[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]

This webpage reproduces a section of Herodotus
published in Vol. I
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,

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!


[image ALT: link to next section]

(Vol. I) Herodotus

 p275  Book II: chapters 1‑98

1 After the death of Cyrus Cambyses inherited his throne. He was the son of Cyrus and Cassandane daughter of Pharnaspes, for whom, when she died before him, Cyrus himself mourned deeply and bade all his subjects mourn also. Cambyses was the son of this woman and Cyrus. He considered the Ionians and Aeolians as slaves inherited from his father, and prepared an expedition against Egypt, taking with him, with others subject to him, some of the Greeks over whom he held sway.

2 Now before Psammetichus became king of Egypt,1 the Egyptians deemed themselves to be the oldest nation on earth. But ever since he desired to learn, on becoming king, what nation was oldest, they have considered that, though they came before all other nations, the Phrygians are older still. Psammetichus, being nowise able to discover by inquiry what men had first come into being, devised a plan whereby he took two newborn children of common men and gave them to a shepherd to bring up among his flocks. He gave charge that none should speak any word in their hearing; they were to lie by themselves in a lonely hut, and in due season the shepherd was to bring goats and give the children their milk and do all else needful. Psammetichus did this, and gave this charge, because he desired to hear what speech  p277 would first break from the children, when they were past the age of indistinct babbling. And he had his wish; for when the shepherd had done as he was bidden for two years, one day as he opened the door and end both the children ran to him stretching out their hands and calling "Bekos." When he first heard this he said nothing of it; but coming often and taking careful note, he was ever hearing this same word, till at last he told the matter to his master, and on command brought the children into the king's presence. Psammetichus heard them himself, and inquired to what language this word Bekos might belong; he found it to be a Phrygian word signifying bread. Reasoning from this fact the Egyptians confessed that the Phrygians were older than they. This is the story which I heard from the priests of Hephaestus'2 temple at Memphis; the Greeks relate (among many foolish tales) that Psammetichus made the children to be reared by women whose tongues he had cut out.

3 Besides this story of the rearing of the children, I heard also other things at Memphis, in converse with the priests of Hephaestus; and I visited Thebes too and Heliopolis for this very purpose, because I desired to know if the people of those places would tell me the same tale as the priests at Memphis; for the people of Heliopolis are said to be the most learned of the Egyptians. Now, for the stories which I heard about the gods, I am not desirous to relate them, saving only the names of the deities; for I  p279 hold that no man knows about the gods more than another; and I will say no more about them than what I am constrained to say by the course of my history.

4 But as regarding human affairs, this was the account in which they all agreed: the Egyptians, he said, were the first men who reckoned by years and made the year to consist of twelve divisions of the seasons. They discovered this from the stars (so he said). And their reckoning is, to my mind, a juster one than that of the Greeks; for the Greeks add an intercalary month every other year, so that the seasons may agree; but the Egyptians, reckoning thirty days to each of the twelve months, add five days in every year over and above the number, and so the complete circle of seasons is made to agree with the calendar. Further, the Egyptians (said they) first used the appellations of twelve gods3 (which the Greeks afterwards borrowed from them); and it was they who first assigned to the several gods their altars and images and temples, and first carved figures on stone. They showed me most of this by plain proof. The first human king of Egypt, he said, was Min. In his time all Egypt save the Thebaic4 province was a marsh: all the country that we now see was then covered by water, north of the lake Moeris,5 which lake is seven days' journey up the river from the sea.

5 And I think that their account of the country was true. For even though a man has not before been told it he can at once see, if he have sense, that that Egypt to which the Greeks sail is land acquired  p281 by the Egyptians, given them by the river — not only the lower country but even all the land to three days' voyage above the aforesaid lake, which is of the same nature as the other, though the priests added not this to what he said. For this is the nature of the land of Egypt: firstly, when you approach to it from the sea and are yet a day's run from land, if you then let down a sounding line you will bring up mud and find a depth of eleven fathoms. This shows that the deposit from the land reaches thus far.

6 Further, the length of the seacoast of Egypt itself is sixty "schoeni,"6 that is of Egypt as we judge it to be, reaching from the Plinthinete gulf to the Serbonian marsh, which is under the Casian mountain; between these there is this length of sixty schoeni. Men that have scanty land measure by fathoms; those that have more, by furlongs; those that have much land, by parasangs; and those who have great abundance of it, by schoeni. The parasang is of thirty furlongs' length, and the Schoenus, which is an Egyptian measure, is of sixty.

7 By this reckoning then the seaboard of Egypt will be three thousand and six hundred furlongs in length. Inland from the sea as far as Heliopolis Egypt is a wide land, all flat and watery and marshy. From the sea up to Heliopolis it is a journey about as long as the way from the altar of the twelve gods at Athens to the temple of Olympian Zeus at Pisa. If a reckoning be made there will be seen to be but  p283 a little difference of length, not more than fifteen furlongs, between these two journeys; for the justly from Athens to Pisa is fifteen furlongs short of fifteen hundred, which is the tale of furlongs between the sea and Heliopolis.

8 Beyond and above Heliopolis Egypt is a narrow land. For it is bounded on the one side by the mountains of Arabia, which bear from the north to the south, ever stronghold southward towards the sea called the Red Sea. In these mountains are the quarries that were hewn out for the making of the pyramids at Memphis. This way then the mountains turn, and end in the places of which I have spoken; their greatest breadth from east to west, as I learnt, is a two months' journey, and their easternmost boundaries yield frankincense. Such are these mountains. On the side of Libya Egypt is bounded by another range of rocky mountains, wherein are the pyramids; this is all covered with sand, and it runs in the same direction as those Arabian hills that bear southward. Beyond Heliopolis there is no great distance, that is, in Egypt;7 the narrow land has but a length of fourteen days' journey up the river. Between the mountain ranges aforesaid the land is level, and where the plain is narrowest it seemed to me that there were no more than two hundred furlongs between the Arabian mountains and those that are called Libyan. Beyond this Egypt is a wide land again. Such is the nature of this country.

 p285  9 From Heliopolis the Thebes it is nine days' journey by river, and the distance is four thousand eight hundred and sixty furlongs, or eighty‑one schoeni. This then is a full statement of all the furlongs in Egypt: the seaboard is three thousand six hundred furlongs long; and I will now declare the distance inland from the sea to Thebes: it is six thousand one hundred and twenty furlongs. And between Thebes and the city called Elephantine there are eighteen hundred furlongs.

10 The greater portion, then, of this country whereof I have spoken (as the priests told me, and I myself formed the same judgment) land acquired by the Egyptians; all that lies between the ranges of mountains above Memphis to which I have referred seemed to me to have been once a gulf of the sea, just as the country about Ilion and Teuthrania and Ephesus and the plain of the Maeander, to compare these small things with great. For of the rivers that brought down the stuff to make these lands there is none worthy to be compared for greatness with one of the mouths of the Nile; and the Nile has five mouths. There are also other rivers, not so great as the Nile, that have wrought great effects; I could declare their names, but chief among them is Achelous, which, flowing through Acarnania and issuing into the sea, has already made half of the Echinades islands to be mainland.

11 Now in Arabia, not far from Egypt, there is a gulf of the sea entering in from the sea called Red,8  p287 of which the length and narrowness is such as I shall show: for length, it is a forty days' voyage for a ship rowed by oars from its inner end out to the wide sea; and for breadth, it is half a day's voyage at the widest. Every day the tides ebbs and flows therein. I hold that where now is Egypt there was once another such gulf; one entered from the northern sea towards Aethiopia, and the other, the Arabian gulf of which I will speak, bore from the south towards Syria; the ends of these futures pierced into the country near to each other, and but a little space of land divided them. Now first the Nile choose to turn his waters into this Arabian gulf, what hinders that it be not silted up by his stream in twenty thousand years? nay, I think that ten thousand would suffice for it. Is it then to be believed that in the ages before my birth even much greater than this could not be silted up by a river so great and so busy?

12 therefore, as to Egypt, I believe those who so speak, and I am myself fully so persuaded; for I have seen that Egypt projects into the sea beyond the neighbouring land, and shells are plain to view on the mountains and things are coated with salt (insomuch that the very pyramids are wasted thereby), and the only sandy mountain in Egypt is that which is above Memphis; moreover, Egypt is like neither to the neighbouring land Orba, nor to Libya, no, nor to Syria (for the seaboard of Arabia  p289 is inhabited by Syrians); it is a land of black and crumbling earth, as if it were alluvial deposit carried down the river from Aethiopia; but we know that the soil of Libya is redder and somewhat sandy, and Arabia and Syria are lands rather of clay and stones.

13 This too that the priests told me concerning Egypt is a strong proof; when Moeris was king, if the river rose as much as eight cubits, it watered all Egypt below Memphis.9 Moeris was not yet nine hundred years dead when I heard this from the priests. But now, if the river rise not at the least to sixteen or fifteen cubits, the land is not flooded. And to my thinking, the Egyptians who dwell lower down the river than the lake Moeris, and chiefly those who inhabit what is called the Delta — these, if thus this land of theirs rises in such proportion and likewise increases in extent, will (the Nile no longer flooding it) be ever after in the same plight which they themselves once said would be the case of the Greeks; for learning that all the Greek land is watered by rain, and not, like theirs, by river, he said that some day the Greeks would be disappointed in their high hopes, and miserably starve: signifying thereby that should it be heaven's will to send the Greeks no rain and afflict them with drought, famine must come upon them, as receiving all this water from Zeus and having no other resource.

 p291  14 And this saying of the Egyptians about the Greeks was true enough. But now let me show what is the case of the Egyptians themselves: if (as I have already said) the country below Memphis — for it is this which rises — should increase in height in the same degree as formerly, will not the Egyptians who dwell in it go hungry, there being no rain in their country and the river being unable to inundate their fields? Now, indeed, there are no men, neither in the rest of Egypt, nor in the whole world, who gain from the soil with so little labour; they have not the toil of breaking up the land with the plough, nor of hoeing, nor of any other work which other men do to get them a crop; the river rises of itself, waters the fields, and then sinks back again; thereupon each man sows his field and sends swine into it to tread down the seed, and waits for the harvest; then he makes the swine to thresh his grain, and so garners it.

15 Now if we agree with the opinion of the Ionians, namely that nothing but the Delta is Egypt, whereof the seaboard reaches, according to them, from what is called the watchtower of Perseus, forty schoeni to the salting factories of Pelusium, while inland it stretches as far as the city of Cercasorus,10 where the Nile divides and flows thence to Pelusium and Canobus (all the rest of Egypt being, they say, partly Libya and partly Arabia): if  p293 we follow this account, we can show that there was once no country for the Egyptians; for we have seen that (as the Egyptians themselves say, and as I myself judge) the Delta is alluvial and but lately (so to say) come into being. Then if there was once no country for them, it was but a useless thought that they were the oldest nation on earth, and they needed not to make that trial to see what language the children would first utter. I hold rather that the Egyptians did not come into being with the making of that which Ionians call the Delta: they ever existed since men were first made; and as the land grew in extent my of them spread down over it, and many stayed behind. Be that as it may, the Theban province, a land of six thousand one hundred and twenty furlongs in circuit, was of old called Egypt.

16 If then our judgment of this be right, the Ionians are in error concerning Egypt; but if their opinion be right, than it is plain that they and the rest of the Greeks cannot reckon truly, when they divide the whole earth into three parts, Europe, Asia, and Libya; they must add to these yet a fourth part, the Delta of Egypt, if it belong neither to Asia nor to Libya; for by their showing the Nile is not the river that separates Asia and Libya; the Nile divides at the extreme angle of this Delta, so that this land must be between Asia and Libya.

17 Nay, we put the Ionians' opinion aside; and our own judgment concerning the matter is this: Egypt is all that country which is inhabited by  p295 Egyptians, even as Cilicia and Assyria are the countries inhabited by Cilicians and Assyrians severally; and we know of no frontier (rightly so called) below Asia and Libya save only the borders of the Egyptians. But if we follow the belief of the Greeks, we shall consider all Egypt, down from the Cataracts and the city Elephantine,11 to be divided into two parts, and to claim both the names, the one part belonging to Libya and the other to Asia. For the Nile, beginning from the Cataracts, divides Egypt into two parts as it flows to the sea. Now as far as the city Cercasorus the Nile flows in one channel, but after that it parts into three. One of these, which is called the Pelusian mouth, flows eastwards; the second flows westwards, and is called the Canobic mouth. But the direct channel of the Nile, when the river in its downward course reaches the sharp point of the Delta, flows thereafter clean through the middle of the Delta into the sea; in this is seen the greatest and most famous part of its waters, and it is called the Sebennytic mouth. There are also two channels which separate themselves from the Sebennytic and so flow into the sea, by name the Saïte and the Mendesian. The bolbitine and Bucolic mouths are not natural but dug channels.

18 My opinion, that the extent of Egypt is such as my argument shows, is attested by the answer which (my judgment being already formed) I heard to have been given concerning Egypt by the oracle of Ammon. The men of the cities of Marea and  p297 Apis, in the part of Egypt bordering on Libya, thinking themselves to be not Egyptians but Libyans, and misliking the observance of the religious law which forbade them to eat cows' flesh, sent to Ammon saying that they had no part or lot with Egypt; for they dwelt (said they) outside the Delta and did not consent to the ways of its people, and they wished to be suffered to eat of all foods. But the god forbade them: all the land, he said, watered by the Nile in its course was Egypt, and all ho dwelt lower than the city Elephantine and drank of that river's water were Egyptians. Such was the oracle given to them.

19 When the Nile is in flood, it overflows not only the Delta but also the lands called Libyan and Arabian, in places as far as two days' journey from either bank, and sometimes more than this, sometimes less. Concerning its nature, neither from the priests nor from any others could I learn anything. Yet I was zealous to hear from them why it is that the Nile comes with a rising flood for an hundred days from the summer solstice, and when this tale of days is complete sinks again with a diminishing stream, so that the river is low for the whole winter till the summer solstice again. Concerning this matter none of the Egyptians could tell me anything, when I asked them what power the Nile has to be contrary in nature to all other rivers. Of the masters aforesaid I wished to know, and asked; also why no airs blow from it as from every other stream.12

 p299  20 But some of the Greeks, wishing to be notable for cleverness, put forward three opinions about this river; of which there are two that I would not even mention, save to show only what they are. One of these will have it that the etesian winds13 are the cause of the rivers being in flood, because they hinder the Nile from flowing out into the sea. But there are many times when the etesian winds do not blow, yet the Nile does the same as before. And further, if the etesian winds were the cause, then the other rivers which flow contrary to those winds would be affected in like manner even as is the Nile, and all the more, inasmuch as being smaller they have a weaker current. Yet there are many rivers in Syria and in Libya, which are nowise in the same case as the Nile.

21 The second opinion is less grounded on knowledge than that afore-mentioned, though it is more marvellous to the ear: by it, the river effects what it does because it flows from the Ocean, which flows round all the world.

22 The third opinion nis the most plausible by far, yet is of all the most in error. It has no more truth in it than the others. According to this, the niel flows from where snows melt; but it flows from Libya through the midst of Ethiopia, and issues out into Egypt; how then can it flow from snow, seeing that it comes from the hottest places to lands that are for the most part colder? nay, a man who can reason about such matters will find his chief proof, that there is no likelihood of the river's flowing from snow, in this — that the winds blowing from Libya and  p301 Ethiopia are hot. And the second proof is, that the country is ever without rain and frost; but after snow has fallen there must needs be rain within five days;14 so that were there snow there would be rain in these lands. And the third proof is, that the men of the country are black by reason of the heat. Moreover, kites and swallows live there all the year round, and cranes, flying from the wintry weather of Scythia, come every year to these places to winter there. Now, were there but the least fall of snow in this country through which the Nile flows and whence it rises, none of these things would happen, as necessity proves.

23 The opinion about the Ocean is grounded in obscurity and needs no disproof; for I know of no river of Ocean; and I suppose that Homer or some older poet invented this name and brought it into his poetry.

24 If, having condemned the opinions proposed, I must now set forth what I myself think about these obscure matters, I will show what I suppose to be the cause of the Nile being in flood in the summer. During the winter the sun is driven by the storms from his customary course and passes over the iild parts of Libya. Now to make the shortest conclusion, that is all that need be said; for to whatever country this god is nearest, or over it, it is to be thought that that land is the thirstiest and that the rivers in it are diminished.

25 But stated at greater length, the truth is as I shall show. In his passage over the inland parts of Libya — the air being ever clear in that region, the  p303 land warm and the winds cool — the sun does what he was wont to do in the summer in passing through the middle of the heaven: he draws the water to himself, and having so drawn it, expels it away to the inland regions, and the winds catch it and scatter and dissolve it; and, as is to be supposed, those that blow from that country, the south and the south-west, are the most rainy of all winds. Yet I think that the sun never lets go all the water that he yearly draws up from the Nile, but keeps some back near to himself. Then as the winter becomes milder, the sun returns back to the middle of the heaven, and after that he draws from all rivers alike. Meantime the other rivers are swollen to high flood by the much water from the sky that falls into them, because the country is rained upon and cut into gullies; but in the summer they are low, lacking the rain and being drawn up too by the sun. But the Nile being fed by no rain, and being the only river in winter drawn up by the sun, at this time falls far short of the height that he had in summer; which is but natural; for in summer all other waters too and not his alone are attracted to the sun, but in the winter it is he alone who is afflicted.

26 I am persuaded therefore that the sun is the cause of these matters. The dryness of the air in these parts is also caused by the sun, to my thinking, because he burns his passage through it; so it is that it is always summer in the inland part of Libya. But were the stations of the seasons changed, so that the south wind and the summer had their station where now the north wind and winter are set, and the north wind where the south wind is  p305 now, — if this were so, the sun when driven from mid‑heaven by the winter and the north wind would pass over the inland parts of Europe as he now passes over Libya, and I think that in his passage over all Europe he would work the same effect on the Ister as he now does on the Nile.

