ships.

The military character, as well as the name of the
spot, continued even after Alexandria had spread her
numerous palaces over the wastes, for the old guard's
station became the site of the city's arsenal.

The Springs having become brackish, and being more-
over inadequate for the growing population, water,



EGYPT 463

brought from the River Nile through an aqueduct, was
used in their place.

Hirtius; Alexandrine War; c. 5.
StrabojXVII. 1. §6.



332

Pharos

The island of Pharos was a small oblong that protruded
from the sea, seven furlongs from the coast of Egypt and
half a day's sail from the western, the Canopic mouth of
the Nile.

About the island there were shallows and rocks, some
under the water and some above it, that made the neigh-
borhood a menace to navigators bound for any of the
river's seven arms that formed the delta; and therefore
.in early times the Pharos, a tower admirably constructed
of white marble, and several stories high, the most cele-
brated lighthouse of ancient nights, was built on the
northeast end of the island where doubtless part of it
still remains in the tower that now takes its place.

The island nevertheless had attractions that were well
known to seamen of every land, even in the days of
Homer; these were its fresh and limpid Springs, which
were eagerly visited by sailors when their water had run
short during passages lengthened out by weak or adverse
winds.

Later on, this island was no less eagerly sought by
landsmen and all who were thirsty for knowledge, for it
stood before the doors of the largest and most valuable
library of those days, the library of Alexandria.

Gauged by the age of native cities in Egypt, Alexan-
dria was a place of no antiquity ; even five hundred years
after its founding it was spoken of as built only yesterday ;



464 FOREIGN COUNTRIES

it was not founded until 332 B.C. when Alexander the
Great, struck with the breakwater value of the island, and
its strategic importance as commanding the western
mouths of the Nile, drew, himself, a plan for a coastal
city which in time was outranked by Rome alone. But
Alexander's body reposed in a gold coffin, and succeeding
monarchs and architects passed away before the enter-
prise was completed. Its two principal streets, two
hundred feet wide and crossing each other at right angles,
perhaps symmetrically reproduced two lines that Alex-
ander breezily dashed off and handed to the architect
as his plan for the city.

For the gold coffin, Ptolemy Sot or II substituted a
more modest casket of alabaster; but, as the chronicle
says, it did him no good, for he was almost immediately
deposed.

The island of Pharos was connected to the coast by
filling in the intervening ocean with a mole, and mole
and island were both built upon and became part of the
city.

When Alexandria had reached the rank of second city
in the world, its commerce produced five million dollars
a year in port dues alone, and it contained 4000 palaces,
4000 public baths, 400 theaters, and 12,000 groceries,
represented by herb sellers.

The library was the first public institution of its kind
established on a large scale, and it contained the cream
of the oldest literatures in 700,000 volumes. All new
books that were brought into the country were officially
borrowed, copied or translated, and laid in the library,
the importer, in some cases, receiving only the copy.

Following this custom, the Septuagint version of the
Bible was translated on Pharos for the library's shelves.

The collection was injured during Caesar's besiegement



EGYPT 465

in 47 B.C., and again in 273 a.d., and in 389: it was totally
destroyed by the Arabs in 640, and learning then sus-
tained an irreparable loss in every department. In the
ashes of the conflagration lie all that is left to the world
of peoples of whom nothing can now be known; and
science and the arts sorrow with history in their own
bereavements, for the loss of the records of the experience,
the discoveries, the formulas, and the secrets, in chemis-
try, mechanics and other lines, that had accumulated
during innumerable centuries has caused other centuries
of extra labor and research, much of which is still without
result; work that would have produced something new
if it had not perforce been diverted to finding out some-
thing that was old thousands of years ago, such, among
hundreds of instances, as the process for producing un-
fading paints, and for making malleable glass.

The limpid Springs that served a ship's crew amply
were utterly unable to meet the demands of a growing
city, and an aqueduct was therefore built and conveyed
water from the Nile to Pharos and all other parts of
Alexandria. (See No. 410a.)

Homer; Odyssey. Bk. IV.



333
The Bitter Springs

The Bitter Springs were the private property of the
Egyptian kings, who derived a considerable revenue
from the alkaline salts obtained from the lakes that the
Springs produced ; salts that were used in numerous ways ;
in making pottery, in the kitchen and at table, and in the
ancient substitute for cold storage — the curing of meat
and fish.



