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Pliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books online

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Beasts : and within, Solitudes of Elephants : and soon after,
vast Deserts, even beyond the Garamantes, who, from the
Augilae, are distant twelve Days' Journey. Above them was
the Nation of the Psylli : and above them the Lake of Lyco-
medes environed with Deserts. The Augilee themselves are
seated about the middle Way from Ethiopia ; which bendeth
Westward, and from the Country lying between the two
Syrtes, with an equal Distance on each Side : but the Shore
between the two Syrtes is 250 Miles. There standeth the

BOOK V.] History of Nature. 53

City Oeensis, the River Cinyps, and the Country. Towns,
Neapolis, Taphra, Abrotonum, the other Leptis, called also
the Great. Then the Greater Syrtis, in Compass 625 Miles,
and in direct Passage 313. Then inhabit the Nation of Cisi-
pades. In the inmost Gulf was the Coast of the Lotophagi,
whom some have called Alachroas, as far as to the Altars of
the Philaeni, and they are formed of Sand. Next to them, not
far from the Continent, the vast Marsh admitteth into it the
River Triton, and taketh its Name from it : but CaUimachus
calleth it Pallantias, and saith it is on this Side the lesser
Syrtes ; but many place it between both Syrtes. The Pro-
montory that encloseth the greater is named Borion. Beyond
is the Province Cyrenaica. From the River Ampsaga to this
Bound, Africa containeth 26 separate People, who are subject
to the Roman Empire : among which are six Colonies, be-
sides the above-named, Uthina and Tuburbis. Towns of
Roman Citizens, 15 ; of which those in the midland Parts to
be named are Azuritanum, Abutucense, Aboriense, Cano-
picum, Chilmanense, Simittuense, Thunusidens, Tuburni-
cense, Tynidrumense, Tribigense, two Ucitana, the greater
and less; and Vagiense. One Latin Town, Usalitanum.
One stipendiary Town near Castra Cornelia. Free Towns,
30, of which are to be named, within, Acrolitanum, Achari-
tanum, Avinense, Abziritanum, Canopitanum, Melzitanum,
Madaurense, Salaphitanum, Tusdritanum, Tiricense, Tiphi-
cense, Tunicense, Theudense, Tagestense (Tigense), Ulusi-
britanum, another Vagense, Vigense, and Zamense. The
rest it may be right to call not only Cities, but also for the
most Part, Nations ; as the Natabudes, Capsitani, Misulani,
Sabarbares, Massili, Misives, Vamacures, Ethini, Massini,
Marchubii: and all Gsetulia to the River Nigris, which
parteth Africa and Ethiopia.


THE Region Cyrenaica, called also Pentapolitana, is
illustrious for the Oracle of Hammon, which is from Cyrenae

54 History of Nature. [BOOK V.

400 Miles, from the Fountain of the Sun ; and principally
for five Cities, Berenice, Arsinoe, Ptolemais, Apollonia, and
Gyrene itself. Berenice standeth upon the outermost Horn
of Syrtis, called formerly the City of the above-named Hes-
perides, according to the wandering Tales of Greece. And
before the Town, not far off, is the River Lethon, the sacred
Grove where the Gardens of the Hesperides are reported to
be. From Leptis it is 385 Miles. From it is Arsinoe, usually
named Teuchira, 43 Miles : and from thence 22 Miles,
Ptolemais, called in old time Barce. And then 250 Miles
off, the Promontory Phycus runneth out through the Cretic
Sea, distant from Tsenarus, a Promontory of Laconia, 350
Miles : but from Greta itself 125 Miles. And after it Gyrene,
1 1 Miles from the Sea. From Phycus to Apollonia is 24
Miles: to Cherrhonesus, 88: and so to Catabathnus, 216
Miles. The Inhabitants there bordering are the Marmaridse,
stretching out in Length almost from Parse to mum to the
Greater Syrtis. After them the Ararauceles : and so in the
very Coast of Syrtis, the Nesamones, whom formerly the
Greeks called Mesammones, by reason of the Place, as
seated in the midst between the Sands. The Cyrenaic
Country, for the Space of 15 Miles from the Sea-shore, is
fruitful for Trees : and for the same Compass within the
Land, for Corn only: but then for 30 Miles in Breadth, and
250 in Length, for Laser. 1 After the Nasamones live the
Hasbitae and Masse. Beyond them the Hammanientes, 11
Days' Journey from the Greater Syrtis to the West ; and even
they also every Way are compassed about with Sands : but

