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 It is quite irrational to suppose that he could be accurately acquainted with Egyptian Thebes,1 which is separated from our sea2 by a little less than 50003 stadia; and yet ignorant of' the recess of the Arabian Gulf, and of the isthmus there, whose breadth is not more than 1000 stadia. Still more, would it not be ridiculous to believe that Homer was aware the Nile was called by the same name as the vast country [of Egypt], and yet unacquainted with the reason why? especially since the saying of Herodotus would occur to him, that the country was a gift from the river, and it ought there- fore to bear its name. Further, the best known peculiarities of a country are those which have something of the nature of a paradox, and are likely to arrest general attention. Of this kind are the rising of the Nile, and the alluvial deposition at its mouth. There is nothing in the whole country to which travellers in Egypt so immediately direct their inquiries, as the character of the Nile; nor do the inhabitants possess any thing else equally wonderful and curious, of which to inform foreigners; for in fact, to give them a description of the river, is to lay open to their view every main characteristic of the country. It is the question put before every other by those who have never seen Egypt themselves. To these considerations we must add Homer's thirst after knowledge, and his delight in visiting foreign lands, (tastes which we are assured both by those who have written histories of his life, and also by innumerable testimonies throughout his own poems, he possessed in an eminent degree,) and we shall have abundant evidence both of the extent of his information, and the felicity with which he described objects he deemed important, and passed over altogether, or with slight allusion, matters which were generally known.
1 Aristotle accounts for Homer's mentioning Thebes rather than Memphis, by saying that, at the time of the poet, the formation of that part of Egypt by alluvial deposit was very recent. So that Memphis either did no then exist, or at all events had not then obtained its after celebrity. Aristotle likewise seems to say that anciently Egypt consisted only of the territory of the Thebaid, καὶ τὸ ἀοͅχαῖον ἡ αἴυπτος, θῆβαι καλούμεναι.
2 The Mediterranean.
3 Gosselin says, ‘Read 4000, as in lib. xvii. This correction is indicated by the following measure given by Herodotus:
|From the sea to Heliopolis||1500 stadia|
|From Heliopolis to Thebes||4860|
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