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not so much one single palace, as a magnificent pile composed of twelve palaces, regularly disposed, which had a communication with each other. Fifteen hun. dred rooms, interspersed with terraces, were ranged round twelve halls, and discovered no outlet to such as went to see them. There were the like number of buildings under ground. These subterraneous struc. tures were designed for the buryingplace of the kings, and (who can speak this without confusion, and with. out deploring the blindness of man?) for keeping the sacred crocodiles, which a nation, so wise in other respects, worshipped as gods.
In order to visit the rooms and halls of the labyrinth, it was necessary, as the reader will naturally suppose, for people to take the same precaution as Ariadne made Theseus use, when he was obliged to go and fight the Minotaur in the labyrinth of Crete. Virgil describes it in this manner:
Ut : quondam Creta fertur labyrinthus in alta
THE LAKE OF MOERIS.
"The noblest and most wonderful of all the structures or works of the kings of Egypt, was the lake of Moeris. Accordingly, Herodotus considers it as vastly superior to the pyramids and labyrinth. As Egypt was more or less fruitful in proportion to the inundations of the Nile, and as in these floods, the too general flow or ebb of the waters were equally fatal to the lands, king Moeris, to prevent these two inconveniences, and correct, as far as lay in his power, the irregularities of the Nile, thought proper to call art to the assistance of nature, and so caused the lake to be dug, which afterwards went by his name. This lake was about three thousand six hundred stadia, that is, about one hundred and eighty French leagues in circumference, and three hundred feet deep. Two pyramids, on each of of which stoodacolossal statue, seated on a throne, raised:•. their heads to the height of three hundred feet, in the midst of the lake, whilst their foundations took up
2 Virg. I. v. ver. 588, &c. • Ibid. I. vi. ver. 27, &c. Herod. I. ii. c. 140. Strab. l. xvü. p. 787. Diod. I.i. p. 47. Plin. I. v. c. 9. Pomp. Mela, 1. i.
the same space under the water ; a proof that they were erected before the cavity was filled, and a demonstration that a lake of such vast extent was the work of man's hands, in one prince's reign. This is what several historians have related concerning the lake Moeris, on the testimony of the inhabitants of the country; and the bishop of Meaux, in his discourse on Universal History, relates the whole as fact. With regard to myself, I will confess that I do not see the least probability in it. Is it possible to conceive, that a lake of one hundred and eighty leagues in circumference, could have been dug in the reign of one prince? In what manner, and where could the earth taken from it be conveyed ? What should prompt the Egyptians to lose the surface of so much land ? By what arts could they fill this vast tract with the superfluous waters of the Nile ? Many
- Vide Herod. and Diod. Pliny agrees almost with them.
other objections might be made. In my opinion, therefore, we ought to follow Pomponius Mela, an ancient geographer ; especially as his account is confirmed by several modern travellers. According to that author, this lake is but twenty thousand paces, that is, seven or eight French leagues in circumference:
Mæris, aliquando campus, nunc lacus, viginti millia pase suum in circuitu patens.
This lake had a communication with the Nile, by a great canal four leagues long, and fifty feet broad. Great sluices either opened or shut the canal and lake, as there was occasion.
The charge of opening or shutting them amounted to fifty talents, that is, fifty thousand French crowns. The fishing of this lake brought the monarch immense sums; but its chief use related to the overflowing of the Nile. When it rose too high, and was like to be attended with fatal consequences, the sluices were opened; and the waters having a free passage into the lake, covered the lands no longer than was necessary to enrich them. On the contrary, when the inundation was too low, and threatened a famine, a sufficient quantity of water, by the help of drains, was let out of the lake, to water the lands. In this manner the irregularities of the Nile were corrected ; and Strabo remarks, that, in his time, under Petronius, a governor of Egypt, when the inundation of the Nile was about 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.
Mela. I. i.
• Eighty five stadia.
THE INUNDATIONS OF THE NILE. The Nile is the greatest wonder of Egypt. As 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 say ingeniously, “The Egyptian pastures, how great soever the drought may be, never implore Jupiter for rain.”
Te propter nullos tellus tua postulat imbres,
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 salutary 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 raised with immense labour, and stood like islands in the midst of the waters, looked down with joy on the plains which were overflowed, and at the same time enriched by the Nile.
This is a general idea of the nature and effects of this river, so 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 shall be as concise as possible.
& Seneca (Nat. Quæst. 1. iv. c. 2.) ascribes these verses to Ovid, but they are Tibullus's.
1. The source of the Nile. The ancients placed the sources of the Nile in the mountains of the moon, as they are commonly called, in the tenth degree of south latitude. But our modern travellers have discovered that they lie in the twelfth degree of north latitude : and by that means they cut off about four or five hundred leagues of the course which the ancients gave 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 same word in Arabic signifying eye and fountain. These springs are thirty paces from one another, each as large as one of our wells, or a coach wheel. The Nile is increased with
rivulets which run into it; and after passing through Ethiopia in a meandrous course, flows at last into Egypt.
2. 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 at first glides smoothly along the vast deserts of Ethiopia, before it enters Egypt, passes by the cataracts. Then growing on a sudden, contrary to its nature, raging
Excipiunt eum (Nilum) cataractæ, nobilis insigni spectaculo locus. Ilic excitatis primum aquis, quas sine tumultu leni alveo duxerat, violen. tus et torrens per malignos transitus prosilit, dissimilis sibi-tandemque eluctatus obtsantia, in vastam altitudinem subito destitutus cadit, cum ingenti circumjacentium regionum strepitu ; quem preferre gens ibi a Persis collocata non potuit, obtusis assiduo fragore auribus, et ob hoc sedibus ad quietiora translatis. Inter miracul a fluminis incredibilem incolarum audaciam accepi. Bini parvula navigia conscendunt, quorum alter navem regit, alter exhaurit. Deinde multum inter rapidam insaniam Nili et reciprocos fluctus volutati, tandem tenuissimos canales ten. ent, per quos augusta rupium effugiunt: et cum toto flumine effusi,navigium ruens manu temperant, magnoque spectantium mecu in caput nixi, cum jam adploraveris, mersosque atque obrutos tanta mole credideris, longe ab eo in quem ceciderant loco navigant, tormenti modo missi. Nec mer. git cadens unda, sed planis aquis tradit. Senec. Nat. Quæst. I. iv c..