John Henry Wright.

Masterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; online

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Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 19 of 29)
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ble that it can be formed of melted snow, running, as
it does, from the hottest regions of the world into
cooler countries ? Many are the proofs whereby any
one capable of reasoning on the subject may be con-
vinced that it is most unlikely this should be the case.
The first and strongest argument is furnished by the
winds, which always blow hot from these regions.
The second is, that rain and frost are unknown there.
Now, whenever snow falls, it must of necessity rain
within five days ; so that, if there were snow, there
must be rain also in those parts. Thirdly, it is cer-
tain that the natives of the country are black with
the heat, that the kites and the swallows remain there
the whole year, and that the cranes, when they fly


from the rigors of a Scythian winter, flock thither to
pass the cold season. If then, in the country whence
the Nile has its source, or in that through which it
flows, there fell ever so little snow, it is absolutely im-
possible that any of these circumstances could take

As for the writer who attributes the phenomenon
to the ocean, his account is involved in such obscurity
that it is impossible to disprove it by argument. For
my part I know of no river called Ocean, and I think
that Homer, or one of the earlier poets, invented the
name, and introduced it into his poetry.

Perhaps, after censuring all the opinions that have
been put forward on this obscure subject, one ought
to propose some theory of one's own. I will therefore
proceed to explain what I think to be the reason of
the Nile's swelling in the summer-time. During the
winter, the sun is driven out of his usual course by
the storms, and removes to the upper parts of Libya.
This is the whole secret in the fewest possible words ;
for it stands to reason that the country to which the
Sun-god approaches the nearest, and which he passes
most directly over, will be scantest of water, and that
there the streams which feed the rivers will shrink
the most.

To explain, however, more at length, the case is
this. The sun, in his passage across the upper parts
of Libya, affects them in the following way. As the
air in those regions is constantly clear, and the country
warm through the absence of cold winds, the sun in
his passage across them acts upon them exactly as he
is wont to act elsewhere in summer, when his path is
in the middle of heaven — that is, he attracts the
water. After attracting it, he again repels it into the


upper regions, where the winds lay hold of it, scatter it,
and reduce it to a vapor, whence it naturally enough
comes to pass that the winds which blow from this
quarter — the south and southwest — are of all winds
the most rainy. And my own opinion is that the sun
does not get rid of all the water which he draws year
by year from the Nile, but retains some about him.
When the winter begins to soften, the sun goes back
again to his old place in the middle of the heaven,
and proceeds to attract water equally from all coun-
tries. Till then the other rivers run big, from the
quantity of rain-water which they bring down from
countries where so much moisture falls that all the
land is cut into gullies ; but in summer, when the
showers fail, and the sun attracts their water, they
become low. The Nile, on the contrary, not deriving
any of its bulk from rains, and being in winter sub-
ject to the attraction of the sun, naturally runs at that
season, unlike all other streams, with a less burthen of
water than in the summer-time. For in summer it is
exposed to attraction equally with all other rivers, but
in winter it suffers alone. The sun, therefore, I re-
gard as the sole cause of the phenomenon.

It is the sun also in my opinion which, by heating
the space through which it passes, makes the air in
Egypt so dry. There is thus perpetual summer in
the upper parts of Libya. Were the position of the
heavenly regions reversed, so that the place where
now the north wind and the winter have their dwell-
ing became the station of the south wind and of the
noonday, while, on the other hand, the station of the
south wind became that of the north, the consequence
would be that the sun, driven from the mid-heaven
by the winter and the northern gales, would betake


himself to the upper parts of Europe, as he now does
to those of Libya, and then I believe his passage
across Europe would affect the Ister exactly as the
Nile is affected at tlie present day.

And with respect to the fact that no breeze blov/s
from the Nile, I am of opinion that no wind is likely
to arise in very hot countries, for breezes love to blow
from some cold quarter.

