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The History of Herodotus, parallel English/Greek, tr. G. C. Macaulay, [1890], at

Herodotus Book 2: Euterpe [20]

20. However some of the Hellenes who desired to gain distinction for cleverness have given an account of this water in three different ways: two of these I do not think it worth while even to speak of except only to indicate their nature; of which the one says that the Etesian Winds are the cause that makes the river rise, by preventing the Nile from flowing out into the sea. But often the Etesian Winds fail and yet the Nile does the same work as it is wont to do; and moreover, if these were the cause, all the other rivers also which flow in a direction opposed to the Etesian Winds ought to have been affected in the same way as the Nile, and even more, in as much as they are smaller and present to them a feebler flow of stream: but there are many of these rivers in Syria and many also in Libya, and they are affected in no such manner as the Nile. 20. [1] ἀλλὰ Ἑλλῄνων μὲν τινὲς ἐπίσημοι βουλόμενοι γενέσθαι σοφίην ἔλεξαν περὶ τοῦ ὕδατος τούτου τριφασίας ὁδούς· τῶν τὰς μὲν δύο τῶν ὁδῶν οὐδ᾽ ἀξιῶ μνησθῆναι εἰ μὴ ὅσον σημῆναι βουλόμενος μοῦνον· [2] τῶν ἡ ἑτέρη μὲν λέγει τοὺς ἐτησίας ἀνέμους εἶναι αἰτίους πληθύειν τὸν ποταμόν, κωλύοντας ἐς θάλασσαν ἐκρέειν τὸν Νεῖλον. πολλάκις δὲ ἐτησίαι μὲν οὔκων ἔπνευσαν, ὁ δὲ Νεῖλος τὠυτὸ ἐργάζεται. [3] πρὸς δέ, εἰ ἐτησίαι αἴτιοι ἦσαν, χρῆν καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ποταμούς, ὅσοι τοῖσι ἐτησίῃσι ἀντίοι ῥέουσι, ὁμοίως πάσχειν καὶ κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ τῷ Νείλῳ, καὶ μᾶλλον ἔτι τοσούτῳ ὅσῳ ἐλάσσονες ἐόντες ἀσθενέστερα τὰ ῥεύματα παρέχονται. εἰσὶ δὲ πολλοὶ μὲν ἐν τῇ Συρίῃ ποταμοὶ πολλοὶ δὲ ἐν τῇ Λιβύῃ, οἳ οὐδὲν τοιοῦτο πάσχουσι οἷόν τι καὶ ὁ Νεῖλος. 

21. The second way shows more ignorance than that which has been mentioned, and it is more marvellous to tell; for it says that the river produces these effects because it flows from the Ocean, and that the Ocean flows round the whole earth. 21. [1] ἡ δ᾽ ἑτέρη ἀνεπιστημονεστέρη μὲν ἐστὶ τῆς λελεγμένης, λόγῳ δὲ εἰπεῖν θωμασιωτέρη· ἣ λέγει ἀπὸ τοῦ Ὠκεανοῦ ῥέοντα αὐτὸν ταῦτα μηχανᾶσθαι, τὸν δὲ Ὠκεανὸν γῆν περὶ πᾶσαν ῥέειν. 

