Pliny,   Natural History

-   Book 5 ,   sections 1-74

Translated by H.Rackham (1952), with some minor alterations. Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each chapter.

In this web version, many of the place names have been altered to reproduce the Latin spellings - for instance, 'Massilia' instead of 'Marseilles'. Wherever possible, links are provided to further information about the places.

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{1.} L   [1] The Greeks give to Africa the name of Libya, and they call the sea lying in front of it the Libyan Sea. It is bounded by Egypt. No other part of the earth has fewer bays or inlets in its coast, which stretches in a long slanting line from the west. The names of its peoples and towns are absolutely unpronounceable except by the natives; and for the rest, they mostly reside in fortresses.

[2] The list of its countries begins with the two called Mauretania, which down to the time of Gaius Caesar, the son of Germanicus, were kingdoms, but by his cruelty were divided into two provinces. The outermost promontory projecting into the ocean is named by the Greeks Ampelusia. Beyond the Pillars of Hercules there were once the towns of Lissa and Cotte; but at the present day there is only Tingi, which was originally founded by Antaeus and subsequently entitled Traducta Julia by the emperor Claudius when he established a colony there. It is 30 miles distant from the town of Baelo in Baetica, where the passage across is shortest. On the Atlantic coast 25 miles from Tingi is Julia Constantia Zulil, a colony of Augustus, which is exempt from the government of the native kings and included under the jurisdiction of Baetica. Thirty-five miles from Zulil is Lixus, made a colony by the emperor Claudius, about which the most marvellous legends are told by the old writers: [3] this was the site of the palace of Antaeus and the scene of his combat with Hercules, and here were the gardens of the Hesperides. As a matter of fact an arm of the sea stretches inland here with a winding channel which, as people nowadays explain the story, had some resemblance to a guardian serpent; it embraces within it an island which, although the neighbouring district is considerably elevated, is nevertheless the only portion not flooded by the tides. On the island there also rises an altar of Hercules, but of the famous grove in the story that bore the golden fruit nothing else except some wild olive trees. [4] No doubt less wonder may be felt at the portentous falsehoods of Greece put about concerning these serpents and the river Lixus by people who reflect that our own countrymen, and these quite recently, have reported little less miraculous stories about the same matters, stating that this city is exceedingly powerful and greater than Great Carthage ever was, and moreover that it is situated in a line with Carthage and at an almost immeasurable distance from Tingi, and all the other details swallowed so greedily by Cornelius Nepos.

[5] In the interior, 40 miles from Lixus, is another colony of Augustus, Babba, called Julia On The Plains, and 75 miles further, a third, Banasa, which has the surname of Valentia. Thirty-five miles from Banasa is the town of Volubilis, which is at the same distance from the coasts of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. On the shore, 50 miles from Lixus, is the river Sububus, flowing by the colony of Banasa, a fine river available for navigation. The same number of miles from the Sububus is the town of Sala, situated on the river of the same name; this town is on the very edge of the desert, and is beset by herds of elephants, but much more seriously harried by the Autololes tribe, through whose territory lies the road to Mount Atlas, which is the subject of much the most marvellous stories of all the mountains in Africa. [6] It is reported to rise into the sky out of the middle of the sands, a rugged eminence covered with crags on the side facing towards the coast of the Ocean to which it has given its name, but shaded by dense woods and watered by gushing springs on the side facing Africa, where fruits of all kinds spring up of their own accord with such luxuriance that pleasure never lacks satisfaction. [7] It is said that in the daytime none of its inhabitants are seen, and that all is silent with a terrifying silence like that of the desert, so that a speechless awe creeps into the hearts of those who approach it, and also a dread of the peak that soars above the clouds and reaches the neighbourhood of the moon's orb; also that at night this peak flashes with frequent fires and swarms with the wanton gambols of Goat-Pans and Satyrs, and echoes with the music of flutes and pipes and the sound of drums and cymbals. These stories have been published by celebrated authors, in addition to the labours performed in this region by Hercules and Perseus. It is an immense distance away, across unexplored country.

[8] There were also once extant some notes of the Carthaginian commander Hanno, who at the most flourishing period of the Punic state was ordered to explore the circuit of Africa. It is Hanno whom the majority of the Greek and Roman writers have followed in the accounts that they have published of a number of cities founded by him there of which no memory or trace exists, not to speak of other fabulous stories.

[9] Scipio Aemilianus, during his command in Africa, placed a fleet of vessels at the service of the historian Polybius for the purpose of making a voyage of discovery in that part of the world. After sailing round the coast, Polybius reported that beyond Mount Atlas in a westerly direction there are forests teeming with the wild animals that Africa engenders. Agrippa says that to the river Anatis is a distance of 496 miles, and from the Anatis to Lixus 205 miles; that Lixus is 112 miles from the Straits of Gades and that then come the gulf called Sagigi Bay, the town on Cape Mulelacha, the rivers Sububus and Salat, the port of Rutubis 224 miles from Lixus, then the Cape of the Sun, the port of Rhysaddir, the Gaetulian Autoteles, the river Quosenum, the Selatiti and Masati tribes, the river Masathat, and the river Darat, in which crocodiles are found. [10] Then, he states, a gulf 616 miles across is enclosed by the promontory of Mount Braca projecting westward, called Surrentium. After this the river Salsum, beyond which is the Ethiopian tribe of the Perorsi, and in their rear the Pharusii. Adjoining these in the interior are the Gaetulian Darae, and on the coast the Ethiopian Daratitae and the river Bambotum, which is full of crocodiles and hippopotamuses. From the Bambotum runs a line of mountains extending right to the peak of which the Greek name is, as we shall state, the Chariot of the Gods {Theon Ocema}. The distance from this peak to the promontory of Hesperos he gives as a voyage of ten days and nights; and in the middle of this space he places Mount Atlas, which all other authorities give as situated at the farthest point of Mauretania.