466 FOREIGN COUNTRIES

There are few fountains in all the world that the eye
of the public passes more often than it passes these very
old bitter Springs, for the lakes they form are a part of
the channel of the canal that was dug by Sesostris before
the time of Troy, the one now called the Suez Canal.

When in this ancient enterprise more than half of it
had been completed, the work was stopped at the Bitter
Springs ; not because it had, even then, cost the lives of
120,000 laborers, but owing to the discovery that the
surface of the Red Sea was four and a half feet higher
than the land in the interior of Egypt, and a consequent
fear of inundation. The stoppage, however, was but
temporary; the lock system was devised to obviate the
danger and the work, sixty-two miles long, was completed
and connected the Nile at Bubastis with the Red Sea at
Arsinoe, the present Suez.

In the course of time, accumulations of sand blocked
up the channel, although it was thirty feet deep, but it
was reopened by Trajan in the lid century. Some six
hundred years later the canal was again choked up, and
it remained useless until De Lesseps redug it, and opened
it on the 16th of November, 1869, having straightened
the course by running it northward to the Mediterranean
from the Bitter Springs from which it formerly turned
westward and ran to the Nile.

The perfection the science of engineering had reached
among the Egyptians nearly 5000 years ago is strikingly
shown in this wonderful undertaking, not only in the
application of the lock device to meet the difference in
water levels, but in the matter of the water level itself.
Napoleon considered the scheme of connecting the Red
and the Mediterranean Seas, but abandoned the idea
when his engineers computed that there was a difference
of thirty feet in the water levels.



EGYPT 467

There is in fact no difference at all. But there is a
variation in the tide, which rises six feet six inches in the
south, but only one foot six inches in the Mediterranean
at Port Said. Thus the actual net difference of five feet
is within six inches of what the Egyptian engineers, of
before the time of Troy, calculated it to be when they
stopped operations long enough to work out a scheme to
meet the emergency.

When the old canal was opened, using, as now, the
Bitter Springs lakes, but connecting with the Nile direct,
the water of the river modified the saltiness of the lakes
to such an extent that they became the haunts of fresh
water fish and aquatic fowl; an upcreep of water that,
though noted twenty-five hundred years ago, much sur-
prised the people at Panama when it was reproduced in
the high level lake of the Panama Canal.

These Springs are sometimes called Fontes Amari.

Pliny; VI. 33- Strabo; XVII. 1. § 25.
Herodotus: II. 157.



334
Tatnos

The fountain of Tatnos was at Myoshormos north of
Berenice.

The town was on the shore of the Red Sea, and its
name is taken to mean either the Harbor of the Mouse, or,
of the Mussel ; its remains are supposed to be those now
seen near Abuschaar.

Berenice was east of Syene, in the same latitude, and
on the Red Sea at the boundary of Egypt and Ethiopia.
It was one of the most popular points of departure for
ships sailing to India, and those who doubled their invest-
ments in the trade made no attempt to minimize the



468 FOREIGN COUNTRIES

terrors with which the route was infested. Their accounts
were well calculated to deter intending competitors from
exposing themselves to the stifling heats, or risking en-
counters with pirates and hideous peoples, some of them
covered all over with long hair, except their heads ; or the
even more dreadful monsters of the tropic seas — giant
turtles so large that one shell served as the roof for a
whole family among the Chelonophagi ; and savage sea
serpents that were thirty feet long; and whales that
measured seventy-five feet; all of which had to be met
while the ships were being maneuvered in the midst of
furious tempests.

Pliny; VI. 33. 24, 26, 28, 37-
Strabo; XVI. 4. § 5. and 3- § 7-



ETHIOPIA

335
The Fountain of Health

The fountain of Health was in the country of the
Ethiopian Macrobii, who, by using its waters lived to the
age of 120 years, and often even longer.

The fountain gave forth the odor of violets, and the
water was so light that nothing would float upon it,
neither wood, nor substances more buoyant than wood
itself.

Those who washed with the water were made as sleek
as if they had been oiled.