27 And for the reason why no air blows from the river, this is my opinion: it is not natural that any air blow from very hot places; airs ever come from that which is very cold.

28 Be these matters, then, as they are and as they were made to be in the beginning. But as to the sources of the Nile, none that conversed with me, whether Egyptian, nor Libyan, nor Greek, professed to know them, except only the recorder of the sacred treasures of Athene in the Egyptian city of Sais. He, I thought, jested with me when he said that he had exact knowledge; but this was his story: — Between the city of Syene in the Thebaid and Elephantine there are two hills with sharp peaks, the one called Crophi and the other Mophi. The springs of the Nile, which are unfathomed, rise between these hills; and half the water flows towards Egypt northwards, the other half southwards towards Ethiopia. That this source cannot be fathomed, Psammetichus king of Egypt proved by experiment: for he had a rope woven of many a thousand fathoms' length and let down into the spring, but he could not reach to the bottom. Thus, then, if the recorder spoke truth, he showed, as I think, that here are  p307 strong eddies and an upward flow of water, and the rushing of the stream against the hills makes the sounding-line when let down unable to reach the bottom.

29 From no other man could I learn anything. But this much I learnt by the farthest inquiry that I could make, by my own travel and sight as far as the city of Elephantine, and beyond that by question and hearsay: — Beyond Elephantine, as one travels inland, the land rises. Here one must pass with the boat roped on both sides as men harness an ox; and if the rope break, the boat is carried away by the strength of the current. This part of the river is a four days' journey by boat, and the Nile here is winding like the Maeander; a length of twelve schoeni must be passed in the aforesaid fashion. After that you will come to a level plain, where there is an island in the Nile, called Tachompso. Above Elephantine the country now begins to be inhabited by Ethiopians, and half the people of the island are Ethiopians and half Egyptians. Near to the island is a great lake, on the shores of which dwell nomad Ethiopians. Having crossed this, you will come to the stream of the Nile, which issues into this lake. Then you will disembark and just along the river bank for forty days; for there are sharp projecting rocks in the Nile and many reefs, through which no boat can pass. Having traversed this part in forty days as I have said, you will take boat again and so travel for twelve days till you come to a great city called Meroe, which is said to be the capital of all Ethiopia. The  p309 people of the place worship no other gods but Zeus and Dionysus;15 these they greatly honour, and they have a place of divination sacred to Zeus; they send out armies whenever and whithersoever this god by oracle commands them.16

30 From this city you will make a journey by water of equal distance with that by which you came from Elephantine to the capital city of Ethiopia, and you will come to the land of the Deserters. These Deserters are called Asmach, which signifies, in our language, those who stand on the left hand of the king. These once, to the number of two hundred and forty thousand Egyptians of fighting age, revolted and joined themselves to the Ethiopians. The reason was this: — In the reign of Psammetichus there were garrisons posted at Elephantine on the side of Ethiopia, at Daphnae of Pelusium on the side of Arabia and Assyria, and at Marea on the side of Libya. And still in my time the Persians hold these posts as they were held in the days of Psammetichus; there are Persian guards Elephantine and at Daphnae. Now the Egyptians had been on good for three years, and none came to relieve them; so taking counsel and making common cause, they revolted from Psammetichus and went to Ethiopia. Psammetichus heard of it and pursued after them; and when he overtook them he besought them with many words not to desert e the gods of their fathers and their children and wives. Then one of them, so the story goes, said, pointing to his manly part,  p311 that where this should be they would have wives and children. So they came to Ethiopia, and gave themselves up to the king of the country; who, to make them a gift in return, bade them dispossess certain Ethiopians with whom he was at feud, and occupy their land. These Ethiopians then learnt Egyptian customs and have become milder-mannered by intermixture with the Egyptians.

31 For as far as a distance of four months' travel, then, nearby land and water, there is knowledge of the Nile, besides the part of it that is in Egypt. So many months, as reckoning shows, lasts the journey from Elephantine to the country of the Deserters aforesaid. The river flows from the west and the sun's setting. Beyond this none has clear knowledge to declare; for all that country is desert, by reason of heat.

32 But this I heard from certain men of Cyrene, who told me that they had gone to the oracle of Ammon, and there conversed with Etearchus king of the Ammonians, and that from other matters of discourse they came to speak of the Nile, how no one knows the source of it. Then Etearchus told them that once he had been visited by certain Nasamonians. These are a Libyan people, inhabiting the country of the Syrtis and the country a little way to the east of the Syrtis. When these Nasamonians on their coming were questioned if they brought any news concerning the Libyan desert, they told Etearchus that there had been among them certain sons of their chief men, proud and violent youths, who, when they came to man's estate, besides planning other wild adventures, had chosen by lot five of their company to visit the deserts of Libya, and see what they might beyond the utmost range of travellers. It must be known  p313 that all the northern seacoast of Libya — from Egypt as far as the promontory of Soloeis, which is the end of Libya — is inhabited through its whole length by Libyans, many tribes of them, except the part held by Greeks and Phoenicians; the region of Libya above the sea and the men of the seacoast is infested by wild beasts; and farther inland than the wild-beast country all is sand, exceeding waterless and wholly desert. This then was the story Tod by the young men: — When they left their companions, being well supplied with water and provisions, they journeyed first through the inhabited country, and having passed this they came to the region of wild beasts. After this, they travelled over the desert, towards the west, and crossed a wide sandy region, till after many days they saw trees growing in a plain; when they came to these and were plucking the fruit of the trees, they were met by little men of stature smaller than common, who took them and led them away. The Nasamonians did not know these men's language nor did the escort know the language of the Nasamonians. The men led them across great marshes, which having crossed they came to a city where all the people were of like stature with the escort, and black. A great river ran past this city, from the west towards the rising sun; crocodiles could be seen in it.

33 This is enough to say concerning the story told by Etearchus the Ammonian; except that he said that Nasamonians returned — as the men of Cyrene told me — and that the people to whose  p315 country they came were all wizards; as to the river that ran past the city, Etearchus guessed it to be the Nile; and that is but reasonable. For the Nile flows from Libya, and right through the midst of that country; and as I guess, reasoning as to things unknown from visible signs, it takes its rise from the same measure of distance as the Ister.17 That river flows from the land of the Celtae and the city of Pyrene through the very midst of Europe; now the Celtae dwell beyond the pillars of Heracles, being neighbours of the Cynesii, who are the westernmost of all nations inhabiting Europe. The Ister, then, flows clean across Europe and ends its course in the Euxine sea, at Istria, which is inhabited by Milesian colonists.

34 As it flows through inhabited country, its course is known to many; but none can speak of the source of the Nile; for Libya, through which it runs, is uninhabited and desert. Concerning its course I have told all that I could learn by inquiry; and it issues into Egypt. Now Egypt lies about opposite to the mountainous part of Cilicia; whence it is a straight five days' journey for an unburdened man to Sinope on the Euxine; and Sinope lies over against the place where the Ister falls into the sea. Thus I suppose the course of the Nile in its passage through Libya to be like the course of the Ister.

35 It is sufficient to say thus much concerning the Nile. But concerning Egypt I will now speak at length, because nowhere are there so many marvellous things, nor in the whole world beside are there to  p317 be seen so many works of unspeakable greatness; therefore I shall say the more concerning Egypt.

As the Egyptians have a climate peculiar to themselves, and their river is different in its nature from all other rivers, so have they made all their customs and laws of a kind contrary for the most part to those of all other men. Among them, the women buy and sell, the men abide at home and weave; and whereas in weaving all others push the woof upwards, the Egyptians push it downwards. Men carry burdens on their heads, women on their shoulders. Women make water standing, men sitting. They relieve nature indoors, and eat out of doors in the streets, giving the reason, that things unseemly but necessary should be done in secret, things not unseemly should be done openly. No woman is dedicated to the service of any god or goddess; men are dedicated to all deities male or female. Sons are not compelled against their will to support their parents, but daughters must do so though they be unwilling.