[11] The first occasion on which the armed forces of Rome fought in Mauretania was in the principate of Claudius, when King Ptolemy had been put to death by Gaius Caesar and his freedman Aedemon was seeking to avenge him; and it is an accepted fact that our troops went as far as Mount Atlas in pursuit of the routed natives. And not only were the ex-consuls and generals drawn from the senate who commanded in that campaign able to boast of having penetrated the Atlas range, but this distinction was also shared by the Roman knights who subsequently governed the country. [12] The province contains, as we have said, five Roman colonies, and, to judge by common report, the place might well be thought to be easily accessible; but upon trial this criterion is discovered to be for the most part exceedingly fallacious, because persons of high position, although not inclined to search for the truth, are ashamed of ignorance and consequently are not reluctant to tell falsehoods, as credulity is never more easily let down than when a false statement is attested by an authority of weight. For my own part I am less surprised that some things are outside the knowledge of gentlemen of the equestrian order, some of whom indeed nowadays actually get into the senate, than that anything should be unknown to luxury, which acts as an extremely great and powerful stimulus, inasmuch as forests are ransacked for ivory and citrus-wood and all the rocks of Gaetulia explored for the murex and for purple. [13] The natives, however, inform us that on the coast 150 miles from the Salat is the River Asana, which is a tidal river but which is notable for its harbour; and then the river which they call Fut, and 200 miles from it, after crossing a river named Ivor, the Diris range - that is agreed to be the native name for the Atlas; and that in the neighbourhood are traces of the land having formerly been inhabitedremains of vineyards and palm-groves.

[14] Suetonius Paulinus, who was consul in our own times {66 AD }, was the first Roman commander who actually crossed the Atlas range and advanced a distance of many miles beyond it. His report as to its remarkable altitude agrees with that of all the other authorities, but he,also states that the regions at the base of the range are filled with dense and lofty forests of trees of an unknown kind, with very tall trunks remarkable for their glossy timber free from knots, and foliage like that of the cypress except for its oppressive scent, the leaves being covered with a thin downy floss, so that with the aid of art a dress-material like that obtained from the silk-worm can be made from them. The summit (the report continued) is covered with deep snowdrifts even in summer. [15] Ten days' march brought him to this point and beyond it to the river called the Ger, across deserts covered with black dust occasionally broken by projections of rock that looked as if they had been burnt, a region rendered uninhabitable by its heat, although it was winter time when he explored it. He states that the neighbouring forests swarm with every kind of elephant and snake, and are inhabited by a tribe called the Canarii, owing to the fact that they have their diet in common with the canine race and share with it the flesh of wild animals.

[16] It is well ascertained that the next people are the Ethiopian tribe called the Perorsi. Juba, the father of Ptolemy, who was the first ruler to hold sway over both the Mauretanias, and who is even more distinguished for his renown as a student than for his royal sovereignty, has published similar facts about Mount Atlas, and has stated in addition that a plant grows there called the euphorbia, named after his doctor who discovered it; in a volume devoted solely to the subject of this plant he sings the praises of its milky juice in very remarkable terms, stating it to be an aid to clear sight and an antidote against snakebite and poisons of all kinds.This is enough, or more than enough, about Mount Atlas.

[17] The province of Tingitana is 170 miles in length. It contains the following tribes: the Mauri (from whom it takes its name of Mauretania), by many writers called the Maurusii, were formerly the leading race, but they have been thinned by wars and are now reduced to a few families. The next race to this was previously that of the Masaesyli, but this has been wiped out in a similar manner. The country is now occupied by the Gaetulian tribes, the Baniurae and the Autololes, by far the most powerful of them all, and the Nesimi, who were formerly a section of the Autololes, but have split off from them and formed a separate tribe of their own in the direction of the Ethiopians. [18] The province itself produces elephants in its mountainous district on the eastern side and also on Mount Abila and the range of peaks called the Seven Brothers from their similarity of height; these mountains join on to Mount Abila and overlook the Straits of Gades. At the Seven Brothers begins the coast of the Mediterranean, and next come the navigable river Tamuda and the site of a former town of the same name, the river Laud, also navigable for vessels, the town and harbour of Rhysaddir, and the navigable river Malva. [19] Opposite to Malaca in Spain is situated the town of Siga, the capital of King Syphax, where we reach the second Mauretania - for these regions for a long time took the names of their kings. Further Mauretania being called the Land of Bogut and similarly the present Caesariensis the Land of Bocchus. After Siga come the port called from its size Great Harbour, a town with Roman citizenship; the river Mulucha, the frontier between the Land of Bocchus and the Masaesyli; Quiza Xenitana {"of the foreigners"}; [20] Arsennaria, a town with Latin rights, three miles from the sea; Cartenna, a colony of Augustus, where the Second Legion was settled, and Gunugu, likewise a colony of the same emperor and the settlement of a praetorian cohort; the promontory of Apollo, and on it the famous town of Caasarea previously called Jol, the capital of King Juba, to which colonial rights were granted by his the deified Claudius; New Town, founded as a settlement of veteran troops, and Tipasa, granted Latin rights by the same emperor's orders, and also Icosium given the same privilege by the emperor Vespasian; Rusguniae, a colony of Augustus, Rusucurium, given the honour of citizenship by Claudius, Rusazus, a colony of Augustus, Saldae, a colony of the same, Igilgili likewise; the town of Tucca, situated on the sea and the river Ampsaga. [21] In the interior is the colony of Augusta, also called Succhabar, and likewise Tubusuptu, the independent cities of Timici and Tigava, the rivers Sardaval, Aves and Nabar, the Macurebi tribe, the river Usar, and the Nababes tribe. From the river Ampsaga to Caesarea is 322 miles. The length of the two Mauretanias is 1038 miles and the breadth 467 miles.

