translated by Shlomo Felberbaum

Text and photographs Copyright © 1999—2003 Lost Trails
all rights reserved

Installment 13

After his daughter’s suffering, next to that king happened the following: a prophesy went to him from the city of Bouto, that he was six years only to live and the seventh to meet with his end. Then he, thinking it terrible, sent to the seat of prophecy a reproach and in reply found fault that his father and father’s brother, although they had shut down the shrines and not only were not remembering gods, but were also destroying human beings, lived for a long time, while he himself, although he was pious, was so quickly to meet with his end. And from the oracle to him went a second message that said because of those actions of his he actually shortened his very life, since he did not do what he should do, in that Egypt had to be treated badly for one hundred fifty years and those two who had become kings before him learned that, but he did not. Having heard that, Mycerinus, on the ground that sentence was by then pronounced against him, had many lamps made and, whenever night came, having kindled them, he drank and enjoyed himself, without letting up either day or night, as he wandered to the marshes and the groves and wherever he learned by inquiry were the most suitable places of amusement. And he contrived that, that, because he wished to demonstrate the prophecy was lying, for him twelve years might pass instead of six years, the nights being made days.

He too left behind a pyramid, far smaller than his father’s, each front twenty feet short of three plethra, since it is quadrangular, and half made of Ethiopian stone, and it’s that which several of the Greeks assert is Rhodopis the courtesan’s, although they speak incorrectly; they accordingly appear to me to speak without even knowing who Rhodopis was, in that they would not have attributed to her the building of a pyramid like that, on which countless thousands of talents, to exaggerate in speech, are used, and, besides, that in the time when Amasis was king, Rhodopis was at her prime, but not in that man’s time; for very many years later than those kings who left behind those pyramids Rhodopis existed, who was by birth from Thrace, a slave of Iadmon the son of Hephaestopolis, a Samian man and a fellow-slave of Aesop the composer of tales. For in fact he became Iadmon’s, as is plain not least in the following: when, the Delphians making proclamation often on the basis of a divine utterance for one who wanted to accept blood-money for the life of Aesop, no one else appeared, but a son of Iadmon’s son, another Iadmon, accepted it, thus indeed Aesop proved Iadmon’s.

Now, Rhodopis came to Egypt at Xanthes the Samian’s conveying her and, on coming for business, was purchased to go free for much money by a Mytilenian man, Charaxus, the son of Scamandronymus and brother of Sappho the lyric poetess. So thus Rhodopis was freed and she stayed behind in Egypt and, having become very charming, acquired much money, considering she was Rhodopis, but not so as, at any rate, to be enough for a pyramid like that. For to her, the tithe of whose money it is possible to see still even at this time for everyone who wants, one must not at all attribute that much money, as Rhodopis conceived a desire to leave behind a memorial of herself in Greece, to have made that work that was in fact not found out and dedicated in a shrine by another and dedicate it at Delphi as her monument and accordingly, with the tithe of her money she had made many iron spits to pierce oxen, in so far as her tithe allowed, and to Delphi sent them away, which still even now are piled together behind the altar that the Chians dedicated and opposite the temple itself. So, courtesans in Naucratis love, it seems, to make themselves charming; for on the one hand, she, about whom the present account is given, became somewhat so very renowned that all the Greeks learned well Rhodopis’ name and, on the other, after her, whose name was Archidice, became celebrated in song, but less talked of all around than that other. When Charaxus had purchased Rhodopis’ freedom and returned home to Mytilene, Sappho mocked him often in a lyric poem. Now, about Rhodopis I am done speaking.

After Mycerinus the priests said that Asychis became king of Egypt, who had had made the foregates for Hephaestus at the sun’s rising that are far the most beautiful and far the largest, in that, although all the foregates have carved on figures and other numberless sights in their structures, yet those have much the most. In the time when he was king they said that, there being a lack of money circulation, a law was made for the Egyptians that one should point to the corpse of one’s father as security and then receive one’s loan, and further added to that law was this, that the offerer of the loan should also have power over the whole tomb of the recipient and upon the pledger of that security should be the following penalty, if he wanted to not give back the loan, that neither should it be permitted to him himself, when he meets with his end, to obtain burial, neither in that burial-place of his fathers nor in any other, nor to bury any other departed of his own. Moreover, that king, wanting to excel those that had become kings of Egypt before him, left a pyramid as a monument that he had had made of bricks, on which are letters engraved in stone that say this: “Despise me not compared with the stone pyramids, because I surpass them so much as Zeus all the other gods. For by pushing down with a pole into a lake and collecting out of the mud that whichever stuck to the pole, they drew bricks and in a manner like that completed me.” That man showed forth so much.

