The Library of History

Page 109

Page 109 wild Beasts or unciviliz'd. A Third sort there is, that are neither subject to any King, nor have any Knowledge of good or bad, or regard to right or wrong, but live continually upon Spoil and Robbery: They make suddain Eruptions out of the Deserts: These rob and steal whatever is in their way, and then presently make away back to their former lurking Holes.

All these rude Lybians lye in the Fields in the open Air, and live like wild Beasts, contriving how they may be most cruel: They affect neither Dainty Food, nor Civil Rayment, but are cloath'd in Goats Skins.

Their Princes have neither City or Town, but live in Castles near Rivers sides, where they lay up all their Stores. They command all their Subjects once a Year to take an Oath of Allegiance: Those that are obedient and observant of them, they protect as Friends and Associates: Those that refuse to submit, they condemn to dye, and prosecute them with Fire and Sword, as Thieves and Robbers. Their Arms are suitable to the nature of their Country and their own Disposition; for being nimble, and inhabiting a Country for the most part Champain, they go to the Field in times of War, each with their Darts, and a Bag fill'd with Stones. But they use neither Sword nor Helmet, nor any other Arms, but make it chiefly their Business to be quick and nimble in pursuing and retreating; and therefore are very active in running, and slinging of Stones; Care and continual Exercise improving natural Habits. They are neither just nor faithful to Strangers in any of their Compacts.

The Country about Cyrene is a fat Soyl, and very Fertile: It not only abounds in Corn, but in Wine and Oyl, Fruit-Trees and Pastures, and is water'd with many Rivers.

But those Parts that lye far South, are barren and dry, without Water, and look like the Sea, where there's no variety of Objects, but all on every side Waste and Desert; over which there's no possibility of passing, and therefore there's neither Bird, nor Four-footed Beast to be seen, except it be Deer or Oxen: Neither is there so much as any Plant, or any thing else for the Eye to fix upon; for the Parts further up into the Land (for a long way together) are all full of Heaps of Sand. And as it's destitute of all things for the support of Man's Life, so it abounds as much in Serpents of all shapes and sizes, especially those which they call Cerestes; whose Bites are Mortal, and they themselves of the same colour with the Sand; and therefore not being discern'd or distinguish'd from the Soyl, many (treading upon them unawares) run the hazard of losing their Lives.

It's reported that this sort of Serpents once enter'd Egypt, and depopulated a great part of the Country.

There's likewise a strange and wonderful thing often happens in this Country, both in the Deserts, and that part lying near to the Syrtes. For some time, and most commonly in calm Weather, there appear in the Air the shapes of divers living Creatures, some standing still, others moving; some flying, others pursuing; and are of that monstrous bigness, that they greatly terrify such as are ignorant of the nature of them. Some of them pursue Men, and when they take hold of them, a Chilness with a Trembling seizes upon all parts of their Bodies; and therefore Strangers unaccustom'd to such things, are ready to fall down dead with fear; but the Natural Inhabitants (being us'd to them) regard them not.

Some Natural Philosophers endeavour to give a Reason of these strange Apparitions, which look indeed like meer invented Fables: They say that there are never any Winds in this Country, and if there be any, they are very small and inconsiderable, and that the Air is often so wonderfully serene, that it's altogether without the least motion, in regard that near those Parts, there are neither Woods, deep Valleys, nor swelling Hills; neither are there any great Rivers that run through the Country, nor any sort of Grain or other Fruits that grow there; and therefore there's nothing from whence any Vapours can arise, which are the Productive matter of Winds. The Air therefore being thick in this dry and sandy Region, the same things happen here in Lybia, as do upon Rainy Days elsewhere, where in the Clouds, various Shapes and Forms may be observ'd: Because the Air being concreted, transforms it self into many Shapes, which being wasted up and down with gentle Gales, and with often brushing one upon another, are consolidated, and carry'd about hither and thither.

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