{2.} L   [22] At the river Ampsaga begins Numidia, a country rendered famous by the name of Masinissa. The Greeks called it Metagonitis, and they named its people the Nomads, from their custom of frequently changing their pasturage, carrying their maptdia, that is their homes, about the country on waggons. The towns are Chullu and Sgigada, and in the interior about 48 miles from the latter the colony of Cirta, called Cirta of the Sitianii and another colony further inland, Sicca, and the free town of Bulla Regia. On the coast are Tagodet, Hippo Regius, the river Armua, and the town of Thabraca, which has Roman citizenship. The boundary of Numidia is the river Tusca. The country produces nothing remarkable beside the Numidian marble and wild beasts.

{3.} L   [23] Beyond the Tusca is the district of Zeugitana and the region properly to be called Africa. Three promontories run out into the sea, White Cape and then the Cape of Apollo facing Sardinia and the Cape of Mercury facing Sicily; these form two bays - the Bay of Hippo next to the town called Hippo Dirutus, in Greek Diarrhytus, which name is due to its irrigation channels, and adjacent to this, further from the coast, Theudalis, a town exempt from tribute; [24] and then the Cape of Apollo, and on the second bay Utica, which has the rights of Roman citizenship; it is famous as the scene of the death of Cato. Then there is the river Bagrada, the place called the Camp of Cornelius, the colony of Carthage on the site of Great Carthage, the colony of Maxula, the towns of Carpi, Misua and Clypea, the last a free town on the Cape of Mercury, where are also the free towns Curubis and Neapolis.

Then comes another section of Africa proper. The inhabitants of Byzacium are called Libyphoenicians, Byzacium being the name given to a region measuring 250 miles round, a district of exceptional fertility, the soil paying the farmers interest at the rate of a hundredfold. [25] Here are the free towns of Leptis, Hadrumetum, Ruspina, Thapsus, and then Thenae, Aces, Macomades, Tacape and Sabrata on the edge of the Lesser Syrtis; from the Ampsaga to this point the length of Numidia and Africa is 580 miles and the breadth so far as ascertained 200 miles. The part that we have called Africa is divided into two provinces, the Old and the New; the division between these, as agreed between the younger Scipio and the kings, is a dyke running right through to the town of Thenae, which is 216 miles from Carthage.

{4.} L   [26] The third gulf is divided into two bays, which are rendered formidable by the shallow tidal waters of the two Syrtes. The distance between the nearest Syrtis, which is the smaller of the two, and Carthage is said by Polybius to be 300 miles; and he gives its width across as 100 miles and its circuit as 300 miles. There is however also a way to it by land, that can be found by observation of the stars, across a desert abandoned to the sand and swarming with serpents. Next come forests filled with a multitude of wild beasts, and further inland desolate haunts of elephants, and then a vast desert, and beyond it the Garamantes tribe, at a distance of twelve days' journey from Auguli. [27] Beyond these was formerly the Psylli tribe, and beyond them Lake Lycomedis, surrounded by desert. Augilae itself is situated almost in the middle, at an equal distance on either side from the Ethiopia that stretches westward and from the region lying between the two Syrtes. But by the coast between the two Syrtes it is 250 miles; here are the independent city of Oea, the river Cinyps and the district of that name, the towns of Neapolis, Taphra, Habrotonum and the second Leptis, called Great Leptis. Then comes the Greater Syrtis, measuring 625 miles round and 312 wide at the entrance, near which dwells the race of the Cisippades. [28] At the end of this Gulf was once the Coast of the Lotus-eaters, the people called by some the Machroae, extending to the Altars of the Philaeni - are formed of heaps of sand. After these, not far from the shore of the mainland, there is a vast swamp into which flows the river Tritonis, the name of which it bears; Callimachus calls it the Lake of Pallas. He places it on the nearer side of the Lesser Syrtis, but many writers put it between the two Syrtes. The promontory shutting in the Greater Syrtis is called Cape Borion; beyond it is the province of Cyrenaica.

[29] Between the river Ampsaga and this boundary Africa contains 516 peoples that accept allegiance to Rome. These include six colonies, Uthina and Thuburbi, in addition to those already mentioned; 15 towns with Roman citizenship, among which in the interior must be mentioned those of Absurae, Abutucum, Aborium, Canopicum, Chimavis, Simittuum, Thunusidum, Thuburnicum, Thinidrumum, Tibiga, the two towns called Ucita, the Greater and the Lesser, and Vaga; one town with Latin rights, Uzalita; one tributary town at the Camp of Cornelius; [30] 30 free towns, of which must be mentioned in the interior the towns of Acholhta, Accarita, Avina, Abzirita, Canopita, Melizita, Matera, Salaphita, Tusdrita, Tiphica, Tunisa, Theuda, Tagesa, Tiga, Ulusubrita, a second Vaga, Viga and Zama. Of the remaining number most can rightly be entitled not merely cities but also tribes, for instance the Natabudes, Capsitani, Musulami, Sabarbares, Massyli, Nicives, Vamacures, Cinithi, Musuni, Marchubi, and the whole of Gaetulia as far as the river Nigris, which separates Africa from Ethiopia.

