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ignorance of things necessary for life, are had in their just contempt, and where pleasure is less valued than health and bodily strength : in such a country, it will be much more for a man's reputation to plough, and keep flocks, than to waste all his hours in sauntering from place to place, in gaming, and expensive diver. sions.” But we need not have recourse to Plato's commonwealth for instances of men who have led these useful lives. It was thus that thę greatest part of mankind lived during near four thousand years; and that not only the Israelites, but the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, that is to say, nations the most civilized, and most renowned for arms and wis. dom. They all inculcate the regard which ought to be paid to agriculture, and the breeding of cattle: one of which, without saying any thing of hemp and fax, so necessary for our clothing, supplies us by corn, fruits, and pulse, with not only a plentiful but delicious nourishment; and the other, besides its supply of exquisite meats to cover our tables, almost alone gives life to manufactures and trade, by the skins and stuffs it furnishes.
Princes are commonly desirous, and their interest certainly requires it, that the peasant, who, in a literal sense, sustains the heat and burden of the day, and pays so great a proportion of the national taxes, should meet with favour and encouragement. But the kind and good intentions of princes are too often defeated by the insatiable and merciless avarice of those who are appointed to collect their revenues. History has transmitted to us a fine saying of Tiberius on this head.
A prefect of Egypt having augmented the annual tribute of the province, and, doubtless with the view of making his court to the emperor, remitted to him a sum much larger than was customary; that prince, who, in the beginning of his reign, thought, or at least spoke justly, answered, “That it was his design not to flay, but to shear his sheep.”
OP THE FERTILITY OF EGYPT.
UNDER this head, I shall treat only of some plants peculiar to Egypt, and of the abundance of corn which it produced
Papyrus. This is a plant, from the root of which shoot out a great many triangular stalks, to the height of six or seven cubits. % The ancients writ at first upon palm leaves; next on the inside of the bark of trees, from whence the word liber, or book, is derived; after that, upon tables covered over with wax, on which the characters were impressed with an instrument called stylus, sharp pointed at one end to write with, and flat at the other, to efface what had been written; which gave occasion to the following expression of Horace :
Sæpe stylum vertas, iterum quæ digna legi sint
Sat. X. ver. 72.
• Diod. I. lvii. p. 608. και Κειρεσθαι με τα προβατα, αλλ' εκ αποξυρεσθαι βελομαι. Diod. 1. 1vii.
& Plin. l. xiü. c. 11,
The meaning of which is, that a good performance is not to be expected without many corrections. At last the use of paper was introduced, and this was made of the bark of papyrus, divided into thin flakes or leaves, which were very proper for writing; and this papyrus was likewise called byblus.
Nondum flumineas Memphis contexere byblos
Memphis as yet knew not to form in leaves
Pliny calls it a wonderful invention, so useful to life, that it preserves the memory of great actions, and immortalizes those who achieved them. Varro ascribes this invention to Alexander the Great, when he built Alexandria ; but he had only the merit of making paper more common, for the invention was of much greater antiquity. The same Pliny adds, that Eu. menes, king of Pergamus, substituted parchment instead of paper, in emulation of Ptolemy, king of Egypt, whose library he was ambitious to excel by this inven. tion, which carried the advantage over paper. Parch. ment is the skin of a sheep dressed, and made fit to write upon. It was called pergamenum from Pergamus, whose kings had the honour of the invention. All the ancient manuscripts are either upon parchment or vellum, which is calfskin, and a great deal finer than the common parchment. It is very curious to see white fine paper, wrought out of filthy rags picked up
The Papyrus was divided into thin flakes, into which it naturally parted, which being laid on a table, and moistened with the glutinous waters of the Nile, were afterwards pressed together, and dried in the sun.
Postea promiscuè patuit nsus rei, qua constat immortalitas hominum. Charta usu maxime humanitas constat in memoria.
in the streets. The plant papyrus was useful likewise for sails, tackling, clothes, coverlets, &c.
Linum. Flax is a plant, whose bark, full of fibres or strings, is useful in making fine linen. The method of making this linen in Egypt was wonderful, and carried to such perfection, that the threads which were drawn out of them were almost too small for the observation of the sharpest eye. Priests were always habited in linen, and never in woollen; and not only the priests, but all persons of distinction, generally wore linen clothes. This flax formed a considerable branch of the Egyptian trade, and great quantities of it were exported into foreign countries. The making of it employed a great number of hands, especially of the women; as appears from that passage of Isaiah, in which the prophet menaces Egypt with a drought of so terrible a kind, that it should interrupt every kind of labour. ""Moreover, they that work in fine flax, and they that weave network, shall be confounded.” We likewise find in scripture, that one effect of the plague of hail, called down by Moses upon Egypt," was the destruction of all the flax which was then bolled. This storm was in March.
Byssus." This was another kind of fax, extremely fine and small, which often received a purple dye. It was very dear; and none but rich and wealthy persons could afford to wear it. Pliny, who gives the first place to the Asbeston or Asbestinum, i. e. the incom. bustible flax, places the byssus in the next rank, and says, that it served as an ornament to the ladies. It appears from the holy scriptures, that it was chiefly from Egypt, that cloth made of this fine flax, was brought : P“ Fine linen with broidered work from Egypt.”
k Plin. l. xix. c. 1.
I Isa, xix. 9.
m Exod. ix. 31.
> Plin. l. xix. c. 1.
I take no notice of the lotus or lotetree, a plant in great request with the Egyptians, and whose berries served them in former times for bread. There was another lotus in Africa, which gave its name to the Lotophagi, or Lotuseaters; because they lived upon the fruit of this tree, which had so delicious a taste, if Homer may be credited, that it made the eaters of it forget all the sweets of their native country,' as Ulysses found to his cost on his return from Troy.
In general it may be said, that the Egyptian pulse and fruits were excellent; and might, as Pliny observes, have sufficed singly for the nourishment of the inhabitants, such was their excellent quality, and so great their plenty. And, indeed, working men lived then almost upon nothing else, as appears from those who were employed in building the pyramids.
• Proximus Byssino mulierum maxime deliciis genito: inventum jam est etiam (scilicet Linum) quod ignibus non absumetur ; vivum id vocant, ardentesque in focis conviviorum ex eo vidimus mappas, sordibus exus. tis splendescentes igni magis, quam possent aquis. iie. A fax is now found out, which is proof against the violence of fire ; it is called living filax, and we have seen table napkins of it glowing in the fires of our dining rooms, and receiving a lustre and cleanness from flames, which no water could have given it.
PEzek. xxvii. 7.
* Ægyptus frugum quidem fertilissima, sed ut prope sola iis carere poso sit, tanta est ciborum ex herbis abundantia. Plin. l. xxi. c. 15.