Let us leave these things, however, to their natural
course, to continue as they are and have been from
the beginning. With regard to the sources of the
Nile, I have found no one among all those with whom
I have conversed, whether Egyptians, Libyans, or
Greeks, who professed to have any knowledge, except
a single person. He was the scribe who kept the
register of the sacred treasures of Minerva in the
city of Sais, and he did not seem to me to be in ear-
nest when he said that he knew them perfectly well.
His story was as follows : " Between Syene, a city
of the Thebais, and Elephantine, there are " (he said)
" two hills with sharp conical tops ; the name of th§
one is Crophi, of the other, Mophi. Midway between
them are the fountains of the Nile, fountains which it
is impossible to fathom. Half the water runs north-
ward into Egypt, half to the south towards Ethiopia."
The fountains were known to be unfathomable, he
declared, because Psammetichus, an Egyptian king,
had made trial of them. He had caused a rope to
be made, many thousand fathoms in length, and had
sounded the fountain with it, but could find no
bottom. By this the scribe gave me to understand,
if there was any truth at all in what he said, that in
this fountain there are certain strong eddies, and a
regurgitation, owing to the force wherewith the water


dashes against the mountains, and hence a sounding-
line cannot be got to reach the bottom of the spring.

No other information on this head could I obtain
from any quarter. All that I succeeded in learning
further of the more distant portions of the Nile, by
ascending myself as high as Elephantine, and making
inquiries concerning the parts beyond, was the follow-
ing : As one advances beyond Elephantine, the land
rises. Hence it is necessary in this part of the river
to attach a rope to the boat on each side, as men har-
ness an ox, and so proceed on the journey. If the
rope snaps, the vessel is borne away down-stream by
the force of the current. The navigation continues
the same for four days, the river winding greatly, like
the Maeander, and the distance traversed amounting
to twelve schoenoi.^ Here you come upon a smooth
and level plain, where the Nile flows in two branches,
round an island called Tachompso. The country
above Elephantine is inhabited by the Ethiopians,
who possess one half of this island, the EgyjDtians
occupying the other. Above the island there is a
great lake, the shores of which are inhabited by Ethi-
opian nomads ; after passing it, you come again to
the stream of the Nile, which runs into the lake.
Here you land, and travel for forty days along the
banks of the river, since it is impossible to proceed
further in a boat on account of the sharp peaks which
jut out from the water, and the sunken rocks which
abound in that part of the stream. When you have
passed this portion of the river in the space of forty
days, you go on board another boat, and proceed by
water for twelve days more, at the end of which time
you reach a great city called Meroe, which is said to

^ About twenty-four leaguefs, or seventy-two miles.


be the capital of the other Ethiopians. The only
gods worshipped by the inhabitants are Jupiter and
Bacchus ; to whom great honors are paid. There is an
oracle of Jupiter in the city, which directs the warlike
expeditions of the Ethiopians ; when it commands,
they go to war, and in whatever direction it bids them
march, thither straightway they carry their arms.

On leaving this city, and again mounting the stream,
in the same space of time which it took you to reach
the capital from Elephantine, you come to the De-
serters, who bear the name of Asmach. This word,
translated into our language, means " the men who
stand on the left hand of the king." These Deserters
are Egyptians of the warrior caste, who, to the number
of two hundred and forty thousand, went over to the
Ethiopians in the reign of King Psammetichus. The
cause of their desertion was the following : Three
garrisons were maintained in Egypt at that time, one
in the city of Elephantine, against the Ethiopians, an-
other in the Pelusiac Daphnae, against the Syrians
and Arabians, and a third, against the Libyans, in
Marea. (The very same posts are to this day occu-
pied by the Persians, whose forces are in garrison
both in Daphnae and in Elephantine.) Now it hap-
pened that on one occasion the garrisons were not
relieved during the space of three years ; the soldiers,
therefore, at the end of that time, consulted together,
and having determined by common consent to revolt,
marched away towards Ethiopia. Psammetichus, in-
formed of the movement, set out in pursuit, and com-
ing up with them, besought them with many words
not to desert the gods of their country, nor abandon
their wives and children. " Nay, but," said one oi
the deserters with an unseemly gesture, " wherevei


we go, we are sure enongh of finding wives and chil-
dren." Arrived in Ethiopia, they placed themselves
at the disposal of the king. In return, he made them
a present of a tract of land which belonged to certain
Ethiopians with whom he was at feud, bidding them
expel the inhabitants and take possession of their ter-
ritory. From the time that this settlement was formed,
their acquaintance with Egyptian manners has tended
to civilize the Ethiopians.

Thus the course of the Nile is known, not only
throughout Egypt, but to the extent of four months'
journey either by land or water above the Egyptian
boundary ; for on calculation it will be found that
it takes that length of time to travel from Elephantine
to the country of the Deserters. There the direction
of the river is from west to east. Beyond, no one
has any certain knowledge of its course, since the
country is uninhabited by reason of the excessive heat.
iBooh IL, Chapters 19-31.}


Concerning Egypt itself I shall extend my re-
marks to a great length, because there is no country
that possesses so many wonders, nor any that has
such a number of works which defy description. Not
only is the climate different from that of the rest of
the world, and the rivers unlike any other rivers, but
the people also, in most of their manners and customs,
exactly reverse the common practice of mankind. The
women attend the markets and trade, while the men
sit at home at the loom ; and here, while the rest of
the world works the woof up the warp, the Egyptians
work it down ; the women likewise carry burthens


upon their shoulders, while the men carry them upon
their heads. They eat their food out of doors in the
streets. A woman cannot serve the priestly office,
either for god or goddess, but men are priests to both ;
sons need not support their parents unless they choose,
but daughters must, whether they choose or no.

In other countries the priests have long hair, in
Egypt their heads are shaven ; elsewhere it is cus-
tomary, in mourning, for near relations to cut their
hair close ; the Egyptians, who wear no hair at any
other time, when they lose a relative, let their beards
and the hair of their heads grow long. All other
men pass their lives separate from animals ; the Egyp-
tians have animals always living with them : others
make barley and wheat their food ; it is a disgrace to
do so in Egypt, where the grain they live on is spelt,
which some call zea. Dough they knead with their
feet, but they mix mud, and even take up dirt, with
their hands. Their men wear two garments apiece,
their women but one. They put on the rings and fas-
ten the ropes to sails inside, others put them outside.
When they write or calculate, instead of going, like the
Greeks, from left to right, they move their hand from
right to left ; and they insist, notwithstanding^ that it
is they who go to the right, and the Greeks who go to
the left. They have two quite different kinds of writ-
ing, one of which is called sacred, the other common.

They are religious to excess, far beyond any other
race of men, and use the following ceremonies :
They drink out of brazen cups, which they scour
every day : there is no exception to this practice.
They wear linen garments, which they are specially
careful to have always fresh washed. Their dress is
entirely of linen, and their shoes of the papyrus plant t


it is not lawful for them to wear either dress or shoes
of any other material. They bathe twice every day in
cold water, and twice each night. Besides which they
observe, so to speak, thousands of ceremonies. (^Booh
IL, 35-37.-)


The following are the peculiarities of the crocodile :
During the four winter months they eat nothing ;
they are four-footed, and live indifferently on land or
in the water. The female lays and hatches her eggs
ashore, passing the greater portion of the day on dry
land, but at night retiring to the river, the water of
which is warmer than the night-air and the dew. Of
all known animals this is the one which from the
smallest size grows to be the greatest : for the Qgg of
the crocodile is but little bigger than that of the goose,
and the young crocodile is in proportion to the Qgg ;
yet when it is full grown, the animal measures fre-
quently seventeen cubits, and even more. It has the
eyes of a pig, teeth large and tusk-like, of a size pro-
portioned to its frame ; unlike any other animal, it is
without a tongue ; it cannot move its under jaw, and
in this respect too it is singular, being the only ani-
mal in the world which moves the upper jaw, but not
the under. It has strong claws and a scaly skin, im-
penetrable upon the back. In the water it is blind,
but on land it is very keen of sight. As it lives
chiefly in the river, it has the inside of its mouth con-
stantly covered with leeches ; hence it happens that,
while all the other birds and beasts avoid it, with the
trochilus it lives at peace, since it owes much to that
bird : for the crocodile, when he leaves the water and
comes out upon the land, is in the habit of lying with


his nioutli wide open, facing the western breeze : at
such times the trochilus goes into his mouth and de-
vours the leeches. This benefits the crocodile, who is
pleased, and takes care not to hurt the trochilus.