{5.} L   [31] Notable places in the district of Cyrenaica (the Greek name of which is the Pentapolis) are the Oracle of Ammon, which is 400 miles from the city of Cyrene, the Fountain of the Sun, and especially five cities, Berenice, Arsinoe, Ptolemais, Apollonia and Cyrene itself. Berenice is situated at the tip of the horn of the Syrtis; it was formerly called the City of the Hesperides, mentioned above, as the myths of Greece is often change their locality; and in front of the town not far away is the river Leton, with a sacred grove, reputed to be the site of the gardens of the Hesperides. Berenice is 375 miles from Leptis; [32] and Arsinoe is 43 miles from Berenice, commonly called Teuchira, and then 22 miles further Ptolemais, the old name of which was Barce; then 40 miles on the Cape of Phycus projects into the Cretan Sea, 350 miles distant from Cape Taenarum in Laconia and 225 miles from Crete itself. After the Cape of Phycus is Cyrene, 11 miles from the sea, from Phycus to Apollonia being 24 miles and to Cherronesus 88 miles, from which it is 216 miles to the Catabathmus. The inhabitants of this coast are the Marmaridae, reaching almost all the way from the region of Paraetonium to the Greater Syrtis; [33] after these are the Acrauceles and then on the edge of the Syrtis the Nasamones, formerly called by the Greeks Mesammones by reason of their locality, the word meaning 'in the middle of the sands'. The territory of Cyrene for a breadth of 15 miles from the coast is thought to be good even for growing trees, but for the same space further inland to grow only corn, and afterwards over a strip 30 miles wide and 250 miles long nothing but silphium.

[34] After the Nasamones, we come to the dwellings of the Asbytae and Macae; and beyond them, twelve days' journey from the Greater Syrtis, the Amantes. These also are surrounded by sands in the western direction, but nevertheless they find water without difficulty at a depth of about three feet, as the district receives the overflow of the waters of Mauretania. They build their houses of blocks of salt quarried out of their mountains like stone. From these it is a journey of 7 days in a south-westerly quarter to the Trogodytes, with whom our only intercourse is the trade in the precious stone imported from Ethiopia which we call the carbuncle. [35] Before reaching them, in the direction of the African desert stated already to be beyond the Lesser Syrtis, is Phazania, where we have subjugated the tribe of Phazanii and the cities of Alele and Cibliba, as well as Cydamus in the direction of Sabrata. After these a long range stretches from east to west which our people from its nature call the Black Mountain, as it has the appearance of having suffered from fire, or else of being scorched by the reflection of the sun. [36] Beyond this mountain range is the desert, and then a town of the Garamantes called Thelgae, and also Debris (near which there is a spring of which the water is boiling hot from midday to midnight and then freezing cold for the same number of hours until midday) and Garama, the celebrated capital of the Garamantes: all of which places have been subdued by the arms of Rome, being conquered by Cornelius Balbus, who was given a triumph - the only foreigner ever so honoured - and citizen rights, since, although a native of Gades, he together with his great-uncle, Balbus, was presented with our citizenship. There is also this remarkable circumstance, that our writers have handed down the names of the towns mentioned above as having been taken by him, and have stated that in his own triumphal procession beside Cydamus and Garama were carried the names and images of all the other races and cities, which went in this order: [37] the town of Tabudium, the Niteris tribe, the town of Miglis Gemella, the tribe or town of Bubeium, the tribe of the Enipi, the town of Thuben, the mountain known as the Black Mountain, the towns called Nitibrum and Rapsa, the Viscera tribe, the town of Decri, the river Nathabar, the town of Thapsagum, the Tamiagi tribe, the town of Boin, the town of Pege, the river Dasibari; then a series of towns, Baracum, Buluba, Alasit, Galsa, Balla, Maxalla, Cizania; and Mount Gyri, its effigy preceded by an inscription that it was a place where precious stones were produced.

[38] Hitherto it has been impossible to open up the road to the Garamantes country, because brigands of that race fill up the wells with sand - these do not need to be dug very deep if you are aided by a knowledge of the localities. In the last war waged with the people of Oea, at the beginning of the principate of Vespasian, a short route of only four days was discovered, which is known as By the Head of the Rock. The last place in Cyrenaica is called Catabathmus, a town and a suddenly descending valley. The length of Cyrenaic Africa from the Lesser Syrtis to this boundary is 1060 miles, and the breadth, so far as ascertained, 810 miles.

{6.} L    [39] The district that follows is called Libya Mareotis; it borders upon Egypt. It is occupied by the Marmarides, the Adyrmachidae, and then the Mareotae. The distance between the Catabathmus and Paraetonium is 86 miles. Between them in the interior of this district is Apis, a place famous in the Egyptian religion. The distance from Apis to Paraetonium is 62 miles, and from Paraetonium to Alexandria 200 miles. The district is 169 miles in breadth. Eratosthenes gives the distance by land from Cyrene to Alexandria as 525 miles. [40] Agrippa made the length of the whole of Africa from the Atlantic, including Lower Egypt, 300 miles; Polybius and Eratosthenes, who are deemed extremely careful writers, made the distance from the Ocean to Great Carthage 1100 miles, and from Great Carthage to the nearest mouth of the Nile, Canopus, 1628 miles; Isidorus makes the distance from Tingi to Canopus 3599 miles, but Artemidorus makes it 40 miles less than Isidorus.

