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That the Egyptians were the oldest race in the world was a general belief; cf. Arist. Pol. vii. 10. 8, 1329 b, and Diod. i. 101, who says the Nile, πολύγονος ὤν, was a special cause of the priority of the Egyptians. Antiquity and nobility of race were supposed to go together.

ἐπιτεχνᾶται. Frederick II of Germany and James IV of Scotland are said to have repeated the experiment of Psammetichus, and to have proved by it that Hebrew was the speech of Paradise.

ἐς τὰ ποίμνια: a constructio praegnans, ‘to take to the flocks and rear.’ τροφὴν τοιήνδε (cogn. acc.) is explained by the following participle, ἐντειλάμενος.

τὴν ὥρην, ‘at the proper time.’ The dative with ἐν would be more usual; but cf. ἀκμήν, καιρόν.

βεκός: in the Ionian dialect = ‘bread’; cf. Hipponax, fr. 82 Κυπρίων βεκὸς φαγοῦσι κἀμαθουσίων πυρόν. This story is frequently referred to, e.g. in Aristoph. Nub. 398 βεκκεσέληνε (cf. i. 4. 2 n.). Even in ancient times the word βεκός was explained as onomatopoetic, from the cries of the goats. Ramsay has recently found it on a Phrygian inscription (Jahreshefte des Öst. Arch. Inst. in Wien, 1905, Beibl. p. 95 seq.).

The Phrygians were generally considered a recent people; cf. vii. 73 for their immigration from Europe.

The Egyptians certainly attached great importance to the cries of children; but H.'s story sounds like a Greek invention, a protest against the Egyptian claim to priority, which he elsewhere accepts. The Egyptians could have claimed βεκός as evidence for their own antiquity, for it resembles one of their words for ‘oil’.

Ἡφαίστου: i.e. Ptah; cf. iii. 37. 2 n. One of the sacred names for Memphis was Het-Ka-Ptah, i.e. ‘temple of the Ka (i.e. the “double”) of Ptah’, from which name some have derived Αἴγυπτος. ‘Memphis’ (= Mennefert, the good place) was only the profane name of the city.

For the temple's importance as a source of H.'s information cf. App. X, § 10, and Introd. § 24.

μάταια: this is perhaps a hit at Hecataeus; for H.'s critical attitude to his countrymen cf. c. 45 nn. Bury (A. G. H. p. 51) thinks H. would have written Ἴωνες, had he meant to criticize Hecataeus, and that he really is here borrowing a point from that writer. But there is no evidence for the borrowing, and it is not likely in itself. It has been argued that this second version is the original form of the story, which H., as a philo-Egyptian, has softened down; on the other hand, the more brutal story may well be only an attempt to rationalize the older legend.

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