The Macrobii were the tallest and the handsomest of
the Ethiopians, and they lived at the limits of the
habitable world in the south, while a nation of the
same name, among the Hyperboreans, lived at the north-
ern extremity of the world, and reached the age of iooo
years.

According to the custom of the Macrobii, the reigning
family could secure its succession in rulership only
through a diligent cultivation of physical uplift ; men rose
to kingship neither through popularity nor by heredity ;
stature and strength were the sole qualifications that
were considered in determining the succession of rulers,
and, when the reigning monarch had reached the limits of
his age, the tallest and strongest man in the community
received the crown.

469



470 FOREIGN COUNTRIES

Their sepulchres were hollow columns of transparent
crystal, in the center of which were placed those who had
reached the greatest age the fountain of Health could
confer on them; and the columns were then set up as
pillars, at first in the houses of the relatives, and after-
wards in the outskirts of the city.

Cambyses, having heard that gold among the Macrobii
was so common that even the prisoners' chains were made
of it, personally conducted a large force against them.
But long before reaching the country the army's provi-
sions gave out. The soldiers then subsisted for a time on
the beasts of burden, and afterwards on such herbs as
they could gather; and it was not until it came to the
knowledge of Cambyses that the men were living on
themselves and devouring every tenth man as he was
selected by lot, that he abandoned his object and turned
back to his starting point, Thebes, which he reached with
a very small residue of the original force.

Perhaps the oiled appearance that came from bathing
with the water of the fountain has misled some modern
searchers for the Spring, but, unless it has lost its age-
producing virtue, it is not among any of the many places
that have so far been assigned to it, the chief of which are
Kordofan, Abyssinia and Somaliland.

Herodotus; III. 24.



336
LlPARIS

At Liparis there was a Spring that was used as a sub-
stitute for oil.

Pliny; XXXI. 14.



ETHIOPIA 471

337

TlSITIA

There was, at Tisitia, a fountain that emitted
light.

Pliny; XXXI. 14.



338

The Red Fountain

The waters of the Red fountain required to be taken in
the greatest moderation, as otherwise they were apt to
cause delirium.

Pliny; XXXI. 5.



339
Cucios

The Spring of Cucios was on a promontory much
resorted to by mariners.

The promontory was apparently south of an unex-
plored gulf on the Ethiopian coast.

Pliny; VI. 34-



ARABIA

34°
Arabia

There was a certain Spring in Arabia that gushed up
from the ground with such remarkable force as to throw
back any object pressed down upon it, however weighty.

Pliny; XXXI. 15.



341
iENUSCABALES

The fountain called ^nuscabales was in the town,
twenty miles from a mountain, inhabited by the Agacturi
which signifies the town of camels.

Pliny; VI. 32.



342
CORALIS

The fountain of C oralis appears to have been on the
island of Devade, in the Red Sea.

Pliny; VI. 32.



343-344
Daulotos. Dora

The fountains of Daulotos and Dora were in the island
of Dorice.

472



ARABIA 473

This was perhaps Strabo's island of Doracta in the Red
Sea in lat. 17 degrees N.

Pliny; VI. 32. Strabo; VI. 3. §7-



345
Arsinoe

The Springs of Arsinoe came from a high rock near a
red colored mountain in the neighborhood of Arsinoe, a
town on the western coast of the Red Sea, one of many-
towns named after the favorite sister of Ptolemy Phila-
delphia.

The waters were hot, salty and bitter, and dis-
charged themselves into the Red Sea opposite Mt-
Sinai.

Strabo; XVI. 4. § 5-



346

Red Sea Spring

Ctesias of Cnidus said that a Spring discharged a red
and ochrous water into the Red Sea. By others, the
sea's color was attributed to the reflection of the vertical
sun ; and some ascribed it to the reflection of the surround-
ing red mountains ; while a third theory was that both the
sun and the mountains had a share in causing the sea's
distinctive color.

In very ancient times, the Red was called the Ery-
thraean Sea, after Erythras the son of Perseus.

Strabo; XVI. 4. § 20.



474 FOREIGN COUNTRIES

347
Seven Wells

i-EHus Gallus in his expedition into Arabia stopped at a
place called Seven Wells because it possessed that num-
ber of them.