{7.} L   [41] These seas do not contain very many islands. The most famous is Meninx, 25 miles long and 22 miles broad, called by Eratosthenes Lotus Eaters' Island. It has two towns, Meninx on the side of Africa and Thoar on the other side, the island itself lying off the promontory on the right-hand side of the Lesser Syrtis, at a distance of a mile and a half away. A hundred miles from Zerba and lying off the left-hand promontory is the island of Cercina, with the free city of the same name; it is 25 miles long and measures half that distance across where it is widest, but not more than 5 miles across at its end; and joined to it by a bridge is the extremely small island of Cercinitis, which looks towards Carthage. [42] About 50 miles from these is Lepadusa, 6 miles long; then come Gaulos and Galata, the soil of the latter having the property of killing scorpions, that pest of Africa. It is also said that scorpions cannot live at Clupea, opposite to which lies Cossyra with its town. Opposite the Gulf of Carthage lie the two Aegimoeroe; but the Altars, which are more truly rocks than islands, are chiefly between Sicily and Sardinia. Some authorities state that even the Altars were formerly inhabited but that their level has sunk.

{8.} L   [43] In the interior circuit of Africa towards the south and beyond the Gaetulians, after an intermediate strip of desert, the first inhabitants of all are the Egyptian Libyans, and then the people called in Greek the White Ethiopians. Beyond these are the Ethiopian clans of the Nigritae, named after the river which has been mentioned, the Pharusian Gymnetes, and then bordering on the Ocean the Perorsi whom we have spoken of at the frontier of Mauretania. Eastward of all of these there are vast uninhabited regions spreading as far as the Garamantes and Augilae and the Trogodytes - the most reliable opinion being that of those who place two Ethiopias beyond the African desert, and especially Homer, who tells us that the Ethiopians are divided into two sections, the eastward and the westward.

[44] The river Niger has the same nature as the Nile: it produces reeds and papyrus, and the same animals, and it rises at the same seasons of the year. Its source is between the Ethiopic tribes of the Tarraelii and the Oechalicae; the town of the latter is Magium. In the middle of the desert some place the Atlantes, and next to them the half-animal Goat-Pans and the Blemmyes and Gamphasantes and Satyrs and Himantopodes {"Strap-foots"}.

[45] The Atlantes have fallen below the level of human civilization, if we can believe what is said; for they do not address one another by any names, and when they behold the rising and setting sun, they utter awful curses against it as the cause of disaster to themselves and their fields, and when they are asleep they do not have dreams like the rest of mankind. The Trogodytes hollow out caverns, which are their dwellings; they live on the flesh of snakes, and they have no voice, but only make squeaking noises, being entirely devoid of intercourse by speech. The Garamantes do not practise marriage but live with their women promiscuously. The Augilae only worship the powers of the lower world. The Gamphasantes go naked, do not engage in battle, and hold no intercourse with any foreigner. [46] The Blemmyes are reported to have no heads, their mouth and eyes being attached to their chests. The Satyrs have nothing of ordinary humanity about them except human shape. The form of the Goat-Pans is that which is commonly shown in pictures of them. The Himantopodes are people with feet like leather thongs, whose nature it is to crawl instead of walking. The Pharusi, originally a Persian people, are said to have accompanied Hercules on his journey to the Hesperides. Nothing more occurs to us to record about Africa.

{9.} L   [47] Joining on to Africa is Asia, the extent of which from the Canopic mouth of the Nile to the mouth of the Black Sea is given by Timosthenes as 2638 miles; Eratosthenes gives the distance from the mouth of the Black Sea to the mouth of the Maeotis as 1545 miles; and Artemidorus and Isidorus give the whole extent of Asia including Egypt as far as the river Tanais as 5013 miles. It possesses several seas, named after the tribes on their shores, for which reason they will be mentioned together.

[48] The inhabited country next to Africa is Egypt, which stretches southward into the interior to where the Ethiopians border it in the rear. The boundaries of its lower part are formed by the two branches of the Nile embracing it on the right and on the left, the Canopic mouth separating it from Africa and the Pelusiac from Asia, with a space of 170 miles between the two mouths. This has caused some authorities to class Egypt as an island, because the Nile divides in such a manner as to produce a piece of land shaped like a triangle; and consequently many have called Egypt by the name of the Greek letter Delta. The distance from the point where the single channel first splits into branches to the Canopic mouth is 146 miles and to the Pelusiac mouth 156 miles.