After him, a blind man from the city of Anysis became king, whose name was Anysis. In the time when he was king there drove against Egypt with a large band the Ethiopians’ king. That blind man, then, went fleeing to the marshes and the Ethiopian was king of Egypt for fifty years, in which he showed forth this: whenever any of the Egyptians committed any offense, he wished to kill none of them, but he judged each in proportion to his injustice’s magnitude and commanded them to heap mounds nearby their own city, whence each of those who acted unjustly were. And thus the cities became higher still. For first they were heaped up by those who dug the channels in the time of King Sesostris and next in the time of the Ethiopian, and they became very high. Although other cities in Egypt also became high, the city in Boubastis, as I think, was mounded up most, in which is a shrine of Boubastis most worth relating too, in that, although other larger and much more expensive shrines exist, yet it’s a pleasure to see none more than that.

Now, Boubastis in the Greek tongue is Artemis and her shrine is as follows: except for the entrance all the rest of it is island, since from the Nile channels lead without joining together, but each one leads as far as the shrine’s entrance and one flows here and one there, each being in breadth a hundred feet and shaded over with trees. Its foregates are ten fathoms in height and adorned with figures of six cubits worth speaking of. Being in the middle of the city, the shrine is observed from all sides by one who goes round, because, seeing that the city is mounded up on high and the shrine has not experienced change in the way that it originally was made, it is overlooked. Round it runs a fencing wall carved on with figures and within is a grove of very large trees planted round a large temple and it’s in that the image is. The shrine’s breadth and length is every way a stade. At the entrance, then, is a paved way of stone somewhere pretty nearly three stades long that leads through the public square to what’s in the east’s direction and in breadth is about four plethra—here and there on the way trees are grown high as the sky—and it leads to Hermes’ shrine. That shrine, then, is thus.

The end of the Ethiopian’s departure, they said, happened this way: having seen a vision like this following, he went fleeing: it seemed to him that a man hovered over and advised him to collect the priests in Egypt and cut them all through the middle. For, on seeing that vision, he said that it seemed to him that the gods showed it before his eyes as a pretext, that he might commit impiety against the sacred and so receive some evil from gods or from human beings; since however, he would not do that, indeed then for him all the time had run out whichever it had been given in an oracle he would rule Egypt and then go out. For, when he was in Ethiopia, the seats of prophecy that the Ethiopians use answered him that he had to be king of Egypt fifty years. Therefore, as that time was running out and the vision of his dream in addition was disturbing him, Sabacus willingly departed from Egypt.

When lo! the Ethiopian was gone from Egypt, the blind one ruled again on coming from the marshes, where fifty years, after mounding up an island with dust and earth, he was settled; for, whenever those of the Egyptians resorted to him with food in the way that had been commanded to each unknown to the Ethiopian, he bade them also to convey dust for a present. That island no one before Amyrtaeus could find out, but for more than seven hundred years those who became kings before Amyrtaeus were not able to discover it. That island’s name is Elbo and in size it is every way ten stades.

After him Hephaestus’ priest, whose name was Sethus, became king, who held of no account and abused the Egyptian warriors, as if he would not at all need them; indeed he did other dishonors to them and robbed them of their fields, to whom in the time of the earlier kings twelve choice fields each had been given. Afterward against Egypt Sanacharibus, king of the Arabians and Assyrians, drove a large army; since indeed however the warriors of the Egyptians refused to come to the rescue, then the priest, brought to straits, entered into the hall and bitterly lamented before the image the kind of misfortune that he was in danger of suffering. While he was wailing, lo! sleep fell over him and it seemed to him in his vision the god hovered over and encouraged him that he would suffer nothing unagreeable in meeting the Arabian’s army, because he himself would send him helpers. Trusting in that very dream, he took up whoever of the Egyptians wanted to follow him and encamped in Pelousium (for there are the approaches), and none of the men who were warriors followed him, but retailers, masters of handicrafts and human beings whose business is in the public square. Thereupon over the enemy, on there coming, streamed at night field mice and ate their quivers up and their bows up and besides their shields’ handles, so as the next day, as they fled unarmed, for many to fall. And now that king stands in the shrine of Hephaestus in stone, with a mouse in his hand, and says through letters this: “Let someone look at me and be pious.”