22. The third of the ways is much the most specious, but nevertheless it is the most mistaken of all: for indeed this way has no more truth in it than the rest, alleging as it does that the Nile flows from melting snow; whereas it flows out of Libya through the midst of the Ethiopians, and so comes out into Egypt. How then should it flow from snow, when it flows from the hottest parts to those which are cooler? And indeed most of the facts are such as to convince a man (one at least who is capable of reasoning about such matters), that it is not at all likely that it flows from snow. The first and greatest evidence is afforded by the winds, which blow hot from these regions; the second is that the land is rainless always and without frost, whereas after snow has fallen rain must necessarily come within five days, so that if it snowed in those parts rain would fall there; the third evidence is afforded by the people dwelling there, who are of a black colour by reason of the burning heat. Moreover kites and swallows remain there through the year and do not leave the land; and cranes flying from the cold weather which comes on in the region of Scythia come regularly to these parts for wintering: if then it snowed ever so little in that land through which the Nile flows and in which it has its rise, none of these things would take place, as necessity compels us to admit. 22. [1] ἡ δὲ τρίτη τῶν ὁδῶν πολλὸν ἐπιεικεστάτη ἐοῦσα μάλιστα ἔψευσται· λέγει γὰρ δὴ οὐδ᾽ αὕτη οὐδέν, φαμένη τὸν Νεῖλον ῥέειν ἀπὸ τηκομένης χιόνος· ὃς ῥέει μὲν ἐκ Λιβύης διὰ μέσων Αἰθιόπων, ἐκδιδοῖ δὲ ἐς Αἴγυπτον. [2] κῶς ὦν δῆτα ῥέοι ἂν ἀπὸ χιόνος, ἀπὸ τῶν θερμοτάτων ῥέων ἐς τὰ ψυχρότερα τὰ πολλά ἐστι; ἀνδρί γε λογίζεσθαι τοιούτων πέρι οἵῳ τε ἐόντι, ὡς οὐδὲ οἰκὸς ἀπὸ χιόνος μιν ῥέειν, πρῶτον μὲν καὶ μέγιστον μαρτύριον οἱ ἄνεμοι παρέχονται πνέοντες ἀπὸ τῶν χωρέων τουτέων θερμοί· [3] δεύτερον δὲ ὅτι ἄνομβρος ἡ χώρη καὶ ἀκρύσταλλος διατελέει ἐοῦσα, ἐπὶ δὲ χιόνι πεσούσῃ πᾶσα ἀνάγκη ἐστὶ ὗσαι ἐν πέντε ἡμέρῃσι, ὥστε, εἰ ἐχιόνιζε, ὕετο ἂν ταῦτα τὰ χωρία· τρίτα δὲ οἱ ἄνθρωποι ὑπὸ τοῦ καύματος μέλανες ἐόντες. [4] ἰκτῖνοι δὲ καὶ χελιδόνες δι᾽ ἔτεος ἐόντες οὐκ ἀπολείπουσι, γέρανοι δὲ φεύγουσαι τὸν χειμῶνα τὸν ἐν τῇ Σκυθικῇ χώρῃ γινόμενον φοιτῶσι ἐς χειμασίην ἐς τοὺς τόπους τούτους. εἰ τοίνυν ἐχιόνιζε καὶ ὅσον ὦν ταύτην τὴν χώρην δι᾽ ἧς τε ῥέει καὶ ἐκ τῆς ἄρχεται ῥέων ὁ Νεῖλος, ἦν ἂν τούτων οὐδέν, ὡς ἡ ἀνάγκη ἐλέγχει. 

23. As for him who talked about the Ocean, he carried his tale into the region of the unknown, and so he need not be refuted; since I for my part know of no river Ocean existing, but I think that Homer or one of the poets who were before him invented the name and introduced it into his verse.

23. [1] ὁ δὲ περὶ τοῦ Ὠκεανοῦ λέξας ἐς ἀφανὲς τὸν μῦθον ἀνενείκας οὐκ ἔχει ἔλεγχον· οὐ γὰρ τινὰ ἔγωγε οἶδα ποταμὸν Ὠκεανὸν ἐόντα, Ὅμηρον δὲ ἢ τινὰ τῶν πρότερον γενομένων ποιητέων δοκέω τὸ οὔνομα εὑρόντα ἐς ποίησιν ἐσενείκασθαι. 

24. If however after I have found fault with the opinions proposed, I am bound to declare an opinion of my own about the matters which are in doubt, I will tell what to my mind is the reason why the Nile increases in the summer. In the winter season the Sun, being driven away from his former path through the heaven by the stormy winds, comes to the upper parts of Libya. If one would set forth the matter in the shortest way, all has now been said; for whatever region this god approaches most and stands directly above, this it may reasonably be supposed is most in want of water, and its native streams of rivers are dried up most. 24. [1] εἰ δὲ δεῖ μεμψάμενον γνώμας τὰς προκειμένας αὐτὸν περὶ τῶν ἀφανέων γνώμην ἀποδέξασθαι, φράσω δι᾽ ὅ τι μοι δοκέει πληθύνεσθαι ὁ Νεῖλος τοῦ θέρεος· τὴν χειμερινὴν ὥρην ἀπελαυνόμενος ὁ ἥλιος ἐκ τῆς ἀρχαίης διεξόδου ὑπὸ τῶν χειμώνων ἔρχεται τῆς Λιβύης τὰ ἄνω. [2] ὡς μέν νυν ἐν ἐλαχίστῳ δηλῶσαι, πᾶν εἴρηται· τῆς γὰρ ἂν ἀγχοτάτω τε ᾖ χώρης οὗτος ὁ θεὸς καὶ κατὰ ἥντινα, ταύτην οἰκὸς διψῆν τε ὑδάτων μάλιστα καὶ τὰ ἐγχώρια ῥεύματα μαραίνεσθαι τῶν ποταμῶν. 

