BOOK I - The Library of History

Bibliotheca historica
The first five books
BOOK I
BOOK II
BOOK III
BOOK IV
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Page 14

CHAP. III.

The Description of Egypt. Of the Lake of Serbon. The Nature of the River Nile. The Cataracts; the Mouths of Nile. The Fruits of Egypt. The Beasts, Crocodile, &c. Several Opinions concerning the Inundation of Nile.

AND now we shall endeavour to treat distinctly of the Country it self, and the River Nile, and other things worthy of Remark. The Land of Egypt almost all lies wholly to the South, and is naturally fortify'd, and the most pleasant Country of any of the Kingdoms round about it. For on the West it's defended by the Desarts of Libya, full of Wild Beasts, running out a vast way in Length; where the Passage is both difficult, and extreamly hazardous, through want of Water, and other Provision. On the South it's inviron'd with the Cataracts of Nile, and the Mountains adjoyning. For from the Country of the Troglodites, and the higher Parts of Ethiopia, for the space of Five Thousand and Five Hundred Furlongs, there's no passing either by Land or Water, without such a measure of Provision as a King himself could only be furnish'd with. Those Parts towards the East, are partly secur'd by the River, and partly surrounded by the Deserts and by the Marishes call'd the Barathra. For there's a Lake between Coelo-Syria and Egypt, very narrow, but exceeding deep, even to a Wonder, two Hundred Furlongs in length, call'd Serbon: If any through Ignorance approach it, they are lost irrecoverably; for the Channel being very narrow, like a Swadling-band, and compass'd round with vast heaps of Sand, great quantities of it are cast into the Lake, by the continu'd Southern Winds, which so cover the Surface of the Water, and make it to the view so like unto Dry Land, that it cannot possibly be distinguish'd; and therefore many unacquainted with the nature of the Place, by missing their way, have been there swallow'd up, together with whole Armies. For the Sand being trod upon, sinks down and gives way by degrees, and like a malicious Cheat, deludes and decoys them that come upon it, till too late when they see the mischief they are likely to fall into, they begin to support and help one another, but without any possibility either of returning back, or escaping certain Ruin; for sinking into the Gulf, they are neither able to swim (the Mud preventing all motion of the Body) nor in a capacity to wade out, having nothing firm to support them for that purpose; for Sand and Water being mixt together, the Nature of both is thereby so chang'd, that there's neither fording, nor passing over it by Boat. Being brought therefore to this pass, without the least possibility of help to be afforded 'em, they go together with the Sand to the Bottom of the Gulf, at the very Brink of the Bog; and so the Place agreeable to its nature is call'd Barathrum.

Having spoken of the Three Boundaries of Egypt, by which it is distinguish'd from the rest of the Continent, we now proceed to the next.

The Fourth side is near surrounded with a vast Sea, without any Harbours, being a very long and tedious Voyage, and very difficult to find any place of Landing. For from Parcetonium in Africa, to Joppa in Coelo-Syria, for the space almost of Five Thousand Furlongs, there's not one safe Harbour to be found, except Pharus. Then again all along the Coasts of Egypt, the Sea is full of Rocks and Sands, not discernible by Mariners unacquainted with the Places; so that when they look upon themselves as safe, and to have escaped the danger of the Seas, and make with great joy to Land (wanting skill to steer aright) they are on a sudden and unexpectedly shipwrackt. Others inconsiderately, because they cannot see the Land, in regard it lies so low, are carried either into the Bogs, or to the Deserts. And in this manner is Egypt naturally guarded on every side. It's of a long Form or Shape; that part that lies along to the Sea-Coast stretches forth it self in length Two Thousand Furlongs; but to the South it runs almost Six Thousand Furlongs. It was anciently the most Populous Country in the World, and at this day not inferior to any. It was formerly full of Famous Towns, and had in it above Eighteen Thousand Cities, as is to be seen registred in their Sacred Records: And in the time of Ptolemy Lagus, there were reckon'd above



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