[49] The uppermost part of Egypt, marching with Ethiopia, is called the Thebaid. It is divided into prefectures of towns, called nomes - the Ombite, Apollonopolite, Hermonthite, Thinite, Phaturite, Coptite, Tentyrite, Diospolite, Antaeopolite, Aphroditopolite and Lycopolite nomes. The nomes belonging to the district in the neighbourhood of Pelusium are the Pharbaethite, Bubastite, Sethroite and Tanite. The remaining nomes are called the Arabic, Hammoniac (on the way to the Oracle of Jupiter Ammon), Oxyrhynchite, Leontopolite, Athribite, Cynopolite, Hermopolite, Xoite, Mendesian, Sebennyte, Cabasite, Latopolite, Heliopolite, Prosopite, Panopolite, Busirite, Onuphite, Saite, Ptenethus, Ptemphus, Naucratite, Metellite, Gynaecopolite, Menelaite - these forming the region of Alexandria; and likewise Mareotis belonging to Libya. [50] The Heracleopolite nome is on an island of the Nile measuring 50 miles long, on which is also the town called the City of Hercules. There are two nomes called the Arsinoite; these and the Memphite extend to the apex of the Delta, adjacent to which on the side of Africa are the two Oasite nomes. Certain authorities alter some out of these names and substitute other nomes, for instance the Heropolite and Crocodilopolite. Between the Arsinoite and Memphite nomes there was once a lake measuring 250, or according to Mucianus's account 450, miles round, and 250 feet deep, an artificial sheet of water, called Lake Moeris after the king who made it. Its site is 62 miles from Memphis, the former citadel of the kings of Egypt, and from Memphis it is 12 days' journey to the Oracle of Ammon and 15 days' journey to the place where the Nile divides and forms what we have called the Delta.

{10.} L   [51] The sources from which the Nile rises have not been ascertained, proceeding as it does through scorching deserts for an enormously long distance and only having been explored by unarmed investigators, without the wars that have discovered all other countries; but so far as King Juba was able to ascertain, it has its origin in a mountain of lower Mauretania not far from the Ocean, and immediately forms a stagnant lake called Nilides. Fish found in this lake are the alabeta, coracinus and silurus; also a crocodile was brought from it by Juba to prove his theory, and placed as a votive offering in the temple of Isis at Caesarea, where it is on view today. Moreover it has been observed that the Nile rises in proportion to excessive falls of snow or rain in Mauretania. [52] Issuing from this lake the river disdains to flow through arid deserts of sand, and for a distance of several days' journey it hides underground but afterwards it bursts out in another larger lake in the territory of the Masaesyli clan of Mauretania Caesariensis, and so to speak makes a survey of the communities of mankind, proving its identity by having the same fauna. Sinking again into the sand of the desert it hides for another space of 20 days' journey till it reaches the nearest Ethiopians, and when it has once more become aware of man's proximity it leaps out in a fountain, probably the one called the Black Spring. [53] From this point it forms the boundary line between Africa and Ethiopia, and though the riverside is not immediately inhabited, it teems with wild beasts and animal life and produces forests; and where the river cuts through the middle of Ethiopia it has the name of Astapus, which in the native language means water issuing from the shades below. It strews about such a countless number of islands, and some of them of such vast size, that in spite of its very rapid flow it nevertheless only flies past them in a course of five days, and not shorter; while making the circuit of the most famous of these islands, Meroë, the left-hand channel is called Astobores, that is 'branch of water coming out of the shades,' and the right-hand channel Astusapes, which means 'side branch.' [54] It is not called Nile until its waters are again reconciled and have united in a single stream, and even then for some miles it still has the name of Giris which it had previously. Its name in Homer is Aegyptus over its whole course, and with other writers it is the Triton. Every now and then it impinges on islands, which are so many incitements spurring it forward on its way, till finally it is shut in by mountains, its flow being nowhere more rapid; and it is borne on with hurrying waters to the place in Ethiopia called in Greek the Catadupi, where at its last cataract, owing to the enormous noise it seems not to run but to riot between the rocks that bar its way. Afterwards it is gentle, the violence of its waters having been broken and subdued, and also it is somewhat fatigued by the distance it has raced, and it belches out, by many mouths it is true, into the Egyptian Sea. For a certain part of the year however its volume greatly increases and it roams abroad over the whole of Egypt and inundates the land with a fertilising flood.

[55] Various explanations of this rising of the river have been given; but the most probable are either the backwash caused by what are called in Greek the Etesian Winds, which blow in the opposite direction to the current at that period of the year, the sea outside being driven into the mouths of the river, or the summer rains of Ethiopia which are due to the same Etesian Winds bringing clouds from the rest of the world to Egypt. The mathematician Timaeus produced a very recondite theory - that the source of the Nile is a spring called Phiala, and that the river buries itself in burrows underground and breathes forth vapour owing to the steaming hot rocks among which it hides itself; but that as the sun at the period in question comes nearer the river water is drawn out by the force of the heat and rises up and overflows, and withdraws itself to avoid being swallowed up. [56] This, he says, begins to occur at the rising of the Dog-star, when the sun is entering the sign of the Lion, the sun standing in a vertical line above the spring, at which season in that region shadows entirely disappearthough the general opinion on the contrary is that the flow of the Nile is more copious when the sun is departing towards the north, which happens when it is in the Crab and the Lion, and that consequently the river is dried up less then; and again when the sun returns to Capricorn and towards the south pole its waters are absorbed and its volume consequently reduced. But if anybody is inclined to accept the possibility of Timaeus's explanation that the waters of the river are drawn out of the earth, there is the fact that in these regions absence of shadows goes on continuously at this season. [57] The Nile begins to rise at the next new moon after midsummer, the rise being gradual and moderate while the sun is passing through the Crab and at its greatest height when it is in the Lion; and when in Virgo it begins to fall by the same degrees as it rose. It subsides entirely within its banks, according to the account given by Herodotus, on the hundredth day, when the sun is in Libra. The view has been held that it is unlawful for kings or rulers to sail on the Nile when it is rising. Its degrees of increase are detected by means of wells marked with a scale. [58] An average rise is one of 24 feet. A smaller volume of water does not irrigate all localities, and a larger one by retiring too slowly retards agriculture; and the latter uses up the time for sowing because of the moisture of the soil, while the former gives no time for sowing because the soil is parched. The province takes careful note of both extremes: in a rise of 18 feet it senses famine, and even at one of 194 feet it begins to feel hungry, but 21 feet brings cheerfulness, 224 feet complete confidence and 24 feet delight. The largest rise up to date was one of 27 feet in the principate of Claudius, and the smallest 74 feet in the year of the war of Pharsalus, as if the river were attempting to avert the murder of Pompey by a sort of portent. When the rise comes to a standstill, the floodgates are opened and irrigation begins; and each strip of land is sown as the flood relinquishes it. It may be added that the Nile is the only river that emits no exhalations.

[59] It first comes within the territory of Egypt at the Ethiopian frontier, at Syene - that is the name of the peninsula a mile in circuit in which, on the Arabian side, the Camp is situated and off which lie the four islands of Philae, 600 miles from the place where the Nile splits into two channels - the point at which, as we have said, the island called the Delta begins. This is the distance given by Artemidorus, who also states that the island formerly contained 250 towns; Juba, however, gives the distance as 400 miles. Aristocreon says that the distance from Elephantis to the sea is 750 miles - Elephantis is an inhabited island 4 miles below the last cataract and 16 above Syene; it is the extreme limit of navigation in Egypt, being 585 miles from Alexandria - so far out in their calculations have the above-named authors been. Elephantis is the point of rendezvous for Ethiopian vessels, which are made collapsible for the purpose of portage on reaching the cataracts.

{11.} L   [60] In addition to boasting its other glories of the cities past Egypt can claim the distinction of having had Egypt in the reign of King Amasis 20,000 cities; and even now it contains a very large number, although of no importance. However, Apollonopolis is notable, as is also the City of Leucothea and Diospolis Magna, also called Thebes, renowned for the fame of its hundred gates, Coptos the market near the Nile for Indian and Arabian merchandise, and also Aphroditopolis and the other Diospolis and Tentyris, below which is Abydos, famous for the Palace of Memnon and the temple of Osiris, in the interior of Libya 7 miles from the river. [61] Then Ptolemais and Panopolis and another Aphroditopolis, and on the Libyan side Lycon, where the Thebaid is bounded by a mountain range. Beyond this are Hermopolis, and Alabastronpolis, Cynopolis, and Heracleopolis mentioned above. Then Arsinoe and Memphis already mentioned, between which and the Arsinoite district on the Libyan side are the towers called pyramids, and on Lake Moeris the Labyrinth, in the construction of which no timber was used with the masonry, and the town of Crialon. There is one place besides in the interior and bordering on the Arabian frontier which is of great renown; Heliopolis.

[62] But justice requires that praise shall be bestowed on Alexandria, built by Alexander the Great on the coast of the Egyptian Sea on the side of Africa, 12 miles from the Canopic mouth and adjoining Lake Mareotis. The site was previously named Rhacotes. It was laid out by the architect Dinochares, who is famous for his talent in a variety of ways; it covered an area spreading 15 miles in the shape of a Macedonian soldier's cape, with indentations in its circumference and projecting corners on the right and left side; while at the same time a fifth of the site was devoted to the King's palace. [63] Lake Mareotis, which lies on the south side of the city, carries traffic from the interior by means of a canal from the Canopic mouth of the Nile; also it includes a considerable number of islands, being 30 miles across and 250 miles in circumference, according to Claudius Caesar. Others make it 40 schoeni {4 or 5 miles} long and reckon 150 miles, and they give the same figure for the breadth.

[64] There are also many considerable towns in the region of the lower parts of the Nile, especially those that have given their names to the mouths of the river, thongh not all of these are named after towns - for we find that there are twelve of them, besides four more that the natives call 'false mouths' - but the seven best known are the Canopic mouth nearest to Alexandria and then the Bolbitine, Sebennytic, Phatnitic, Mendesic, Tanitic, and last the Pelusiac.

Besides the towns that give their names to the mouths there are Butos, Pharbaethos, Leontopolis, Athribis, the Town of Isis, Busiris, Cynopolis, Aphroditopolis, Sais, and Naucratis, after which some people give the name of Naucratitic to the mouth called by others the Heracleotic, and mention it instead of the Canopic mouth which is next to it.

{12.} L   [65] Beyond the Pelusiac mouth of the Nile is Arabia, extending to the Red Sea and to the Arabia known as Happy and famous for its perfumes and its wealth. This bears the names of the Cattabanes, Esbonitae and Scenitae tribes of Arabs; its soil is barren except where it adjoins the frontier of Syria, and its only remarkable feature is the Casius mountain. The Arabian tribe of the Canchlei adjoin those mentioned on the east and that of the Cedrei on the south, and both of these in their turn adjoin the Nabataeans. The two gulfs of the Red Sea where it converges on Egypt are called the Heroopolitic Gulf and the Laeanitic or Aelanitic Gulf; between the two towns of Laeana and Gaza, which is on the Mediterranean, there is a space of 150 miles. Agrippa says that the distance from Pelusium across the desert to the town of Arsinoe on the Red Sea is 125 miles: so small a distance in that region separates two such different regions of the world!

