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there is really nothing in what it says, any more than in the other
theories. It is, that the inundation of the Nile is caused by the
melting of snows. Now, as the Nile flows out of Libya, through
Ethiopia, into Egypt, how is it possible that it can be formed of
melted snow, running, as it does, from the hottest regions of the
world into cooler countries? Many are the proofs whereby any one
capable of reasoning on the subject may be convinced that it is most
unlikely this should be the case. The first and strongest argument
is furnished by the winds, which always blow hot from these regions.
The second is that rain and frost are unknown there. Now whenever snow
falls, it must of necessity rain within five days;.so that, if there
were snow, there must be rain also in those parts. Thirdly, it is
certain that the natives of the country are black with the heat,
that the kites and the swallows remain there the whole year, and
that the cranes, when they fly from the rigours of a Scythian
winter, flock thither to pass the cold season. If then, in the country
whence the Nile has its source, or in that through which it flows,
there fell ever so little snow, it is absolutely impossible that any
of these circumstances could take place.
As for the writer who attributes the phenomenon to the ocean,
his account is involved in such obscurity that it is impossible to
disprove it by argument. For my part I know of no river called
Ocean, and I think that Homer, or one of the earlier poets, invented
the name, and introduced it into his poetry.
Perhaps, after censuring all the opinions that have been put
forward on this obscure subject, one ought to propose some theory of
one's own. I will therefore proceed to explain what I think to be
the reason of the Nile's swelling in the summer time. During the
winter, the sun is driven out of his usual course by the storms, and
removes to the upper parts of Libya. This is the whole secret in the
fewest possible words; for it stands to reason that the country to
which the Sun-god approaches the nearest, and which he passes most
directly over, will be scantest of water, and that there the streams
which feed the rivers will shrink the most.
To explain, however, more at length, the case is this. The sun, in
his passage across the upper parts of Libya, affects them in the
following way. As the air in those regions is constantly clear, and
the country warm through the absence of cold winds, the sun in his
passage across them acts upon them exactly as he wont to act elsewhere
in summer, when his path is in the middle of heaven- that is, he
attracts the water. After attracting it, he again repels it into the
upper regions, where the winds lay hold of it, scatter it, and
reduce it to a vapour, whence it naturally enough comes to pass that
the winds which blow from this quarter- the south and south-west-
are of all winds the most rainy. And my own opinion is that the sun
does not get rid of all the water which he draws year by year from the
Nile, but retains some about him. When the winter begins to soften,
the sun goes back again to his old place in the middle of the
heaven, and proceeds to attract water equally from all countries. Till
then the other rivers run big, from the quantity of rain-water which
they bring down from countries where so much moisture falls that all
the land is cut into gullies; but in summer, when the showers fail,
and the sun attracts their water, they become low. The Nile, on the
contrary, not deriving any of its bulk from rains, and being in winter
subject to the attraction of the sun, naturally runs at that season,
unlike all other streams, with a less burthen of water than in the
summer time. For in summer it is exposed to attraction equally with
all other rivers, but in winter it suffers alone. The sun,
therefore, I regard as the sole cause of the phenomenon.
It is the sun also, in my opinion, which, by heating the space
through which it passes, makes the air in Egypt so dry. There is
thus perpetual summer in the upper parts of Libya. Were the position
of the heavenly regions reversed, so that the place where now the
north wind and the winter have their dwelling became the station of

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