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Herodotus.

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rate vessel springing from the root by the side of the plant
itself, and very nearly resembles a wasp's comb : in this there
grow edible seeds in great numbers of the size of an olive-
stone, and they are eaten either fresh or dried. Besides this



46 HERODOTUS

they pull up from the fens the papyrus which grows every
year, and the upper parts of it they cut off and turn to other
uses, but that which is left below for about a cubit in length
they eat or sell : and those who desire to have the papyrus at
its very best bake it in an oven heated red-hot, and then
eat it. Some too of these people live on fish alone, which
they dry in the sun after having caught them and taken out
the entrails, and then when they are dry, they use them for
food.

Fish which swim in shoals are not much produced in the
rivers, but are bred in the lakes, and they do as follows:
When there comes upon them the desire to breed, they swim
out in shoals towards the sea; and the males lead the way
shedding forth their milt as they go, while the females,
coming after and swallowing it up, from it become impreg-
nated: and when they have become full of young in the sea
they swim up back again, each shoal to its own haunts. The
same however no longer lead the way as before, but the lead
comes now to the females, and they leading the way in
shoals do just as the males did, that is to say they shed forth
their eggs by a few grains at a time, and the males coming
after swallow them up. Now these grains are fish, and from
the grains which survive and are not swallowed, the fish
grow which afterwards are bred up. Now those of the fish
which are caught as they swim out towards the sea are found
to be rubbed on the left side of the head, but those which
are caught as they swim up again are rubbed on the right
side. This happens to them because as they swim down to
the sea they keep close to the land on the left side of the
river, and again as they swim up they keep to the same
side, approaching and touching the bank as much as they
can, for fear doubtless of straying from their course by
reason of the stream. When the Nile begins to swell, the
hollow places of the land and the depressions by the side
of the river first begin to fill, as the water soaks through
from the river, and so soon as they become full of water,
at once they are all filled with little fishes ; and whence these
are in all likelihood produced, I think that I perceive. In
the preceding year, when the Nile goes down, the fish first
lay eggs in the mud and then retire with the last of the



EGYPT 47

retreating waters; and when the time comes round again, and
the water once more comes over the land, from these eggs
forthwith are produced the fishes of which I speak.

Thus it is as regards the fish. And for anointing those
of the Egyptians who dwell in the fens use oil from the
castor-berry, which oil the Egyptians call kiki, and thus they
do : they sow along the banks of the rivers and pools
these plants, which in a wild form grow of themselves in the
land of the Hellenes ; these are sown in Egypt and produce
berries in great quantity but of an evil smell ; and when they
have gathered these, some cut them up and press the oil
from them, others again roast them first and then boil them
down and collect that which runs away from them. The oil
is fat and not less suitable for burning than olive-oil, but it
gives forth a disagreeable smell. Against the gnats, which
are very abundant, they have contrived as follows : those
who dwell above the fen-land are helped by the towers, to
which they ascend when they go to rest; for the gnats by
reason of the winds are not able to fly up high : but those
who dwell in the fen-land have contrived another way in-
stead of the towers, and this it is : every man of them has
got a casting net, with which by day he catches fish, but in
the night he uses it for this purpose, that is to say he puts
the casting-net round about the bed in which he sleeps, and
then creeps in under it and goes to sleep : and the gnats, if he
sleeps rolled up in a garment or a linen sheet, bite through
these, but through the net they do not even attempt to bite.

Their boats with which they carry cargoes are made of
the thorny acacia, of which the form is very like that of the
Kyrenian lotos, and that which exudes from it is gum. From
this tree they cut pieces of wood about two cubits in length
and arrange them like bricks, fastening the boat together by
running a great number of long bolts through the two-cubit
pieces ; and when they have thus fastened the boat together,
they lay cross-pieces over the top, using no ribs for the
sides; and within they caulk the seams with papyrus. They
make one steering-oar for it, which is passed through the
bottom of the boat; and they have a mast of acacia and sails
of papyrus. These boats cannot sail up the river unless
there be a very fresh wind blowing, but are towed from the



48 HERODOTUS

shore: down-stream however they travel as follows: they
have a door-shaped crate made of tamarisk wood and reed
mats sewn together, and also a stone of about two talents
weight bored with a hole; and of these the boatman lets the
crate float on in front of the boat, fastened with a rope,
and the stone drags behind by another rope. The crate then,
as the force of the stream presses upon it, goes on swiftly
and draws on the baris (for so these boats are called), while
the stone dragging after it behind and sunk deep in the
water keeps its course straight. These boats they have in
great numbers and some of them carry many thousands of
talents' burden.

