previous next


Again, they are entirely wrong when they allege as a mark of Homer's ignorance, that he describes the island of Pharos1 as entirely surrounded by the sea. On the contrary, it might be taken advantage of as a proof that our poet was not unacquainted with a single one of the points concerning Egypt which we have just been speaking of: and thus we demonstrate it:—Every one is prone to romance a little in narrating his travels, and Menelaus was no exception to the rule. He had been to Ethiopia,2 and there heard much discussion concerning the sources of the Nile, and the alluvium which it deposited, both along its course, and also at its mouths, and the large additions which it had thereby made to the main-land, so as fully to justify the remark of Herodotus3 that the whole of Egypt was a gift from the river; or if not the whole, at all events that part of it below the Delta, called Lower Egypt. He had heard too that Pharos was entirely surrounded by sea, and therefore misrepresented it as entirely surrounded by the sea, although it had long ago ceased so to be. Now the author of all this was Homer, and we therefore infer that he was not ignorant concerning either the sources or the mouths of the Nile.

1 An island opposite to Alexandria, and seven stadia distant therefrom. The Ptolemies united it to the main-land by means of a pier, named Hepta-stadium, in allusion to its length. The sands which accumulated against the pier became the site of the present city of Alexandria. It was not on this island that the celebrated Pharos of Alexandria was erected, but on a desolate rock a little to the N. E. It received the same name as the island, to which it was joined by another pier. As to the passage of Homer, (Odyssey iv. 354–357,) where he says that Pharos is one day's sail from the Egyptus, he does not mean Egypt, as Strabo fancies, but the mouth of the Nile, which river in his time was called the Egyptus, and probably fell into the sea about one day's sail from Pharos.

2 We have before remarked that the Ethiopia visited by Menelaus was not the country above Egypt, generally known by that name, but an Ethiopia lying round Jaffa, the ancient Joppa.

3 ‘The priests stated also that Menes was the first of mortals that ever ruled over Egypt; to this they added that in the days of that king, all Egypt, with the exception of the Thebaic nome, was but a morass; and that none of the lands now seen below Lake Mœris, then existed; from the sea up to this place is a voyage by the river of seven days. I myself am perfectly convinced the account of the priests in this particular is correct; for the thing is evident to every one who sees and has common sense, although he may not have heard the fact, that the Egypt to which the Hellenes navigate, is a land annexed to the Egyptians, and a gift from the river; and that even in the parts above the lake just mentioned, for three days' sail, concerning which the priests relate nothing, the country is just of the same description.’ Herod. ii. § 5.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1877)
hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: