BOOK I - The Library of History

Bibliotheca historica
The first five books
BOOK I
BOOK II
BOOK III
BOOK IV
BOOK V







Page 15 Three Thousand, which remain still to this day. Once they say in a General Account taken of all the Inhabitants, they amounted to Seven Millions; and at this time are no less than Three Millions of People. And therefore they say that their Kings by the help of such a Multitude, left behind them in their great and wonderful Works, eternal Monuments of their state and grandure; which we shall by and by distinctly treat of: But at present we shall speak of the nature of Nile, and of the property of the Soyl.

Nile runs from the South towards the North from Spring-heads hitherto unknown, for they are in the utmost Borders of Ethiopia, where by reason of the vast Deserts, and Extremity of Heat, there's no coming. It's the greatest of all other Rivers, and runs through many Countries, and therefore has many large Turnings and Windings, sometimes making its Way to the East and Arabia, and then again to the West and Lybia. For it runs down from the Mountains of Ethiopia, till it empties it self into the Sea, at least Twelve Thousand Furlongs, accounting the several Windings it makes in the way. In its Course it makes many Islands; amongst many others in Ethiopia, one remarkable for its Greatness, call'd Meroes, Two and Twenty Furlongs broad. But in the lower Places its swelling Waves grow narrower, and the Current divides it self into Two Channels towards the Continents that lye on either side the Island. One of the Currents bends towards Africa, and is at length swallow'd up in a Bed of Sand of an incredible Depth: The other makes its Course towards Arabia, on the other side, and falls into deep Guts and vast Bogs, inhabited round by divers Nations; entring at last into Egypt, it keeps no direct Course, but turns and winds here and there in some Places Ten Furlongs in breadth, in others less, sometimes running towards the East, then to the West, and sometimes back again to the South. For Mountains stand on both sides the River, and take up a large Tract of Ground; and the River forcing it self with great violence against strait and narrow Precipices, the Water is driven back, and flows over the Neighbouring Fields; and after it has run a considerable way towards the South, it returns at length to its natural Course. And though this River is thus remarkable above all others, yet this is especially observable in it, that its Stream runs calm and smooth, without any violent Surges, or tempestuous Waves, except at the Cataracts; a Place of Ten Furlongs being so call'd, running down in a Precipice, in a straight and narrow Passage amongst steep Rocks; the whole is a rugged shelvy Gulf, where there lye many great Stones, like huge Rocks. The Water dashing violently against these Rocks, is beaten back, and rebounds the contrary way, by which are made wonderful Whirlpools, and by the repeated Influx, the whole Place is cover'd with Froth and Foam, to the no small amazement of the Beholders: For the River there runs down with as quick and violent a Current, as an Arrow out of a Bow. Sometimes it happens that (these Rocks, and the whole Gulf being cover'd with the vast quantity of Waters of the Nile) some Ships driven with contrary Winds are hurried down the Cataract, but there's no possibility of Sailing up against it, the force of the Stream baffling all the Art of Man. There are many Cataracts of this kind, but the greatest is that in the Confines of Ethiopia and Egypt.

How the River Nile makes several Islands near Ethiopia (amongst which Meroe is the chief) is before declar'd. In this Island is a Famous City of the same Name, which Cambyses built, and call'd it after the Name of his Mother Meroe. This Island is said to be of the shape of a Shield, and for Greatness exceeding all the rest of the Islands in those Parts, being Three Thousand Furlongs in Length, and a Thousand in Breadth, having in it many Cities, of which Meroe is the Noblest. The Island is surrounded towards the Coasts of Lybia with vast Heaps of Sand, all along close to the River, and towards Arabia run along steep rocky Mountains. It's said there are in it Mines of Gold, Silver, Iron and Brass, a great number of Ebony Trees, and all sorts of precious Stones. To conclude, there are so many Islands made by this River, that it's scarce credible. For besides those Islands in that part of Egypt call'd Delta, there are (they say) Seven Hundred, some of which the Ethiopians inhabit, and sow with Millet; others are so pester'd with Serpents, Baboons, and all Kinds of hurtful Beasts, that it's dangerous to come into them.



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