When the Nile comes over the land, the cities alone are
seen rising above the water, resembling more nearly than
anything else the islands in the Egean Sea; for the rest of
Egypt becomes a sea and the cities alone rise above water.
Accordingly, whenever this happens, they pass by water not
now by the channels of the river but over the midst of the
plain : for example, as one sails up from Naucratis to Mem-
phis the passage is then close by the pyramids, whereas the
usual passage is not the same even here, but goes by the
point of the Delta and the city of Kercasoros; while if you
sail over the plain to Naucratis from the sea and from
Canobos, you will go by Anthylla and the city called after
Archander. Of these Anthylla is a city of note and is
especially assigned to the wife of him who reigns over Egypt,
to supply her with sandals, (this is the case since the time
when Egypt came to be under the Persians) : the other city
seems to me to have its name from Archander the son-in-law
of Danaos, who was the son of Phthios, the son of Achaios ;
for it is called the City of Archander. There might indeed
be another Archander, but in any case the name is not
Egyptian.

Hitherto my own observation and judgment and inquiry
are the vouchers for that which I have said; but from this
point onwards I am about to tell the history of Egypt ac-
cording to that which I heard, to which will be added also
something of that which I have myself seen.

Of Min, who first became king of Egypt, the priests said



EGYPT 49

that on the one hand he banked off the site of Memphis
from the river: for the whole stream of the river used to
flow along by the sandy mountain-range on the side of Libya,
but Min formed by embankments that bend of the river
which lies to the South about a hundred furlongs above
Memphis, and thus he dried up the old stream and conducted
the river so that it flowed in the middle between the
mountains: and even now this bend of the Nile is by the
Persians kept under very careful watch, that it may flow
in the channel to which it is confined, and the bank is repaired
every year; for if the river should break through and over-
flow in this direction, Memphis would be in danger of being
overwhelmed by flood. When this Min, who first became
king, had made into dry land the part which was dammed
off, on the one hand, I say, he founded in it that city which
is now called Memphis ; for Memphis too is in the narrow
part of Egypt; and outside the city he dug round it on the
North and West a lake communicating with the river, for the
side towards the East is barred by the Nile itself. Then
secondly he established in the city the temple of Hephaistos
a great work and most worthy of mention. After this man
the priests enumerated to me from a papyrus roll the names
of other kings, three hundred and thirty in number; and
in all these generations of men eighteen were Ethiopians,
one was a woman, a native Egyptian, and the rest were men
and of Egyptian race: and the name of the woman who
reigned was the same as that of the Babylonian queen,
namely Nitocris. Of her they said that desiring to take
vengeance for her brother, whom the Egyptians had slain
when he was their king and then, after having slain him,
had given his kingdom to her, desiring, I say, to take
vengeance for him, she destroyed by craft many of the
Egyptians. For she caused to be constructed a very large
chamber under ground, and making as though she would
handsel it but in her mind devising other things, she invited
those of the Egyptians whom she knew to have had most part
in the murder, and gave a great banquet. Then while they
were feasting, she let in the river upon them by a secret con-
duit of large size. Of her they told no more than this, except
that, when this had been accomplished, she threw herself



50 HERODOTUS

into a room full of embers, in order that she might escape
vengeance. As for the other kings, they could tell me of no
great works which had been produced by them, and they
said that they had no renown except only the last of them,
Moiris: he (they said) produced as a memorial of himself
the gateway of the temple of Hephaistos which is turned
towards the North Wind, and dug a lake, about which I shall
set forth afterwards how many furlongs of circuit it has,
and in it built pyramids of the size which I shall mention
at the same time when I speak of the lake itself. He, they
said, produced these works, but of the rest none produced
any.

