that what they said was true. And they told me that the first man
who ruled over Egypt was Min, and that in his time all Egypt, except
the Thebaic canton, was a marsh, none of the land below Lake Moeris
then showing itself above the surface of the water. This is a distance
of seven days' sail from the sea up the river.
What they said of their country seemed to me very reasonable.
For any one who sees Egypt, without having heard a word about it
before, must perceive, if he has only common powers of observation,
that the Egypt to which the Greeks go in their ships is an acquired
country, the gift of the river. The same is true of the land above the
lake, to the distance of three days' voyage, concerning which the
Egyptians say nothing, but which exactly the same kind of country.
The following is the general character of the region. In the first
place, on approaching it by sea, when you are still a day's sail
from the land, if you let down a sounding-line you will bring up
mud, and find yourself in eleven fathoms' water, which shows that
the soil washed down by the stream extends to that distance.
The length of the country along shore, according to the bounds
that we assign to Egypt, namely from the Plinthinetic gulf to Lake
Serbonis, which extends along the base of Mount Casius, is sixty
schoenes. The nations whose territories are scanty measure them by the
fathom; those whose bounds are less confined, by the furlong; those
who have an ample territory, by the parasang; but if men have a
country which is very vast, they measure it by the schoene. Now the
length of the parasang is thirty furlongs, but the schoene, which is
an Egyptian measure, is sixty furlongs. Thus the coastline of Egypt
would extend a length of three thousand six hundred furlongs.
From the coast inland as far as Heliopolis the breadth of Egypt is
considerable, the country is flat, without springs, and full of
swamps. The length of the route from the sea up to Heliopolis is
almost exactly the same as that of the road which runs from the
altar of the twelve gods at Athens to the temple of Olympian Jove at
Pisa. If a person made a calculation he would find but a very little
difference between the two routes, not more than about fifteen
furlongs; for the road from Athens to Pisa falls short of fifteen
hundred furlongs by exactly fifteen, whereas the distance of
Heliopolis from the sea is just the round number.
As one proceeds beyond Heliopolis up the country, Egypt becomes
narrow, the Arabian range of hills, which has a direction from north
to south, shutting it in upon the one side, and the Libyan range
upon the other. The former ridge runs on without a break, and
stretches away to the sea called the Erythraean; it contains the
quarries whence the stone was cut for the pyramids of Memphis: and
this is the point where it ceases its first direction, and bends
away in the manner above indicated. In its greatest length from east
to west it is, as I have been informed, a distance of two months'
journey towards the extreme east its skirts produce frankincense. Such
are the chief features of this range. On the Libyan side, the other
ridge whereon the pyramids stand is rocky and covered with sand; its
direction is the same as that of the Arabian ridge in the first part
of its course. Above Heliopolis, then, there is no great breadth of
territory for such a country as Egypt, but during four days' sail
Egypt is narrow; the valley between the two ranges is a level plain,
and seemed to me to be, at the narrowest point, not more than two
hundred furlongs across from the Arabian to the Libyan hills. Above
this point Egypt again widens.
From Heliopolis to Thebes is nine days' sail up the river; the
distance is eighty-one schoenes, or 4860 furlongs. If we now put
together the several measurements of the country we shall find that
the distance along shore is, as I stated above, 3600 furlongs, and the
distance from the sea inland to Thebes 6120 furlongs. Further, it is a
distance of eighteen hundred furlongs from Thebes to the place
The greater portion of the country above described seemed to me to