25. However, to set it forth at greater length, thus it is:--the Sun passing in his course by the upper parts of Libya, does thus, that is to say, since at all times the air in those parts is clear and the country is warm, because there are no cold winds, in passing through it the Sun does just as he was wont to do in the summer, when going through the midst of the heaven, that is he draws to himself the water, and having drawn it he drives it away to the upper parts of the country, and the winds take it up and scattering it abroad melt it into rain; so it is natural that the winds which blow from this region, namely the South and South-west Winds, should be much the most rainy of all the winds. I think however that the Sun does not send away from himself all the water of the Nile of each year, but that he also lets some remain behind with himself. Then when the winter becomes milder, the Sun returns back again to the midst of the heaven, and from that time onwards he draws equally from all rivers; but in the meanwhile they flow in large volume, since water of rain mingles with them in great quantity, because their country receives rain then and is filled with torrent streams. In summer however they are weak, since not only the showers of rain fail then, but also they are drawn by the Sun. The Nile however, alone of all rivers, not having rain and being drawn by the Sun, naturally flows during this time of winter in much less than its proper volume, that is much less than in summer; for then it is drawn equally with all the other waters, but in winter it bears the burden alone. Thus I suppose the Sun to be the cause of these things. 25. [1] ὡς δὲ ἐν πλέονι λόγῳ δηλῶσαι, ὧδε ἔχει. διεξιὼν τῆς Λιβύης τὰ ἄνω ὁ ἥλιος τάδε ποιέει· ἅτε διὰ παντὸς τοῦ χρόνου αἰθρίου τε ἐόντος τοῦ ἠέρος τοῦ κατὰ ταῦτα τὰ χωρία καὶ ἀλεεινῆς τῆς χώρης ἐούσης καὶ ἀνέμων ψυχρῶν, διεξιὼν ποιέει οἷόν περ καὶ τὸ θέρος ἔωθε ποιέειν ἰὼν τὸ μέσον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ· [2] ἕλκει γὰρ ἐπ᾽ ἑωυτὸν τὸ ὕδωρ, ἑλκύσας δὲ ἀπωθέει ἐς τὰ ἄνω χωρία, ὑπολαμβάνοντες δὲ οἱ ἄνεμοι καὶ διασκιδνάντες τήκουσι· καὶ εἰσὶ οἰκότως οἱ ἀπὸ ταύτης τῆς χώρης πνέοντες, ὅ τε νότος καὶ ὁ λίψ, ἀνέμων πολλὸν τῶν πάντων ὑετιώτατοι [3] δοκέει δέ μοι οὐδὲ πᾶν τὸ ὕδωρ τὸ ἐπέτειον ἑκάστοτε ἀποπέμπεσθαι τοῦ Νείλου ὁ ἥλιος, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὑπολείπεσθαι περὶ ἑωυτόν. πρηϋνομένου δὲ τοῦ χειμῶνος ἀπέρχεται ὁ ἥλιος ἐς μέσον τὸν οὐρανὸν ὀπίσω, καὶ τὸ ἐνθεῦτεν ἤδη ὁμοίως ἀπὸ πάντων ἕλκει τῶν ποταμῶν. [4] τέως δὲ οἳ μὲν ὀμβρίου ὕδατος συμμισγομένου πολλοῦ αὐτοῖσι, ἅτε ὑομένης τε τῆς χώρης καὶ κεχαραδρωμένης, ῥέουσι μεγάλοι· τοῦ δὲ θέρεος τῶν τε ὄμβρων ἐπιλειπόντων αὐτοὺς καὶ ὑπὸ τοῦ ἡλίου ἑλκόμενοι ἀσθενέες εἰσί. [5] ὁ δὲ Νεῖλος ἐὼν ἄνομβρος, ἑλκόμενος δὲ ὑπὸ τοῦ ἡλίου μοῦνος ποταμῶν τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον, οἰκότως αὐτὸς ἑωυτοῦ ῥέει πολλῷ ὑποδεέστερος ἢ τοῦ θέρεος· τότε μὲν γὰρ μετὰ πάντων τῶν ὑδάτων ἴσον ἕλκεται, τὸν δὲ χειμῶνα μοῦνος πιέζεται. οὕτω τὸν ἥλιον νενόμικα τούτων αἴτιον εἶναι.