Therefore passing these by I shall make mention of the
king who came after these, whose name was Sesostris. He
(the priests said) first of all set out with ships of war from
the Arabian gulf and subdued those who dwelt by the shores
of the Erythraian Sea, until as he sailed he came to a sea
which could no further be navigated by reason of shoals:
then secondly, after he had returned to Egypt, according
to the report of the priests he took a great army and marched
over the continent, subduing every nation which stood in
his way: and those of them whom he found valiant and fight-
ing desperately for their freedom, in their lands he set up
pillars which told by inscriptions his own name and the
name of his country, and how he had subdued them by his
power; but as to those of whose cities he obtained posses-
sion without fighting or with ease, on their pillars he in-
scribed words after the same tenor as he did for the nations
which had shown themselves courageous, and in addition he
drew upon them the hidden parts of a woman, desiring to
signify by this that the people were cowards and effeminate.
Thus doing he traversed the continent, until at last he
passed over to Europe from Asia and subdued the Scythians
and also the Thracians. These, I am of opinion, were the
furthest people to which the Egyptian army came, for in
their country the pillars are found to have been set up, but
in the land beyond this they are no longer found. From
this point he turned and began to go back; and when he
came to the river Phasis, what happened then I cannot say
for certain, whether the king Sesostris himself divided off a



EGYPT 51

certain portion of his army and left the men there as settlers
in the land, or whether some of his soldiers were wearied
by his distant marches and remained by the river Phasis.
For the people of Colchis are evidently Egyptian, and this I
perceived for myself before I heard it from others. So when
I had come to consider the matter I asked them both; and
the Colchians had remembrance of the Egyptians more than
the Egyptians of the Colchians ; but the Egyptians said they
believed that the Colchians were a portion of the army of
Sesostris. That this was so I conjectured myself not only
because they are dark-skinned and have curly hair (this of
itself amounts to nothing, for there are other races which
are so), but also still more because the Colchians, Egyptians,
and Ethiopians alone of all the races of men have practised
circumcision from the first. The Phenicians and the Syrians
who dwell in Palestine confess themselves that they have
learnt it from the Egyptians, and the Syrians about the river
Thermodon and the river Parthenios, and the Macronians,
who are their neighbours, say that they have learnt it lately
from the Colchians. These are the only races of men who
practise circumcision, and these evidently practise it in the
same manner as the Egyptians. Of the Egyptians themselves
however and the Ethiopians, I am not able to say which
learnt from the other, for undoubtedly it is a most ancient
custom ; but that the other nations learnt it by intercourse
with the Egyptians, this among others is to me a strong
proof, namely that those of the Phenicians who have inter-
course with Hellas cease to follow the example of the
Egyptians in this matter, and do not circumcise their chil-
dren. Now let me tell another thing about the Colchians to
show how they resemble the Egyptians : they alone work
flax in the same fashion as the Egyptians, and the two
nations are like one another in their whole manner of living
and also in their language: now the linen of Colchis is
called by the Hellenes Sardonic, whereas that from Egypt
is called Egyptian. The pillars which Sesostris king of
Egypt set up in the various countries are for the most part
no longer to be seen extant ; but in Syria Palestine I myself
saw them existing with the inscription upon them which
I have mentioned and the emblem. Moreover in Ionia there



52 HERODOTUS

are two figures of this man carved upon rocks, one on the
road by which one goes from the land of Ephesos to
Phocaia, and the other on the road from Sardis to Smyrna.
In each place there is a figure of a man cut in the rock, of
four cubits and a span in height, holding in his right hand a
spear and in his left a bow and arrows, and the other equip-
ment which he has is similar to this, for it is both Egyptian
and Ethiopian : and from the one shoulder to the other across
the breast runs an inscription carved in sacred Egyptian
characters, saying thus, " This land with my shoulders I
won for myself." But who he is and from whence, he does
not declare in these places, though in other places he has
declared this. Some of those who have seen these carvings
conjecture that the figure is that of Memnon, but herein
they are very far from the truth.