To so advanced a point in the account the Egyptians and their priests spoke and thereby demonstrated that from the first king to that priest of Hephaestus who had been king last three hundred forty one generations of men had passed and in them so many men of the parties of both high priests and kings had lived. Now, three hundred generations of men are equal to ten thousand years; for three generations of men are one hundred years. And hence in the forty one still remaining generations that were additional to the three hundred are a thousand and three hundred forty years. Thus in ten thousand years and besides a thousand three hundred forty they said no god in human form came to be and moreover neither before nor later among those left that became kings of Egypt did they speak of anything like that. Then in that time on four occasions they said that the sun rose up out of its customary dwelling; that where now it sinks down, thence twice it rose up rather and from where now it rises up, there twice it sank down, and nothing of what’s all over Egypt in those days became another in kind, neither what was produced for them from the earth nor what from the river, neither illnesses and their effects nor matters concerning death.

Previously for Hecataeus the composer of tales who had genealogized himself and traced his descent by his father’s side from a god in the sixteenth generation the priests of Zeus had done something like they did for me too who had not genealogized myself; they brought me within the hall that was large and counted up as they showed the same number of wooden colossuses as I have spoken of; for each high-priest in that place sets in his own lifetime a likeness of himself. So then, while they counted and showed them, the priests showed forth to me that each of them was the son of a father, and they went from the most recently dead’s likeness through all until they showed forth them all. For Hecataeus, moreover, who had genealogized himself and traced his descent to a god in the sixteenth generation they genealogized in answer on top of their counting in that they refused to accept from him that a human being had been born from a god, and genealogized in answer this way: they asserted each of the colossuses was a “piromis” born from a “piromis”, until they showed forth three hundred forty five colossuses and traced them back neither to a god nor to a hero. “Piromis” in the Greek tongue is “a beautiful and good man”.

Well now, they whose the likenesses were, they showed forth, were all like that and far removed from gods, but earlier than those men the rulers in Egypt were gods settled with human beings and one of them on each and every occasion was the lord, and Orus, the son of Osiris, was the last to be king there, whom the Greeks name Apollo; he put down Typhon and was the last god to be king of Egypt. Osiris is Dionysus in the Greek tongue.

Now, among the Greeks Heracles, Dionysus and Pan are considered to be the youngest of the gods, while in the Egyptians’ land Pan is considered the most ancient in fact of the eight said to be the first gods, Heracles one of those said to be the second ones, the twelve, and Dionysus one of the third ones who came into being after the twelve. Since Heracles, then, all the years that the Egyptians themselves assert have passed to King Amasis’ time have been made clear by me formerly, while since Pan still more than those are said to have passed and since Dionysus the fewest, fewer than those above mentioned and since him fifteen thousand they compute have passed to King Amasis’ time. The Egyptians assert they know that exactly, because they have computed on each and every occasion and have written down on each and every occasion the years. Now, since the Dionysus who is said to have been born of Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, pretty nearly about a thousand years have passed to my time, since the Heracles born of Alcmene about nine hundred and since the Pan born of Penelope (for Pan is said by the Greeks to have been born of her and Hermes) fewer years have passed than those since the events at Troy, pretty nearly about eight hundred to my time.

Accordingly, of both the above accounts it is possible to use that which, when it is given, one will be more persuaded by, but by me, anyhow, my judgement about them has been shown forth. For if those gods had become visible and grown old in Greece, just as the Heracles born of Amphitryon and, particularly, the Dionysus born of Semele and the Pan of Penelope, someone would have said that these others were born men and had the names of those gods born before them, but, as it is, concerning Dionysus the Greeks say that, as soon as he had been born, Zeus sewed him up in his thigh and carried him to Nysa that is in Ethiopia inland of Egypt, and further about Pan they are not able to say whither he turned his steps after he had been born. Hence it has become clear to me that the Greeks learned by inquiry their names later than those of all the other gods. So from that time since they learned them by inquiry, they have genealogized their birth.