The expedition was made in 24 B.C. by order of Augus-
tus whose covetousness was aroused by reports of the
great wealth of Arabia, through which the valuable
products of the Far East reached Italy, and where even
the commonest utensils were reported to be made of the
precious metals, and studded with jewels.

The expedition was barren of results, and it suffered
great hardships, as Gallus' guides purposely misled him,
and guided him in roundabout ways for six months to a
distance from which he was able to return in a third of
that time, after suffering intensely from want of water,
and losing the greater part of his soldiers through the rav-
ages of a disease that was new and unknown to the
Romans. It might be conjectured that these were the
two large and five small Biblical Wells of Beer-Sheba,
near which Abraham at one period had his residence.

Strabo; XVI. 4. §24.



348

Petra

Petra was surrounded with a natural fortification of
precipitous rock, within which there were abundant
Springs that were used for all domestic purposes, and for
irrigating the gardens.

The inhabitants stored quantities of water in vast
underground reservoirs cut in the rock; these were in
some cases ioo feet square though the openings were



ARABIA 475

made very small, so that when the people were attacked,
and fled to the wilderness as was their custom, they could
easily conceal the openings from their enemies.

Their favorite drink was made by mixing pepper and
wild honey with the water.

Petra was about three days' journey from Jericho and
was the capital of the Nabatseans who were descended
from Ishmael, and were fire worshipers. They were a
peaceable people who lived together in harmony, which
was particularly noticeable and surprising as such for-
eigners as dwelt in the place were often in litigation
among themselves, and even with the natives. They had
few slaves; they either waited upon themselves or, on
occasion, worked for their townmates and for the king.

Petra is seventy miles southeast of the Dead Sea and is
now called Wady Musa, from the outlet of its Springs
which is a charming brook flowing between flower-covered
and tree-shaded banks.

Among the place's ancient ruins are the remains of
many large structures that the present inhabitants believe
were the work of the Genii or Jins.

Strabo;XVI. 4- §21.



PHCENICIA. PALESTINE
349

JOPPA

The Spring near Joppa and close to the sea was
noted for its reddish water, which was very much like
blood.

Its color was said to have been caused by the ablutions
of Perseus after his rescue of Andromeda, whose family
misfortunes were the subject of many dramas now lost,
though all of the principal characters have remained
enduringly pictured in the constellations, including
Cepheus her father, a king of Ethiopia, and Cassiopeia
her mother, who, extolling her beauty above that of the
Nereids aroused their resentment, to satisfy which they
induced Poseidon to send a sea monster to ravage the
kingdom of Cepheus, which he easily did by means of
an inundation.

The oracle of Ammon then announced that the people
and the lands could be saved if Andromeda was given to
the monster; and, her father being forced to consent, the
innocent daughter was chained to a rock near the Spring
to enable the monster to enjoy a leisurely meal. But
while he was plowing his way through the sea to the rock,
Perseus, returning with winged ankles from his adventure
with the Gorgon Medusa, appeared in the sky, and,
hovering above the beast destroyed it with vigorous
thrusts of his sword, while sustaining no discomfort

476



PHOENICIA. PALESTINE 477

himself, save a drenching from the streams that spouted
from the wounds he inflicted.

Having colored the Spring in making himself present-
able, he released Andromeda and became her husband,
though not without further exertions with his sword for,
Andromeda having been previously betrothed, the rival
appeared at the marriage feast with a numerous retinue
of friends, and would have asserted his rights by force
had Perseus not slain a number of them, and then turned
two hundred of the others to stone by pointing at them
the head of Medusa.

In addition to the confirmation that was given to An-
dromeda's history by the constellations, there were
shown on the rock near Joppa vestiges of the chains that
bound the heroine; and in Rome the skeleton of the
monster itself was preserved; it was forty feet long, the
backbone being a foot and a half thick, and the ribs
higher than those of an Indian elephant.

Many centuries later, a more beneficent sea monster
appeared near Joppa and rescued Jonah when, at his
own request, he was thrown from a rowboat so that the
others might be saved from a tempest that arose shortly
after the boat had left Joppa for Tarshish.

The modern name of the town is Jaffa.

Ovid; Meta. IV. Fable 10.
Pausanias; IV. 35.
Pliny; IX. 4- V. 14.



350
HlERICUS

The toparchy of Hiericus was covered by groves of
palm trees and watered with numerous Springs.