As this Egyptian Sesostris was returning and bringing
back many men of the nations whose lands he had subdued,
when he came (said the priests) to Daphnai in the district of
Pelusion on his journey home, his brother to whom Sesos-
tris had entrusted the charge of Egypt invited him and
with him his sons to a feast; and then he piled the house
round with brushwood and set it on fire: and Sesostris when
he discovered this forthwith took counsel with his wife, for
he was bringing with him (they said) his wife also; and she
counselled him to lay out upon the pyre two of his sons,
which were six in number, and so to make a bridge over the
burning mass, and that they passing over their bodies should
thus escape. This, they said, Sesostris did, and two of his
sons were burnt to death in this manner, but the rest got
away safe with their father. Then Sesostris, having re-
turned to Egypt and having taken vengeance on his brother,
employed the multitude which he had brought in of those
whose lands he had subdued, as follows : these were they
who drew the stones which in the reign of this king were
brought to the temple of Hephaistos, being of very great
size ; and also these were compelled to dig all the channels
which now are in Egypt; and thus (having no such purpose)
they caused Egypt, which before was all fit for riding and
driving, to be no longer fit for this from thenceforth : for
from that time forward Egypt, though it is plain land, has



EGYPT S3

become all unfit for riding and driving, and the cause has
been these channels, which are many and run in all direc-
tions. But the reason why the king cut up the land was this,
namely because those of the Egyptians who had their cities
not on the river but in the middle of the country, being in
want of water when the river went down from them, found
their drink brackish because they had it from wells. For this
reason Egypt was cut up: and they said that this king dis-
tributed the land to all the Egyptians, giving an equal square
portion to each man, and from this he made his revenue,
having appointed them to pay a certain rent every year : and
if the river should take away anything from any man's
portion, he would come to the king and declare that which
had happened, and the king used to send men to examine
and to find out by measurement how much less the piece of
land had become, in order that for the future the man might
pay less, in proportion to the rent appointed : and I think that
thus the art of geometry was found out and afterwards came
into Hellas also. For as touching the sun-dial and the
gnomon and the twelve divisions of the day, they were learnt
by the Hellenes from the Babylonians. He moreover alone
of all the Egyptian kings had rule over Ethiopia; and he left
as memorials of himself in front of the temple of Hephaistos
two stone statues of thirty cubits each, representing himself
and his wife, and others of twenty cubits each representing
his four sons: and long afterwards the priest of Hephaistos
refused to permit Dareios the Persian to set up a statue of
himself in front of them, saying that deeds had not been
done by him equal to those which were done by Sesostris
the Egyptian; for Sesostris had subdued other nations be-
sides, not fewer than he, and also the Scythians ; but Dareios
had not been able to conquer the Scythians: wherefore it was
not just that he should set up a statue in front of those which
Sesostris had dedicated, if he did not surpass him in his
deeds. Which speech, they say, Dareios took in good part.
Now after Sesostris had brought his life to an end, his
son Pheros, they told me, received in succession the king-
dom, and he made no warlike expedition, and moreover
it chanced to him to become blind by reason of the follow-
ing accident : when the river had come down in flood rising



54 HERODOTUS

to a height of eighteen cubits, higher than ever before that
time, and had gone over the fields, a wind fell upon it and
the river became agitated by waves: and this king (they say)
moved by presumptuous folly took a spear and cast it into
the midst of the eddies of the stream ; and immediately
upon this he had a disease of the eyes and was by it made
blind. For ten years then he was blind, and in the eleventh
year there came to him an oracle from the city of Buto,
saying that the time of his punishment had expired, and
that he should see again if he washed his eyes with the water
of a woman who had accompanied with her own husband
only and had not had knowledge of other men : and first he
made trial of his own wife, and then, as he continued blind,
he went on to try all the women in turn ; and when he had
at last regained his sight he gathered together all the women
of whom he had made trial, excepting her by whose means
he had regained his sight, to one city which now is named
Erythrabolos, and having gathered them to this he con-
sumed them all by fire, as well as the city itself; but as for
her by whose means he had regained his sight, Le had her
himself to wife. Then after he had escaped the malady of
his eyes he dedicated offerings at each one of the temples
which were of renown, and especially (to mention only that
which is most worthy of mention) he dedicated at the temple
of the Sun works which are worth seeing, namely two
obelisks of stone, each of a single block, measuring in length
a hundred cubits each one and in breadth eight cubits.

