The Library of History

Page 89

Page 89 That part of the Country in Lybia that borders upon Nile, is the most pleasant and richest for all manner of Provision; for the Morasses afford the most advantagious shelters against the parching heat of the Sun; and therefore the Ethiopians and Africans quarrel, and are at continual Wars one with another for the possession of that Place. Herds likewise of Elephants out of the higher Lybia (as some write) come down into those Parts, because of the abundance of Pasture, and the sweetness of it. For there are wonderful Morasses, abounding in all sorts of Food all along the Banks of the River, and here they are held by the Mouth, when they taste the sweetness of those Reeds and Canes that grow here, and so eat up the Food of the Inhabitants; and therefore the People are forc'd to resort to these Places for Relief (being Shepherds and living in Tents) making that their Country where they can find the most Plenty.

The Herds of Elephants of which we before hinted, leave the upper Parts for want of Pasture, which is presently burnt up there by the heat of the Sun. For by reason of the scorching Heat, and want both of Spring and River-water, the Grass is parcht up, and none to be had.

Some write, that in the Deserts and other wild Places (as they are call'd) are bred a World of Serpents of a wonderful bigness. These (they say) with great fury and violence, set upon the Elephants at the brink of the Waters, clasping themselves in many Circles round their Thighs, and sticking fast there so long, as that at length the Beasts (tir'd out by their great and weighty bulk) fall down in a foaming Sweat to the ground; upon which, others in multitudes coming in, they presently devour them, and that with ease; the poor Creatures being so unweldy, as scarce able to move themselves. If for some Reason or other, they succeed not in their Attempt, (out of eagerness to their natural Food) they pursue not the Elephants to the Rivers Bank before mentioned. For they say these vast Serpents avoid all they can the open Fields, and abide about the Feet and hollows of the Mountains in deep Holes and Caves: And hence it is, that they leave not those Places so fit for their shelter and defence, Nature teaching every Creature to make use of that which is most helpful to it, and to avoid what is hurtful.

And thus much we have thought fit to say of the Ethiopians and their Country: And now something is to be said of the Historians: For many have written such things concerning Egypt and Ethiopia, as deserve not the least credit, in as much as the Authors were either too easie to believe Lies, or else in sport and for diversion invented them themselves.

But Agatharchides of Cnidus in his Second Book of the Affairs of Asia, Artemidorus the Ephesian, in his Eighth Book of Geography, and some others that were natural Egyptians, who have written Histories of the things herein before by us related, have in their Writings nearly pursu'd the Truth. And I my self in the time of my Travelling and Sojourning in Egypt, associated with many of the Priests, and conferr'd with many Ambassadors and others sent out of Ethiopia, whence having exactly come to the knowledge of every thing, and having likewise examin'd the several Relations of the Historians, have fram'd and moulded my History, so as to suit with those things wherein all of them did agree and consent.

But this shall suffice to be said of the Western Ethiopians.

We shall now speak a little of those inhabiting the Southern Parts, and towards the Red Sea. But it's fit first that we say something of the making of Gold in these Parts.

In the Confines of Egypt and the neighbouring Countries of Arabia and Ethiopia there's a Place full of rich Gold-mines, out of which with much Cost and Pains of many Labourers Gold is dug. The Soyl here naturally is black, but in the Body of the Earth, run many white Veins, shining with white Marble, and glistering with all sorts of other bright Metals; out of which labourious Mines, those appointed Overseers cause the Gold to be dug up by the labour of a vast Multitude of People. For the Kings of Egypt condemn to these Mines, notorious Criminals, Captives taken in War, Persons sometimes falsly accus'd, or such against whom the King is incens'd; and that not only they themselves, but sometimes all their Kindred and Relations together with them, are sent to work here, both to punish them, and by their Labour to advance the Profit and Gain of the King. There are infinite numbers upon these Accounts thrust down into these Mines, all bound

Bibliotheca Historica

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