Sidor som bilder

In this manner the irregularities of the Nile were corrected ; and Strabo remarks, that in his time, under Petronius a governour of Egypt, when the inundation of the Nile was twelve cubits, a very great plenty ensued ; and even when it rose but to eight cubits, the dearth was scarce felt in the country ;. . doubtless, because the waters of the lake made up for those of the inundation, by the help of canals and drains..".

Oralen SECT. V. The Inundations of the NILE.. THE Nile is the greatest wonder of Egypt. As

T it seldom rains there, this river, which waters the whole country by its regular inundations, supplies that defect, by bringing, as a yearly tribute, the rains of other countries; which made a poet fay ingeniousy, The Egyptian pastures, how great joever the drought. may be, never implore Jupiter for rain.

Te propter nullos tellus tua postulat imbres

Arida nec pluvio fupplicat herba Jovi *,

To multiply so beneficent a river, Egypt was cut into numberless canals, of a length and breadth proportioned to the different situation and wants of the lands. The Nile brought fertility every where with its falutary streams; united cities one with another, and the Mediterranean with the Red-Sea, maintained trade at home and abroad, and fortified the Kingdom against the enemy; so that it was at once the nourisher and protector of Egypt. The fields were delivered up to it; but the cities that were rais’d with immense labour, and stood like islands in the midst of the waters, look'd down with joy on the plains which were overflowed, and at the same time enrich'd by the Nile.

* Seneca (Nat. Quest. 1 4. C. 2.) a cribes these verses to Ovid, But they are Tibullus's.

This is a general idea of the nature and effects of this river, fo famous among the ancients. - But a wonder so astonishing in itself, and which has been the object of the curiosity and admiration of the learned in all ages, seems to require a more particular description, in which I Thall be as concife as possible.

1. The source of the Nile... The ancients placed the sources of the Nile in the mountains of the moon (as they are commonly call'd) in the ioth degree of fouth-latitude. But our modern travellers have discovered that they lie in the í 2th degree of north-latitude : and by that means they cut off about four or five hundred leagues of the course which the ancients gave to that river, It rises at the foot of a great mountain in the kingdom of Goyam in Abyssinia, from two springs, or eyes, to speak in the language of the country, the fame word in Arabick signifying eye or fountain. These springs are thirty paces from one another, each as large as one of our wells or a coach-wheel. The Nile is increas'd with many rivulets which run into it ; and

after passing through Ethiopia in a meandrous course, .. flows at last into Egypt.

[ocr errors]

in Arit? the

.8. The cataracts of the Nile. THAT name is given to some parts of the Nile, where the water falls down from the steep rocks *. This river, which it first glided smoothly along the vast deferts of Ethiopia, before it enters Egypt, passes by the cataracts. Then growing on a sudden, contrary to its nature, raging and violent in those places where it is pent up and restrained ; after hav-' ing at last broke through all obstacles in its way, it precipitates from the top of some rocks to the bottom, with so loud a noise, that it is heard three leagues off. . · The inhabitants of the country, accustomed by long practice to this sport, exhibit here a spectacle to travellers that is more terrifying than diverting. Two of them go into a little boat; the one to guide it, the other to throw out the water. After having long sustained the violence of the raging waves, by mäge ing their little boat very dextrously, they suffer themselves to be carried away with the impe: tuous torrent as swift as an arrow. The affrighted spectator imagines they are going to be swallowed up in the precipice down which they fall ; when the Nile, restored to its natural course, discovers them again, at a distance, on its smooth and calın waters. This is Seneca's account, which is confirmed by our modern travellers.


* Excipiunt eum (Nilum) 'cataractæ, nobilis insigni specta·culo locus. .... Illic excitatis

primum aquis, quas sine tumul. tu leni alveo duxerat, violentus & torrens per malignos tranfitus profilit, disfimilis fibi ..; tandemque eluctatus obftantia, in

vastam altitudinem subito destitutus cadit, cum ingenti circumjacentium regionum ftrepitu ; quem perferre gens ibi a Persis collocata non potuit, obtufis affiduo fragore auribus, & ob hoc fedibus ad quietiora translatis. Inter miracula fluminis incredi

3. Causes of the inundations of the Nile.' THE ancients have invented many subtil: rèx- Herod.

1. 2. sons for the Nile's great increase, as may be seen in a Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus and Seneca. But it is Diod. 1. 1. now no longer a matter of dispute (it being almost P-35–39.