The crocodile is esteemed sacred by some of the
Egyptians, by others he is treated as an enemy. Those
who live near Thebes, and those who dwell around
Lake Moeris, regard them with especial veneration.
In each of these places they keep one crocodile in
particular, who is taught to be tame and tractable.
They adorn his ears with ear-rings of molten stone or
gold, and put bracelets on his forepaws, giving him
daily a set portion of bread, with ^ certain number of
victims ; and, after having thus treated him with the
greatest possible attention while alive, they embalm
him when he dies and bury him in a sacred repository.
The people of Elephantine, on the other hand, ax'e so
far from considering these animals as sacred that they
even eat their flesh. In the Egyptian language they
are not called crocodiles, but champsae. The name
of crocodiles was given them by the lonians, who re-
marked their resemblance to the lizards, which in
Ionia live in the walls, and are called crocodiles.

The modes of catching the crocodile are many and
various. I shall only describe the one which seems
to me most worthy of mention. They bait a hook
with a chine of pork and let the meat be carried out
into the middle of the stream, while the hunter upon
the bank holds a living pig, which he belabors. The
crocodile hears its cries and, making for the sound,
encounters the pork, which he instantly swallows
down. The men on the shore haul, and when they
have got him to land, the first thing the hunter does
is to plaster his eyes with mud. This once accom-


plished, the animal is dispatched with ease, otherwise
he gives great trouble.

The hippopotamus, in the canton of Papremis, is a
sacred animal, but not in any other part of Egypt.
It may be thus described : It is a quadruped, cloven-
footed, with hoofs like an ox, and a flat nose. It has
the mane and tail of a horse, huge tusks which are
very conspicuous, and a voice like a horse's neigh.
In size it equals the biggest oxen, and its skin is so
tough that when dried it is made into javelins. (^BooJc
IL, 69-71.)


Passing over [Mis, Nitocris, and Moeris] I shall
speak of the king who reigned next, whose name was
Sesostris. He, the priests said, first of all proceeded
in a fleet of ships of war from the Arabian Gulf along
the shores of the Erythraean Sea, subduing the na-
tions as he went, until he finally reached a sea which
could not be navigated by reason of the shoals. Hence
he returned to Egypt, where, they told me, he col-
lected a vast armament, and made a progress by land
across the continent, conquering every people which
fell in his way. In the countries where the natives
withstood his attack, and fought gallantly for their
liberties, he erected pillars on which he inscribed his
own name and country, and how that he had here
reduced the inhabitants to subjection by the might
of his arms ; where, on the contrary, they submitted
readily and without a struggle, he inscribed on the
pillars, in addition to these particulars, an emblem to
mark that they were a nation of women, that is, un-
warlike and effeminate.

In this way he traversed the whole continent of


Asia, whence he passed on into Europe, and made
himself master of Scythia and of Thrace, beyond
which countries I do not think that his army extended
its march. For thus far the pillars which he erected
are still visible, but in the /emoter regions they are
no longer found. Returning to Egypt from Thrace,
he came on his way to the banks of the river Phasis.
Here I cannot say with any certainty what took place.
Either he of his own accord detached a body of troops
from his main army and left them to colonize the
country, or else a certain number of his soldiers,
wearied with their long wanderings, deserted, and es-
tablished themselves on the banks of this stream.

There can be no doubt that the Colchians are an
Egyptian race. Before I heard any mention of the
fact from others, I had remarked it myself. After
the thought had struck me, I made inquiries on the
subject both in Colchis and in Egypt, and I found
that the Colchians had a more distinct recollection of
the Egyptians than the Egyptians had of them. Still
the Egyptians said that they believed the Colchians
to be descended from the army of Sesostris. ... I will
add a further proof of the identity of the Egyptians
and the Colchians. These two nations weave their
linen in exactly the same way, and this is a way en-
tirely unknown to the rest of the world ; they also in
their whole mode of life and in their language resem-
ble one another. The Colchian linen is called by the
Greeks Sardinian, while that which comes from Egypt
is known as Egyptian.

