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Euterpe   


be, as the priests declared, a tract gained by the inhabitants. For
the whole region above Memphis, lying between the two ranges of
hills that have been spoken of, appeared evidently to have formed at
one time a gulf of the sea. It resembles (to compare small things with
great) the parts about Ilium and Teuthrania, Ephesus, and the plain of
the Maeander. In all these regions the land has been formed by rivers,
whereof the greatest is not to compare for size with any one of the
five mouths of the Nile. I could mention other rivers also, far
inferior to the Nile in magnitude, that have effected very great
changes. Among these not the least is the Achelous, which, after
passing through Acarnania, empties itself into the sea opposite the
islands called Echinades, and has already joined one-half of them to
the continent.
In Arabia, not far from Egypt, there is a long and narrow gulf
running inland from the sea called the Erythraean, of which I will
here set down the dimensions. Starting from its innermost recess,
and using a row-boat, you take forty days to reach the open main,
while you may cross the gulf at its widest part in the space of half a
day. In this sea there is an ebb and flow of the tide every day. My
opinion is that Egypt was formerly very much such a gulf as this-
one gulf penetrated from the sea that washes Egypt on the north, and
extended itself towards Ethiopia; another entered from the southern
ocean, and stretched towards Syria; the two gulfs ran into the land so
as almost to meet each other, and left between them only a very narrow
tract of country. Now if the Nile should choose to divert his waters
from their present bed into this Arabian gulf, what is there to hinder
it from being filled up by the stream within, at the utmost, twenty
thousand years? For my part, I think it would be filled in half the
time. How then should not a gulf, even of much greater size, have been
filled up in the ages that passed before I was born, by a river that
is at once so large and so given to working changes?
Thus I give credit to those from whom I received this account of
Egypt, and am myself, moreover, strongly of the same opinion, since
I remarked that the country projects into the sea further than the
neighbouring shores, and I observed that there were shells upon the
hills, and that salt exuded from the soil to such an extent as even to
injure the pyramids; and I noticed also that there is but a single
hill in all Egypt where sand is found, namely, the hill above Memphis;
and further, I found the country to bear no resemblance either to
its borderland Arabia, or to Libya- nay, nor even to Syria, which
forms the seaboard of Arabia; but whereas the soil of Libya is, we
know, sandy and of a reddish hue, and that of Arabia and Syria
inclines to stone and clay, Egypt has a soil that is black and
crumbly, as being alluvial and formed of the deposits brought down
by the river from Ethiopia.
One fact which I learnt of the priests is to me a strong
evidence of the origin of the country. They said that when Moeris
was king, the Nile overflowed all Egypt below Memphis, as soon as it
rose so little as eight cubits. Now Moeris had not been dead 900 years
at the time when I heard this of the priests; yet at the present
day, unless the river rise sixteen, or, at the very least, fifteen
cubits, it does not overflow the lands. It seems to me, therefore,
that if the land goes on rising and growing at this rate, the
Egyptians who dwell below Lake Moeris, in the Delta (as it is
called) and elsewhere, will one day, by the stoppage of the
inundations, suffer permanently the fate which they told me they
expected would some time or other befall the Greeks. On hearing that
the whole land of Greece is watered by rain from heaven, and not, like
their own, inundated by rivers, they observed- "Some day the Greeks
will be disappointed of their grand hope, and then they will be
wretchedly hungry"; which was as much as to say, "If God shall some
day see fit not to grant the Greeks rain, but shall afflict them
with a long drought, the Greeks will be swept away by a famine,
since they have nothing to rely on but rain from Jove, and have no

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