36 Everywhere else, priests of the gods wear their hair long; in Egypt they are shaven. With all other men, in mourning for the dead those most nearly concerned have their heads shaven; Egyptians are shaven at other times, but after a death they let their hair and beard grow. The Egyptians are the only people who keep their animals with them in the house. Whereas all others live on wheat and barley, it is the greatest disgrace for an Egyptian so to live; they make food from a coarse grain which some call  p319 spelt. They knead dough with their feet, and gather mud and dung with their hands. The Egyptians and those who have learnt it from them are the only people who practise circumcision. Every man has two garments, every woman only one. The rings and sheets of sails are made fast elsewhere outside the boat, but inside it in Egypt. The Greeks write and calculate by moving the hand from left to right; the Egyptians do contrariwise; yet they say that their way of writing is towards the right, and the Greek way towards the left. They use two kinds of writing; one is called sacred, the other common.18

37 They are beyond measure religious, more than any other nation; and these are among their customs: — They drink from cups of bronze, which they cleanse out daily; this is done not by some but by all. They are especially careful ever to wear newly-washed linen raiment. They practise circumcision for cleanliness' sake for they set cleanliness above seemliness. Their priests shave the whole body every other day, that no lice or aught else that is foul may infest them in their service of the gods. The priests wear a single linen garment and sandals of papyrus:19 they may take no other kind of clothing or footwear. Twice a day and twice every night they wash in cold water. Their religious observances are, one may say, innumerable. But also they receive many benefits: they neither consume nor spend aught of  p321 their own; sacred food is cooked for them, to each man is brought every day flesh of beeves and geese in great abundance, and wine of frontispieces too is given to them. They may not eat fish. The Egyptians sow no beans in their country; if any grow, they will not eat them either raw or cooked; the priests cannot endure even to see them, considering beans an unclean kind of pulse. Many (not one alone) are dedicated to the service of each god. One of these is the high priest; and when a high priest dies his son succeeds to his office.

38 They hold that bulls belong to Epaphus,20 and therefore test them thus to see if there be as much as one black hair on them; if there be, the bull is deemed not pure; one of the priests, appointed to this task, examines the beast, making it to stand and to lie, and drawing out its tongue, to know whether it bear none of the stated signs which I shall state hereafter.21 He looks also to the hairs of the tail, to see if they grow naturally. If it be pure in all these respects, the priest marks it by wrapping papyrus round the horns, then smears it with sealing-earth and stamps it with his ring; and after this they lead the bull away. But the penalty is death for sacrificing a bull that the priest has not marked. Such is the manner of proving the beast; I will now show how it is sacrificed.

39 Having brought the marked beast to the altar where the sacrifice is to be, they kindle a fire; then they pour wine on the altar over the victim and call upon the god; then they cut its throat, and  p323 having done so they sever the head from the body. They flay the carcase of the victim, then invoke many curses on its head and carry the same away. Where there is a market, and Greek traders in the place, the head is taken to the market and sold; where there are no Greeks, it is thunder into the river. The imprecation which they utter over the heads is, that whatever ill threatens themselves, who sacrifice, or the whole of Egypt, may fall upon that head. In respect of the heads of sacrificed beasts and the libation of wine, the practice of all Egyptians is the same in all sacrifices; and from this ordinance no Egyptian will taste of the head of anything that had life.

40 But in regard to the disembowelling and burning of the victims, there is a different way for each sacrifice. I will now, however, speak of that goddess whom they deem the greatest, and in whose honour they keep highest festival. The ox being flayed, after prayer made as aforesaid they take out the whole stomach, leaving the entrails in the carcase and the fat, and cut off the legs, the end of the loin, the shoulders, and the neck. Having done this, they fill what remains of the carcase of the ox with pure bread, honey raisins, figs, frankincense, myrrh, and other kinds of incense, and then burn it, pouring much oil on it. They fast before the sacrifice, and while it is burning they all make lamentation; and when their  p325 lamentation is over, they set out a meal of what is left of the victim.

41 All Egyptians sacrifice unblemished bulls and bull-calves; they may not sacrifice cows; these are sacred to Isis. For the images of Isis are in woman's form, horned like an ox, as the Greeks picture Io, and cows are held by far the most sacred of all beasts of the herd by all Egyptians alike. For this reason no Egyptian man or woman will kiss a Greek man, or use a knife, or a spit, or a caldron belonging to a Greek, or taste the flesh of an unblemished ox that has been cut up with a Greek knife. Oxen that die are dealt with in the following way: — Cows are cast into the river, bulls are buried by each city in its suburbs, with one or both horns uncovered for a sign: then, when the carcase is decomposed, and the time appointed is at hand, a boat comes to each city from the island called Prosopitis, an island in the Delta, of nine schoeni in circuit. There are many other towns in Prosopitis; that one from which come the boats to gather the bones of the bulls is called Atarbechis;22 there stands on it a temple of Aphrodite of great sanctity. From this town many go about, some to one town and some to another, and dig up the bones, which they then carry away and all bury in one place. As they bury the oxen, so they do with all other beasts at death. Such is their ordinance  p327 respecting these also; for they, too, may not be killed.

42 All that have among them a temple of Zeus of Thebes, or are of the Theban province, sacrifice goats but will not touch sheep. For no gods are worshipped in common by the whole of Egypt save only Isis and Osiris, whom they say to be Dionysus; these are worshipped by all alike. Those who have a temple of Mendes23 or are of the Mendesian province sacrifice sheep, but will not touch goats. The Thebans, and those who by the Theban example will not touch sheep give the following reason for their ordinance: Heracles24 (they say) would by all means look upon Zeus, and Zeus would not be seen by him. At last, being earnestly entreated by Heracles, Zeus contrived a device, whereby he showed himself displaying the head and wearing the fleece of a ram which che had flayed and beheaded. It is from this that the Egyptian images of Zeus have a ram's head; and in this the Egyptians are imitated by the Ammonians, who are colonists from Egypt and Ethiopia and speak a language compounded of the tongues of both countries. It was from this, I think, that the Ammonians got their name too; for Amun is the Egyptian name for Zeus. The Thebans, then, hold rams sacred for this reason, and do not sacrifice them. But on one day in the year, at the festival of Zeus, they cut in pieces and flay a single ram and put the fleece on the image of Zeus, as in the story; then  p329 they bring an image of Heracles near to it. Having done this, all that are about the temple mourn for the ram, and presently bury it in a sacred coffer.

43 Concerning Heracles, I heard it said that he was one of the twelve gods. But I could nowhere in Egypt hear anything concerning the other Heracles, whom the Greeks know. I have indeed many proofs that the name of Heracles did not come from Hellas to Egypt, but from Egypt to Hellas (and in Hellas to those Greeks who gave the name Heracles to the son of Amphitryon); and this is the chief among them — that Amphitryon and Alcmene, the parents of this Heracles, were both by descent Egyptian;25 and that the Egyptians deny knowledge of the names of Poseidon and the Dioscuri, nor are these gods reckoned among the gods of Egypt. Yet had they got the name of any deity from the Greeks, it was these more than any that they were like to remember, if indeed they were already making sea voyages and the Greeks too had seafaring men, as I suppose and judge; so that the names of these gods would have been even better known to the Egyptians than the name of Heracles. Nay, Heracles is a very ancient god in Egypt; as the Egyptians themselves say, the change of the eight gods to the twelve, of whom they deem Heracles one, was made seventeen thousand years before the reign of Amasis.

44 Moreover, wishing to get clear knowledge of this matter whence it was possible so to do, I took  p331  ship to Tyre in Phoenice, where I heard that there was a very holy temple of Heracles.26 There I saw it, richly equipped with many other offerings, besides that in it there were two pillars, one of refined gold, one of emerald, a great pillar that shone in the night time; and in converse weight priests I asked how long it was since their temple was built. I found that neither did their account tally with the elf of the Greeks; for they said that the temple of the god was founded when Tyre first became a city, and that was two thousand three hundred years since. At Tyre I saw yet another temple of that Heracles called the Thasian. Then I went to Thasos, too, where I found a temple of Heracles built by the Phoenicians, who made a settlement there when they voyaged in search of Europe; now they did so as much as five generations before the birth in Hellas of Heracles the son of Amphitryon. Therefore, what I have discovered by inquiry plainly shows that Heracles is an ancient god. And further: those Greeks, I think, are most in the right, who have established and practise two worships of Heracles, sacrificing to one Heracles as to an immortal, and calling him the Olympian, but to the other bringing offerings as to a dead hero.27

45 But among the many ill‑considered tales told by the Greeks, this is a very foolish story which they relate about Heracles — how when he came to Egypt the Egyptians crowned him and led him out in a procession to sacrifice him to Zeus; and for a while (they say) he followed quietly, but when they began  p333 the first rites of sacrifice upon him at the altar, he resisted and slew them all. Now it seems to me that by this story the Greeks show themselves wholly ignorant of the character and customs of the Egyptians; for how should they sacrifice men, who are forbidden to sacrifice even the lower animals, save only swine and bulls and bull-calves, if they be unblemished, and geese? Moreover, Heracles being alone, and still but a man, as they say, how is it natural that he should slay a countless multitude? So much I say of this matter; may no god or hero be displeased with me therefor!

46 This is the reason why the Egyptians of whom I have spoken sacrifice no goats, male or female: the Mendesians reckon Pan among the eight gods, who, they say, were before the twelve gods. Now in their painting and sculpture the image of Pan is made as among the Greeks with the head and the legs of a goat; not that he is deemed to be in truth such, or unlike to other gods; but why they so present him I have no wish to say. The Mendesians hold all goats sacred, the male even more than the female, and goatherds are held in especial honour: one he‑goat is most sacred of all; when he dies it is ordained that there should be great mourning in all the Mendesian province. In the Egyptian language Mendes is the name both for the he‑goat and for Pan. In my lifetime a monstrous thing happened in this province, a woman having open intercourse with a he‑goat. This came to be publicly known.

