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1 And it is generally supposed that they are so up to the present day. The ethnographer Jablonski is of opinion that this river derives its name from the Coptish word tneialei "to rise at stated times." Servius, the commentator on Virgil, says that it is derived from the two Greek words νέα ἰλὺς "fresh mud," in allusion to the fresh mud or slime which it leaves after each inundation. Singularly enough, Champollion prefers this silly etymology to that suggested by Jablonski.
2 An interesting disquisition on the probable sources of the Nile, as viewed by the ancients, is to be found in the Ninth Book of Lucan's Pharsalia. The Indian word "nilas," "black," has also been suggested as its possible origin.
3 What spot is meant under this name, if indeed it is anything more than the creation of fancy, it is impossible to ascertain with any degree of precision. It is possible however that the ancients may have had some knowledge of Lake Tchad, and the Mountains of the Moon, or Djebel-Kumri, though at the same time it is more than doubtful that the Nile has its source in either of those localities, the former especially.
4 Perhaps a kind of river lamprey. As to the Coracinus, see B. ix. c. 24, 32, and B. xxxii. c. 19, 24, 34, 44, and 53; and as to the Silurus, B. ix. c. 17, 25, and B. xxxii. c. 31, 36, 40, 43, 44, &c.
5 The modern Vacur in Northern Africa.
6 A district which in reality was at least 1200 or 1500 miles distant from any part of the Nile, and probably near 3000 from its real source.
7 Spargit." It is doubtful whether this word means here "waters," or "divides." Probably however the latter is its meaning.
8 This is the third or eastern branch of the river, now known as the Tacazze. It rises in the highlands of Abyssinia, in about 11°40′ north lat. and 39°40′ east long., and joins the main stream of the Nile, formed by the union of the Abiad and the Azrek, in 17°45′ north lat. and about 34°5′ east long.; the point of junction being the apex of the island of Meroë, here mentioned by Pliny.
9 Possibly by this name he designates the Bahr-el-Abied, or White River, the main stream of the Nile, the sources of which have not been hitherto satisfactorily ascertained. The Astapus is supposed to have been really the name of the Bahr-el-Azrek, or Blue River, the third branch of the Nile, the sources of which are in the highlands of Abyssinia, in about 11°40′ north lat. and 39°40′ east long.
10 Or "side of the water that issues from the shades." As Hardouin says, this does not appear to be a very satisfactory explanation.
11 Said by Tzetzes to have been derived from the Greek τρἱτος, "the third," because it had three times changed its name: having been called, first, the Ocean; secondly, Aëtus, or the Eagle; and thirdly, Ægyptus.
12 Or the "Cataracts," for which it is the Greek name. The most northerly of these cataracts, called the First Cataract, is, and always has been, the southern boundary of Egypt. According to the most recent accounts, these Cataracts are devoid of any stupendous features, such as characterize the Falls of Niagara.
13 The one now called the First Cataract.
14 Seven mouths in ancient times, which have now dwindled down to two of any importance, the Damietta mouth on the east, and the Rosetta on the west.
15 The Etesians are periodical winds, which blow steadily from one quarter for forty days each year, during the season of the Dog-days. The opinion here stated was that promulgated by Thales the philosopher. Seneca refutes it in B. iv. c. 2. of his Quæst. Nat.
16 This was the opinion of Democritus of Abdera, and of Agatharchidas of Cnidos. It is combated by Diodorus Siculus, B. i., but it is the opinion most generally received at the present day. See the disquisition on the subject introduced in the Ninth book of Lucan's Pharsalia.
17 And that the high tide or inundation would be consequently continuous as well.
18 The principal well for this purpose was called the "Nilometer," or "Gauge for the Nile."
19 On this subject see Pliny, B. xviii. c. 47, and B. xxxvi. c. 11.
20 Seneca says that the Nile did not rise as usual in the tenth and eleventh years of the reign of Cleopatra, and that the circumstance was said to bode ruin to her and Antony.—Nat. Quæst. B. iv. c. 2.
21 He means dense clouds, productive of rain, not thin mists. See what is said of the Borysthenes by our author, B. xxxi. c. 30.
22 Syene was a city of Upper Egypt, on the eastern bank of the Nile just below the First Cataract, and was looked upon as the southern frontier city of Egypt against Æthiopia. It was an important point in the geography and astronomy of the ancients; for, lying just under the tropic of Cancer, it was chosen as the place through which they drew their chief parallel of latitude. The sun was vertical to Syene at the time of the summer solstice, and a well was shown there where the face of the sun was seen at noon at that time. Its present name is Assouan or Ossouan.
23 If this word means the "Camp," it does not appear to be known what camp is meant. Most editions have "Cerastæ," in which case it would mean that at Syene the Cerastes or horned serpent is found.
24 One of these (if indeed Philæ did consist of more than a single island, which seems doubtful) is now known as Djeziret-el-Birbe, the "Island of the Temple."
25 This island was seated just below the Lesser Cataract, opposite Syene, and near the western bank of the Nile. At this point the river becomes navigable downward to its mouths, and the traveller from Meroë or Æthiopia enters Egypt Proper. The original name of this island was "Ebo," Eb being in the language of hieroglyphics the symbol of the elephant and ivory. It was remarkable for its fertility and verdure, and the Arabs of the present day designate the island as Djesiret-el-Sag, or "the Blooming."
26 This is a mistake of Pliny's, for it was opposite to Syene. Brotier thinks that Pliny intended to write' Philæ,' but by mistake inserted Syene.
27 Artemidorus, Juba, and Aristocreon.
28 They were probably made of papyrus, or else of hides, like the British coracles.
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