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Euterpe   


stream, but at that point separating into three branches, whereof
the one which bends eastward is called the Pelusiac mouth, and that
which slants to the west, the Canobic. Meanwhile the straight course
of the stream, which comes down from the upper country and meets the
apex of the Delta, continues on, dividing the Delta down the middle,
and empties itself into the sea by a mouth, which is as celebrated,
and carries as large a body of water, as most of the others, the mouth
called the Sebennytic. Besides these there are two other mouths
which run out of the Sebennytic called respectively the Saitic and the
Mendesian. The Bolbitine mouth, and the Bucolic, are not natural
branches, but channels made by excavation.
My judgment as to the extent of Egypt is confirmed by an oracle
delivered at the shrine of Ammon, of which I had no knowledge at all
until after I had formed my opinion. It happened that the people of
the cities Marea and Apis, who live in the part of Egypt that
borders on Libya, took a dislike to the religious usages of the
country concerning sacrificial animals, and wished no longer to be
restricted from eating the flesh of cows. So, as they believed
themselves to be Libyans and not Egyptians, they sent to the shrine to
say that, having nothing in common with the Egyptians, neither
inhabiting the Delta nor using the Egyptian tongue, they claimed to be
allowed to eat whatever they pleased. Their request, however, was
refused by the god, who declared in reply that Egypt was the entire
tract of country which the Nile overspreads and irrigates, and the
Egyptians were the people who lived below Elephantine, and drank the
waters of that river.
So said the oracle. Now the Nile, when it overflows, floods not
only the Delta, but also the tracts of country on both sides the
stream which are thought to belong to Libya and Arabia, in some places
reaching to the extent of two days' journey from its banks, in some
even exceeding that distance, but in others falling short of it.
Concerning the nature of the river, I was not able to gain any
information either from the priests or from others. I was particularly
anxious to learn from them why the Nile, at the commencement of the
summer solstice, begins to rise, and continues to increase for a
hundred days- and why, as soon as that number is past, it forthwith
retires and contracts its stream, continuing low during the whole of
the winter until the summer solstice comes round again. On none of
these points could I obtain any explanation from the inhabitants,
though I made every inquiry, wishing to know what was commonly
reported- they could neither tell me what special virtue the Nile
has which makes it so opposite in its nature to all other streams, nor
why, unlike every other river, it gives forth no breezes from its
surface.
Some of the Greeks, however, wishing to get a reputation for
cleverness, have offered explanations of the phenomena of the river,
for which they have accounted in three different ways. Two of these
I do not think it worth while to speak of, further than simply to
mention what they are. One pretends that the Etesian winds cause the
rise of the river by preventing the Nile-water from running off into
the sea. But in the first place it has often happened, when the
Etesian winds did not blow, that the Nile has risen according to its
usual wont; and further, if the Etesian winds produced the effect, the
other rivers which flow in a direction opposite to those winds ought
to present the same phenomena as the Nile, and the more so as they are
all smaller streams, and have a weaker current. But these rivers, of
which there are many both in Syria and Libya, are entirely unlike
the Nile in this respect.
The second opinion is even more unscientific than the one just
mentioned, and also, if I may so say, more marvellous. It is that
the Nile acts so strangely, because it flows from the ocean, and
that the ocean flows all round the earth.
The third explanation, which is very much more plausible than
either of the others, is positively the furthest from the truth; for

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