BOOK III - The Library of History

Bibliotheca historica
The first five books

Page 103 in length; call'd the Serpents Island, because that in former times it abounded with divers sorts of dreadful Serpents; but in after-times, by the diligence of the Kings of Alexandria, it was so improv'd, that now there's not the least sign of any such Beast there. But it's not to be omitted for what Reason this Island was with so much charge improv'd: The chief reason was, for that in this Island was found the Topaz, a resplendent Stone, of a delightful Aspect, like to Glass, of a Golden colour, and of admirable brightness; and therefore all were forbidden to set footing upon that Place; and if any landed there, he was presently put to death by the Keepers of the Island. These Keepers were few, and liv'd a most miserable Life. And lest the Stones should be stolen and carry'd off, there was not a Ship left there; and if any by chance pass near to these Places, (out of fear of the King) they sail away as far off as they can. The Provision that is imported, is commonly soon spent, and there's nothing to be had that grows naturally in the Island; and therefore when their Store grows low, all the Inhabitants of the Village sit upon the Shoar, waiting and longing for the arrival of the Provision Ships; and if they stay longer than ordinary, the People are driven to the utmost desperation.

This Stone grows in the Rocks, darken'd by the brightness of the Sun; it's not seen in the Day, but shines bright and glorious in the darkest Night, and discovers it self at a great distance. The Keepers of the Island disperse themselves into several Places to search for this stone, and whereever it appears, they mark the Place, with a great Vessel of largeness sufficient to cover the sparkling Stone; and then in the Day time, go to the Place, and cut out the Stone, and deliver it to those that are Artists in polishing of 'em.

Then sailing on further from these Parts, appear many of those Nations call'd the Ichthuophages, dispers'd along the Sea-shoar; and many likewise of those Troglodites call'd Nomades; several Mountains likewise present themselves in this Course, as far as to the Haven call'd Safe-Port, which gain'd this Name from some Grecians that first sail'd into these Parts, and there arriv'd safe.

Thence passing on, the Gulf begins to grow narrower, and bends its Course towards Arabia: And the peculiar property of the Places is such, that both the nature of the Sea, and the Soyl seem to be chang'd; for the Land appears very flat and low, without any Hills or Rising Ground, and the Sea seems to be muddy and green all over, and is not above Two Fathom and an half deep. The Greenness there is not ascrib'd to the nature of the Water, but to the abundance of Moss and Sea-Grass that grows at the bottom, and casts their Colour through the Water.

This part is very safe and commodious for small Ships with Oars, because the Sea is there very calm, and no roughness of the Waves for many Leagues; and there they take abundance of Fish. But the Mariners that transport Elephants, run into great and desperate Hazards by reason of the strong built Ships they use for that purpose, and the depth of Water they draw. For oftentimes they are so driven by the violence of the Winds, at full Sail in the Night time, that they are either split upon the Rocks, or stranded upon some of the deep sanded Necks of Land thereabouts; and it's no going for the Mariners out of the Ship, because the Ford is above the height of any Man: Neither can they force the Ship in the least forward with their Poles: And although they throw all over-board but their Victuals; yet (even while they have Provision) they are reduc'd to the utmost Extremities; for neither Island, Promontory or Ship is to be seen in these Parts, being desert, and seldom frequented by Mariners.

And to the other Inconveniencies, this further is an Addition, the violent Waves on a suddain raise up such heaps of Sand out of the Channel, and so inclose the Ship, as if Men on purpose had fixt it to some Continent: Being plung'd into this Calamity, at first they only gently and modestly breath out their Complaints to a doleful Wilderness, which regards them not, yet not altogether desparing of deliverance.

For often by the raging working of the Sea, the Ship is mounted up on high above the heaps of Sand, and so the poor Creatures that were in this desperate Condition are unexpectedly (as by some God, assisting them out of an Engin) deliver'd. But if this help from God do not intervene, when their Provision grows low, the stronger throw the weaker overboard, that the Meat that is left may last the longer for the support of those few that remain: But at length,

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