26. He is also the cause in my opinion that the air in these parts is dry, since he makes it so by scorching up his path through the heaven: thus summer prevails always in the upper parts of Libya. If however the station of the seasons had been changed, and where now in the heaven are placed the North Wind and winter, there was the station of the South Wind and of the midday, and where now is placed the South Wind, there was the North, if this had been so, the Sun being driven from the midst of the heaven by the winter and the North Wind would go to the upper parts of Europe, just as now he comes to the upper parts of Libya, and passing in his course throughout the whole of Europe I suppose that he would do to the Ister that which he now works upon the Nile. 26. [1] αἴτιος δὲ ὁ αὐτὸς οὗτος κατὰ γνώμην τὴν ἐμὴν καὶ τὸν ἠέρα ξηρὸν τὸν ταύτῃ εἶναι, διακαίων τὴν διέξοδον ἑωυτοῦ· οὕτω τῆς Λιβύης τὰ ἄνω θέρος αἰεὶ κατέχει. [2] εἰ δὲ ἡ στάσις ἤλλακτο τῶν ὡρέων, καὶ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ τῇ μὲν νῦν ὁ βορέης τε καὶ ὁ χειμὼν ἑστᾶσι, ταύτῃ μὲν τοῦ νότου ἦν ἡ στάσις καὶ τῆς μεσαμβρίης, τῇ δὲ ὁ νότος νῦν ἕστηκε, ταύτῃ δὲ ὁ βορέης, εἰ ταῦτα οὕτω εἶχε, ὁ ἥλιος ἂν ἀπελαυνόμενος ἐκ μέσου τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὑπὸ τοῦ χειμῶνος καὶ τοῦ βορέω ἤιε ἂν τὰ ἄνω τῆς Εὐρώπης κατά περ νῦν τῆς Λιβύης ἔρχεται, διεξιόντα δ᾽ ἄν μιν διὰ πάσης Εὐρώπης ἔλπομαι ποιέειν ἂν τὸν Ἴστρον τά περ νῦν ἐργάζεται τὸν Νεῖλον. 

27. As to the breeze, why none blows from the river, my opinion is that from very hot places it is not natural that anything should blow, and that a breeze is wont to blow from something cold.

27. [1] τῆς αὔρης δὲ πέρι, ὅτι οὐκ ἀποπνέει, τήνδε ἔχω γνώμην, ὡς κάρτα ἀπὸ θερμέων χωρέων οὐκ οἰκός ἐστι οὐδὲν ἀποπνέειν, αὔρη δὲ ἀπὸ ψυχροῦ τινος φιλέει πνέειν. 