The pillars which Sesostris erected in the conquered
countries have for the most part disappeared, but in
the part of Syria called Palestine, I myself saw them
still standing, with the writing above mentioned, and


tlie emblem distinctly visible. In Ionia also, there
are two representations of this prince engraved upon
rocks, one on the road from Ephesus to Phocaea, the
other between Sardis and Smyrna. In each case the
figure is that of a man, four cubits and a span high,
with a spear in his right hand and a bow in his left,
the rest of his costume being likewise half Egyptian,
half Ethiopian. There is an inscription across the
breast from shoulder to shoulder in the sacred char-
acter of Egypt, which says, " With my own shoulders
I conquered this land." The conqueror does not tell
who he is, or whence he comes, though elsewhere Se-
sostris records these facts. Hence it has been ima-
gined by some of those who have seen these forms
that they are figures of Memnon ; but such as think
so err very widely from the truth.

This Sesostris, the priests went on to say, upon his
return home accompanied by vast multitudes of peo-
ple whose countries he had subdued, was received by
his brother, whom he had made viceroy of Egypt on
his departure, at Daphnae near Pelusium, and invited
by him to a banquet, which he attended, together
with his sons. Then his brother piled a quantity of
wood all round the building, and having so done set
it alight. Sesostris, discovering what had happened,
took counsel instantly with his wife, who had accom-
panied him to the feast, and was advised by her to
lay two of their six sons upon the fire, and so make a
bridge across the flames, whereby the rest might effect
their escape. Sesostris did as she recommended, and
thus, while two of his sons were burnt to death, he
himself and his other children were saved.

The king then returned to his own land and took
vengeance upon his brother, after which he proceeded


to make use of the multitudes whom he had brought
with him from the conquered countries, partly to drag
the huge masses of stone which were moved in the
course of his reign to the temple of Vulcan, partly
to dig the numerous canals with which the whole of
Egypt is intersected. By these forced labors the
entire face of the country was changed ; for whereas
Egypt had formerly been a region suited both for
horses and carriages, henceforth it became entirely
unfit for either. Though a flat country throughout
its whole extent, it is now unfit for either horse or
carriage, being cut up by the canals, which are ex-
tremely numerous and run in all directions. The
king's object was to supply Nile water to the inhab-
itants of the towns situated in the mid-country, and
not lying upon the river ; for previously they had
been obliged, after the subsidence of the floods, to
drink a brackish water which they obtained from wells.
Sesostris also, they declared, made a division of the
soil of Egypt among the inhabitants, assigning square
plots of ground of equal size to all, and obtaining his
chief revenue from the rent which the holders were
required to pay him every year. If the river carried
away any portion of a man's lot, he appeared before
the king, and related what had happened ; upon
which the king sent persons to examine and determine
by measurement the exact extent of the loss; and
thenceforth only such a rent was demanded of him as
was proportionate to the reduced size of his land.
.From this practice, I think, geometry first came to be
known in Egypt, whence it passed into Greece. The
sun-dial, however, and the gnomon, with the division
of the day into twelve parts, were received by the
Greeks from the Babylonians. (^Booh 11.^ Chapters



Till the death of Rhampsinitus, the priests said,
Egypt was excellently governed, and flourished
greatly; but after him Cheops succeeded to the
throne, and plunged into all manner of wickedness.
He closed the temples, and forbade the Egyptians to
offer sacrifice, compelling them instead to labor, one
and all, in his service. Some were required to drag
blocks of stone down to the Nile from the quarries in
the Arabian range of hills ; others received the blocks
after they had been conveyed in boats across the river,
and drew them to the range of hills called the Libyan.
A hundred thousand men labored constantly, and were
relieved every three months by a fresh lot. It took
ten years' oppression of the people to make the cause-
way for the conveyance of the stones, a work not much
inferior, in my judgment, to the pyramid itself. This
causeway is five furlongs in length, ten fathoms wide,
and in height, at the highest part, eight fathoms. It
is built of polished stone, and is covered with carvings
of animals. To make it took ten years, as I said —

Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 19 of 29)