The Library of History

Page 21

Page 21 quality, either of Fish or other Kinds of Creatures and Beasts; for all Water whose Nature is chang'd by Fire, is altogether incapable to breed any living thing, and therefore being that the Nature of Nile contradicts this decoction and boyling of the Water, we conclude that the Causes alledg'd of its increase are false.

The Opinion of Oenopides of Chios is this: The Waters (say he) that are under the Earth in Summer-time, are cold, and warm in the Winter, as we see by experience in deep Wells; for in a sharp Winter they are the least cold, but in Summer they are the coldest of any other time; and therefore, saith he, there's good reason that Nile in the Winter should grow low and contracted, because the Heat in the Bowels of the Earth exhales much of the Water, which cannot be supply'd, in regard no Rains fall in Egypt. But in Summer-time, when the Waters that lye deep in the Earth are no longer exhal'd, then the Channel of the River, according to the order of Nature, fills without any obstruction. But to this it may be answer'd, that many Rivers in Africa, whose Mouths lye parallel with this River, and run the like Course, yet overflow not like Nile. For on the contrary they rise in Winter, and fall in Summer, which clearly evinces his Falsity, who endeavours with a shew of Reason to oppose the Truth. But to the true cause, Agartharchides of Cnidus comes nearest. For he says, that in the Mountainous parts of Ethiopia, there are Yearly continual Rains from the Summer Solstice to the Equinox in Autumn, and therefore there's just cause for Nile to be low in the Winter, which then flows only from its own natural Spring-heads, and to overflow in Summer through the abundance of Rains. And though none hitherto have been able to give a Reason of these Inundations, yet he says his Opinion is not altogether to be rejected; for there are many things that are contrary to the Rules of Nature, for which none are able to give any substantial Reason. That which happens in some parts of Asia, he says, gives some confirmation to his Opinion. For in the Confines of Scythia, near Mount Caucasus, after the Winter is over, he affirms, that abundance of Snow falls every Year for many Days together: And that in the Northern Parts of India, at certain Times, there falls abundance of Hail, and of an incredible Bigness: And that near the River Hydaspis; in Summer-time, it rains continually; and the same happens in Ethiopia for many Days together; and that this disorder of the Air whirling about, occasions many Storms of Rain in Places near adjoyning; and that therefore it's no wonder if the Mountainous Parts of Ethiopia, which lies much higher than Egypt, are soakt with continual Rains, wherewith the River being fill'd, overflows; especially since the natural Inhabitants of the Place affirm, that thus it is in their Country. And though these things now related, are in their nature contrary to those in our own Climates, yet we are not for that Reason to disbelieve them. For with us the South Wind is cloudy and boysterous, whereas in Ethiopia it's calm and clear; and that the North Winds in Europe are fierce and violent, but in those Regions low and almost insensible.

But however (after all) though we could heap up variety of Arguments against all these Authors concerning the Inundation of Nile, yet those which we have before alledg'd shall suffice, lest we should transgress those Bounds of Brevity which at the first we propos'd to our selves. Having therefore divided this Book, because of the Largeness of it, into Two Parts (having before determin'd to keep within moderate Bounds) we shall now end the first part of this Treatise, and continue in the other, those things that are further remarkable in Egypt coherent with those before, beginning with the Actions of the Kings of Egypt, and the antient way of Living among the Egyptians.