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Rainless wuntries of the West.
in Egypt, and there man first became civilized. The data tree, moreover, furnishes to Africa a food almost without expense. The climate renders it necessary to use, for the most part, vegetable diet, and but little clothing is required. The American counterpart of Egypt in this physical con
dition is Peru, the coast of which is also a iainless district. Peru is the Egypt of civilization
of the Western continent. There is also a rainless strand on the Pacific coast of Mexico. It is an incident full of meaning in the history of human progress, that, in ["gions far apart, civilization thus commenced in rain'ess countries.
In Upper Egypt, the cradle of civilization, the influence of atmospheric water is altogether obliterated, for, in an agricultural point of view, the country is rainless. Variable meteorological conditions are there eliminated. Where the Nile breaks through the mountain gate at
Essouan, it is observed that its waters begin to
rise about the end of the month of May, and in eight or nine weeks the inundation is at its height. This flood in the river is due to the great rains which have fallen in the mountainous countries among which the Nile takes its rise, and which have been precipitated from the trade-winds that blow, except where disturbed by the monsoons, over the vast expanse of the tropical Indian Ocean. Thus dried, the east wind pursues its solemn course over the solitudes of Central Africa, a cloudless and a rainless wind, its track marked by desolation and deserts. At first the river becomes red, and then green, because the flood of its great Abyssinian branch, the Blue Nile, arrives first; but, soon after, that of the White Nile makes its appearance, and from the overflowing banks not only water, but a rich and fertilizing mud, is discharged.
It is owing to the solid material thus brought of th whole down that the river in countless ages has raised country.
its own bed, and has embanked itself with shelving deposits that descend on either side toward the desert. For this reason it is that the inundation is seen on the edge of the desert first, and, as the flood rises, the whole country up to the river its lf is laid under water.
Inundations of the Nile.
middle of September the supply begins to fail and the waters abate; by the end of October the stream has returned to its usual limits. The fields are left covered with a fertile deposit, the maxiinum quantity of which is about six inches thick in a hundred years. It is thought that the bed of the river rises four feet in a thousand years, and the fertilized land in its width continually encroaches on the desert. Since the reign of Amenophis III. it has increased by one-third. He lived B.C. 143), There have accumulated round the pedestal of his Colossus seven feet of mud.
In the recent examinations made by the orders of the Viceroy of Egypt, close by the fallen statue of Rameses II., at Memphis, who reigned, according to Geological Lepsius, from B.C. 1394 to B.C. 1328, a shaft age of Egypt. was sunk to more than 24 feet. The water which then infiltrated compelled a resort to boring, which was continued until 41 feet 4 inches were reached. The whole consisted of Nile deposits, alternate layers of loam and sand of the same composition throughout. From the greatest depth a fragment of pottery was obtained. Ninety-five of these boring, were made in various places, but on no occasion was solid rock reached. The organic remains were all recent; not a trace of an extinct fossil occurred, but an abundance of the residues of burnt bricks and pottery. In their examination from Essouan to Cairo, the French estimated the mud deposit to be five inches for each century. From an examination of the results at Heliopolis, Mr. Horner makes it 3•18 inches. The Colossus of Rameses II. is surrounded by a sediment nine feet four inches deep, fairly estimated. Its date of erection was about 3215 years ago, which gives 31 inches per century. But beneath it similar layers continue to the depth of 30 feet, which, at the same rate, would give 13,500 years, to A.D. 1854, at which time the examination was made. Every precaution seems to have been taken to obtain accurate results.
The extent of surface affected by the inundations of the Nile is, in a geographical point of view, altogether item
Its geography insignificant; yet, such as it was, it constituted and topoEgypt. Commencing at the Cataract of Essouan, graphy.
at the sacred island of Philæ, on which to this day here and there the solitary palm-tree looks down, it reached to the Mediterranean Sea, from 24° 3' N. to 31° 37' N. The river runs in a valley, bounded on one side by the eastern and on the other by the Libyan chain of mountains, and of which the a'erage breadth is about seven miles, the arable land, however, not averaging more than five and a half. At the widest place it is ten and three-quarters, at the narrowest two. The entire surface of irrigated and fertile land in the lelta is 4500 square miles; the arable land of Egypt, 2255 square miles; and in the Fyoom, 340 square miles, an insignificant surface, yet it supported seven millions of people.
