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Now if we agree with the opinion of the Ionians, who say that only the Delta is Egypt, and that its seaboard reaches from the so-called Watchtower of Perseus forty schoeni to the Salters' at Pelusium, while inland it stretches as far as the city of Cercasorus,At the southern point of the Delta, where the two main channels of the Nile divide, not far below Cairo. where the Nile divides and flows to Pelusium and Canobus, and that all the rest of Egypt is partly Libya and partly Arabia—if we follow this account, we can show that there was once no land for the Egyptians; for we have seen that (as the Egyptians themselves say, and as I myself judge) the Delta is alluvial land and but lately (so to speak) came into being. Then if there was once no land for them, it was an idle notion that they were the oldest nation on earth, and they need not have made that trial to see what language the children would first speak. I maintain, rather, that the Egyptians did not come into existence togeth
The response of oracle of Ammon in fact bears witness to my opinion, that Egypt is of such an extent as I have argued; I learned this by inquiry after my judgment was already formed about Egypt. The men of the cities of Marea and Apis, in the part of Egypt bordering on Libya, believing themselves to be Libyans and not Egyptians, and disliking the injunction of the religious law that forbade them to eat cows' meat, sent to Ammon saying that they had no part of or lot with Egypt: for they lived (they said) outside the Delta and did not consent to the ways of its people, and they wished to be allowed to eat all foods. But the god forbade them: all the land, he said, watered by the Nile in its course was Egypt, and all who lived lower down than the city Elephantine and drank the river's water were Egyptians. Such was the oracle given to them.
But some of the Greeks, wishing to be notable for cleverness, put forward three opinions about this river, two of which I would not even mention except just to show what they are. One of them maintains that the Etesian windsThe regular N.W. winds which blow in summer from the Mediterranean. are the cause of the river being in flood, because they hinder the Nile from emptying into the sea. But there are many times when the Etesian winds do not blow, yet the Nile does the same as before. And further, if the Etesian winds were the cause, then the other rivers which flow contrary to those winds should be affected like the Nile, and even more so, since being smaller they have a weaker current. Yet there are many rivers in Syria and many in Libya, and they behave nothing like the Nile.
The third opinion is by far the most plausible, yet the most erroneous of all. It has no more truth in it than the others. According to this, the Nile flows from where snows melt; but it flows from Libya through the midst of Ethiopia, and comes out into Egypt. How can it flow from snow, then, seeing that it comes from the hottest places to lands that are for the most part cooler? In fact, for a man who can reason about such things, the principal and strongest evidence that the river is unlikely to flow from snows is that the winds blowing from Libya and Ethiopia are hot. In the second place, the country is rainless and frostless; but after snow has fallen, it has to rain within five daysIt does not seem to be known what authority there is for this assertion. ; so that if it snowed, it would rain in these lands. And thirdly, the men of the country are black because of the heat. Moreover, kites and swallows live there all year round, and cranes come every year to these places to winte
If, after having condemned the opinions proposed, I must indicate what I myself think about these obscure matters, I shall say why I think the Nile floods in the summer. During the winter, the sun is driven by storms from his customary course and passes over the inland parts of Libya. For the briefest demonstration, everything has been said; for whatever country this god is nearest, or over, it is likely that that land is very thirsty for water and that the local rivers are dried up.