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They begin with opening them in Upper, and after. wards in Lower Egypt, according to the rules pre. scribed in a roll or book, in which all the measures are exactly set down. By these means the water is disposed with such care, that it spreads itself over all the lands. The countries overflowed by the Nile are so extensive, and lie so low, and the number of canals so great, that, of all the waters which flow into Egypt dur. ing the months of June, July, and August, it is believed not a tenth part of them reaches the sea.
But as, notwithstanding all these canals, there are abundance of high lands which cannot receive the benefit of the Nile's overflowing; this want is supplied by spiral pumps, which are turned with oxen, in order to bring the water into pipes which convey it to these lands. Doidorus speaks of such an engine called Cochlea Agyptia, invented by Archimedes in his travels into Egypt.
7. The fertility caused by the Nile. There is no country in the world where the soil is more fruitful than in Egypt; which is owing entirely to the Nile. For whereas other rivers, when they overflow lands, wash away and exhaust their vivific moisture; the Nile, on the contrary, by the excellent slime it brings along with it, fattens and enriches them in such a manner, as sufficiently compensates for what the fore. going harvest had impaired. The husbandman, in this country, never tires himself with holding the plough, or breaking the clods of earth. As soon as
Lib. i. p. 30, et lib. v. p. 313. * Cuin cæteri amnes abluant terras et eviscerent ; Nilus adeo nihil ex. edit nec abradit, ut contra adjiciat vires. Ita juvat agros duab'us es causis, et quod inundat, et quod oblimat. Senec. Nat. Quæst. I. iv. c. 2.
the Nile retires, he has nothing to do but to turn up the earth, and temper it with a little sand, in order to lessen its rankness; after which he sows it with great ease, and with little or no expense. Twe months after, it is covered with all sorts of corn and pulse. The Egyptians generally sow in October and November, according as the waters draw off, and their harvest is in March and April.
The same land bears, in one year, three or four different kinds of crops. Lettices and cucumbers are sown first; then corn ; and, after harvest, several sorts of pulse which are peculiar to Egypt. As the sun is extremely hot in this country, and rains fall very seldom in it, it is natural to suppose, that the earth would soon be parched, and the corn and pulse burnt up by so scorching a heat, were it not for the canals and reservoirs with which Egypt abounds; and which, by the drains from thence, amply supply wherewith to water and refresh the fields and gardens.
The Nile contributes no less to the nourishment of cattle, which is another source of wealth to Egypt. The Egyptians begin to turn them out to grass in November, and they graze till the end of March. Words could never express how rich their pastur are, and how fat the flocks and herds (which, by reason of the mildness of the air, are out night and day,) grow in a very little time. During the inundation of the Nile, they are fed with hay and cut straw, barley and beans, which are their common food.
A man cannot, says Corneille le Bruyn, in his Travels, help observing the admirable providence of
• Vol. II.
God to this country, who sends at a fixed season such great quantities of rain in Ethiopia, in order to water Egypt, where a shower of rain scarce ever falls; and who, by these means, causes the driest and most sandy soil to become the richest and most fruitful country in the universe.
Another thing to be observed here, is, that, as the inhabitants
say, in the beginning of June and the four following months, the northeast winds blow constantly, in order to keep back the waters, which otherwise would flow too fast; and to hinder them from discharging themselves into the sea, the entrance to which these winds bar up, as it were, from them.
The ancients have not omitted this circumstance.
"The same Providence, whose ways are wonderful and infinitely various, displayed itself after a quite different manner in Palestine, in rendering it exceeding fruitful; not by rains, which fall during the course of the year, as is usual in other places; nor by a peculiar inundation like that of the Nile in Egypt; but by sending fixed rains at two seasons, when the people were obedient to God, to make them more sensible of their continual dependence upon him. God himself commands them, by his servant Moses, to make this reflection: “ The land whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs; but the land whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and val. lies, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven.” After this, God promises to give his people, so long as
• Muliformis sapientia. Eph. ii. 10.
Dcut. vi. 10-13.
they shall continue obedient to him, “the former and the latter rain :" the first in autumn, to bring up the corn; and the second in the spring and summer, to make it grow and ripen.
8. Two different prospects exhibited by the Nile. There cannot be a finer sight than Egypt at two seasons of the year.
w For if a man ascends some mountain, or one of the largest pyramids of Grand Cairo, in the months of July and August, he beholds a vast sea, in which numberless towns and villages appear, with several causeys leading from place to place; the whole interspersed with groves and fruittrees, whose tops are only visible, all which forms a delightful prospect. This view is bounded by mountains and woods, which terminate at the utmost distance the eye can discover, the most beautiful horizon that can be imagined. On the contrary, in winter, that is to say, in the months of January and February, the whole country is like one continued scene of beautiful meadows, whose verdure, enamelled with flowers, charms the eye. The spectator beholds, on every side, flocks and herds dispersed over all the plains, with infinite numbers of husbandmen and gardeners. The air is then perfumed by the great quantity of blossoms on the orange, lemon, and other trees; and is so pure, that a wholesomer or more agreeable is not found in the world so that nature, being then dead as it were in all other climates, seems to be alive only for so delightful an abode.
w Illa facies pulcherrima est, cum jam se in agros Nilus ingessit. Latent campi, opertæque sunt valles ; oppida insularum modo extant. Nullum in Mediterraneis, nisi per navigia, commercium est : majorque est lætitia in gentibus, quo minus terrarum suarum vident. Senec. Nat. Qllæst. 1. iv. c. 2.
9. The canal formed by the Nile, by which a communication is made between the two seas.
* The canal, by which a communication was made between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, ought to have a place here, as it was not one of the least advantages which the Nile procured Egypt. Sesostris, or, according to others, Psammetichus, first projected the design, and began this work. Necho, successor to the last prince, laid out immense sums upon it, and employed a prodigious number of men. It is said, that above six score thousand Egyptians perished in the undertaking. He it over, terrified by an oracle, which told him that he would thereby open a door for Barbarians (for by this name they called all foreigners) to enter Egypt. The work was continued by Darius, the first of that name; but he also desisted from it, upon his being told, that as the Red Sea lay higher than Egypt, it would drown the whole country. But it was at last finished under the Ptolemies, who, by the help of sluices, opened and shut the canal as there was occasion. It began not far from the Delta, near the town of Bubaste. It was an hundred cubits, that is, twenty five fathoms broad, so that two vessels might pass with ease ; it had depth enough to carry the largest ships; and was :bove a thousand stadia, that is, above fifty leagues, long. This canal was of great service to the trade of Egypt. But it is now almost filled up, and there are scarce any remains of it to be seen.
* Herod. I. i. c. 158. Strab. 1. svii. p. 804. Plin. l. xvi.c. 29. Diod. 1. i. p. 29.