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I AM now to speak of Lower Egypt. Its shape, which resembles a triangle, or A, gave occasion to its bearing the name Delta, which is that of one of the Greek letters. Lower Egypt forms a kind of island ; it begins at the place where the Nile is divided into two large canals, through which it empties itself into the Mediterranean. The mouth on the right hand is called the Pelusian, and the other the Canopic, from two cities in their neighbourhood, Pelusium and Canopus, now called Damietta and Rosetta. Between those two large branches, there are five others of less note. This island is the best cultivated, the most fruitful, and the richest in Egypt. Its chief cities, very anciently, were Heliopolis, Heracleopolis, Naucratis, Sais, Tanis, Canopus, Pelusium; and, in latter times, Alexandria, Nicopolis, &c. It was in the country of Tanis that the Israelites dwelt.
* There was at Sais, a temple dedicated to Minerva, who is supposed to be the same as Isis, with the following inscription: “I am whatever hath been, and is, and shall be; and no mortal hath yet pierced through the veil that shrouds me."
Heliopolis, that is, the city of the sun, was so called from a magnificent temple there dedicated to that planet. Herodotus, and other authors after him, relate some particulars concerning the Phænix and this temple, which, if true, would indeed be very wonderful.
y Plut. in Isid. p. 354. : Strab. l. xvii. p. 805. Herod. 1. i. c. 73. Plin l. x. c. 2. Tacit. Ann. I. vi. c. 28." VOL. I.
Of this kind of birds, if we may believe the ancients, there is never but one at a time in the world. He is brought forth in Arabia, lives five or six hundred years, and is of the size of an eagle. His head is adorned with a shining and most beautiful crest; the feathers of his neck are of a gold colour, and the rest of a purple; his tail is white, intermixed with red, and his eyes sparkling like stars. When he is old, and finds his end approaching, he builds a nest with wood and aromatic spices, and then dies. Of his bones and marrow a worm is produced, out of which another Phenix is formed. His first care is to solemnize his parent's obsequies, for which purpose he makes up a ball in the shape of an egg, with abundance of perfumes of myrrh, as heavy as he can carry, which he often assays beforehand; then he makes a hole in it, where he deposits his parent's body, and closes it carefully with myrrh and other perfumes. After this he takes up the precious load on his shoulders, and flying to the altar of the sun, in the city of Heliopolis, he there burns it.
Herodotus and Tacitus dispute the truth of some of the circumstances of this account, but seem to suppoše it true in general. Pliny, on the contrary, in the very beginning of his account of it, insinuates plainly enough, that he looks upon the whole as fabulous; and this is the opinion of all modern authors.
This ancient tradition, though grounded on an evident falsehood, hath yet introduced into almost all languages, the custom of giving the name of Phænix to whatever is singular and uncommon in its kind : Rara avis in terris," says Juvenal, speaking of the difficulty
of finding an accomplished woman in all respects; and Seneca observes the same of a good man.
What is reported of the swans, viz. that they never sing but in their expiring moments, and that then they warble very melodiously, is likewise grounded merely on a vulgar error; and yet it is used, not only by the poets, but also by the orators, and even the philosophers. O mutis quoque piscibus donatura cycni, si libeat sonum,“ says Horace to Melpomene. Cicero com. pares the excellent discourse which Crassus made in the senate, a few days before his death, to the melodious singing of a dying swan. Illa tanquam cycnea fuit divini hominis vox et oratio. De Orat. 1. ii. n. 6. And Socrates used to say, that good men ought to imi. tate swans, who perceiving, by a secret instinct, and a divination, what advantage there is in death, die singing and with joy. Providentes quid in morte boni sit, cum cantu et voluptate moriuntur. Tusc. Qu. 1. i. n. 73. I thought this short digression might be of service to youth; and return now to my subject.
It was in “Heliopolis, that an ox, under the name of Mnevis, was worshipped as a god. Cambyses, king of Persia, exercised his sacrilegious rage on this city ; burning the temples, demolishing the palaces, and destroying the most precious monuments of antiquity in
There are still to be seen some obelisks, which escaped his fury; and others were brought from thence to Rome, to which city they are an ornament even at
• Vir bonus tam cito nec fieri potest, nec intelligi-tanquam Phænin, semel anno quingentesimo nascitur. Ep. xlii. Od. üi. 1. iv.
Strab. l. xvii. p. 805.
Alexandria, built by Alexander the Great, from whom it had its name, vied almost in magnificence with the ancient cities of Egypt. It stands four days journey from Cairo, and vas formerly the chief mart of the eastern trade. The merchandises were unloaded at Porius Muris, a town on the western coast of the Red Sea; from whence they were brought upon camels to a town of Thebais, called Copht, and conveyed down the Nile to Alexandria, whither merchants resorted from all parts.
It is well known, that the East India trade hath at all times enriched those who carried it on. This was the chief fountain of the vast treasures that Solomon amassed, and which enabled him to build the magnificent temple of Jerusalem. 8 David, by his conquering Idumea, became master of Elath and Esiongeber, two towns situated on the eastern shore of the Red Sea. From these two ports, “Solomon sent fleets to Ophir and Tarshish, which always brought back immense riches.' This traffic, after having been enjoyed some time by the Syrians, who regained Idumea, shifted from them to the Tyrians. These got all their merchandise conveyed, by the way of Rhinocolura, a seaport town lying between the confines of Egypt and Palestine, to Tyre, from whence they distributed them all over the western world. Hereby the Tyrians enriched themselves exceedingly, under the Persian empire, by the favour and protection of whose monarchs they had the full possession of this trade. But when the Ptolemies had made themselves masters of Egypt, they soon drew all this trade into their kingdom, by building Berenice, and other ports on the western side of the Red Sea, belonging to Egypt, and fixed their chief mart at Alexandria, which thereby rose to be the city of the greatest trade in the world. There it continued for a great many centuries after; and all the traffic which the western parts of the world from that time had with Persia, India, Arabia, and the eastern coasts of Africa, was wholly carried on through the Red Sea, and the mouth of the Nile, till a way was discovered, a little above two hundred years since, of sailing to those parts by the Cape of Good Hope. After this, the Portuguese for some time managed this trade; but now it is in a manner engrossed wholly by the English and Dutch. This short account of the East India trade, from Solomon's time to the present age, is extracted from Dr. Prideaux,1
• Strab. 1. xvi. p. 781.
* Or, Myos Hormos. & 2 Sam. viii. 14.
1 Kings. ix. 26. i He got in one voyage 450 talents of gold, 2 Chron. viii. 18, which amounts to $ 10,400,000. Prid. Connect. Vol. I. ad ann. 740, not.
k Strab. I. xvi. p. 481.
* For the conveniency of trade, there was built near Alexandria, in an island called Pharos, a tower which bore the same name. At the top of this tower was kept a fire, to light such ships as sailed by night near those dangerous coasts, which were full of sands and shelves; from whence all other towers designed for the same use, have been called, as Pharo di Messina, &c. The famous architect Sostratus built it by order of Ptolemy Philadelphus, who expended eight hundred talents
It was reckoned one of the seven wonders of the world. Some have commended that prince, for
I Part. I. 1. i. p. 9.
m Strab. l. xvii. p. 717. Plin. 1. xxxvi. c. 12. 180,0001. sterling, or $ 800,000.