(αἱ τοῦ Νείλου λίμναι
, Ptol. 4.9.3
; Strab. xvii. p.786
) were described by the ancient geographers as two immense lagoons, which received the first floods of the periodical rains that from May to September fall upon the Abyssinian highlands, and swell all the rivers flowing northward from that table-land. From these lagoons the Astapus (Bahr-el-Azrek, Blue River
) and the Bahr-el-Abiad,
or White River,
respectively derived their waters; and since they were the principal tributaries of the Nile, the lakes which fed them were termed the Nilotic Marshes.
The ancients placed the Nili Paludes vaguely at the foot of the Lunae Montes; and the exploring party, sent by the emperor Nero, described them to Seneca the philosopher as of boundless extent, covered with floating weeds, and containing black and slimy water, impassable either by boats or by wading.
There is, however, some probability that this exploring party saw only the series of lagoons produced by the level and sluggish stream of the White River,
since the descriptions of modern travellers in that region accord closely with Seneca's narrative (Nat. Quaest.
6.8). The White River
itself, indeed, resembles an immense lagoon.
It is often from five to seven miles in width, and its banks are so low as to be covered at times with slime to a distance of two or three miles from the real channel.
This river, as less remote than the Abyssinian highlands from the ordinary road between Syene and the S. of Meroe (Sennaar
), is more likely to have fallen under the notice of Nero's explorers; and the extent of slimy water overspread with aquatic plants, corresponds [p. 2.430]
with Seneca's description of the Nili Paludes as “immensas quarum exitus nec incolae noverant nec sperare quisquam potest.” [NILUS