1 The plant that yielded the Cyrenaic juice called Laser, was the
Silphion of the Greeks, and the Laserpitium of the Romans (Thapsia
Silphion, Viviani), and agrees tolerably well with the rude figures struck
on the Cyrenean coins. It would appear, however, that the Cyrenaic
juice becoming scarce, the ancients employed some other substance of
similar, though inferior properties, as a substitute, and to both of them
they applied the term Laser. Pliny (lib. xix. c. 3) says, " For a long
time past the only Laser brought to us is that which is produced abun-
dantly in Persia, &c., but it is inferior to the Cyrenaic." Now it is not at
all improbable that the Laser of Persia may have been our Asafcedita
(Ferula Asafa>dita, LIN.) Wern. Club.

BOOK V.] History of Nature. 55

they find without much difficulty Wells almost in the Depth
of two Cubits, where the Waters of Mauritania settle. They
build themselves Houses of Salt, hewn out of their own
Mountains in the manner of Stone. From these to the Tro-
glodites, in the South-west Coast, the Country is four Days'
Journey ; with whom is a Traffic only for a precious Stone,
which we call a Carbuncle, brought out of Ethiopia. There
cometh between, the Country Phazania toward the Solitudes
of Africa, above the said Lesser Syrtis : where we subdued
the Nation of the Phazanii, with the Cities Alele and Cillaba.
Also Cydamum, over against the region of Sabrata. Next to
these is a Mountain, reaching a great way from East to
West, called by our People Ater, as if burnt by Nature, or
scorched by the reflection of the Sun. Beyond that Moun-
tain are the Deserts : also Matelgse, a Town of the Gara-
mantes, and likewise Debris, which casteth forth a Fountain,
the Waters boiling from Noon to Midnight, and for as many
Hours to Mid-day reducing again : also the very illustrious
Town Garama, the head of the Garamantes. All which
Places the Roman Arms have conquered, and over them
Cornelius Balbus triumphed ; the only Man of Foreigners
that was honoured with the (Triumphant) Chariot, and en-
dowed with the Freedom of Roman Citizens ; because being
born at Gades, he and his Uncle, Balbus the Elder, were
made free Denizens of Rome. And this wonder our Writers
have recorded, that besides the Towns above named by him
conquered, himself in his Triumph carried the Names and
Images, not of Cydamus and Garama only, but also of all
the other Nations and Cities ; which went in this Order.
The Town Tabidium, the Nation Niteris ; the Town Neglige-
mela, the Nation Bubeium ; the Town Vel, the Nation Enipi ;
the Town Thuben, the Mountain named Niger; the Towns
Nitibrum and Rapsa ; the Nation Discera, the Town Debris ;
the River Nathabur, the Town Tapsagum, the Nation Nan-
nagi, the Town Boin ; the Town Pege, the River Dasibari.
Presently these Towns lying continuously, Baracum, Buluba,
Alasi, Balsa, Galla, Maxala, and Zinnia. The Mountain
Gyri, wherein Titus hath reported "that precious Stones

56 History of Nature. [BOOK V.

were produced. 1 Hitherto the Way to the Garamantes was
intricate, by reason of the Robbers of that Nation, who used
to dig Pits in the Way (which to them that know the Places
is no hard matter to do) and then cover them with Sand.
But in the last War which the Romans maintained against the
Oeenses, under the conduct of Vespasian the Emperor, there
was found a short Way of four Days' Journey : and this Way
is called Prceter caput Saxi [beside the Rock's Head]. The
Frontier of Cyrenaica is called Catabathmos ; which is a Town
and a Valley with a sudden Descent. To this Bound, from
the Lesser Syrtis, Cyrenaica Africa lieth in Length 1060
Miles, and in Breadth, for so much as is known, 800.

Libya Mareotis.

