Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 17.1.40 Str. 17.1.46 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 17.1.48

17.1.44

At Abydos Osiris is worshipped; but in the temple of Osiris no singer, nor player on the pipe, nor on the cithara, is permitted to perform at the commencement of the ceremonies celebrated in honour of the god, as is usual in rites celebrated in honour of the other gods. Next to Abydos is

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the lesser Diospolis, [Note] then the city Tentyra, [Note] where the crocodile is held in peculiar abhorrence, and is regarded as the most odious of all animals. For the other Egyptians, although acquainted with its mischievous disposition, and hostility towards the human race, yet worship it, and abstain from doing it harm. But the people of Tentyra track and destroy it in every way. Some however, as they say of the Psyllians of Cyrenæa, possess a certain natural antipathy to snakes, and the people of Tentyra have the same dislike to crocodiles, yet they suffer no injury from them, but dive and cross the river when no other person ventures to do so. When crocodiles were brought to Rome to be exhibited, they were attended by some of the Tentyritæ. A reservoir was made for them with a sort of stage on one of the sides, to form a basking-place for them on coming out of the water, and these persons went into the water, drew them in a net to the place, where they might sun themselves and be exhibited, and then dragged them back again to the reservoir. The people of Tentyra worship Venus. At the back of the fane of Venus is a temple of Isis ; then follow what are called the Typhoneia, and the canal leading to Coptos, [Note] a city common both to the Egyptians and Arabians. 17.1.45

Then follows the isthmus, extending to the Red Sea near Berenice, [Note] which has no harbour, but good landing-places, because the isthmus is conveniently situated. Philadelphus is said to be the first person that opened, by means of his army, this road, which had no supply of water, and to have provided stations. [Note] This he did because the navigation of the Red Sea was difficult, particularly to those who set out from the recess of the bay. Experience showed the great utility of this plan, and at present all the Indian, Arabian, and such Ethiopian merchandise as is imported by the Arabian Gulf is carried to Coptos, which is the mart for such commodities. Not far from Berenice is Myos Hormus, [Note] a city with a naval station

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for vessels which navigate this sea; at no great distance from Coptos is the city of Apollo, so that two cities are the boundaries of the isthmus, one on each side. But at present Coptos and Myos Hormus are in repute, and they are frequented.

Formerly, the camel-merchants travelled in the night, directing their course by observing the stars, and, like mariners, carried with them a supply of water. But now watering-places are provided: water is also obtained by digging to a great depth, and rain-water is found, although rain rarely falls, which is also collected in reservoirs. It is a journey of six or seven days.

On this isthmus are mines, in which the emeralds and other precious stones are found by the Arabians, who dig deep subterraneous passages. 17.1.46

Next to the city of Apollo is Thebes, now called Diospolis, with her hundred gates, through each of which issue two hundred men, with horses and chariots, [Note] according to Homer, who mentions also its wealth; not all the wealth the palaces of Egyptian Thebes contain. [Note]

Other writers use the same language, and consider Thebes as the metropolis of Egypt. Vestiges of its magnitude still exist, which extend 80 stadia in length. There are a great number of temples, many of which Cambyses mutilated. The spot is at present occupied by villages. One part of it, in which is the city, lies in Arabia; another is in the country on the other side of the river, where is the Memnonium. Here are two colossal figures near one another, each consisting of a single stone. One is entire; the upper parts of the other, from the chair, are fallen down, the effect, it is said, of an earthquake. It is believed, that once a day a noise as of a slight blow issues from the part of the statue which remains

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in the seat and on its base. When I was at those places with ælius Gallus, and numerous friends and soldiers about him, I heard a noise at the first hour (of the day), but whether proceeding from the base or from the colossus, or produced on purpose by some of those standing around the base, I cannot confidently assert. For from the uncertainty of the cause, I am disposed to believe anything rather than that stones disposed in that manner could send forth sound.

Above the Memnonium are tombs of kings in caves, and hewn out of the stone, about forty in number; they are executed with singular skill, and are worthy of notice. Among the tombs [Note] are obelisks with inscriptions, denoting the wealth of the kings of that time, and the extent of their empire, as reaching to the Scythians, Bactrians, Indians, and the present Ionia; the amount of tribute also, and the number of soldiers, which composed an army of about a million of men.

The priests there are said to be, for the most part, astronomers and philosophers. The former compute the days, not by the moon, but by the sun, introducing into the twelve months of thirty days each five days every year. But in order to complete the whole year, because there is (annually) an excess of a part of a day, they form a period from out of whole days and whole years, the supernumerary portions of which in that period, when collected together, amount to a day. [Note]

They

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ascribe to Mercury all knowledge of this kind. To Jupiter, whom they worship above all other deities, a virgin of the greatest beauty and of the most illustrious family (such persons the Greeks call pallades) is dedicated. She prostitutes herself with whom she pleases, until the time occurs for the natural purification of the body; she is afterwards married; but before her marriage, and after the period of prostitution, they mourn for her as for one dead.



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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