{13.} L   [66] The next country on the coast is Syria, formerly the greatest of lands. It had a great many divisions with different names, the part adjacent to Arabia being formerly called Palestine, and Judaea, and Coele-Syria, then Phoenicia and the more inland part Damascena, and that still further south Babylonia as well as Mesopotamia between the Euphrates and the Tigris, the district beyond Mount Taurus Sophene, that on this side of Sophene Commagene, that beyond Armenia Adiabene, which was previously called Assyria, and the part touching Cilicia Antiochia. [67] Its length between Cilicia and Arabia is 470 miles and its breadth from Seleucia Pieria to Zeugma on the Euphrates 175 miles. Those who divide the country into smaller parts hold the view that Phoenicia is surrounded by Syria, and that the order is - the seacoast of Syria of which Idumaea and Judaea are a part, then Phoenicia, then Syria. The whole of the sea lying off the coast is called the Phoenician Sea. The Phoenician race itself has the great distinction of having invented the alphabet and the sciences of astronomy, navigation and strategy.

{14.} L   [68] After Pelusium come the Camp of Chabrias, Mount Casius and the temple of Jupiter Casius, and the tomb of Pompey the Great. At Ostracine, 65 miles from Pelusium, is the frontier of Arabia. Then begins Idumaea, and Palestine at the point where the Serbonian Lake comes into view. This lake is recorded by some writers as having measuxed 150 miles round - Herodotus gave it as reaching the foot of Mount Casius; but it is now an inconsiderable fen. There are the towns of Rhinocolura and inland Rhaphaea, Gaza and inland Anthedon, and Mount Argaris. Further along the coast is the region of Samaria, the free town Ascalon, Azotus, the two towns named Jamnea, one of them inland; [69] and the Phoenician city of Jope. This is said to have existed before the flood; it is situated on a hill, and in front of it is a rock on which they point out marks made by the chains with which Andromeda was fettered; here there is a cult of the legendary goddess Ceto. Next Apollonia, and Strato's Tower, otherwise Caesarea, founded by King Herod, but now the colony called Prima Flavia established by the Emperor Vespasian; this is the frontier of Palestine, 189 miles from the confines of Arabia. After this comes Phoenicia, and inland Samaria; the towns are Neapolis, formerly called Mamortha, Sebaste on a mountain, and on a loftier mountain Gamala.

{15.} L   [70] Beyond Idumaea and Samaria stretches the wide expanse of Judaea. The part of Judaea adjoining Syria is called Galilee, and that next to Arabia and Egypt Peraea. Peraea is covered with rugged mountains, and is separated from the other parts of Judaea by the river Jordan. The rest of Judaea is divided into ten Local Government Areas {toparchies} in the following order: the district of Jericho, which has numerous palm-groves and springs of water, and those of Emmaus, Lydda, Jope, Accrabim, Gophana, Thamna, Betholeptepha, the Hills {Orine}, the district that formerly contained Jerusalem, by far the most famous city of the East and not of Judaea only, and Herodium with the celebrated town of the same name.

[71] The source of the river Jordan is the spring of Panias from which Caesarea described later takes its second name. It is a delightful stream, winding about so far as the conformation of the locality allows, and putting itself at the service of the people who dwell on its banks, as though moving with reluctance towards that gloomy lake, the Asphaltitis, which ultimately swallows it up, its much-praised waters mingling with the pestilential waters of the lake and being lost. For this reason at the first opportunity afforded by the formation of the valleys it widens out into a lake usually called the Gennesaris. This is 16 miles long and 6 broad, and is skirted by the pleasant towns of Julias and Hippos on the east, Tarichea on the south (the name of which place some people also give to the lake), and Tiberias with its salubrious hot springs on the west. [72] The only product of the Asphaltitis is bitumen, the Greek word for which gives it its name. The bodies of animals do not sink in its waters, even bulls and camels floating; this has given rise to the report that nothing at all can sink in it. It is more than 100 miles long, and fully 75 miles broad at the broadest part but only 6 miles at the narrowest. On the east it is faced by Arabia of the Nomads, and on the south by Machaerus, at one time next to Jerusalem the most important fortress in Judaea. On the same side there is a hot spring possessing medicinal value, the name of which, Callirrhoe, itself proclaims the celebrity of its waters.

[73] On the west side of the Asphaltitis, but out of range of the noxious exhalations of the coast, is the solitary tribe of the Essenes, which is remarkable beyond all the other tribes in the whole world, as it has no women and has renounced all sexual desire, has no money, and has only palm-trees for company. Day by day the throng of refugees is recruited to an equal number by numerous accessions of persons tired of life and driven thither by the waves of fortune to adopt their manners. Thus through thousands of ages (incredible to relate) a race in which no one is born lives on for ever: so prolific for their advantage is other men's weariness of life!

Lying below the Essenes was formerly the town of Engada, second only to Jerusalem in the fertility of its land and in its groves of palm-trees, but now like Jerusalem a heap of ashes. Next comes Masada, a fortress on a rock, itself also not far from the Asphaltitis. This is the limit of Judaea.

{16.} L   [74] Adjoining Judaea on the side of Syria is the region of Decapolis, so called from the number of its towns, though not all writers keep to the same towns in the list; most however include Damascus, with its fertile water-meadows that drain the river Chrysorrhoa, Philadelphia, Raphana (all these three withdrawn towards Arabia), Scythopolis (formerly Nysa, after Father Liber's nurse, whom he buried there) where a colony of Scythians are settled; Gadara, past which flows the river Hieromices; Hippos mentioned already, Dion, Pella rich with its waters, Garasa, Canatha. Between and around these cities run tetrarchies, each of them equal to a kingdom, and they are incorporated into kingdoms - Trachonitis, Panias (in which is Caesarea with the spring mentioned above), Abila, Arca, Ampeloessa and Gabe.

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