Here agriculture was so precise that it might almost be pronounced a mathematical art. The disturbances arising from atmospheric conditions were eliminated, and the variations, as connected with the supply of river-water, ascertained in advance. The priests proclaimed how the flood stood on the Nilometer, and the husbandman made corresponding preparations for a scanty or an abundant harvest.
In such a state of things, it was an obvious step to improve upon the natural conditions by artificial means; dykes, and canals, and flood-gates, with other hydraulic apparatus, would, even in the beginning of society, unavoidably be suggested, that in one locality the water might be detained longer; in another, shut off when there was danger of excess; in another, more abundantly introduced. There followed, as a consequence of this condition of
things, the establishinent of a strong governagriculture by ment, having a direct control over the agri
culture of the state by undertaking and sup
porting these artificial improvements, and sustaining itself by a tax cheerfully paid, and regulated in amount by the quantity of water supplied from the river to each estate. Such, indeed, was the fundamental political system of the country. The first king of the old empire undertook to turn the river into a new channel he made for it, a task which might seem to demand very able engineering, and actually accomplished it. It is more
than five thousand years since Menes lived. There must have preceded his times many centuries, during which knowledge and skill had been increasing, before such a work could even have been contemplated.
I shall not indulge in any imaginary description of the manner in which, under such favourable circum
Topographical stances, the powers of the human mind were
changes occadeveloped and civilization arose. In inaccessible sioned by the security, the inhabitants of this valley were protected on the west by a burning sandy desert, on the east by the Red Sea. Nor shall I say anything more of those remote geological times when the newly-made river first flowed over a rocky and barren desert on its way to the Mediterranean Sea; nor how, in the course of ages, it had by degrees laid down a fertile stratum, embanking itself in the rich soil it had borne from the tropical mountains. Yet it is none the less true that such was the slow construction of Egypt as a habitable country; such were the gradual steps by which it was fitted to become the seat of man. The pulse of its life-giving artery makes but one beat in a year; what, then, are a few hundreds of centuries in such a process ?
The Egyptians had, at an early period, observed that the rising of the Nile coincided with the heliacal rising of Sirius, the Dog-star, and hence tions lead to they very plausibly referred it to celestial the study of
astronomy. agencies. Men are ever prone to mistake coincidences for causes; and thus it came to pass that the appearance of that star on the horizon at the rising of the sun was not only viewed as the signal, but as the cause of the inundations. Its coming to the desired position might, therefore, be well expected, and it was soon observed that this took place with regularity at periods of about 360 days. This was the first determination of the length of the year. It is worthy of remark, as showing how astronomy and religious rites were in the beginning connected, that the priests of the mysterious temple of Philæ placed before the tomb of Osiris every morning 360 vases of milk, each one commemorating one day, thus showing that the origin of that rite was in those remote ages when it was thought that the year was
360 days long. It was doubtless such circumstances that led the Egyptians to the cultivation of historical habits. In this they differed from the Hindus, who kept no records.
The Dog-star Sirius is the most splendid star in the The philo
heavens; to the Egyptian the inundation was sophy of star- the most important event upon earth. Misworship.
taking a coincidence for a cause, he was led to the belief that when that brilliant star emerged in the morning from the rays of the sun, and began to assert its own inherent power, the sympathetic river, moved thereby, commenced to rise. A false inference like this soon dilated into a general doctrine; for if one star could in this way manifest a direct control over the course of terrestrial affairs, why should not another-indeed, why should not all? Moreover, it could not have escaped notice that the daily tides of the Red Sea are connected with the movements and position of the sun and moon, following those luminaries in the time of their occurrence, and being determined by their respective position as to amount at spring and at neap. But the necessary result of such a view is no other than the admission of the astrological influence of the heavenly bodies; first, as respects inanimate nature, and then as respects the fortune and fate of men. It is not until the vast distance of the starry bodies is suspected that man begins to feel the necessity of a mediator between him and them, and star-worship passes to its second phase.
To what part of the world could the Egyptian travel without seeing in the skies the same constellations ? Far from the banks of the Nile, in the western deserts, in Syria, in Arabia, the stars are the same. They are omnipresent; for we may lose sight of the things of the earth, but not of those of the heavens. The air of fatelike precision with which their appointed movements are accomplished, their solemn silence, their incomprehensible distances, might satisfy an observer that they are far removed from the influences of all human power, though, perhaps, they may be invoked by human prayer.
Thus star-worship found for itself a plausible justification. The Egyptian system, at its highest development,