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Pages of Euterpe

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which grows in great abundance all over the flat country at the time
when the Nile rises and floods the regions along its banks- the
Egyptians call it lotus- they gather, I say, the blossoms of this
plant and dry them in the sun, after which they extract from the
centre of each blossom a substance like the head of a poppy, which
they crush and make into bread. The root of the lotus is likewise
eatable, and has a pleasant sweet taste: it is round, and about the
size of an apple. There is also another species of the lily in
Egypt, which grows, like the lotus, in the river, and resembles the
rose. The fruit springs up side by side with the blossom, on a
separate stalk, and has almost exactly the look of the comb made by
wasps. It contains a number of seeds, about the size of an
olive-stone, which are good to eat: and these are eaten both green and
dried. The byblus (papyrus), which grows year after year in the
marshes, they pull up, and, cutting the plant in two, reserve the
upper portion for other purposes, but take the lower, which is about a
cubit long, and either eat it or else sell it. Such as wish to enjoy
the byblus in full perfection bake it first in a closed vessel, heated
to a glow. Some of these folk, however, live entirely on fish, which
are gutted as soon as caught, and then hung up in the sun: when dry,
they are used as food.
Gregarious fish are not found in any numbers in the rivers; they
frequent the lagunes, whence, at the season of breeding, they
proceed in shoals towards the sea. The males lead the way, and drop
their milt as they go, while the females, following close behind,
eagerly swallow it down. From this they conceive, and when, after
passing some time in the sea, they begin to be in spawn, the whole
shoal sets off on its return to its ancient haunts. Now, however, it
is no longer the males, but the females, who take the lead: they
swim in front in a body, and do exactly as the males did before,
dropping, little by little, their grains of spawn as they go, while
the males in the rear devour the grains, each one of which is a
fish. A portion of the spawn escapes and is not swallowed by the
males, and hence come the fishes which grow afterwards to maturity.
Whan any of this sort of fish are taken on their passage to the sea,
they are found to have the left side of the head scarred and
bruised; while if taken on their return, the marks appear on the
right. The reason is that as they swim down the Nile seaward, they
keep close to the bank of the river upon their left, and returning
again up stream they still cling to the same side, hugging it and
brushing against it constantly, to be sure that they miss not their
road through the great force of the current. When the Nile begins to
rise, the hollows in the land and the marshy spots near the river
are flooded before any other places by the percolation of the water
through the riverbanks; and these, almost as soon as they become
pools, are found to be full of numbers of little fishes. I think
that I understand how it is this comes to pass. On the subsidence of
the Nile the year before, though the fish retired with the
retreating waters, they had first deposited their spawn in the mud
upon the banks; and so, when at the usual season the water returns,
small fry are rapidly engendered out of the spawn of the preceding
year. So much concerning the fish.
The Egyptians who live in the marshes use for the anointing of
their bodies an oil made from the fruit of the sillicyprium, which
is known among them by the name of "kiki." To obtain this they plant
the sillicyprium (which grows wild in Greece) along the banks of the
rivers and by the sides of the lakes, where it produces fruit in great
abundance, but with a very disagreeable smell. This fruit is gathered,
and then bruised and pressed, or else boiled down after roasting:
the liquid which comes from it is collected and is found to be
unctuous, and as well suited as olive-oil for lamps, only that it
gives out an unpleasant odour.
The contrivances which they use against gnats, wherewith the
country swarms, are the following. In the parts of Egypt above the

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