previous next


NAU´CRATIS (Ναύκρατις, Hdt. 2.179; Strab. xvii. p.801 ; Ptol. 4.5.9; Callimach. Epigr. 41; Plin. Nat. 5.10. s. 11; Steph. B. sub voce: Eth.Ναυκρατίτης or Eth. Ναυκρατιώτης), was originally an emporium for trade, founded by colonists from Miletus, in the Saitic nome of the Delta. It stood upon the eastern bank of the Canopic arm of the Nile, which, from the subsequent importance of Naucratis, was sometimes called the Ostium Naucraticum. (Plin. Nat. 5.10. s. 11.) There was, doubtless, on the same site an older Aegyptian town, the name of which has been lost in that of the Greek dockyard and haven. Naucratis first attained its civil and commercial eminence in the reign of Amasis (B.C. 550) who rendered it, as regarded the Greeks, the Canton of Aegypt. From the date of his reign until the Persian invasion, or perhaps even the founding of Alexandreia, Naucratis possessed a monopoly of the Mediterranean commerce, for it was the only Deltaic harbour into which foreign vessels were permitted to enter; and if accident or stress of weather had driven them [p. 2.402]into any other port or mouth of the Nile, they were compelled either to sail round to Naucratis, or to transmit their cargoes thither in the country boats. Besides these commercial privileges, the Greeks of Naucratis received from Amasis many civil and religious immunities. They appointed their own magistrates and officers for the regulation of their trade, customs, and harbour dues, and were permitted the free exercise of their religious worship. Besides its docks, wharves, and other features of an Hellenic city, Naucratis, contained four celebrated temples:--(1) That of Zeus, founded by colonists from Aegina; (2) of Hera, built by the Samians in honour of their tutelary goddess; (3) of Apollo, erected by the Milesians; and (4) the most ancient and sumptuous of them all, the federal temple entitled the Hellenium, which was the common property of the Ionians of Chios, Teos, Phocaea, and Clazomenae; of the Dorians of Rhodes, Cnidus, and Halicarnassus; and of the Aetolians of Mytilene. They also observed the Dionysiac festivals; and were, according to Athenaeus (xiii. p. 596, xv. p. 676), devout worshippers of Aphrodite.

The two principal manufactures of Naucratis were that of porcelain and wreathes of flowers. The former received from the silicious matter abounding in the earth of the neighbourhood a high glaze; and the potteries were important enough to give names to the Potter's Gate and the Potter's Street, where such wares were exposed for sale. (Id. xi. p. 480.)

The garlands were, according to Athenaeus (xv. p. 671, seq.), made of myrtle, or, as was sometimes said, of flowers entwined with the filaments of the papyrus. Either these garlands must have been artificial, or the makers of them possessed some secret for preserving the natural flowers, since they were exported to Italy, and held in high esteem by the Roman ladies. (Boetticher, Sabina, vol. i. pp. 228, seq.) Athenaeus gives a particular account (iv. pp. 150, seq.) of the Prytaneian dinners of the Naucratites, as well as of their general disposition to luxurious living. Some of their feasts appear to have been of the kind called “σύμβολα,” where the city provided a banqueting-room and wine, but the guests brought their provisions. At wedding entertainments it was forbidden to introduce either eggs or pastry sweetened with honey. Naucratis was the birthplace of Athenaeus (iii. p. 73, vii. p. 301); of Julius Pollux, the antiquary and grammarian; and of certain obscure historians, cited by Athenaeus, e. g. Lyceas, Phylarchus, Psycharmus, Herostratus, &c. Heliodorus (Aethiop. vi. p. 229) absurdly says that Aristophanes, the comic poet, was born there. Naucratis, however, was the native city of a person much more conspicuous in his day than any of the above mentioned, viz., of Cleomenes, commissioner-general of finances to Alexander the Great, after his conquest of Aegypt. But neither the city nor Aegypt in general had much reason to be proud of him; for he was equally oppressive and dishonest in his administration; and having excited in the Delta a general feeling of discontent against the Macedonians, he was put to death by Ptolemy Lagus. (Arrian, Exp. Alex. 3.5, 7.23; Diod. 18.14; Pseud. Aristot. Econ. 2.34. s. 40.)

Herodotus probably landed at Naucratis, on his entrance into Aegypt; but he did not remain there. It was, however, for some time the residence of the legislator Solon, who there exchanged his Attic oil and honey for Aegyptian millet; and is said to have taken sundry hints for his code of laws from the statutes of the Pharaohs. (Plutarch, Plut. Sol. 26.)

Naucratis, like so many others of the Deltaic cities, began to decline after the foundation of Alexandreia. Situated nearly 30 miles from the sea, it could not compete with the most extensive and commodious haven then in the world; and with the Macedonian invasion its monopoly of the Mediter-ranean traffic ceased. Its exact site is unknown, but is supposed to correspond nearly with that of the modern hamlet of Salhadschar, where considerable heaps of ruin are extant. (Niebuhr, Travels in Arabia, p. 97.) The coins of Naucratis are of the age of Trajan, and represent on their obverse a laureated head of the emperor, and on their reverse the figure of Anubis, or a female holding a spear. (Rasche, Lexic. R. Numar. s. v.)


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: