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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces one of the
Carmina Minora


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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 p231  The Nile1


[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Blessèd is the man who cleaves the soil of Egypt with his plough; he need not hope for clouds to shroud the heavens in darkness nor call upon the storm-winds that bring the chilling rain or the rainbow bright with its various colours.

 p233  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Fertile is Egypt without clouds; here alone is sunshine and yet rain. She regards not the sky, needs not the wind; enough for her the water she herself contains, Nile's overflow. This swiftly-flowing river rises in the mountainous country of the south where it suffers the heats of the torrid zone and of the scorching Crab and issues forth from regions unknown into our world. Whence it comes none knows, for vain has ever been the search after its springing nor has any ever seen that source. 'Tis said that, fashioned without witness, it pours forth waters that have known a clime other than ours. Thence with errant stream it stretches through all Libya, and through Ethiopia's thousand dusky kingdoms where it waters lands condemned to the sun's unceasing fires, saviour of thirsting peoples, and threads its course across Meroë and black Syene and through the country of the wild Blemyae. The unconquered Garamantesa and the Gyrraei who can tame wild animals drink of its waters, as do those tribes who dwell in huge rocky caverns, gathering the wood of ebony-trees and robbing the elephant of his tusks of ivory, and the folk who wear arrows in their hair.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Neither the cause nor yet the season of its overflow is the same as that of other rivers. Its waters rise neither because of melted snows nor by reason of rains flooding its rocky marge; for when dull winter giveth increase to other rivers Nile keeps within his banks; when other rivers flow with diminished stream, Nile, under other laws, rises. For of a truth whatever toll summer has exacted from all rivers Nature repays to the Nile, and waters gathered together from the whole world meet thus  p235 in one river. Then when the Dog-star increases the heat of the sun and sucks up all moisture, drying up earth's veins and filling heaven with its scorching rays, winter comes upon the Nile, though elsewhere all is summer. Then, bringing back to the fainting husbandmen its accustomed waters, it o'erflows ampler than the Aegean, fiercer than the deep Ionian, and spreads itself over the low-lying country. All the fields are aswim; plough-land sounds to the beat of the oar, and full often the shepherd, o'ercome with summer's heat, wakes to see flocks and fold carried away by the flood.

The Loeb Editor's Note:

1 Claudian again borrows from Herodotus (II.20‑27).

Thayer's Note:

a See the interesting (and illustrated) page Garamantes at Livius.

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Page updated: 10 Dec 16