Now, the Egyptians by themselves say the above and hereafter I will point out all those things that all the other human beings and the Egyptians in agreement with all the others say happened throughout that country, while something also of my observation will be added to them. When the Egyptians had become free after Hephaestus’ priest’s reign, as they were able to live without a king no time, they set twelve kings over themselves, once they had divided all Egypt into twelve parts. They intermarried and reigned with the observation of the following laws: neither they should put down each other nor one seek to have any advantage over another; in short, they should be friends in the highest degree. They made and firmly maintained those laws for this reason: an oracle had been given them in the beginning, as soon as they had been set up in their tyrannies, that he among them who poured libations from a bronze bowl in Hephaestus’ shrine would be king of all Egypt; for indeed they had collected at all shrines.

And so it was decided by them to leave behind memorials jointly and, it being decided by them, they made a labyrinth a little inland of Moiris’ lake, situated somewhere pretty nearly in a line with the so-called City of Crocodiles, which I have seen by now is greater of account. For if anyone should add together the walls from the Greeks and what’s shown forth of their works, they would manifestly be the product of less labor and cost than that labyrinth. And yet both the temple in Ephesus and that in Samos are worthy of account. Now, even as the pyramids were greater of account and each of them equivalent to many great Greek works, the labyrinth indeed excelled the pyramids too. For its are twelve roofed courts with gates opposite each other, six turned toward the north, six toward the south, and they’re contiguous; the same wall on the outside encloses them. Rooms with two stories are in them, one set of stories underground and one above ground on top of it, three thousand rooms in number, each set of stories composed of fifteen hundred rooms. Now, those of the rooms above ground we ourselves saw when we went through and ourselves, having beheld them, speak of them, but those of them underground we have learned of through spoken inquiries. For those of the Egyptians who were in charge refused in any way to show them and asserted that in those stories were the burial-places of the kings that had built that labyrinth at the beginning and of the sacred crocodiles. Thus we speak having taken over reports about the rooms below on hearsay, but we ourselves saw those above were larger than human works; for the exits through the chambers and the windings through the courts, being most intricate, furnish infinite marvels for those going through from a court to the rooms and from the rooms to colonnades, into other chambers from the colonnades and into other courts from the rooms. The roof of all those structures is stone just as the walls, the walls are full of carved on images and each court is surrounded by pillars of white stone fitted together in the highest degree. Next to the corner of the labyrinth, where it ends, is a pyramid forty fathoms high, on which large figures have been carved; a way to it under the ground has been made.

Than that labyrinth, although it is like the above, the so-called lake of Moiris furnishes a still greater marvel, alongside which that labyrinth is built, the perimeter of whose circumference is three thousand six hundred stades, its ropes being sixty, equal in length to the part of Egypt itself alongside the sea. The lake is situated lengthwise toward the north and south and is in depth, where it itself is its deepest, fifty fathoms and that it is made by hand and dug, it itself makes clear. For in somewhere pretty near the lake’s middle stand two pyramids that project fifty fathoms above the water and their other part beneath the water is built so high, and on both is a stone colossus sitting on a throne. Thus the pyramids are a hundred fathoms and the hundred fathoms are exactly a stade, which measures six plethra, the fathom measuring six feet or four cubits, as the feet are four hands’ breadth and the cubit six hands’ breadth. The water in the lake is not original to the place, as indeed the land there is terribly waterless, but from the Nile along a channel is brought in, and six months it flows inward into the lake and six months outward into the Nile again. And whenever it flows forth outward, the lake then the six months pays to the royal treasury in the course of each day a talent of silver from the fish and, whenever the water goes into it, twenty minae.

