« AnteriorContinuar »
THE KINGDOM OF EGYPT. 13 13
EGYPTIAN ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT. 14 14
From about B.C. 2613 to B.C. 570. 14 14 Salatis, Silites, or Nirmaryada
31 14 Apachnas, Pachnan, or Rucma
31 15 Assis, Apophis, or Apbobis
31 15 The Plagues of Egypt
37 16 The First Plague......
37 17 The Second Plague....
38 17 The Third Plague
38 18 The Fourth Plague..
38 18 The Fifth Plague.................
38 18 The Sixth Plague...............
39 18 The Seventh Plague
39 19 The Eighth Plague.....
39 19 The Ninth Plague
40 19 The Tenth Plague
40 19 Moeris, or Myris........
which is computed at 2,255 square miles, excluTHE PHYSICAL HISTORY OF EGYPT.
sive of the Fyoom, a small province consisting of
about 340 miles. EGYPT is generally reckoned within the limits of In Scripture, Upper Egypt, or Thebaid, seems Africa, though several geographers have con- to be called Pathros, as distinguished from the sidered it as more naturally belonging to Asia. Lower, properly called Caphtor or Egypt. ComIt is situated between latitude 24° 3' and 31° 37'. pare Isa. xi. 11, with Ezek. xxix. 14; and Jer. It is bounded on the north by the Mediterranean ; xliv. 1, with Ezek. xxx. 14—16, Deut. ii. 23, on the east by the little river El Arish, (supposed Jer. xlvii. 4. The latter term appears to denote, to be the scriptural “ River of Egypt,” Numb. generally, the whole of Lower Egypt, which is xxxiv. 5,) on the borders of Palestine, and the the part of the country best known to the HeSyrian or Arabian desert, which extends from brews, but of which occasionally the Delta sethe Mediterranean to the Gulf of Suez, and from parately taken is called Rahab. See Psa. lxxxix. thence, southwards, by the west coast of the 10, and Isa. li. 9. Bochart thinks the word RaRed Sea ; and on the west by the Libyan desert. hab or Raab, is the same as Rib or Riph, the From the earliest ages, its boundary to the south Egyptian name of the Delta, which was so called has been fixed at the rapids or cataracts of As- from its resemblance to a pear—“Rib” being the souan, the ancient Syene, which are formed by name of that fruit. Hence there was, it is said, a number of granite rocks that stretch across in the middle of the Delta, a nome or district the bed of the Nile, over which this great river called Athribis, “ the heart of the pear.” rolls its foaming stream.
The country of Egypt attained an earlier and The length of Egypt is very disproportionate a higher degree of civilization and refinement to its breadth : its extent from the mouth of the than any other in the world. It was the seat of Nile to Syene, the border of Nubia under the a royal government in the days of the patriarch tropic of Cancer, is about 500 miles, but it is Abraham, and it abounded at that time with prolittle wider than the valley through which the visions, while the neighbouring countries, and Nile flows in Upper Egypt, until it reaches even the fertile regions of Palestine, were exLower Egypt, at some distance above the head, posed to frequent famines, Gen. xii. 10. How or vertex of the Delta, (a plain so called by the far they had advanced in civilization in these Greeks from its resemblance to the letter A,) remote ages, we may gather from Gen. xxxvii. where the valley expands itself. The average 25, where we find the Ishmeelites conducting a breadth of the valley, from one mountain range caravan by the way of Shechem, loaded with the to the other, between Cairo in Lower, and Edfou spices of India, the balsam and myrrh of Hadrain Upper Egypt, is only about seven miles; and maut for the Egyptian market. From the sculpthat of the land capable of cultivation, the limits tures of Beni Hassan, (grottoes on the east bank of which depend on the inundation, scarcely ex- of the Nile,) we learn also that the Egyptians ceeds five and a half, being in the widest part were well acquainted with the manufacture of ten and three quarters, and in the narrowest two linen, glass, cabinet work, and numerous objects miles, including the river.