After him, they said, there succeeded to the throne a man
of Memphis, whose name in the tongue of the Hellenes was
Proteus ; for whom there is now a sacred enclosure at Mem-
phis, very fair and well ordered, lying on that side of the
temple of Hephaistos which faces the North Wind. Round
about this enclosure dwell Phenicians of Tyre, and this whole
region is called the Camp of the Tyrians. Within the en-
closure of Proteus there is a temple called the temple of the
" foreign Aphrodite," which temple I conjecture to be one
of Helen the daughter of Tyndareus, not only because I
have heard the tale how Helen dwelt with Proteus, but also
especially because it is called by the name of the " foreign
Aphrodite," for the other temples of Aphrodite which there



EGYPT 55

are have none of them the addition of the word " foreign "
to the name.

And the priests told me, when I inquired, that the things
concerning Helen happened thus : Alexander having car-
ried off Helen was sailing away from Sparta to his own
land, and when he had come to the Egean Sea contrary-
winds drove him from his course to the Sea of Egypt; and
after that, since the blasts did not cease to blow, he came
to Egypt itself, and in Egypt to that which is now named
the Canobic mouth of the Nile and to Taricheiai. Now
there was upon the shore, as still there is now, a temple of
Heracles, in which if any man's slave take refuge and have
the sacred marks set upon him, giving himself over to the
god, it is not lawful to lay hands upon him; and this custom
has continued still unchanged from the beginning down to
my own time. Accordingly the attendants of Alexandria,
having heard of the custom which existed about the temple,
ran away from him, and sitting down as suppliants of the
god, accused Alexander, because they desired to do him
hurt, telling the whole tale how things were about Helen and
about the wrong done to Menelaos ; and this accusation they
made not only to the priests but also to the warden of this
river-mouth, whose name was Thonis. Thonis then having
heard their tale sent forthwith a message to Proteus at
Memphis, which said as follows : " There hath come a
stranger, a Teucrian by race, who hath done in Hellas an
unholy deed ; for he hath deceived the wife of his own host,
and is come hither bringing with him this woman herself and
very much wealth, having been carried out of his way by
winds to thy land. Shall we then allow him to sail out un-
harmed, or shall we first take away from him that which he
brought with him?" In reply to this Proteus sent back a
messenger who said thus : " Seize this man, whosoever he may
be, who has done impiety to his own host, and bring him away
into my presence, that I may know what he will find to say."
Hearing this, Thonis seized Alexander and detained his ships,
and after that he brought the man himself up to Memphis
and with him Helen and the wealth he had, and also in ad-
dition to them the suppliants. So when all had been con-
veyed up thither, Proteus began to ask Alexander who he was



56 HERODOTUS

and from whence he was voyaging; and he both recounted
to him his descent and told him the name of his native
land, and moreover related of his voyage, from whence he
was sailing. After this Proteus asked him whence he had taken
Helen ; and when Alexander went astray in his account and
did not speak the truth, those who had become suppliants
convicted him of falsehood, relating in full the whole tale of
the wrong done. At length Proteus declared to them this
sentence, saying, " Were it not that I count it a matter of
great moment not to slay any of those strangers who being
driven from their course by winds have come to my land
hitherto, I should have taken vengeance on thee on behalf
of the man of Hellas, seeing that thou, most base of men,
having received from him hospitality, didst work against
him a most impious deed. For thou didst go in to the wife
of thine own host ; and even this was not enough for thee,
but thou didst stir her up with desire and hast gone away
with her like a thief. Moreover not even this by itself was
enough for thee, but thou art come hither . with plunder
taken from the house of thy host. Now therefore depart,



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