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As his description of the wanderings of Menelaus may seem to authenticate the charge of ignorance made against him in respect to those regions, it will perhaps be best to point out the difficulties of the narrative, and their explanation, and at the same time enter into a fuller defence of our poet. Menelaus thus addresses Telemachus, who is admiring the splendour of his palace:

“ After numerous toils
And perilous wanderings o'er the stormy deep,
In the eighth year at last I brought them home.
Cyprus, Phœnicia, Sidon, and the shores
Of Egypt, roaming without hope, I reach'd,
In distant Ethiopia thence arrived,
And Libya.1

Odyssey iv. 81.

It is asked, What Ethiopians could he have met with on his voyage from Egypt? None are to be found dwelling by our sea,2 and with his vessels3 he could never have reached the cataracts of the Nile. Next, who are the Sidonians? Certainly not the inhabitants of Phoenicia; for leaving mentioned the genus, he would assuredly not particularize the species.4 And then the Erembi; this is altogether a new name. Our contemporary Aristonicus, the grammarian, in his [observations] on the wanderings of Menelaus, has recorded the opinions of numerous writers on each of the heads under discussion. It will be sufficient for us to refer to them very briefly. They who assert that Menelaus went by sea to Ethiopia, tell us he directed his course past Cadiz into the Indian Ocean;5 with which, say they, the long duration of his wanderings agrees, since he did not arrive there till the eighth year. Others, that he passed through the isthmus6 which enters the Arabian Gulf; and others again, through one of the canals. At the same time the idea of this circumnavigation, which owes its origin to Crates, is not necessary; we do not mean it was impossible, (for the wanderings of Ulysses are not impossible,) but neither the mathematical hypothesis, not yet the duration of the wandering, require such an explanation; for he was both retarded against his will by accidents in the voyage, as by [the tempest] which he narrates five only of his sixty ships survived; and also by voluntary delays for the sake of amassing wealth. Nestor says [of him],

“ Thus he, provision gathering as he went,
And gold abundant, roam'd to distant lands.7

Odyssey iii. 301.
[And Menelaus himself],

“ Cyprus, Phœnicia, and the Egyptians' land
I wandered through.8

Odyssey iv. 83.

As to the navigation of the isthmus, or one of the canals, if it had been related by Homer himself, we should have counted it a myth; but as he does not relate it, we regard it as entirely extravagant and unworthy of belief. We say unworthy of belief, because at the time of the Trojan war no canal was in existence. It is recorded that Sesostris, who had planned the formation of one, apprehending that the level of the sea was too high to admit of it, desisted from the undertaking.9

Moreover the isthmus itself was not passable for ships, and Eratosthenes is unfortunate in his conjecture, for he considers that the strait at the Pillars was not then formed, so that the Atlantic should by that channel communicate with the Mediterranean, and that this sea being higher than the Isthmus [of Suez], covered it; but when the Strait [of Gibraltar] was formed, the sea subsided considerably; and left the land about Casium10 and Pelusium11 dry as far over as the Red Sea.

But what account have we of the formation of this strait, supposing it were not in existence prior to the Trojan war? Is it likely that our poet would make Ulysses sail out through the Strait [of Gibraltar] into the Atlantic Ocean, as if that strait already existed, and at the same time describe Menelaus conducting his ships from Egypt to the Red Sea, as if it did not exist. Further, the poet introduces Proteus as saying to him,

“ Thee the gods
Have destined to the blest Elysian Isles,
Earth's utmost boundaries.12

Odyssey iv. 563.
And what this place was, namely, some far western region, is evident from [the mention of] the Zephyr in connexion with it:

“ But Zephyr always gently from the sea
Breathes on them.13

Odyssey iv. 567.
This, however, is very enigmatical.

1 Certainly having suffered many things, and having wandered much, I was brought in my ships, and I returned in the eighth year; having wandered to Cyprus, and Phœnice, and the Egyptians, I came to the Ethiopians and Sidonians, and Erembians, and Libya. Odyssey iv. 81.

2 On the coasts of the Mediterranean.

3 Strabo intends to say that the ships of Menelaus were not constructed so as to be capable of being taken to pieces, and carried on the backs of the sailors, as those of the Ethiopians were.

4 Having mentioned the Phœnicians, amongst whom the Sidonians are comprised, he certainly would not have enumerated these latter as a separate people.

5 That is to say, that he made the entire circuit of Africa, starting from Cadiz, and doubling the Cape of Good Hope. Such was the opinion of Crates, who endeavoured to explain all the expressions of Homer after mathematical hypotheses. If any one were to inquire how Menelaus, who was wandering about the Mediterranean, could have come into Ethiopia, Crates would answer, that Menelaus left the Mediterranean and entered the Atlantic, whence he could easily travel by sea into Ethiopia. In this he merely followed the hypothesis of the mathematicians, who said that the inhabited earth in all its southern portion was traversed by the Atlantic Ocean, and the other seas contiguous thereto.

6 The Isthmus of Suez. This isthmus they supposed to be covered by the sea, as Strabo explains further on.

7 Thus far he, collecting much property and gold, wandered with his ships. Odyssey iii. 301.

8 Odyssey iv. 83.

9 Strabo here appears to have followed Aristotle, who attributes to Sesostris the construction of the first canal connecting the Mediterranean, or rather the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, with the Red Sea. Pliny has followed the same tradition. Strabo, Book xvii., informs us, that other authors attribute the canal to Necho the son of Psammeticus; and this is the opinion of Herodotus and Diodorus. It is possible these authors may be speaking of two different attempts to cut this canal. Sesostris flourished about 1356 years before Christ, Necho 615 years before the same era. About a century after Necho, Darius the son of Hystaspes made the undertaking, but desisted under the false impression that the level of the Red Sea was higher than that of the Mediterranean. Ptolemy Philadelphus proved this to be an error, by uniting the Red Sea to the Nile without causing any inundation. At the time of Trojan and Hadrian the communication was still in existence, though subsequently it became choked up by an accumulation of sand. It will be remembered that a recent proposition for opening the canal was opposed in Egypt on similar grounds.

10 Mount El Kas.

11 Tineh.

12 But the immortals will send you to the Elysian plain, and the boundaries of the earth. Odyssey iv. 563.

13 But ever does the ocean send forth the gently blowing breezes of the west wind. Odyssey iv. 567.

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