indicative of art and refinement, and that various The extent in square miles of the district be- gymnastic exercises were common at a period tween the pyramids and the sea is considerable ; approaching these ages. that of the Delta alone, which forms a portion The peculiar fertility of the soil of Egypt of it, is estimated at 1,976 square miles. This arose from the fertilizing influences of the annual portion is very narrow about its apex, at the inundation of junction of the modern Rosetta and Damietta branches; but it gradually widens on approaching the coast, where its base is eighty-one miles. To this we find a reference, Deut. xi. 10–12. The whole northern district, with the interme- The Hebrew lawgiver, speaking to the Hebrews diate Delta included, contains about 4,500 square concerning Palestine, says, “ For the land, whimiles, or double the whole arable land of Egypt, ther thou goest in to possess it, is not as the
land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where which form the Delta of Egypt. In a distance thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy of 1,350 nautical miles from the mouth of the foot, as a garden of herbs : but the land, whither Tacazze to the Delta, the Nile does not receive a ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, single tributary stream, which Humboldt remarks and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: a land is a solitary instance in the hydrographic history which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of of the globe. the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the The ancients assigned many reasons for the beginning of the year even unto the end of the increase of the Nile; but it is now universally year.”
The reader will be mindful that there is acknowledged, that its inundations are owing to no intention here to compare the two countries the copious rains which fall in Ethiopia, from as to fertility, Egypt being, without exception, whence it flows. These rains swell it to such an the most fertile country in the world ; but there extent that Ethiopia first, and then Egypt, are is an interesting comparison as to the process of overflowed ; and that which at first was but a irrigation. Of Palestine it is said, that it is large river, rises like a sea and spreads its blesswatered by the rains of heaven. But this is not ings over the face of an extensive country. the case in Egypt. In that country, rain seldom Herodotus says, the Nile begins to increase or scarcely ever falls, especially in the interior ;* about the summer solstice, and continues to rise but its fertility depends upon the annual overflow for a hundred days ; and then decreases for the of the Nile, which is made available for the pur- same time, and continues low all the winter, unposes of irrigation in the fullest extent, only, by til the return of the summer solstice. Diodorus means of the numerous canals and trenches, writes to the same effect, stating that the inunwhich require every year to be cleaned out, and dation begins at the summer solstice, and inthe dykes carefully repaired. The word ren- creases till the autumnal equinox. This is condered “ foot,” is supposed by some to have been firmed by the reports of modern travellers. Acused metaphorically to denote labour; and the cording to Pococke, the river began to increase force of the comparison would then be, that at Cairo, in 1714, June 30; in 1715, July 1; in Egypt was watered by labour, while Canaan did 1738, June 20. So precisely is the stupendous not require such artificial means to make it operation of its inundation calculated, says Bruce, fruitful. The foot, however, it must be remem- that on the 25th of September, only three days bered, was literally used to conduct the streams after the autumnal equinox, the Nile is generally of water which makes it more impressive. Many found at Cairo to be at its highest, and begins to suppose that the digging and cleaning of canals, diminish every day after. It would appear, then, for the purposes of irrigation, was among the that the river begins to swell in June, but the “ hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick,” with rise is not rapid or remarkable till early in July; which the lives of the Israelites were made that the greatest rise is attained about the aubitter in Egypt; if so, it must have been a great tumnal equinox, and the waters remain upon the satisfaction to them to know that no such manual same level until the middle of October; and that, labour was required in. Palestine, and the point after this, the subsidence is very sensible, and of the comparison must have been very em- the lowest point is reached in April. phatic.
