The Library of History

Page 17

Page 17 raw Flesh; but of later times, they have us'd to take 'em with strong Nets like Fishes; sometimes they strike them on the Head with Forks of Iron, and so kill them. There's an infinite Multitude of these Creatures in the River and the Neighbouring Pools, in regard they are great Breeders, and are seldom kill'd. For the Crocodile is ador'd as a God by some of the Inhabitants; and for Strangers to hunt and destroy them is to no purpose, for their Flesh is not eatable. But Nature has provided relief against the increase of this destructive Monster; for the Ichneumon, as it's call'd (of the Bigness of a little Dog) running up and down near the Water-side, breaks all the Eggs laid by this Beast, whereever he finds them; and that which is most to be admir'd, is, that he does this not for Food or any other Advantage, but out of a natural Instinct for the meer Benefit of Mankind.

The Beast call'd the River Horse, is Five Cubits long, Four Footed, and cloven Hoof'd like to an Ox. He has Three Teeth or Tushes on either side his Jaw, appearing outwards larger than those of a Wild-Boar; as to his Ears, Tayl and his Neighing, he's like to a Horse. The whole Bulk of his Body is not much unlike an Elephant; his Skin is firmer and thicker almost than any other Beast. He lives both on Land and Water; in the Day time he lies at the Bottom of the River, and in the Night time comes forth to Land, and feeds upon the Grass and Corn. If this Beast were so fruitful as to bring forth Young every Year, he would undo the Husbandman, and destroy a great part of the Corn of Egypt. He's likewise by the help of many Hands often caught, being struck with Instruments of Iron; for when he is found, they hem him round with their Boats, and those on Board wound him with forked Instruments of Iron, cast at him as so many Darts; and having strong Ropes to the Irons, they fix in him, they let him go till he loses his Blood, and so dies: His Flesh is extraordinary hard, and of ill digestion. There's nothing in his inner Parts that can be eaten, neither his Bowels, nor any other of his Intrails.

Besides these before mention'd, Nile abounds with multitudes of all sorts of Fish; not only such as are fresh taken to supply the Inhabitants at hand, but an innumerable Number likewise which they salt up to send Abroad. To conclude, no River in the World is more Beneficial and Serviceable to Mankind, than Nile.

Its Inundation begins at the Summer Solstice, and increases till the Equinoctial in Autumn; during which time he brings in along with him new Soyl, and waters as well the Till'd and Improv'd Ground, as that which lies waste and untill'd, as long as it pleases the Husbandman; for the Water flowing gently and by degrees, they easily divert its Course, by casting up small Banks of Earth; and then by opening a Passage for it, as easily turn it over their Land again, if they see it needful. It's so very advantageous to the Inhabitants, and done with so little pains, that most of the Country People turn in their Cattel into the sow'd Ground to eat, and tread down the Corn, and Four or Five Months after they reap it. Some lightly run over the Surface of the Earth with a Plow, after the Water is fallen, and gain a mighty Crop without any great Cost or Pains: But Husbandry amongst all other Nations, is very laborious and chargable, only the Egyptians gather their Fruits with little Cost or Labour. That part of the Country likewise where Vines are planted after this watering by the Nile, yields a most plentiful Vintage. The Fields that after the Inundation are pastur'd by their Flocks, yield them this advantage, that the Sheep Yean twice in a Year, and are shorn as often. This Increase of the Nile is wonderful to Beholders, and altogether incredible to them that only hear the Report; for when other Rivers about the Solstice fall and grow lower all Summer long, this begins to increase, and continues to rise every day, till it comes to that height that it overflows almost all Egypt; and on the contrary in the same manner in the Winter Solstice, it falls by degrees till it wholly return into its proper Channel. And in regard the Land of Egypt lies low and Champain, the Towns, Cities and Country Villages that are built upon rising-ground (cast up by Art) look like the Islands of the Cyclades: Many of the Cattel sometimes are by the River intercepted, and so are drown'd; but those that fly to the higher Grounds are preserv'd. During the time of the Inundation, the Cattel are kept in the Country Towns and small Cottages, where they have Food and Fodder before laid up and prepar'd for them. But the common People now at liberty from all Imployments in the Field, indulge themselves

Bibliotheca Historica

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