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It has been inferred from this passage that H. was twice in Colchis and twice in Egypt, which is unlikely, if not impossible. He may well have seen Egyptians in Asia Minor, before his travels in the Black Sea, which almost certainly preceded his visit to Egypt (cf. Introd. pp. 14, 19).


μελάγχροες. H. has already (57. 2) said the Egyptians were ‘black’; this was the usual Greek idea (so Aesch. Sup. 719); it is an exaggeration of the ‘brown’ colour; the Colchians were ‘black’ in the same sense; so Pind. Pyth. iv. 212 (376) calls them κελαινῶπες. The hair of the Colchians was short and curly, as contrasted with the lank locks (εὐθύτριχες, Arist. de G. A. v. 3, 782 B) of the Scyths. H.'s ideas of Egyptian appearance have been somewhat confused by the numerous negro slaves he saw in the streets of Memphis. As the Egyptians themselves shaved wholly or in part (36. 1 n.), the ‘woolly hair’ is the more inexplicable. Various attempts have been made to find a basis for H.'s ‘discovery’ (νοήσας πρότερον) of the identity of the Colchians with the Egyptians (cf. Wiedemann, p. 408); the least improbable is the suggestion that the Persian king had deported Egyptians to Colchis. But it is most likely a mistake altogether.

For circumcision in Egypt cf. 36. 3 n. H.'s method—to infer identity of race from similarity of custom—is modern, though its sufficiency is doubted; here certainly his conclusion is wrong. His information as to Phoenician usage in Greece (§ 4) is curious.


Σύριοι οἱ ἐν τῇ Παλαιστίνῃ. For these cf. iii. 5. 1 n. H. does not distinguish the Jews from the other inhabitants of Palestine; the Philistines were not circumcised (cf. 1 Sam. xvii. 26 et pass.), nor all the Phoenicians (Ezek. xxxii. 30). Josephus (Antiq. viii. 10. 3), however, is wrong in saying the Jews alone in Palestine practised the rite. For Σύριοι in general cf. i. 6 n. H. here extends them beyond the Halys to the river Parthenius, which lay in the very west of Paphlagonia, though in i. 72 he kept them east of the Halys.

For the Macrones who live on the south-east of the Black Sea cf. iii. 94.

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  • Commentary references from this page (2):
    • Aeschylus, Suppliant Maidens, 719
    • Pindar, Pythian, 4
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