The Library of History

Page 26

Page 26 which seems far to exceed all others both for Magnificence and Curiosity of Workmanship.

The Thebans boast they were the most antient Philosophers and Astrologers of any People of the World, and the first that found out exact Rules for the improvement both of Philosophy and Astrology, the Situation of their Country being such as gave them an Advantage above others, more clearly to discern the rising and setting of the Stars: And that the Months and Years are best and most properly order'd and dispos'd by them; for they measure their Days according to the Motion of the Sun, and not of the Moon; and account Thirty Days to every Month, and add Five Days and a quarter to every Twelve Months; and by this means they compleat the whole Year; but they add no intercalary Months, nor substract any Days, as it is the Custom of many of the Greeks. But these of Thebes seem most accurately to have observ'd the Eclipses of the Sun and Moon, and from them do so manage their Prognostications, that they certainly foretel every particular Event.

The Eighth of this King's Race, call'd after the Name of his Father ∆≤choreus, built Memphis, the most Famous City of Egypt. For he chose the most convenient Place for it in all the Country, where Nile divides it self into several Branches, and makes that part of the Country call'd Delta, so nam'd from the shape of the Greek Letter Delta, which it resembles. The City being thus conveniently situated at the Head of the River, commands all the Shipping that sail up it. He built it in Circuit a Hundred and Fifty Furlongs, and made it exceeding strong and commodious in this manner: For Nile flowing round the City, and at the time of its inundation covering all round on the South Side, he casts up a mighty Rampart of Earth, both for a Defence to the City against the raging of the River, and as a Bulwark against an Enemy at Land; on every other side likewise he dug a broad and deep Trench, which received the violent Surges of the River, and fill'd every Place round the Rampart with Water, which fortify'd the City to Admiration.

This Place was so commodiously pitcht upon by the Builder, that most of the Kings after him prefer'd it before Thebes, and remov'd the Court thence to this Place: From that time therefore the Magnificence of Thebes began to decrease, and Memphis to increase to the Times of Alexander King of Macedon, who built a City call'd after his own Name, near the Sea, and planted it with Inhabitants, which all the succeeding Kings of Egypt still made it their business to inlarge: For some so beautify'd it with Royal Palaces, some with Ports and Arsenals, and others with magnificent Buildings and rich Donations, that it's judg'd by most to be Second, if not the first City of the whole World.

But we shall treat of this particularly in its proper Time and Place. But the Builder of Memphis after he had finish'd the Rampart and Trench, built Palaces not inferior to others, built elsewhere; yet much below the state and grandure of the former Kings. For the Inhabitants of this Country little value the short time of this present Life; but put an high esteem upon the Name and Reputation of a Virtuous Life after Death; and they call the Houses of the Living, Inns, because they stay in them but a little while; but the Sepulchers of the Dead they call Everlasting Habitations, because they abide in the Graves to infinite Generations. Therefore they are not very curious in the building of their Houses; but in beautifying their Sepulchers they leave nothing undone that can be thought of.

Some have thought that the City of which we have but just now spoken, was so call'd from the Daughter of the Founder, and tell a Fabulous Story, that the River Nile, in the shape of a Bull fell in love with her, and begat Egyptus, famous among the Inhabitants for his admirable Vertue, from whom the whole Country was call'd Egypt; for coming to the Crown by Descent, he was exceeding kind to his Subjects, just and diligent in all his Affairs, and therefore was judg'd justly to merit Honour and Esteem from all, and for his gracious Disposition generally applauded.

After the Death of this King, and Twelve Descents, Miris came to the Crown of Egypt, and built a Portico in Memphis towards the North, more stately and magnificent than any of the rest. And a little above the City, he cut a Dyke for a Pond, bringing it down in length from the City Three Hundred and Five and Twenty Furlongs, whose use was admirable, and

Bibliotheca Historica

The first five books