28. Let these matters then be as they are and as they were at the first: but as to the sources of the Nile, not one either of the Egyptians or of the Libyans or of the Hellenes, who came to speech with me, professed to know anything, except the scribe of the sacred treasury of Athene at the city of Saïs in Egypt. To me however this man seemed not to be speaking seriously when he said that he had certain knowledge of it; and he said as follows, namely that there were two mountains of which the tops ran up to a sharp point, situated between the city of Syene, which is in the district of Thebes, and Elephantine, and the names of the mountains were, of the one Crophi and of the other Mophi. From the middle between these two mountains flowed (he said) the sources of the Nile, which were fathomless in depth, and half of the water flowed to Egypt and towards the North Wind, the other half to Ethiopia and the South Wind. As for the fathomless depth of the source, he said that Psammetichos king of Egypt came to a trial of this matter; for he had a rope twisted of many thousands of fathoms and let it down in this place, and it found no bottom. By this the scribe (if this which he told me was really as he said) gave me to understand that there were certain strong eddies there and a backward flow, and that since the water dashed against the mountains, therefore the sounding-line could not come to any bottom when it was let down. 28. [1] ταῦτα μέν νυν ἔστω ὡς ἔστι τε καὶ ὡς ἀρχὴν ἐγένετο· τοῦ δὲ Νείλου τὰς πηγὰς οὔτε Αἰγυπτίων οὔτε Λιβύων οὔτε Ἑλλήνων τῶν ἐμοὶ ἀπικομένων ἐς λόγους οὐδεὶς ὑπέσχετο εἰδέναι, εἰ μὴ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ ἐν Σάι πόλι ὁ γραμματιστὴς τῶν ἱρῶν χρημάτων τῆς Ἀθηναίης. [2] οὗτος δ᾽ ἔμοιγε παίζειν ἐδόκεε φάμενος εἰδέναι ἀτρεκέως· ἔλεγε δὲ ὧδε, εἶναι δύο ὄρεα ἐς ὀξὺ τὰς κορυφὰς ἀπηγμένα, μεταξὺ Συήνης τε πόλιος κείμενα τῆς Θηβαΐδος καὶ Ἐλεφαντίνης, οὐνόματα δὲ εἶναι τοῖσι ὄρεσι τῷ μὲν Κρῶφι τῷ δὲ Μῶφι· [3] τὰς ὦν δὴ πηγὰς τοῦ Νείλου ἐούσας ἀβύσσους ἐκ τοῦ μέσου τῶν ὀρέων τούτων ῥέειν, καὶ τὸ μὲν ἥμισυ τοῦ ὕδατος ἐπ᾽ Αἰγύπτου ῥέειν καὶ πρὸς βορέην ἄνεμον, τὸ δ᾽ ἕτερον ἥμισυ ἐπ᾽ Αἰθιοπίης τε καὶ νότου. [4] ὡς δὲ ἄβυσσοι εἰσι αἱ πηγαί, ἐς διάπειραν ἔφη τούτου Ψαμμήτιχον Αἰγύπτου βασιλέα ἀπικέσθαι· πολλέων γὰρ αὐτὸν χιλιάδων ὀργυιέων πλεξάμενον κάλον κατεῖναι ταύτῃ καὶ οὐκ ἐξικέσθαι ἐς βυσσόν. [5] οὕτω μὲν δὴ ὁ γραμματιστής, εἰ ἄρα ταῦτα γινόμενα ἔλεγε, ἀπέφαινε, ὡς ἐμὲ κατανοέειν, δίνας τινὰς ταύτῃ ἐούσας ἰσχυρὰς καὶ παλιρροίην, οἷα δὲ ἐμβάλλοντος τοῦ ὕδατος τοῖσι ὄρεσι, μὴ δύνασθαι κατιεμένην καταπειρητηρίην ἐς βυσσὸν ἰέναι. 