The swell of the river varies in different parts But his grand feature in the landscape of of the channel. In Upper Egypt, it is from Egypt demands particular notice. The various thirty to thirty-five feet; at Cairo, it is about branches of the Nile have their rise in the high twenty-three feet; whilst in the northern part lands north of the Equator, and flowing through of the Delta it does not exceed four feet, which Abyssinia and other regions westward of it, meet is owing to the artificial channels, and the in the country of Senaar. The united stream breadth of the inundation. The four feet of inflows northwards through Nubia and Egypt, and crease is, however, as requisite to the fertility of after a course of more than 1,800 miles from the the Delta, as the twenty-three or thirty feet, and farthest explored point of its principal branch, upwards, elsewhere. enters the Mediterranean by several mouths, As the riches of Egypt depended on the inun
dation of the Nile, all the circumstances and dif* Thunder occurs occasionally in the Delta, in the ferent degrees of its increase have been carefully rainy season, or about the time of the equinoxes, espe- considered ; and by a long series of regular obcially the autumnal one. These storms constantly come servations, made during many years, the inunfrom the Mediterranean, and they are accompanied with violent showers, and sometimes with hail. In general
dation itself discovered what kind of harvest the they happen either in the evening or morning, and rarely ensuing year was likely to produce. The kings in the middle of the day. When, therefore, it is said that caused to be placed at Memphis a measure on no rain falls in Egypt, it must be taken as a general ex
which these different increases were marked ; pression, and not without some exceptions, or be understood of Upper Egypt, or the Thebaid. Maillet says that
and from thence notice was given to all the rest in Lower Egypt it rained five or six times from November of Egypt; the inhabitants of which knew by that to April in 1692, and the two following years; but that fre
means, beforehand, what they might expect from quently three or four years pass in Upper Egypt without rain, and it is such a rarity there as to cause public re
the ensuing harvest. Strabo speaks of a well on joicings. This is confirmed by Dr. Pococke, whu mentions the banks of the Nile, near the town of Syene, also that the rains are frequent and heavy on the sea made for that purpose. coast and in Lower Egypt, particularly from November to March, but that in Cairo they are moderate, and only in the
The same custom is to this day observed at months of December, January, and February; and that
Grand Cairo. In the court of a mosque there in Upper Egypt they had rain but twice, half an hour each stands a pillar, on which are marked the degrees time, in the course of eight years. On this subject, how- of the Nile's increase ; and the public criers proever, there is a great variety of statements among travellers, from whence it is probable that Egypt is visited some
claim daily in all parts of the city how much the times more and sometimes less with rain from heaven.
river has risen. The tribute paid to the Grand Seignor for the lands, used to be regulated by the the wall, made A. D. 300, that the water then rose height of the inundation. Sixteen cubits is the pro- only a foot above that level. This gives an eleper height for the opening of the canal, by cutting vation of about five inches in a century; and it down the dam, that so the waters of the inundation has been collected from other data, that the rise may enter the canal which runs through the midst in the circumjacent soil is nearly in the same of Čairo to the north-east, watering the plain to the proportion. extent of twenty leagues, and filling the Lake of To secure the blessings of the waters of the the Pilgrims. If the river wants a single inch of Nile, through the whole breadth of their country, this height, no tribute is due, the produce being the inhabitants of Egypt have, with great labour, then scarcely sufficient to pay the cultivator. If it in different ages, cut a vast number of trenches increase to the height of twenty-three or twenty- and canals in every part.* These canals are not four cubits, it is judged most favourable. If it opened till the river has attained a certain height, rise beyond that, it overthrows houses and de- nor yet all at the same time; for if they were, the stroys cattle ; and it also engenders a host of in- distribution of the water would be unequal. sects, which destroy the fruits of the earth. The When the water begins to subside, these sluices day on which it rises to a certain height is kept are closed, and they are gradually opened again as a grand festival, and solemnized with fire- in the autumn, allowing the waters to pass on to works, feastings, and all the demonstrations of contribute to the irrigation of the Delta. The public rejoicing; and in the remotest ages, the distribution of the stream has always been suboverflowing of the Nile was always attended with ject to minute and distinct regulations, the necesa universal joy throughout all Egypt, that being sity for which may be estimated from the common the fountain of its happiness.
