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 Next to the city of Apollo is Thebes, now called Diospolis, “‘with her hundred gates, through each of which issue two hundred men, with horses and chariots,’1” according to Homer, who mentions also its wealth; “‘not all the wealth the palaces of Egyptian Thebes contain.’2” Other writers use the same language, and consider Thebes as the metropolis of Egypt. Vestiges of its magnitude still exist, which extend 80 stadia in length. There are a great number of temples, many of which Cambyses mutilated. The spot is at present occupied by villages. One part of it, in which is the city, lies in Arabia; another is in the country on the other side of the river, where is the Memnonium. Here are two colossal figures near one another, each consisting of a single stone. One is entire; the upper parts of the other, from the chair, are fallen down, the effect, it is said, of an earthquake. It is believed, that once a day a noise as of a slight blow issues from the part of the statue which remains in the seat and on its base. When I was at those places with Ælius Gallus, and numerous friends and soldiers about him, I heard a noise at the first hour (of the day), but whether proceeding from the base or from the colossus, or produced on purpose by some of those standing around the base, I cannot confidently assert. For from the uncertainty of the cause, I am disposed to believe anything rather than that stones disposed in that manner could send forth sound. Above the Memnonium are tombs of kings in caves, and hewn out of the stone, about forty in number; they are executed with singular skill, and are worthy of notice. Among the tombs3 are obelisks with inscriptions, denoting the wealth of the kings of that time, and the extent of their empire, as reaching to the Scythians, Bactrians, Indians, and the present Ionia; the amount of tribute also, and the number of soldiers, which composed an army of about a million of men. The priests there are said to be, for the most part, astronomers and philosophers. The former compute the days, not by the moon, but by the sun, introducing into the twelve months of thirty days each five days every year. But in order to complete the whole year, because there is (annually) an excess of a part of a day, they form a period from out of whole days and whole years, the supernumerary portions of which in that period, when collected together, amount to a day.4 They ascribe to Mercury all knowledge of this kind. To Jupiter, whom they worship above all other deities, a virgin of the greatest beauty and of the most illustrious family (such persons the Greeks call pallades) is dedicated. She prostitutes herself with whom she pleases, until the time occurs for the natural purification of the body; she is afterwards married; but before her marriage, and after the period of prostitution, they mourn for her as for one dead.
1 Il. ix. 383.
2 Il. ix. 381.
4 The meaning of the passage is clear, and can be understood, as critics have already explained, only as implying the intercalation of a 366th day every fourth year. Some have asserted that Julius Cæsar adopted this method of intercalating a day from the civil practice of the Alexandrines; others, on the contrary, appear disposed to believe that J. Cæsar was the first to give an idea of it, according to the advice of Sosigenes. There is truth and error in both these opinions. On the one hand, it is certain that Strabo, who visited Egypt a short time after the conquest of the country by the Romans, would not have omitted to attribute to them the institution of this year, if it really belonged to them. So far from doing so, he says (above, § 29) distinctly, that this method of intercalation was known and practised by the priests of Heliopolis and Thebes. Diodorus Siculus, who visited Egypt just at the time of the first arrival of the Romans, gives the same account as Strabo. Can we therefore believe that the Egyptians before this period were ignorant of the bissextile intercalation?On the other hand; it is not less certain that this method of intercalation was only introduced into civil use at Alexandria from the time of Julius Cæsar: before this period, the incomplete year of 365 days was adopted throughout the whole of Egypt, as is attested by a host of authorities, and confirmed by the date of the Rosetta stone, which only applies to this method of reckoning. Hence we see (I.) that Julius Cæsar really obtained the idea of a fixed year of 365 1/4 days from the Egyptians, where it was employed for scientific or religious purposes only, whilst the incomplete year was the vulgar and common year; (II.) that he made this fixed year the common year, both among the Romans and Alexandrines, who were a people most readily disposed to adopt foreign innovations. It is, however, probable that the rest of Egypt preserved the ancient use of the incomplete year.
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