THE Country following is named Mareotis Libya, bounded
by Egypt; inhabited by the Marmaridse, Adyrmachidge, and
then the Mareotse. The Measure from Catabathmos to Pa-
retonium is 86 Miles. In that Tract there lieth in the way
the Village Apis, a place noble for the Religion of Egypt.
From it to Parsetonium, 12 Miles. From thence to Alexan-
dria, 200 Miles : the Breadth is 169 Miles. Eratosthenes
hath delivered, That from Cyrenae to Alexandria by Land the
Journey is 525 Miles. Agrippa saith, that the Length of all
Africa from the Atlantic Sea, with the inferior part of Egypt,
containeth 3040 Miles. Polybius and Eratosthenes, reputed
the most diligent, have set down from the Ocean to great
Carthage 600 Miles : from thence to Canopicum, the nearest
Mouth of Nilus, 1630 Miles. Isidorus reckoneth from Tingi
to Canopus 3599 Miles ; and Artemidorus, 40 less than

1 Some editions read Titus prodidit, while others have titulus pracepit.

In the triumph of Vespasian and Titus, so minutely described by
Josephus (" Wars of the Jews," book vii. cap. 5) a title was affixed to
the several images carried in procession, containing the names of the con-
quered nations and towns, with mention of their chief productions.
Wern. Club.

BOOK V.] History of Nature. 57

Islands about Africa, and over against Africa.

THESE Seas do not contain very many Islands. The
fairest is Meninx, 35 Miles long and 25 broad, called by
Eratosthenes Lotophagitis. It hath two Towns, Meninx on
the side of Africa, and Thoar on the other : itself is situated
from the right-hand Promontory of the Lesser Syrtis 200
Paces. 1 A hundred Miles from it against the left hand is
Cercina, with a free Town of the same Name, in Length 25
Miles, and half as much in Breadth where it is most : but
toward the end not above five Miles. To it there lieth a
little one toward Carthage called Cercinitis, and it joineth
by a Bridge. From these, almost 50 Miles, lieth Lopadusa,
six Miles long. Then, Gaulos and Galata, the Earth of which
killeth the Scorpion, a dangerous Creature of Africa. They
say also that they will die in Clupea, over against which
lieth Cosyra, with a Town. But against the Bay of Car-
thage are the two ^ginori, more truly Rocks than Islands,
lying for the most part between Sicily and Sardinia. Some
write that these were inhabited, but sunk down.

The JEthiopes.

BUT within the inner Compass of Africa, toward the
South, and above the Gsetuli, where the Deserts come be-
tween, the first People that inhabit are the Libii jEgyptii,
and then the Leucsethiopes. Above them are the Ethiopian
Nations : the Nigritae, from whom the River was named : the
Gyrnnetes, Pharusi, and those which now reach to the Ocean,
whom we spake of in the border of Mauritania : the Perorsi.
From all these are vast Solitudes eastward, to the Gara-
mantes, Augylse, and Troglodites, according to the truest
opinion of them who place two ^Ethiopias above the Deserts
of Africa : and especially of Homer, who saith, that the
Ethiopians are divided two ways, towards the East and

1 Or 1500 paces, i. e. a mile and a half.

58 History of Nature. [BooK V.

West. The River Niger is of the same nature as Nilus ;
producing the Reed and Papyrus, and the same living Crea-
tures, and swelleth at the same Seasons. It springeth be-
tween the Tareleia jEthiopiae, and the Oecalicae. The Town
Mavin, belonging to this People, some have set upon the
deserts : near them the Atlantae ; the jEgipanae, half beasts ;
the Blemmyae, the Gamphasantae, Satyri, and Himantopodae.
Those Atlantae, if we will believe it, degenerate from Human
Manners : for neither call they one another by any Name :
and they look upon the Sun, rising and setting, with dread-
ful curses, as being pernicious to them and their Fields :
neither Dream they in their Sleep, as other Men. The
Troglodites dig Caverns, and these serve them for Houses :
they feed upon the Flesh of Serpents ; they make a gnash-
ing Noise, not a Voice, so little exchange have they of Speech.
The Garamantes live out of Marriage, and converse with
their Women in common. The Augylae only worship the
Infernal Gods. The Gamphasantes are naked, and know no
Wars, and associate with no Foreigner. The Blemmyae, by
report, have no Heads, but their Mouth and Eyes fixed in
their Breast. The Satyri, besides their Shape, have nothing
of Human Manners. The jEgipauae are shaped as you see
them commonly painted. The Himantopodae are some of
them wry-legged, with which they naturally go creeping.
The Pharusi, formerly Persae, are said to have been the
Companions of Hercules, as he went to the Hesperides.
More of Africa worth the noting does not occur. 1

Of Asia.

