, Hdt. 2.18
, Thuc. 1.104
, Steph. Byz. s. v.; Μαρία
, Diod. 2.68
; Παλαι Μάρεια κώμη
, Ptol. 4.5.34
), the modern Mariouth,
and the chief town of the Mareotic Nome, stood on a peninsula in the south of the lake Mareotis, nearly due south of Alexandreia, and adjacent to the mouth of the canal which connected the lake with the Canopic arm of the Nile. Under the Pharaohs Mareia was one of the principal frontier garrisons of Aegypt on the side of Libya; but from the silence of Herodotus (2.30
) we may infer that the Persians did not station troops there.
In all ages, however, until it was eclipsed by the neighbouring greatness of Alexandreia, Mareia, as the nearest place of strength to the Libyan desert, must have been a town of great importance to the Delta. At Maria, according to Diodorus (2.681
), Amasis defeated the Pharaoh-Apries, Hofra, or Psammetichus; although Herodotus (2.161
) places this defeat at Momemphis. (Hdt. 2.169
.) At Mareia, also, according to Thucydides (1.104
; comp. Hdt. 3.12
), Inarus, the son of Psammetichus, reigned, and organised the revolt of Lower Aegypt against the Persians. Under the Ptolemies, Mareia continued to flourish as a harbour; but it declined under the Romans, and in the age of the Antonines--the second century A.D.--it had dwindled into a village. (Comp. Ath. 1.25
, p. 33, with Eustath. ad Homer. Odyss. ix.
Mareia was the principal depôt of the trade of the Mareotic Lake and Nome.
The vineyards in its vicinity produced a celebrated wine, which Athenaeus (l.c.
) describes as “remarkable for its sweetness, white in colour, in quality excellent, light, with a fragrant bouquet:
it was by no means astringent, and did not affect the head.” (Comp. Plin. Nat. 14.3
; Strab. xvii. p.796
.) Some, however, deemed the Mareotic wine inferior to that of Anthylla and Tenia; and Columella (R. R.
3.2) says that it was too thin for Italian palates, accustomed to the fuller-bodied Falernian. Virgil (Georg.
2.91) describes the Mareotic grape as white, and growing in a rich soil; yet the soil of the vineyards around the Mareotic Lake was principally composed of gravel, and lay beyond the reach of the alluvial deposit of the Nile, which is ill suited to viticulture. Strabo (xvii. p.799
) ascribes to the wine of Mareia the additional [p. 2.273]
merit of keeping well to a great age; and Horace ( Od. 1.37
) mentions it as a favourite beverage of Cleopatra.
Mareia, from its neighbourhood to Alexandreia, was so generally known to Roman travellers, that among the Latin poets, the words Mareia and Mareotic became synonymous with Aegypt and Aegyptian. Thus Martial (Mart. 14.209
) calls the papyrus, “cortex Mareotica” (comp. id; Ep.
4.42) : and Gratius (Cynegetic.
5.313) designates Aegyptian luxury as Mareotic : and Ovid (Ov. Met. 9.5.73
) employs “arva Mareotica” for Lower Aegypt.