29. From no other person was I able to learn anything about this matter; but for the rest I learnt so much as here follows by the most diligent inquiry; for I went myself as an eye-witness as far as the city of Elephantine and from that point onwards I gathered knowledge by report. From the city of Elephantine as one goes up the river there is country which slopes steeply; so that here one must attach ropes to the vessel on both sides, as one fastens an ox, and so make one's way onward; and if the rope break, the vessel is gone at once, carried away by the violence of the stream. Through this country it is a voyage of about four days in length, and in this part the Nile is winding like the river Maiander, and the distance amounts to twelve schoines, which one must traverse in this manner. Then you will come to a level plain, in which the Nile flows round an island named Tachompso. (Now in the regions above Elephantine there dwell Ethiopians at once succeeding, who also occupy half of the island, and Egyptians the other half.) Adjoining this island there is a great lake, round which dwell Ethiopian nomad tribes; and when you have sailed through this you will come to the stream of the Nile again, which flows into this lake. After this you will disembark and make a journey by land of forty days; for in the Nile sharp rocks stand forth out of the water, and there are many reefs, by which it is not possible for a vessel to pass. Then after having passed through this country in the forty days which I have said, you will embark again in another vessel and sail for twelve days; and after this you will come to a great city called Meroe. This city is said to be the mother-city of all the other Ethiopians: and they who dwell in it reverence of the gods Zeus and Dionysos alone, and these they greatly honour; and they have an Oracle of Zeus established, and make warlike marches whensoever this god commands them by prophesyings and to whatsoever place he commands. 29. [1] ἄλλου δὲ οὐδενὸς οὐδὲν ἐδυνάμην πυθέσθαι. ἀλλὰ τοσόνδε μὲν ἄλλο ἐπὶ μακρότατον ἐπυθόμην, μέχρι μὲν Ἐλεφαντίνης πόλιος αὐτόπτης ἐλθών, τὸ δὲ ἀπὸ τούτου ἀκοῇ ἤδη ἱστορέων. [2] ἀπὸ Ἐλεφαντίνης πόλιος ἄνω ἰόντι ἄναντες ἐστὶ χωρίον· ταύτῃ ὦν δεῖ τὸ πλοῖον διαδήσαντας ἀμφοτέρωθεν κατά περ βοῦν πορεύεσθαι· ἢν δὲ ἀπορραγῇ τὸ πλοῖον οἴχεται φερόμενον ὑπὸ ἰσχύος τοῦ ῥόου. [3] τὸ δὲ χωρίον τοῦτο ἐστὶ ἐπ᾽ ἡμέρας τέσσερας πλόος, σκολιὸς δὲ ταύτῃ κατά περ ὁ Μαίανδρος ἐστὶ ὁ Νεῖλος· σχοῖνοι δὲ δυώδεκα εἰσὶ οὗτοι τοὺς δεῖ τούτῳ τῷ τρόπῳ διεκπλῶσαι. καὶ ἔπειτα ἀπίξεαι ἐς πεδίον λεῖον, ἐν τῷ νῆσον περιρρέει ὁ Νεῖλος· Ταχομψὼ οὔνομα αὐτῇ ἐστι. [4] οἰκέουσι δὲ τὰ ἀπὸ Ἐλεφαντίνης ἄνω Αἰθίοπες ἤδη καὶ τῆς νήσου τὸ ἥμισυ, τὸ δὲ ἥμισυ Αἰγύπτιοι. ἔχεται δὲ τῆς νήσου λίμνην μεγάλη, τὴν πέριξ νομάδες Αἰθίοπες νέμονται· τὴν διεκπλώσας ἐς τοῦ Νείλου τὸ ῥέεθρον ἥξεις, τὸ ἐς τὴν λίμνην ταύτην ἐκδιδοῖ. [5] καὶ ἔπειτα ἀποβὰς παρὰ τὸν ποταμὸν ὁδοιπορίην ποιήσεαι ἡμερέων τεσσεράκοντα· σκόπελοί τε γὰρ ἐν τῷ Νείλῳ ὀξέες ἀνέχουσι καὶ χοιράδες πολλαί εἰσι, δι᾽ ὧν οὐκ οἷά τε ἐστὶ πλέειν. [6] διεξελθὼν δὲ ἐν τῇσι τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρῃσι τοῦτο τὸ χωρίον, αὖτις ἐς ἕτερον πλοῖον ἐσβὰς δυώδεκα ἡμέρας πλεύσεαι, καὶ ἔπειτα ἥξεις ἐς πόλιν μεγάλην τῇ οὔνομα ἐστὶ Μερόη· λέγεται δὲ αὕτη ἡ πόλις εἶναι μητρόπολις τῶν ἄλλων Αἰθιόπων. [7] οἱ δ᾽ ἐν ταύτῃ Δία θεῶν καὶ Διόνυσον μούνους σέβονται, τούτους τε μεγάλως τιμῶσι, καί σφι μαντήιον Διὸς κατέστηκε· στρατεύονται δὲ ἐπεάν σφεας ὁ θεὸς οὗτος κελεύῃ διὰ θεσπισμάτων, καὶ τῇ ἂν κελεύῃ, ἐκεῖσε. 

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