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The land where this temple lies is surrounded by a sandy desert and waterless waste, destitute of anything good for man. The oasis is fifty furlongs in length and breadth and is watered by many fine springs, so that it is covered with all sorts of trees, especially those valued for their fruit. It has a moderate climate like our spring and, surrounded as it is by very hot regions, alone furnishes to its people a contrasting mildness of temperature.1 [2] It is said that the sanctuary was built by Danaus the Egyptian. The land, which is sacred to the god, is occupied on the south and west by Ethiopians, and on the north by the Libyans, a nomadic people, and the so-called Nasamonians who reach on into the interior.2 [3]

All the people of Ammon dwell in villages. In the midst of their country there is a fortress secured by triple walls.3 The innermost circuit encloses the palace of the ancient rulers; the next, the women's court, the dwellings of the children, women, and relatives, and the guardrooms of the scouts, as well as the sanctuary of the god and the sacred spring, from the waters of which offerings addressed to the god take on holiness; the outer circuit surrounds the barracks of the king's guards and the guardrooms of those who protect the person of the ruler.4 [4]

Outside of the fortress at no great distance there is another temple of Ammon shaded by many large trees, and near this is the spring which is called the Spring of the Sun from its behaviour.5 Its waters change in temperature oddly in accordance with the times of day. [5] At sunrise it sends forth a warm stream, but as the day advances it grows cooler proportionally with the passage of the hours, until under the noon-day heat it reaches its extreme degree of cold. Then again in the same proportion it grows warmer toward evening and as the night advances it continues to heat up until midnight when again the trend is reversed, and at daybreak once more the waters have returned to their original temperature. [6]

The image of the god is encrusted with emeralds and other precious stones, and answers those who consult the oracle in a quite peculiar fashion. It is carried about upon a golden boat by eighty priests, and these, with the god on their shoulders, go without their own volition wherever the god directs their path. [7] A multitude of girls and women follows them singing paeans as they go and praising the god in a traditional hymn.6

1 Curtius 4.7.17.

2 Curtius's account (Curtius 4.7.18-19) is more systematic: Ethiopians on the east and west, Trogodytes on the south, Nasamonians on the north. Strabo (Strabo 17.3.20) calls the Nasamonians a Libyan people, and states (Strabo 2.5.33) that they live on the coast near the Syrtes.

3 Curtius 4.7.20-21. For a description of Siwah and its antiquities see Ahmed Fakhry, Siwa Oasis, Its History and Antiquities (1944); The Oasis of Siwa, Its Customs, History and Monuments (1950). The fortress and the shrine of the oracle were on the hill called Aghurmi, never systematically excavated.

4 Curtius' description of the fortress (Curtius 4.7.21) is clearer. The inner walls enclosed the palace; the second, the dwellings of wives, concubines, and children, and the shrine of the oracle; the third, the quarters of the guards.

5 Curtius 4.7.22; Arrian. 3.4.2.

6 Curtius 4.7.23-24. The god gave his responses by nods and signs, as Callisthenes reported (Strabo 17.1.43), just as did later the Apollo of Hierapolis (Lucian De Dea Syria 36). The temple procedure is quite typical of the Egyptian temples, where the god's image was carried about in a boat-shaped litter or tray.

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