This place though often named, alike by the pious and
the profane, would hardly be recognized in its ancient



478 FOREIGN COUNTRIES

spelling, and the heathen chronicler's short description of
it gives but a meager suggestion of the city that has a
long and fascinating history for all Christian readers, to
whom it is known as the Jericho of the Bible.

Its ground was barren, and the water of its Spring was
naught until Elisha put salt in a new cruse and, flinging
it into the Spring, declared that he had healed the waters
and that there should be no more barren land.

The town contained the house, marked with a crimson
cord, of the notorious Rahab who reformed and became
the mother of Boaz the progenitor, with the gentle Ruth,
of David and of Jesus. Jesus Himself was baptized where
the Jordan flowed past the town; on the rocky heights
before it, the magnificent offers of the tempter were made
and spurned ; and in the city he restored the sight of the
blind. It was over against this town that Elijah was
carried up to heaven.

Jericho was some nineteen miles from Jerusalem, but
only a Bedouin encampment called Riha now marks its
site, and the neighborhood of its Spring called Ras-el-
Ain, which, through Elisha' s ministrations, made the land
fertile and produced the palm groves that Antony con-
sidered a worthy present to make to Cleopatra, for they
were remarkable because of their abundance and fruit-
fulness, having a rich, unctuous juice of a milky con-
sistency, with a vinous flavor and a peculiar sweetness
like that of honey.

Pliny; V. 15.

351

Engadda

The town of Engadda, once noted for its fertility and
its groves of palms, was only a heap of ashes in Pliny's



PHOENICIA. PALESTINE 479

time. He describes the Esseni, the people who lived
above its Spring, as being marvelous beyond all others
throughout the world, as they had no money, and they
had no women among them, their only companions being
the palm trees. But their numbers were recruited from
day to day by multitudes of strangers wearied with the
miseries of life and seeking a refuge from the tempests of
fortune. Thus through thousands of ages that people,
incredible to relate, had prolonged its existence without a
single birth taking place among them, so fruitful a source
of population to it was that weariness of life which is felt
by others.

John the Baptist has been supposed to have belonged
to the sect of the Essenes.

Engedi, some thirty-seven miles from Jerusalem, was
on the west shore of the Dead Sea; it was the Hazezon
Tamar of the Bible. Its Spring, Ain Jedi or the fountain
of the Goats, gushes out of the limestone rock of a lofty
cliff, at a height of about 400 feet above the plain and
forms a brook that empties into the Dead Sea. The
Spring's water is sweet and pleasant, although as warm
as 81 degrees Fahr., and the attraction the water still
has for numerous flocks of goats indicates how the foun-
tain originally received its name.

Pliny; V. 15.



352

Callirrhoe

Callirrhoe was a warm Spring remarkable for its medi-
cinal qualities and its name indicates the celebrity that
its waters gained.

This Spring was on the east side of the River Jordan,
and its waters had a sulphurous taste.



480 FOREIGN COUNTRIES

The unpleasantness always connected with the name
of Callirrhoe was as marked in the case of this Spring as
in the other instances cited, if Renan is correct in his con-
jecture that it is the boiling and sulphurous Spring which
the apocalyptic Book of Enoch describes as being in the
subterranean valley that was the abode of the wicked
Fallen Angels, and whose only redeeming trait was that it
served to cure diseases.

Under medical advice, Herod, in his last illness, re-
sorted to the Spring of Callirrhoe, which was opposite
the center of the Dead Sea.

The Springs as now known, for there are four that
issue near each other, are in a romantic valley crowded
with canes and palms and surrounded by parti-colored
rocks, the yellow of which is produced by the sulphur
deposits of the waters. The stream formed by the out-
pouring Springs is twelve feet wide and ten inches deep
and has a temperature of 95 ; it flows into the Dead Sea.

Pliny; V. 15.



353
The Jordan

The river Jordanes rose from the cave Spring of Panias,
in Mt. Panias in the range of Anti-Libanus.

In the cave there was an oracle of Pan where revela-
tions were made by the interpretation of dreams.

Josephus went more into details, and stated that while
the source of the Jordan appeared to be in the sanctuary
of Pan, it was really some distance away in a circular



Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 30 of 46)