statement, that scarcely a tenth part of the water But not only the fertility and riches of Egypt of the Nile reaches the sea in the first three depend on the overflowing of the Nile; its very months of the inundation. During the inunexistence is owing to the same wonderful cause. dation, the whole country appears like a series of We say, wonderful, for although the phenomenon ponds and reservoirs ; and it is not merely the is by no means peculiar to the Nile, (for it is more saturation of the ground, but the deposit of soil or less common to all rivers whose volume is which takes place during the overflow, that is so annually augmented by the periodical rains which favourable to the agriculture of Egypt. The alfall within the tropics,) there is no river, the an- luvial matter annually brought down and deponual swelling of which is so replete with import- sited by the Nile, is estimated by Dr. Shaw as ant consequences, or so essential to the existence equal to a one hundred and twentieth part of the of a nation. The very soil of Egypt was, no volume of water which it pours into the sea. doubt, originally formed by the earth brought This soil contains principles so friendly to vegedown by the river from Abyssinia and the inte-| tation, that it is used for manure in those places rior of Africa, and deposited during the annual which have not been adequately benefited by the inundation. That it has been progressively ele- inundation ; while, on the other hand, where the vated in the course of ages, from this cause, is deposit has been abundant, the people mingle demonstrated by a number of distinct facts. sand with it to diminish its strength. As soon as Towns and monuments, for instance, which are the waters have retired, cultivation commences; known from history to have been originally built and where the soil has been sufficiently inundated, on mounds, to secure them from the effects of the very little labour is demanded. The seed is sown inundation, now lie so low in the plain as to be in the moistened soil, and vegetation and harvest inundated every year. Thus, in the plain of follow with such rapidity, as to allow a succesThebes, the alluvial mud has accumulated to the sion of crops wherever water can be commanded. height of nearly seven feet around the statues of The influence of the Nile upon the condition Amunoph 111., which were erected probably and appearance of the country can only be estiabout B. c. 1430. From this, however, it would mated by comparing its aspect in the season not appear that the increase of the soil was so which immediately precedes, with that which great as some authors imagine. Dr. Shaw esti- follows the inundation. Before it occurs, it exmates this increase at rather more than a foot in hibits a parched desert of sand and dust, but a century, and he observes that Egypt must have afterwards a level verdant plain, gained forty-one feet eight inches of soil in There cannot be a finer sight in nature than 4,072 years. From this cause he apprehends that, Egypt exhibits at two seasons of the year. In in process of time, the river will not be able to the months of July and August, if a traveller overflow its banks, and that Egypt, from being should ascend some mountain or one of the farthe most fertile, will become one of the most bar- famed pyramids, he would behold a vast sea, in ren countries in the universe. But this hypo- the midst of which numerous towns and villages thesis is not well founded. There is, in the wise order of Providence, an equilibrium preserved by * At what period the system of irrigating the Delta of a nearly corresponding elevation of the river's Egypt by canals drawn from the Nile and its branches
commenced, it is impossible now to determine. The bed, so that the point of overflow is maintained
Egyptians ascribe its invention to Osiris and Sesostris. nearly in the same ratio with the elevation of the Osiris, say they, enclosed the river on both sides with soil. This is demonstrated by the ancient Nilo
strong dykes, and erected sluices in proper places for letmeter near Elephantine, mentioned by Strabo, ting out the waters upon the fields as they had need of it.
The probability is, that as the demand for agricultural and which is still existing. The highest measure produce would increase with the population, so the idea of marked upon it is twenty-four cubits, about thirty- increasing the supply to the greatest possible quantity six feet; but the water now rises, when at its
would suggest the propriety of banking the river, and of
drawing canals from it throughout the whole breadth of greatest elevation, nearly eight feet above this
the country. And this would be done, not in the reign of mark; while it appears, from an inscription on one prince, but in several successive reigns.