47 Swine are held by the Egyptians to be unclean beasts. Firstly, if an Egypt touch a hog in  p335 passing by, he goes to the river and dips himself in it, clothed as he is; and secondly, swineherds, native born Egyptians though they be, are alone of all men forbidden to enter any Egyptian temple; nor will any give a swineherd in marriage, nor take a wife from their women; but swineherds intermarry among themselves. Nor do the Egyptians think right to sacrifice swine to any god save the Moon and Dionysus; to these they sacrifice their swine at the same time, in the same season of full moon; then they eat of the flesh. The Egyptians have an account of the reason why they sacrifice swine at this festival, yet abominate them at others; I know it, but it is not fitting that I should relate it. But this is how they sacrifice swine to the Moon: the sacrificer lays the end of the tail and the spleen and the caul together and covers them up with all the fat that he finds about the belly, then burns all with fire; as for the rest of the flesh, they eat it at the time of full moon when they sacrifice the victim; but they will not taste it on any other day. Poor men, having but slender means, mould swine of dough, which they then bake and sacrifice.

48 To Dionysus, on the evening of his festival, everyone offers a porker which he kills before his door and then gives to the swineherd himself who has sold it, for him to take away. The rest of the festival of Dionysus is ordered by the Egyptians much as it is by the Greeks, except for the dances; but in place of the phallus they have invented the use of puppets a cubit long moved by strings, which are carried about the villages by women, the male member moving and near as big as the rest of the  p337 body; a flute-player goes before, the women follow after, singing of Dionysus. There is a sacred legend which gives the reason for the appearance and motions of these puppets.

49 Now, this being so, it seems to me that Melampus son of Amytheon was not ignorant but had attained knowledge of this sacrifice. For it was Melampus who taught the Greeks the name of Dionysus, and the way of sacrificing to him, and the phallic procession; I would not in strictness say that he showed them completely the whole matter, for the later teachers added somewhat to his showing; but it was from him that the Greeks learnt to bear the phallus along in honour of Dionysus, and they got their present practice from his teaching. I think, then, that Melampus showed himself a clever man, in that he had acquired the prophetic art, and in his teaching of the worship of Dionysus, besides much else, came from Egypt with but slight change; for I will not admit that it is a chance agreement between the Egyptian ritual of Dionysus and the Greek; for were that so, the Greek ritual would be of a Greek nature and not but lately introduced. Nor yet will I hold that the Egyptians took either this or any other custom from the Greeks. But I believe that Melampus learnt the worship of Dionysus chiefly from Cadmus of Tyre and those who came with Cadmus from Phoenice to the land now called Boeotia.

50 Indeed, wellnigh all the names of the gods came to Hellas from Egypt. For I am assured by inquiry that they have come from foreign parts, and I believe that they came chiefly from Egypt. Except the names of Poseidon and the Dioscuri, as I have  p339 already said, and Here, and Hestia, and Themis, and the Graces and the Nereids, the names of all the gods have ever existed in Egypt. I say but what the Egyptians themselves say. The gods whose names they say they do not know were, as I think, named by the Pelasgians, save only Poseidon, of whom they learnt the knowledge from the Libyans. Alone of all nations the Libyans have had among them the name of Poseidon from the first, and they have ever honoured this god. The Egyptians, however, are not accustomed to pay any honours to heroes.

51 These customs then and others besides, which I shall show, were taken by the Greeks from the Egyptians. It was not so with the ithyphallic images of Hermes; the making of these came from the Pelasgians, from whom the Athenians were the first of all Greeks to take it, and then handed it on to others. For the Athenians were then already counted as Greeks when the Pelasgians came to dwell in the land with them, and thereby began to be considered as Greeks. Whoever has been initiated into the rites of the Cabeiri, which the Samothracians learnt from the Pelasgians and now practice, he understands what my meaning is. Samothrace was formerly inhabited by those Pelasgians who came to dwell among the Athenians, and it is from them that the Samothracians take their rites. The Athenians, then, were the first Greeks to make ithyphallic images of Hermes, and this they did because the Pelasgians taught them. The Pelasgians told a certain sacred tale about this, which is set forth in the Samothracian mysteries.

52 Formerly, in all their sacrifices, the Pelasgians called upon gods (this I know, for I was told at  p341 Dodona) without giving name or appellation to any; for they had not as yet heard of such. They called them gods28 because all things and the due assignment thereof were by them set in order. Then, after a long while, they learnt the names first of the rest of the gods, which came to them from Egypt, and, much later, the name of Dionysus; and presently they inquired of the oracle at Dodona concerning the names; for this place of divination is held to be the most ancient in Hellas, and at that time it was the only one. When the Pelasgians, then, inquired at Dodona if they should adopt the names that had come from foreign parts, the oracle bade them use the names. From that time onwards they used the names of the gods in their sacrifices; and the Greeks received these later from the Pelasgians.

53 But whence each of the gods came into being, or whether they had all for ever existed, and what outward forms they had, the Greeks knew not till (so to say) a very little while ago; for I suppose that the time of Hesiod and Homer was not more than four hundred years before my own; and the sea are they who taught the Greeks of the descent of the gods, and gave to all their several names, and honours, and arts, and declared their outward forms. But those poets who are said to be older than Hesiod and Homer were, to my thinking, of later birth. The earlier part of all this is what the priestesses of Dodona tell; the later, that which concerns Hesiod and Homer, is what I myself say.

54 But as concerning the oracles in Hellas, and  p343 that one which is in Libya, this is the account given by the Egyptians. The priests of Zeus of Thebes told me that two priestesses had been carried away by from Thebes by Phoenicians; one of them (so, they said, they had learnt) was taken away and sold in Libya, and the other in Hellas; these women, they said, were the first founders of places of divination in the countries aforesaid. When I asked them how it was that they could speak with so certain knowledge, they said in reply that their people had sought diligently for these women, and had never been able to find them, but had learnt later the tale which was now told to me.

55 That, then, I heard from the Theban priests; and what follows, is told by the prophetesses of Dodona: to wit, that two black doves had come flying from Thebes in Egypt, one to Libya and one to Dodona; this last settled on an oak tree, and uttered there human speech, declaring that there must be there a place of divination from Zeus; the people of Dodona understood that the message was divine, and therefore they established the oracular shrine. The dove which came to Libya bade the Libyans (so they say) to make an oracle of Ammon; this also is sacred to Zeus. Such was the tale told by the Dodonaean priestesses, of whom the eldest was Promeneia and the next in age Timarete, and the youngest Nicandra; and the rest of the servants of the temple at Dodona likewise held it true.

56 But this is my own belief about it. If the Phoenicians did in truth carry away the sacred women and sell one in Libya and one in Hellas, then to my thinking the part of what is now Hellas, but  p345 was formerly called Pelasgia, where this last was sold, was Thesprotia; and presently, being there in slavery, she established a shrine of Zeus under an oak that was growing there; for it was reasonable that as she had been a handmaid of the temple of Zeus at Thebes she should remember that temple in the land to which she had come. After this she taught divination, as soon as she understood the Greek language; and she said that her sister had been sold in Libya by the same Phoenicians who sold her.

57 I suppose that these women were called "doves" by the people of Dodona because they spoke a strange language, and the people thought it like the cries of birds; presently the woman spoke what they could understand, and that is why they say that the dove uttered human speech; as long as she spoke in her foreign language, they thought her voice was like the voice of a bird. For how could a dove utter the speech of men? The tale that the dove was black signifies that the woman was Egyptian.29

58 The fashions of divination at Thebes of Egypt and Dodona are like to one another; moreover the practice of divining from the sacrificed victim has also come from Egypt. It would seem too that the Egyptians were the first people to establish solemn assemblies, and processions, and services; the Greeks learnt all this from them. I hold this proved, because the Egyptian ceremonies are manifestly very ancient, and the Greek are of late origin.

59 The Egyptians hold solemn assemblies not  p347 once in the year, but often. The chiefest of these and the most zealously celebrated is at the town of Bubastis30 in honour of Artemis, and the next is that in honour of Isis at Busiris. This town is in the middle of the Egyptian Delta, and there is in it a very great temple of Isis, who is in the Greek language, Demeter. The third greatest festival is at Sais in honour of ate; the fourth is the festival of the sun at Heliopolis, the fifth of Leto at Buto, and the sixth of Ares at Papremis.

60 When the people are on their way to Bubastis they go by river, men and women together, a great number of each in every boat. Some of the women make a noise with rattles, others play flutes all the way, while the rest of the women, and the men, sing and clap their hands. As they journey by river to Bubastis, whenever they come near any other town they bring their boat near the bank; than some of the women do as I have said, while some shout mockery of the women of the town; others dance, and others stand up and expose their persons. This they do whenever they come besides any riverside town. But when they have reached Bubastis, they make a festival with great sacrifices, and more wine is drunk at this feast than in the whole year beside. Men and women (but not children) are wont to assemble then to the number of seven hundred thousand, as the people of the place say.

61 Such is their practice there. I have already told how they keep the feast of Isis at Busiris.a There, after the sacrifice, all the men and women  p349 lament, in countless numbers; but it were profane for me to say who it is for whom they lament. Carian dwellers in Egypt do even more than this, for they cut their foreheads with knives; showing thereby, that they are not Egyptians but strangers.

62 When they assemble at Sais, on the night of the sacrifice, they all keep lamps burning in the open air round about their houses. These lamps are saucers full of salt and oil, the wick floating thereon, and burning all night. This is called the Feast of Lamps. Egyptians who do not come to this assemblage are careful on the night of sacrifice to keep their own lamps burning, and so they are alight not only at Sais but throughout all Egypt. A sacred tale is told showing why this neither is thus lit up and honoured.

63 When the people go to Heliopolis and Buto they offer sacrifice only. At Papremis sacrifice is offered and rites performed as elsewhere; but when the sun is sinking, while a few of the priests are left to busy themselves with the image, the greater number of them beset the entrance of the temple, with clubs of wood in their hands; they are confronted by more than a thousand men, all performing vows and all carrying wooden clubs like the rest. The image of the god, in a little wooden gilt casket, is carried on the day before this from the temple to another sacred chamber. The few who are left with the image draw a four-wheeled cart carrying it in its casket; the other priests stand in the temple porch and prevent its  p351 entrance; the votaries take the part of the god, and smite the priests, who resist. There is hard fighting with clubs, and heads are broken, and as I think (though the Egyptians told me no life was lost), many die of their wounds. The assemblage, say the people of the country, took its rise thus: — The mother of Ares dwelt in this temple; Ares had been reared away from her, and when he grew to manhood came to hold converse with his mother; but as her attendants, never having seen him before, kept him off and would not suffer him to pass, Ares brought men from another town, roughly handled the attendants, and gained access to his mother. From this, they say, arose this custom of a battle of blows at the festival in honour of Ares.31

64 Further, it was the Egyptians who first made it a matter of religious observance not to have intercourse with women in temples, nor enter a temple after such intercourse without washing. Nearly all other men are less careful in this matter than are the Egyptians, and hold a man to be like any other animal; for beasts and birds (they say) are seen to mate both in the temples and the sacred precincts; now were this displeasing to the god neither would the beasts do so. This is the reason given by others for practices which I for my part mislike; but the Egyptians in this and in all other matters are exceeding strict against desecration of their temples.

65 Though Egypt has Libya on its borders, it is  p353 not a country of many animals. All of them are held sacred; some of these are part of men's households and some not; but were I to declare the reason why they are dedicated, I should be brought to speak of matters of divinity, of which I am especially unwilling to treat; I have never touched upon such save where necessity has compelled me. But I will now show how it is customary to deal with the animals. Men and women are appointed guardians to provide nourishment for each kind severally; a son inherits this office from his father. Townsmen in each place, when they pay their vows, make prayer to the god to whom the animal is dedicated, shaving the whole or the half or the third part of their children's heads, and weighing the hair in a balance against a sum of silver; then whatever be the weight in silver of the hair is given to the female guard of the creatures, who buys fish with it, cuts them up and feeds them therewith. Thus is food provided for them. Whoever kills one of these creatures with intention is punished with death; if he kill by mischance he pays whatever penalty the priests appoint. Whoever kills an ibis or a hawk, with intention or without, must die for it.

66 There are many household animals; and there would be many more, were it not for what happens to the cats. When the females have kittened they will not consort with the males; and these seek them but cannot get their will of them; so their device is to steal and carry off and kill the kittens (but they do not eat what they have killed). The mothers,  p355 deprived of their young and desiring to have more will then consort with the male; for they are creatures that love offspring. And when a fire breaks out very strange things happen to the cats. The Egyptians stand round in a broken line, thinking more of the cats than of quenching the burning; but the cats slip through or leap over the men and spring into the fire. When this happens, there is great mourning in Egypt. Dwellers in a house where a cat has died a natural death shave their eyebrows and no more; where a dog has so died, the head and the whole body are shaven.

67 Dead cats are taken away into sacred buildings, where they are embalmed and buried, in the town of Bubastis; bitches are buried in sacred coffins by the townsmen, in their several towns; and the like is done with ichneumons. Shrewmice and hawks are taken away to Buto, ibises to the city of Hermes. There are but few bears, and the wolves are little bigger than foxes; both these are buried wherever they are found lying.

68 I will now show what kind of creature is the crocodile. For the four winter months it eats nothing. It has four feet, and lives both on land and in the water, for it lays eggs and hatches them out on land, and it passes the greater ap of the day on dry ground, and the night in the river, the water being warmer than the air and dew. No mortal creature known to us grows from so small a beginning to such greatness; for its eggs are not much bigger than goose eggs, and the young crocodile is of a bigness answering  p357 thereto, but it grows to a length of seventeen cubits and more. It has eyes like pigs' eyes, and great teeth and tusks answering to the bigness of its body. It is the only animal that has no tongue. Nor does it move the lower jaw. It is the only creature that brings the upper jaw down upon the lower. It has also strong claws, and a scaly impenetrable hide on its back. It is blind in the water, but very keen of sight in the air. Since it lives in the water, its mouth is all full within of leeches. All birds and beasts fleet from it, except only the sandpiper,32 with which it is at peace, because this bird does the crocodile a service; for whenever the crocodile comes ashore out of the water and then opens its mouth (and this it does for the most part to catch the west wind), the sandpiper goes into its mouth and eats the leeches; the crocodile is pleased by this service and does the sandpiper no harm.

69 Some of the Egyptians hold crocodiles sacred, others do not so, but treat them as enemies. The dwellers about Thebes and the lake Moeris deem them to be very sacred. There, in every place one crocodile is kept, trained to be tame; they put ornaments of glass and gold on its ears and bracelets on its forefeet, provide for it special food and offerings, and give the creatures the best of treatment while they live; after death the crocodiles are embalmed and buried in sacred coffins. But about Elephantine they are not held sacred, and are even eaten. The Egyptians do not call them crocodiles, but champsae.  p359 The Ionians called them crocodiles, from their likeness to the lizards which they have in their walls.33

70 There are many and various ways of crocodile hunting; I will write only of that one way which I think most worthy of mention: — The hunter baits a hook with a chine of pork, and lets it float into the midst of the river; he himself stays on the bank with a young live pig, which he beats. Hearing the cries of the pig, the crocodile goes after the sound, and meets the chine which it swallows; then the hunters pull the line. When the crocodile is drawn ashore, first of all the hunter smears its eyes over with mud; when this is done the quarry is very easily mastered, which, without that, is no light matter.

71 River horses are sacred in the province of Papremis, but not elsewhere in Egypt. For their outward form, they are four-footed, with cloven hoofs like oxen; their noses are blunt; they are maned like horses, with tusks showing, and have a horse's tail and a horse's neigh; their bigness is that of the biggest oxen. Their hide is so thick that when it is dried spearshafts are made of it.

72 Otters also are found in the river, which the Egyptians deem sacred; and they hold sacred that fish too which is called the scale-fish, and the eel. These, and the fox‑goose34 among birds, are said to be sacred to the god of the Nile.

73 Another bird also is sacred; it is called the phoenix. I myself have never seen it, but only pictures of it; for the bird comes but seldom into Egypt,  p361 once in five hundred years, as the people of Heliopolis say. It is said that the phoenix comes when his father dies. If the picture truly shows his size and appearance, his plumage is partly golden but mostly red. He is most like an eagle in shape and bigness. The Egyptians tell a tale of this bird's devices which I do not believe. He comes, they say, from Arabia bringing his father to the Sun's temple enclosed in myrrh, and there buries him. His manner of bringing is this: first he moulds an egg of myrrh as heavy as he can carry, and when he has proved its weight by lifting it he then hollows out the egg and puts his father in it, covering over with more myrrh the hollow in which the body lies; so the egg being with his father in it of the same weight as before, the phoenix, after enclosing him, carries him to the temple of the Sun in Egypt. Such is the tale of what is done by this bird.

74 Near Thebes there are sacred snakes, hotels to men, small in size and bearing two horns on the top of their heads. These, when they die, are buried in temple of Zeus, to whom they are said to be sacred.

75 Not far from the town of Buto, there is a place in Arabia to which I went to learn about the winged serpents. When I came thither, I saw innumerable bones and Bourbons of serpents; many heaps of Bourbons there were, great and small and smaller still. This place, where lay the Bourbons  p363 scattered, is where a narrow mountain pass opens into a great plain, which is joined to the plain of Egypt. Winged serpents are said to fly at the beginning of spring, from Arabia, making for Egypt; but the ibis birds encounter the invaders in this pass and kill them. The Arabians say that the ibis is greatly honoured by the Egyptians for this service, and the Egyptians give the same reason for honouring these birds.

76 Now this is the appearance of the ibis. It is all deep black, with legs like a crane's, and a beak strongly hooked; this size is that of a landrail. Such is the outward form of the ibis which fights with the serpents. Those that most consort with men (for the ibis is of two kinds)35 all the head and neck bare of feathers; their plumage is white, save the head and neck and the tips of wings and tail (these being deep black); the legs and beak of the bird are like those of the other ibis. The serpents are like water-snakes. Their wings are not feathered but most like the wings of a bat.

I have now said enough concerning creatures that are sacred.

77 Among the Egyptians themselves, those who dwell in the cultivated country are the most careful of all men to preserve the memory of the past, and none whom I have questioned have so many chronicles. I will now speak of the manner of life which they use. For three following days in every month they purge themselves, pursuing after health by means of emetics and drenches; for they think  p365 it is from the food which they eat that all sicknesses come to men. Even without this, the Egyptians are the healthiest of all men, next to the Libyans; the reason of which to my thinking is that the climate in all seasons is the same; for change is the great cause of men's falling sick, more especially changes of seasons. They eat bread, making loaves which they call "cyllestis"36 of coarse grain. For wine, they use a decrease made of barley; for they have no vines in their country. They eat fish uncooked, either dried in the sun or preserved with brine. Quails and ducks and small birds are salted and eaten raw; all other kinds of birds, as well as fish (except those that the Egyptians hold sacred) are eaten roast and boiled.

78 At rich men's banquets, after dinner a Mann carries round a wooden image of a corpse in a coffin, painted and carved in exact imitation, a cubit or two cubits long. This he shows to each of the company, saying "Drink and make merry, but look on this; for such shalt thou be when thou art dead." Such is custom at their drinking-bouts.

79 They keep the oracles of their fathers, and add none others to them. Among other notable customs of theirs is this, that they have one song, the Linus-song,37 which is sung in Phoenice and Cyprus  p367 and elsewhere; each nation has a name of its own for this, but it is the same song that the Greeks sing, and call Linus; wherefore it is to me one of the many strange things in Egypt, whence the Egyptians go that name. Plainly they have ever sung this song; the name for Linus in Egyptian is Maneros.38 The Egyptians told me that Maneros was the only son of their first king, who died untimely, and this dirge was sung by the Egyptians in his honour; and this, they said, was their earliest and their only chant.

80 There is a custom too which no Greeks save the Lacedaemonians have in common with the Egyptians: — younger men, when they meet their elders, turn aside and give place to them in the way, and rise from their seats when an older man approaches. But they have another custom which is nowhere known in Greece: passers‑by do not address each other, but salute by lowering the hand to the knee.

81 They wear linen tunics with fringes hanging about the legs, called "calasiris," and loose white woollen mantles over these. But nothing of wool is brought into temples, or buried with them; that is forbidden. In this they follow the same rule as the ritual called Orphic and Bacchic, but which is in truth Egyptian and Pythagorean; for neither may those initiated into these rites be buried in woollen wrappings. There is a sacred legend about this.

82 I pass to other inventions of the Egyptians. They assign each month and each day to some god;  p369 they can tell what fortune and what end and what disposition a man shall have according to the day of his birth. This has given material to Greeks who deal in poetry. They have made themselves more omens than all other nations together; when an ominous thing happens they take note of the outcome and write it down; and if something of a like kind happen again they think it will have a like result.

83 As to the art of divination among them, it belongs to some of the gods, but to no one among men; there are in their country oracles of Heracles, Apollo, Athene, Artemis, Ares, and Zeus, and (which is the most honoured of all) of Leto in the town of Buto. Nevertheless they have diverse ways of divination, not one only.

84 The practice of medicine is so divided among them, that each physician is a healer of one disease and no more. All the country is full of physicians, some of the eye, some of the teeth, some of what pertains to the belly, and some of the hidden diseases.

85 They mourn and bury the dead as I will show. Whenever a man of note is lost to his house by death, all the womenkind of the house daub their faces or heads with mud; then, with all the women of their kin, they leave the corpse in the house, and roam about the city lamenting, with their garments girt round them and their breasts showing; and the men too lament in their place, with garments girt likewise. When this is done, they take the dead body to be embalmed.

 p371  86 There are men whose whole business this is and who have this special craft. These, when a dead body is brought to them, show the bringer wooden models of corpses, painted in exact imitation; the most perfect manner of embalming belongs, they say, to One whose name it were profane for me to speak in treating of such matters; the second way, which they show, is less perfect than the first, and cheaper, and the third is the least costly of all. Having shown these, they ask the bringers of the body in which fashion they desire to have it prepared. The bearers, having agreed in a price, go their ways, and the workmen, left behind in their place, embalm the body. If they do this in the most perfect way, they first draw out part of the brain through the nostrils with an iron hook, and inject certain drug into the rest. Then, making a cut near the flank with a sharp knife of Ethiopian stone, they take out all the intestines, and clean the belly, rinsing it with palm wine and bruised spices; and presently, filling the belly with pure ground myrrh and casia and any other spices, save only frankincense, they sew up the anus. Having done this, they conceal the body for seventy days, embalmed in saltpetre; no longer time is allowed for the embalming; and when the seventy days are past they wash the body and wrap the whole of it in bandages of fine linen cloth, anointed with gum, which the Egyptians mostly use instead of glue; which done, they give back the dead man to his friends. These make a hollow wooden figure like a man, in  p373 which they enclose the corpse, shut it up, and preserve it safe in a coffin-chamber, placed erect against a wall.

87 This is how they prepare the dead who have wished for the most costly fashion;39 those whose wish was for the middle and less costly way are prepared in another fashion. The embalmers charge their syringes with cedar oil and therewith fill the belly of the dead man, making no cut, nor removing the intestines, but injecting the drench through the anus and checking it from returning; then they embalm the body for the appointed days; on the last day they let the oil which they poured in pass out again. It has so great power that it brings away the inner parts and intestines all dissolved; the flesh is eaten away by the saltpetre, and in the end nothing is left of the body but skin and bone. Then the embalmers give back the dead body with no more ado.

88 When they use the third manner of embalming, which is the preparation of the poorer dead, they cleanse the belly with a purge, embalm the body for the seventy days and then give it back to be taken away.

89 Wives of notable men, and women of great beauty and reputation, are not at once given over to the embalmers, but only after they have been dead for three or four days; this is done, that the embalmers may not have carnal intercourse with them. For it is said that the one was found having intercourse with a woman newly dead, and was denounced by his fellow-workman.

 p375  90 When anyone, be he Egyptian or stranger, is known to have been carried off by a crocodile or drowned by the river itself, such an one must by all means be embalmed and tended as fairly as may be and buried in a sacred coffin by the townsmen of the place where he is cast up; nor may any of his kinsmen or his friends touch him, but his body is deemed something more than human, and is handled and buried by the priests of the Nile themselves.

91 The Egyptians shun the use of Greek customs, and (to speak generally) the customs of any other men whatever. Yet, though the rest are careful of this, there is a great city called Chemmis, in the Theban province, near the New City; in this city is a square temple of Perseus son of Danae, in a grove of palm trees. The colonnade before this temple is of stone, very great; and there stand at the entrance two great stone statues. In this outer court there is a shrine with an image of Perseus standing in it. The people of this Chemmis say that Perseus is often seen up and down this land, and often within the temple, and that the sandal he wears is found, and it is two cubits long; when that is seen, all Egypt prospers. This is what they say; and their doings in honour of Perseus are Greek, in that they celebrate games comprising every form of contest, and offer animals and cloaks and skins as prizes. When I asked why Perseus appeared to them alone, and why, unlike all other Egyptians, they celebrate games,  p377 they told me that Perseus was by lineage of their city; for Danaus and lynceus, who voyaged to Greece, were of Chemmis; and they traced descent from these down to Perseus. They told too how when he came to Egypt for the reason alleged also by the Greeks — namely, to bring the Gorgon's head from Libya — he came to Chemmis too and recognised all his kin; and how before he came to Egypt he had heard the name of Chemmis from his mother. It was at his bidding, said they, that they celebrated the games.

92 All these are the customs of Egyptians who dwell above the marsh country. Those who inhabit the marshes have the same customs as the rest, both in other respects, and in that each man has one wife, as in Greece. They have, besides, devised means to make their food less costly. When the river is in flood and overflows the plains, many lilies, which the Egyptians call lotus, grow in the water. They pluck these and dry them in the sun, then they crush the poppy-like centre of the plant and bake loaves of it. The root also of this lotus is eatable, and a sweetish taste; it is round, and of the bigness of an apple. Other lilies also grow in the river, which are like roses; the fruit of these is found in a calyx springing from the root by a separate stalk, and is most like to a comb made by wasps; this produces many eatable seeds as big as an olive-stone, which are eaten both fresh and dried. They use also the byblus which  p379 grows annually; it is plucked from the marshes, the top of it cut off and turned to other ends, and the lower part, about a cubit's length, eaten or sold. Those who wish to use the byblus at its very best bake it before everything in a redhot oven. Some live on fish alone. They catch the fish, take out the intestines, then dry them in the sun and eat them dried.

93 Fish that go in shoals do not often come to birth in the river; they are rear in the lakes, and this is the way with them: when the desire of spawning comes on them, they swim out to sea in shoals, the males leading, and throwing out their seed, while the females come after and swallow it and so conceive. When the females have become pregnant in the sea, then all the fish swim back to their homes; but now it is the females and not the male who lead the way, going before in a shoal, and (like the male) throwing off ever and anon a few of their eggs (which are like millet-seeds), which the male devour as they follow. These millet-seeds, or eggs, are fish. It is from the surviving eggs, which are not devoured, that the fish which grow come to the birth. Those fish that are caught while swimming seawards show bruises on the left side of their heads; those that are caught returning, on the right side. This happens to them because as they swim seawards they keep close to the left bank, and hold  p381 to the same bank also in their return, grazing it and touching it as much as they may, I suppose lest the current should make them miss their course. When the Nile begins to rise, hollow and marshy places near the river are the first to begin to fill, the water trickling through from the river, and as soon as they are flooded they are suddenly full of little fishes. Whence it is like that these come into being I believe that I can guess. When the Nile falls, the fish have spawned into the mud before they leave it with the last of the water; and as the time comes round, and in the next year the flood comes again, this spawn at once gives birth to these fishes.

94 So much then for the fishes. The Egyptians who live about the marshes use an oil drawn from the castor-berry, which they call kiki. They sow this plant on the banks of the rivers and lakes; it grows wild in Hellas; in Egypt it produces abundant but ill‑smelling fruit, which is gathered, and either bruised and pressed, or boiled after roasting, and the liquid that comes from it is collected. This is thick and as useful as oil for lamps, and gives off a strong smell.

95 Gnats are abundant; this is how the Egyptians protect themselves against them: those who dwell higher up than the marshy country are well served by the towers whither they ascend to sleep, for the winds prevent the gnats from flying aloft; those  p383 living about the marshes have a different device, instead of the towers. every man of them has a net, with which he catches fish by day, and for the night he sets it round the bed where he rests, then creeps under it and so sleeps. If he sleep wrapped in a garment or cloth, the gnats bite through it; but through the net they do not even try at all to bite.

96 The boats in which they carry cargo are made of the acacia,40 was is in form most like to the lotus of Cyrene, and its sap is gum. Of this tree they cut logs of two cubits length and lay them like courses of bricks,41 and build the boat by making these two‑cubit logs fast to long and close‑set stakes; and having so built they set crossbeams athwart and on the logs. They use no ribs. They caulk the seams within with byblus. There is one rudder, passing through a hole in the boat's keel. The mast is of acacia-wood and the sails of byblus. These boats cannot move upstream unless a brisk breeze continue; they are towed from the bank; but downstream they are thus managed: they have a raft made of tamarisk wood, fastened together with matting of reeds, and a pierced stone of about two Atlantis' weight; the raft is let go to float down ahead of the boat, made fast to it by a rope, and the stone is made fast also by a rope to the after part of the boat. So, driven by the current, the raft floats swiftly and tows the "baris" (which is the name of  p385 these boats), and the stone dragging behind on the river bottom keeps the boat's course straight. There are many of these boats; some are of many thousand talents' burden.

97 When the Nile overflows the land, the towns alone are seen high and dry above the water, very like to the islands in the Aegean sea. These alone stand out, the rest of Egypt being a sheet of water. So when this happens folk are ferried not, as is their wont, in the course of the stream, but clean over the plain. From Naucratis indeed to Memphis the boat going upwards passes close by the pyramids themselves;42 the usual course is not this, but by the Delta's point and the town Cercasorus: but your voyage from the sea and Canobus to Naucratis will take you over the plain near the town of Anthylla and that which is called Archandrus' town.

98 Anthylla is a town of some name, and is specially assigned to the consort of the reigning king of Egypt, for the provision of her shoes. This has been done since Egypt has been under Persian dominion. The other town, I think, is named after Archandrus son of Phthius the Achaean, and son-in‑law of Danaus; for it is called Archandrus' town. It may be that there was another Archandrus; but the name is not Egyptian.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 In 664 B.C., probably.

2 Identified by the Greeks with the Egyptian Ptah.

3 There is much obscurity about the "Twelve Gods." This only appears to be clear, that eight (or nine) gods firm the first order of the Egyptian hierarchy, and that there are twelve of the second rank. See ch. 43, and Rawlinson's essay (ch. 3 in his Appendix to Book II).

4 The southern part of Upper Egypt.

5 In the modern Fayyum, west of the Nile.

6 Literally "ropes."

7 ὡς εἶναι Αἰγύπτου; so much of the Nile valley being outside Egypt. But it is possible that the words may mean "no great distance, for Egypt," i.e. no great distance relatively to the size of the country.

8 The "sea called Red," it will be remembered, is the sea south and east of Arabia: the gulf entering in from it is our Red Sea. Suppose the Delta to have been once a good too, then there would have been two gulfs, both running up into Egypt, their heads not far from each other.

9 Supposing this statement to be true, Moeris must have been king much more than 900 years before Hdt.: 900 years being much too short a period for a rise of eight cubits in the height of the Nile valley.

10 At the southern point of the Delta, where the two main channels of the Nile divide, not far below Cairo.

11 On the island opposite Syene (Assuan).

12 Not from the river itself, perhaps; but there is a regular current of air blowing up the valley.

13 The regular N. W. winds which blow in summer from the Mediterranean.

14 It does not seem to be known what authority there is for this assertion.

15 The Greek equivalents for Amun and Osiris.

16 Herodotus' account of the Nile in this chapter is for the most part vague and untrustworthy. He is right as to the current above Elephantine, as those who have made the passage between the Assuan Dam and Assuan will realise. But the conditions have of course been entirely altered by the construction of the dam.

17 ἐκ τῶν ἴσων μέτρων is an obscure expression. What Hdt. appears to mean is, that as the Nile (according to him) flows first from W. to E. and then turns northward, so the Danube flows first from W. to E. and then (as he says) from N. to S.; and so the rivers in a manner correspond: one crosses Africa, the other Europe.

18 Three kinds, really: hieroglyphic, hieratic (derived from hieroglyphic), and demotic, a simplified form of hieratic. See Rawlinson's essay, ch. 5, in his Appendix to Book II.

19 On this plant, see ch. 92.

20 Epaphus is the Greek form of Apis or Hapi, the bull‑god of Memphis; for bulls of Mair's Oppian (L. C. L.) Cyn. II.86, note.

21 III.28.

22 No doubt from Athor or Hathor, under which name Isis was often worshipped.

23 Mendes, Greek form of Binded, a town in the Delta where Osiris was worshipped in the form of a ram, according to monuments. Here Mendes apparently = Osiris.

24 The Greeks identified with Heracles an Egyptian god Shu (called at Thebes Chonsu-Neferhotep, Ἀγαθοδαίμων).

25 As grandchildren of Perseus, for whose Egyptian origin see 91.

26 The Tyrian god Melkart.

27 There is a dual Heracles in the Odyssey, XI.601 seqq. An εἴδωλον of him is seen in the world of the dead; but "he himself" is an immortal among the gods of heaven.

28 On the supposition that θεός meant "a disposer," connected with θεσμός, τίθημι, etc.

29 Perhaps Herodotus' explanation is right. But the name "doves" may be purely symbolic; thus priestesses of Demeter and Artemis were sometimes called Bees.

30 Bubastis in the Delta, the "city of Pasht," where the cat‑headed goddess Pasht (identified by Herodotus with Artemis) was worshipped.

31 It is uncertain what Egyptian deity Herodotus identifies with Ares. In a Greek papyrus, "Ares" is the equivalent for the Egyptian Anhur, a god, apparently, not clearly differentiated from "Shu" or "Heracles."

32 Egyptian spur-winged lapwing (Hoploterus armatus).

33 κροκόδειλος is Ionic for a lizard; the commoner word is σαύρα or σαῦρος. χάμψα is the Egyptian "em‑suh", a name which survives in the Arabic "timsah," i.e. em‑suh with the feminine article prefixed.

34 Or "Nile-goose." The Egyptian goose (Chenalopex Aegyptiaca).

35 Geronticus Calvus and Ibis Aethiopica.

36 Loaves twisted to a point, apparently.

37 This is the hymn for a slain youth (said to typify the departure of early summer), Thammuz, Atys, Hylas, or Linus; the Semitic refrain ai lenu, "alas for us," becomes the Greek αἴλινος, from which comes the name Linus.

38 Maneros, probably from the refrain ma‑n‑hra, "come back to us."

39 τοὺς τὰ πολυτελέστατα, sc. βουλομένους.

40 The "Mimosa Nilotica," still used for boat-building in Egypt.

41 That is, like bricks laid not one directly over another but with the joints alternating: IMAGE zzz

42 The meaning of these words is not clear. Some think that they mean "though here the course is not so" and that perhaps ὁ ἐωθώς has been lost after οὗτος.

Thayer's Note:

a He hasn't, actually, unless he means the very loose description of rites in II.41‑42, where Busiris is not mentioned.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 2 Apr 18