UNTO it joineth Asia, which from the Mouth of Canopus
unto the Mouth of Pontus, according to Timosthenes, is 2639
Miles. But from the Coast of Pontus to that of Maeotis,
Eratosthenes saith it is 1545 Miles. The whole, together with
Egypt unto Tanais, according to Artemidorus and Isidorus,
taketh 8800 Miles. Many Seas there are in it, taking their

1 Notes on these alleged varieties of the human form will be found
b. vii. c. 2 ; see also b. vi. c. 30. Wern. Club.

BOOK V.] History of Nature. 59

Names from the Borderers ; and therefore they shall he
declared together. The next Country to Africa that is
inhabited is Egypt, receding withinward to the South, so
far as to the ^Ethiopians, who are stretched out on its Back.
The Nilus is on the lower part, and is divided on the Right
'and Left; by its encircling it.boundeth it with the Mouth
of Canopus from Africa, and with the Pelusiac from Asia,
with an interval of 170 Miles. For which cause, some have
reckoned Egypt among the Islands, considering that Nilus
doth so divide itself as to make a triangular figure of the
Land. And so, many have called Egypt by the Name of the
Greek letter Delta (A). The Measure of it from the Channel
where it is single, from whence it first parteth into sides, to
the Mouth of Canopus, is 146 Miles ; and to the Pelusiac 256.
The upmost part bounding upon ^Ethiopia, is called Thebais.
It is divided into Townships, with separate Jurisdictions,
which they call Nomi : as Ombites, Phatunites, Apol-
lopolites, Hermonthites, Thinites, Phanturites, Captites,
Tentyrites, Diospalites, Antaeopolites, Aphroditopolites, and
Lycopolites. The Country about Pelusium hath these Nomi :
Pharboetites, Bubastites, Sethroites, and Tanites. But the
remainder, the Arabic, the Hammoniac which extendeth to
the Oracle of Jupiter Hammon, Oxyrinchites, Leontopolites,
Atarrhabites, Cynopolites, Hermopolites, Xoites, Mendesius,
Sebennites, Capastites, Latopolites, Heliopolites, Prosopites,
Panopolites, [Thermopolites, Saithes?] Busirites, Onuphites,
Sorites, Ptenethu, Pthernphu, Naucratites, Nitrites, Gynae-
copolites, Menelaites, in the Country of Alexandria. In like
manner of Libya Mareotis. ' Heracleopolites is in an Island of
Nilus, 50 Miles long, wherein also is the place they call the
Town of Hercules. There are two Arsinoetes; they and
Memphites reach as far as to the Head of Delta. Upon it there
border, out of Africa, the two Ouasitae. There are Writers
that change some of these Names, and substitute other Nomi:
as Heroopolites, and Crocodilopolites. Between Arsinoetes
and Memphites there was a Lake 250 Miles in Circuit ; or,
as Mutianus saith, 450, and 50 Paces deep (i. e. 150 Feet),
made by Hand ; called the Lake Moeridis, from a King who

60 History of Nature. [BOOK V.

made it : 72 Miles from thence is Memphis, the Castle in
old time of the Egyptian Kings. From which to the
Oracle of Hammon is 12 Days' Journey ; and to the Division
of Nilus, which we have called Delta, 15 Miles. The Nilus,
rising from unknown Springs, passeth through Deserts and
burning Countries: and going a vast way in Length, is
known by Fame only, without Arms, without Wars, which
have discovered all other Lands. It hath its beginning, so
far as King Juba was able to search, in a Mountain of the
lower Mauritania, not far from the Ocean, near to a stag-
nant Lake, which they call Nilides. In it are found the
Fishes called Alabetae, 1 Coracini, Siluri, and also the Cro-
codile. Upon this argument the Nilus is thought to spring
from hence, for that it is seen dedicated by him at Csesarea,
in Iseum, at this day. Moreover, it is observed, that as the
Snow or Rain fills the Country in Mauritania, so the Nilus
increases. When it is run out of this Lake, it scorneth
to pass through the sandy and unclean Places, and hideth
itself for some Days' Journey. By and by out of another
greater Lake it breaketh forth in the Country of the Mas-
ssesyli, of Mauritania Csesariensis ; and as if it looks about for
the Company of Men, with the same arguments of living
Creatures, again becomes received within the Sands, where
it is hidden a second time for 20 Days' Journey in the
Deserts, as far as to the next ^Ethiopse : and so soon as it
hath again espied a Man, forth it leapeth (as it should seem)
out of that Spring, which they called Nigris. And then
dividing Africa from ^Ethiopia, being acquainted, if not pre-
sently with people, yet with the frequent company of wild and
savage Beasts, and creating the shade of Woods, it cutteth

1 The first named, Alabes or Alabetse, is a species of Lota of Cuvier,
or Burbot : though perhaps not the same with the fish of that name that
inhabits the fresh waters of Europe. The name Coracinus has been
applied to more than, one fish of a sooty colour : but the species referred
to by Pliny is probably the Perca Nilotica of Linnaeus : the Lates Nilo-
ticus of Cuvier. The Silurus of Pliny is perhaps a species of Cuvier's
genus Schilbe, although true Siluri are found in the Nile. The Croco-
dile will be more particularly referred to in another place. Wern. Club.

BOOK V.] History of Nature. 61

through the midst of the ^Ethiopians : there surnamed
Astapus, which in the Language of those Nations signifieth
a Water flowing out of Darkness. Thus dasheth it upon
such an innumerable Multitude of Islands, and some of them
so very great, that although it bear a swift Stream, yet is it
not able to pass beyond them in less space than five Days.
About the fairest of them, Meroe, the Channel going on the
Left is called Astabores, which is, the Branch of a Water
coming forth from Darkness : but that on. the Right is
Astusapes, which adds the signification of Lying hid. And
it never taketh the Name of Nilus, until its Waters meet
again and accord together. And even so was it formerly
named Siris for many Miles: and by Homer altogether
jEgyptus : by others, Triton : here and there hitting upon
Islands, and stirred with so many Provocations : and at the
last enclosed within Mountains : and in no place is it more a
Torrent, while the Water that it beareth hasteneth to a
Place of the .ZEthiopii called Catadupi, where in the last
Cataract among the opposing Rocks it is supposed not to
run, but to rush down with a mighty Noise. But afterwards
it becometh gentle, as the Stream is broken and the violence
subdued and partly wearied with his long way : and so,
though with many Mouths, it dischargeth itself into the
Egyptian Sea. Nevertheless, on certain Days it swelleth
to a great height : and when it hath travelled through all
Egypt, it overfloweth the Land, to its great Fertility. Dif-
ferent causes of this Increase have been given : but those
which carry the most probability are either the rebounding
of the Water driven back by the Etesian Winds, at that time
blowing against it, and driving the Sea upon the Mouths of
the River : or the Summer Rain in ^Ethiopia, by reason
that the same Etesian Winds bring Clouds thither from
other parts of the World. Timceus the Mathematician
alleged an hidden reason for it, which is, that the Foun-
tain of the Nilus is named Phiala, and the River itself is
hidden within Trenches under the Ground, breathing forth
in a Vapour out of reeking Rocks, where it lieth concealed.
But so soon as the Sun during those Days cometh near, it is