Senec. bilem incolarum audaciam acce- manu temperant, magnoque Nat. pi. Bini parvula' navigia con- fpectantium metu in caput nixi, Quæft. icendunt, quorum altet navem cum jam adploraveris, meríos- 1. 4.'c, 1. regit, alter exhaurit. Deinde que atque obrutos tanta mole & 2. multum inter rapidam insaniam credideris, longe ab eo in quem Nili & reciprocos fluctus volu- . ceciderant loco navigant, tortati, tandem tenuiffimos cana- menti modo misli. Nec mergit les tenent, per quos angufta ru- cadens unda, sed planis aquis pium effugiunt : & cum toto tradit. Senec. Nat. Quæft. I. 4. famine effufi, nayigium ruens c. 2.

[ocr errors]

universally allowed, that the inundations of the Nilo are over to the great rains which fall in Ethiopia, from whence this river flows. These rains swell it to such a degree, that Ethiopia first, and then Egypt, are overflow'd ; and that which at first was but a large river, rises like a fea, and overspreads the whole

country. Lib. 17. STRABO observes, that the ancients only guess'd IP: 789. that the inundations of the Nile were owing to the

rains which fall in great abundance in Ethiopia ; but adds, that several travellers have since been eyewitnesses of it. Ptolemy Philadelphus, who was very curious in all things relating to arts and sciences,

having sent thither able persons purposely to examine for this matter, and to ascertain the cause of so uncomselves mon and remarkable a circumstance.

the ba

for that. The time and continuance of the inundations. Herod. c HERODOTUS, and after him Diodorus Siculus; 1. 2. :19. Imd several other authors, declare, that the Nile Diod. 1. 1.

: 1. begins to* flow in Egypt, at the summer-solstice, p. 32.

that is, about the end of June, and continues to rise till the end of September ; and then decreases gradually during the months of October and November ; after which it returns to its channel, and refumes its wanted course. This account agrees almost with the relations of all the moderns, and is founded in reality on the natural cause of the inundation, viz. the rains which fall in Ethiopia. Now, according to the constant testimony of those who have been on the spot, these rains begin to fall in the month of April, and continue, during five months, till the end of August and beginning of September. The Nile's increase in Egypt must consequently begin three weeks or a month after the rains have begun to fall in Abyssinia ; and accordingly travellers observe, that the Nile begins to rise in the month of May, but so Nowly at first, that it probably does not yet


[ocr errors]

overflow its banks. The Inundation hap

Laced will about the end of June, and lasts the three flas

c re. ing months, according to Herodotus.

I MUST point out to such as consult the origi a contradiction in this place between Herodotus Diodorus on one side; and on the other becv Strabo, Pliny and Solinus. These last shorten v. much the continuance of the inundation; and su pose the Nile to draw off from the lands in thre months or a hundred days. And that which adds to the difficulty, is, Pliny seems to ground his opinion on the testimony of Herodotus: In totum autem re

vocatur Nilus intra ripas in libra,, ut tradit Herodotus, - centesimo die. I leave to the learned the reconcilio of this contradiction.

ik on

their 5. The height of the inundations. the * The just height of the inundation, according to Pliny, is fixteen cubits. When it rises but to twelve or thirteen, a famine is threaten'd; and when it exceeds fixteen, there is danger. It niust be remember'd. that a cubit is a foot and half. The Emperor Ju. lian takes notice in a letter to Ecdicius prefect of Egypt, that the height of the Nile's overflowing was fifteen cubits, the zoth of September, in 362. The ancients do not agree entirely with one another, nor with the moderns, with regard to the height of the inundation, but the difference is not very consta derable, and may proceed, 1. from thgf over all

between the ancient and modern mealgeelile are “ 'tis hard to estimate on a fixed and ceithiof can 2. from the carelesness of the obfervhich is t

* Juftum incrementum est củ- În duod- July and Aubitorum 16. Minores aquæ non tit, part of them omnia rigant: ampliores deti- rit: qu. nent tardius recedendo. Hæ ritatem ese canals, there ferendi tempora' absumunt folo curitatem, not receive the

madente : illæ non dant fitiente.. Plin. 1, 5.- Utrumque reputat provincia.

"Siis want is fup.

. . . liaus

is dangerid half. The lis prefect of

[ocr errors]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »