Page images

to deliver it to Cleopatra in the midst of the feast, when the nobles and ambassadors were making their accustomed gifts. The grief of Cleopatra was only equalled by the anger of the Alexandrians, who the more readily armed themselves under Marsyas to defend the queen against the invasion threatened by Euergetes.


(66) The queen's forces shortly marched against the army of Euergetes that was entering Egypt under the command of Hegelochus; but the Egyptian army was beaten on the Syrian frontier. Marsyas was sent prisoner to Euergetes; and the king then showed the only act of mercy which can be mentioned to his praise, and spared the life of a prisoner whom he thought he could make use of. Cleopatra lib. xxxix. then sent to Syria, to her son-in-law Demetrius, to 1. ask for help, which was at first readily granted; but Demetrius was soon called home again by a rising in Antioch. But great indeed must be the cruelty which a people will not bear from their own king rather than call in a foreign master to relieve them. Among the various feelings by which men are governed, few are stronger than the wish for national independence; hence the return of the hated and revengeful Euergetes was not dreaded so much by the Alexandrians as the being made a province of Syria. Cleopatra received no help from Demetrius, but she lost the love of her people by asking for it, and she was soon forced to fly from Alexandria. She put her treasures on board a ship and joined her son Ptolemy and her son-in-law Demetrius in Syria, while Euergetes regained his throne. As soon as Euergetes was again master of Egypt, it was his turn to be revenged upon Trogus, Demetrius; and he brought forward Zabbineus, a prol. xxxix. young Egyptian, the son of Protarchus, a merchant, and sent him into Syria with an army to claim the throne under the name of Alexander, the adopted son of Antiochus. Alexander easily conquered and then put to death Demetrius, but when he found that he really was king of Syria, he would no longer receive orders from Egypt; and Euergetes found that the same plots and forces were then wanted to put down this puppet, which he had before used to set him Letronne, up. He began by making peace with his sister Recherches. Cleopatra, who was again allowed to return to Egypt; and we find her name joined with those of Euergetes and


his second queen in one of the public acts of the priests. He then sent an army and his daughter Tryphæna in marriage to Antiochus Grypus, one of the sons of Demetrius, who gladly received his help, and conquered Alexander and gained the throne of his father.


(67) We possess a curious inscription upon an obelisk that once stood in the island of Philæ, recording, as one of the grievances that the villagers smarted Inscript. under, the necessity of finding supplies for the troops on their marches, and also for all the government messengers and public servants, or those who claimed to travel as such. The cost of this grievance was probably greater at Phile than in other places, because the traveller was there stopped in his voyage by the cataracts on the Nile, and he had to be supplied with labourers to carry his luggage where the navigation was interrupted. Accordingly the priests at Philæ petitioned the king that their temple might be relieved from this heavy and vexatious charge, which they said lessened their power of rightly performing their appointed sacrifices; and they further begged to be allowed to set up a monument to record the grant which they hoped for. Euergetes granted the priests' prayer, and accordingly they set up a small obelisk; and the petition and the king's answer were carved on the base. The courteous and respectful manner in which the king's secretary writes to the priests is a proof that the Egyptians were not altogether illtreated by their Greek rulers.



(68) The gold mines near the Nubian or Golden Berenice, though not so rich as they used to be, were worked with full activity by the unhappy prisoners, cides, ap. criminals, and slaves, who were there condemned to labour in gangs under the lash of their taskmasters. Men and women alike, even old men and children, each at such work as his overstretched strength was equal to, were imprisoned in these caverns tunnelled under the sea or into the side of the mountain; and there by torchlight they suffered the cruel tortures of their overseers without having power to make their groans heard above ground. No lot upon earth could be more wretched than that of these unhappy men; to all of them death would have been thought a boon. Seldom has the love of gold had more cruelty to answer for than in the Egyptian mines.

Diod. Sic.


(69) The survey of the coast of the Red Sea, which was undertaken in this or the last reign, did not reach beyond the northern half of that sea. It was made by Agatharcides, who, when the philosopher Heracleides Lembus filled the office of secretary to the government under Philometor, had been his scribe and reader. Agatharcides gives a curious account of the half-savage people on these coasts, and of the more remarkable animals and products of the country. He was a most judicious historian, and gave a better guess lib. i. 38 than many at the true cause of why there was most water in the Nile in the driest season of the year; which was a subject of never-ceasing inquiry with the travellers and writers on physics. Thales said that its waters were held back at its mouths by the Etesian winds, which blow from the north during the summer months; and Democritus of Abdera said that these winds carried heavy rain-clouds to Ethiopia; whereas the north winds do not begin to blow till the Nile has risen, and the river has returned to its usual size before the winds cease. Anaxagoras, who was followed by Euripides, the poet, thought that the large supply of water came from the melting of snow in Ethiopia. Ephorus thought that there were deep springs in the river's bed, which gushed forth with greater force in summer than in winter. Herodotus and Enopides both thought that the river was in its natural state when the country was overflowed; and the former said that its waters were lessened in winter by the attraction of the sun, then over southern Ethiopia; and the latter said that as the earth grew cool, the waters were sucked into its pores. The sources of the Nile were and still are, hid by the barbarism of the tribes on its banks; but by this time the Egyptians had learned that two large streams, which we call the White Nile and the Blue Nile, unite to form this great river; and Hapimou, the Nile-god, is now sculptured with two vases, from which he pours out his water. Travellers had reached the region of tropical rains; and Agatharcides said that the overflow in Egyp arose from the rains in Upper Ethiopia. But the Abys

Fig. 259.

sinian rains begin to fall at midsummer, too late to cause the inundation in Egypt; and therefore the truth seems after all to lie with the priests of Memphis, who said the Nile rises on the other side of the equator, and the rain falling in what was winter on that side of the globe made the Nile overflow in the Egyptian summer.


(70) The trade of the Egyptians had given them very little knowledge of geography. Indeed the whole Agathartrade of the ancients was carried on by buying goods cides, ap. from their nearest neighbours on one side, and selling them to those on the other side of them. Long voyages were unknown; and, though the trading wealth of Egypt had mainly arisen from carrying the merchandise of India and Arabia Felix from the ports on the Red Sea to the ports on the Mediterranean, the Egyptians seemed to have gained no knowledge of the countries from which these goods came. They bought them of the Arab traders, who came to Cosseir and the Troglodytic Berenice from the opposite coast; the Arabs had probably bought them from the caravans that had carried them across the desert from the Persian Gulf; and that these land journeys across the desert were both easier and cheaper than a coasting voyage we have before learned, from Philadelphus thinking it worth while to build watering and resting-houses in the desert between Coptos and Berenice, to save the coasting voyage of about equal length between Berenice and Cosseir. India seems to have been only known to the Greeks as a country that by sea was to be reached by the way of the Euphrates and the Persian Gulf; and though Scylax had, by the orders of Darius, dropped down the River Indus, coasted Arabia, and thence reached the Red Sea, this voyage was either forgotten or disbelieved, and in the time of the Ptolemies it seems probable that nobody thought that India could be reached by sea from Egypt. Arrian indeed thought that the difficulty of carrying water in their small ships, Periplus. with large crews of rowers, was alone great enough to stop a voyage of such a length along a desert coast that could not supply them with fresh water. The long voyages of Solomon and Necho had been limited to coasting Africa; the voyage of Alexander the Great had been from the Indus to the Persian Gulf; hence



lib. ii.

it was that the court of Euergetes was startled by the strange news that the Arabian guards on the coast of the Red Sea had found a man in a boat by himself, who could not speak Coptic, but who they afterwards found was an Indian, who had sailed straight from India, and had lost his shipmates. He was willing to show any one the route by which he had sailed; and Eudoxus of Cyzicus in Asia Minor came to Alexandria to persuade Euergetes to give him the command of a vessel for this voyage of discovery. A vessel was given him; and though he was but badly fitted out he reached a country which he called India by sea, and brought back a cargo of spices and precious stones. He wrote an account of the coasts which he visited, and it was made use of by Pliny. But it is more than probable the unknown country called India, which Eudoxus visited, was on the west coast of Africa. Abyssinia was often called India by the ancients. (71) In these attempts at maritime discovery, and efforts after a cheaper means of obtaining the Indian Indico- products, the Greek sailors of Euergetes made a pleustes, settlement in the island of Dioscorides, now called Socotara, in the Indian Ocean, forty leagues eastward of the coast of Africa; and there they met the trading vessels from India and Ceylon. This little island continued a Greek colony for upwards of seven centuries, and Greek was the only language spoken there till it fell under the Arabs in the twilight of history, when all the European possessions in Africa were overthrown. But the art of navigation was so far unknown that but little use was made of this voyage; the goods of India, which were all costly and of small weight, were still for the most part carried across the desert on camels' backs; and we may remark that at a later period hardly more than twenty small vessels ever went to India in one year during the reigns of the Ptolemies, and that it was not till Egypt was a province of Rome that the trade-winds across the Arabian Sea were found out by Hippalus, a pilot in the Indian trade. The voyage


lib. iii.


lib. vi. 26. was little known in the time of Pliny; even the Lib. ii. 3, 15. learned Propertius seems to have thought that the silk was a native of Arabia; and Palmyra and Petra, the two chief cities in the desert, whose whole wealth rested and whose very being hung upon their being watering-places for

« PreviousContinue »