62 History of Nature. [BooK V.

drawn up by the force of Heat, and while it hangeth aloft it
overfloweth : and then, lest it should be devoured, it hideth
again. And this happeneth from the rising of the Dog
through the Sun's entrance into Leo, while the Star standeth
perpendicularly over the Fountain : when in that Tract there
are no Shadows to be seen. Many again were of a different
Opinion : that a River floweth more abundantly when the
Sun is departed toward the North Pole, which happeneth in
Cancer and Leo, and therefore at that time it is not so easily
dried : but when it is returned again toward Capricorn and
the South Pole, it is drunk up, and therefore floweth more
sparily. But if, according to Timceus, it would be thought
possible that the Water should be drawn up, the want of
Shadows during those Days, and in those Places, continueth
still without end. For the River beginneth to increase at
the New Moon, that is after the Solstice, by little and little
gently, so long as the Sun passeth through Cancer, but most
abundantly when he is in Leo. And when he is entered
into Virgo it falleth in the same measure as it rose before.
And it is altogether brought within its banks in Libra, as
Herodotus thinketh, by the hundredth day. While it riseth
it hath been thought unlawful for Kings or Governors to sail
upon it. Its increasings are measured by Marks in certain
Pits. The ordinary Height is sixteen Cubits. The Waters
short of this do not overflow all ; when more than that they
are a hinderance, by reason that they retire more slowly. By
these the Seed Time is consumed, by the Earth being too
Wet ; by the other there is none, because the Ground is
Thirsty. The Province taketh reckoning of both. For
in 12 Cubits it findeth Famine : at 13 it feeleth Hunger ; 14
Cubits comfort their Hearts; 15 bring Safety; and 16
Dainties. The greatest Increase that ever was known until
these Days was 18 Cubits, in the time of Prince Claudius :
and the least, in the Pharsalian War : as if the River by
that Prodigy turned away with horror from the Slaughter of
that great Man. 1 When the Waters have stood, they are

1 Pompey the Great, slain by treachery in Egypt. Wern. Club.

BOOK V.] History of Nature. 63

admitted by opening the Flood-gates. And so soon as any
part of the Land is freed from the Water it is sowed. This
is the only River, of all others, that breatheth out no Air.
The Dominion of Egypt beginneth at Syene,from the Frontier
of Ethiopia, for that is the Name of a Peninsula a hundred
Miles in Compass, wherein are the Cerastae upon the side of
Arabia : and over against it the four Islands Philae, 600
Miles from the Division of Nilus, where it began to be called
Delta, as we have said. This space of Ground hath Arte-
midorus published ; and that within it were 250 Towns.
Juba setteth down 400 Miles. Aristocreon saith, That from
Elephantis to the Sea is 750 Miles. The Island Elephantis
is Inhabited beneath the lowest Cataract three Miles, and
above Syene 16 : and is the utmost Point that the Egyp-
tians sail unto. It is 586 Miles from Alexandria. So far
the Authors above written have erred : there the .^Ethiopian
Ships assemble ; for they are made to fold up together, and
are carried upon Shoulders, so often as they come to those
Cataracts. Egypt, above the other glory of Antiquity,
pretends that in the Reign of King Amasis there were in-
habited in it 20,000 Cities. And even at this Day it is full
of them, though of base account. Nevertheless, that of
Apollo is renowned ; and near to it that of Leucothea, and
Diospolis 1 the Great, the same as Thebes, noble for the
Fame of its Hundred Gates. Also, Captos, a great commer-
cial Town very near to Nilus, frequented for Merchandise of
India and Arabia. Near is the Town of Venus, and another
of Jupiter ; and Tentyris, beneath which standeth Abydus,
the royal Seat of Memnon ; and renowned for the Temple of
Osiris, seven Miles and a half distant from the River, toward
Lybia. Then Ptolemais, Panopolis, and another of Venus.
Also in the Lybian Coast, Lycon, where Mountains bound
Thebais. After these, the Towns of Mercury, Alabastron,
Canum, and that of Hercules spoken of before. After these,
Arsinoe, and the abovesaid Memphis, between which and
the Nomos Arsinoetes, in the Lybian Coast, are the Towns
called Pyramids ; the Labyrinth built up out of the Lake

1 .The city of Jupiter.

64 History of Nature. [BooK V.

Moeris without any Timber to it; and the Town Crialon.
One besides, standing within and bounding upon Arabia,
called the Town of the Sun : of great importance.

Alexandria. 1

BUT justly worthy of praise is Alexandria, standing upon

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