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MENU´THIAS

MENU´THIAS (Μενουθιάς, Steph. B. sub voce an island off the E. coast of Africa. Ptolemy (4.8.2, comp. 7.2.1) describes it as being adjacent (παράκειται) to the Prom. Prasum; at the same time he removes it 5° from the continent, and places it at 85° long., 12° 30′ lat., to the NE. (ἀπὸ θερινῶν ἀνατολῶν of Prasum. The graduation of Ptolemy's map is here so erroneous, that it is impossible to make out the position of his island Menuthias, which some have identified with one of the islands of Zanzibar, or even with Madagascar. (Vincent, Navigation of the Ancients, vol. ii. pp. 174--185; Gosselin, Géographie des Anciens, vol. i. pp. 191, 195.) The simple narrative of the Periplus gives a very faithful picture of this coast,--harmonising with the statements of Ptolemy and Marinus of Tyre,--as far as the Rhaptus of the former (Govind, or the river of Jubah). Afterwards it thus proceeds (p. 9, ed. Hudson):--

“ Thence” (from the Nova Fossa, “New Cut,” or “Channel,” or the opening of the coral reefs by Govind), “at the distance of two natural days' sail, on a course a little above Libs (SW.), Menuthias island occurs on the W. (the important words” Due West “--παρ᾽ αὐτὴν τὴν δύσιν--are arbitrarily altered in Blancard's edition to the opposite sense, with a view to force the author into agreement with Ptolemy; comp. Annot. ad Hudson. p. 68), about 300 stadia from the mainland, low, and covered with wood, with streams, plenty of birds of various kinds, and land-turtle. But, excepting crocodiles, which are harmless, it has no other animals. At this island there are boats, both sewed together, and hollowed out of single trunks, which are used for fishing, and catching turtle. Here, they take fish in wicker baskets, which are let down in front of the hollows of the rocks.” It appears, therefore, that Menuthias was distant about two days' sail from Nova Fossa, or 60 or 80 miles from the river Govind, just where an opening in the coral reefs is now found. The coasting voyager, steering SW., reached the island on the E. side,--a proof that it was close to the main; a contiguity which perhaps is further shown by the presence of the crocodiles; though much stress-cannot be laid upon this point, as they may have been only lizards. It is true, the navigator says that it was 300 stadia from the mainland; but as there is no reason to suppose that he surveyed the island, this distance must be taken [p. 2.330]to signify the estimated width of the northern inlet separating the island from the main ; and this estimate is probably much exaggerated. The mode of fishing with baskets is still practised in the Jubah islands, and along the coast. The formation of the coast of E, Africa in these latitudes--where the hills or downs upon the coast are all formed of a coral conglomerate, comprising fragments of madrepore, shell, and sand-renders it likely that the island which was close to the main sixteen or seventeen centuries ago, should now be united to it. Granting this theory of gradual transformation of the coast-line, the Menuthias of the “Periplus” may be supposed to have stood in what is now the rich garden-land of Shamba, where the rivers, carrying down mud to mingle with the marine deposit of coral drift, covered the choked--up estuary with a rich soil. (Cooley, Ptolemy and the Nile, London, 1854, pp. 56--68.)

[E.B.J]

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