The natives said also that that lake, turned to what’s toward the west inland alongside the mountain over Memphis, disembogues into Syrtis in Libya under the ground. But since I could not see that the pile of earth of that excavation was anywhere, because indeed it was a care to me, I asked those settled nearest the lake where the pile of earth that had been dug out was and they pointed out to me where it had been carried away and persuaded me easily; for I knew by speech that also in Ninus, the Assyrians’ city, something else like that had been done: thieves had in mind to carry away the wealth of Sardanapallus, Ninus’ king which was great and guarded in underground treasuries. Accordingly, beginning from their own house, the thieves made an estimate and dug under the ground to the royal palace and the pile of earth that was carried away from the excavation, whenever night came, they carried away to the Tigris river that flows by Ninus until they worked out whatever they wanted. Something else like that I heard also happened concerning the excavation of the lake in Egypt, except that it was done not by night but in the day, in that the Egyptians dug and carried the pile of earth to the Nile and it took up and was to disperse the pile. Now, that lake is said to be so dug.

As to the twelve kings who observed justice, in time when they had sacrificed in Hephaestus’ shrine, at the last part of the festival, as they were to pour libations, the high-priest brought them out gold bowls, the very with which they were wont to pour libations, and making a mistake in their number, brought eleven, although they were twelve. Then since the one of them who stood last, Psammetichus, had no bowl, after taking off his helmet that was bronze, he held it out and poured libations. As all the other kings both wore and in fact then had helmets, Psammetichus now with no deceitful intent held out his helmet, but the others, after grasping with their understanding what had been done by Psammetichus and the oracle that had been given them, that he among them who poured libations with a bronze bowl would alone be king of Egypt, mindful of the oracular response, thought it just not to kill Psammetichus, when they found out by putting him to the touchstone he had acted with no forethought, but it seemed best to them for them to banish him to the marshes and strip him of most of his power and for him to have his dwelling in the marshes and have no intercourse with the rest of Egypt.

That Psammetichus previously went into exile from the Ethiopian, Sabacus, who had killed his father, Necus—he went into exile then to Syria—and when the Ethiopian had departed in consequence of the vision of his dream, those of the Egyptians who are from the district of Sais brought him back; then afterward, when he was king, a second time at the hands of the eleven kings it befell him on account of the helmet to go into exile to the marshes. Therefore, knowing that he had been treated very insolently at their hands, he had in mind to punish his banishers. So to him, after he had sent to the city of Bouto, right where is the Egyptians’ most undeceitful seat of prophecy, came an oracular response that vengeance would be at hand from the sea when bronze men made an appearance. And although in him indeed a great disbelief was secretly spread that bronze men would be at hand for him as allies, yet, when not much time had passed, necessity overtook Ionian and Carian men, after they had sailed out for booty, to be carried away to Egypt, and when they had stepped out onto land and were armed with bronze, one of the Egyptians announced, on coming in to the marshes to Psammetichus, on the ground that he had not previously seen men armed with bronze, that bronze men had come from the sea and despoiled the plain. He then, having learned the oracle was being brought to completion, was friendly to the Ionians and Carians and, by promising them great things, tried to persuade them to come together with him and, when he had persuaded them, thus with the Egyptians who wanted to and the allies he put down the kings.

Having gained mastery of all Egypt, Psammetichus had the foregates made for Hephaestus in Memphis that are turned to the south wind and had a court for Apis built, in which Apis is kept whenever he appears, in front of the foregates, that is entirely surrounded by a colonnade and full of figures; moreover, instead of pillars, colossuses twelve cubits high are placed under the court. Apis in the Greeks’ tongue is Epaphus.

And to the Ionians and the Carians who had collaborated with him, Psammetichus gave places to be settled in opposite each other, the Nile occupying the space between, to which was given the name of Camps. Those places indeed he gave them and paid all the other things that he had promised. And in particular he deposited with them Egyptian children to be taught the Greek tongue and from them who learned the tongue thoroughly the present interpreters in Egypt have originated. So the Ionians and the Carians were settled in those places for much time and those places are toward the sea a little below the city of Boubastis by the so-called Pelousian mouth of the Nile. King Amasis a time later expelled them indeed from there and settled them down in Memphis and so made a guard for himself against the Egyptians. With those settled in Egypt, we the Greeks then, after having intercourse with them, knew exactly all that happened in Egypt at the beginning from King Psammetichus and what later; for those were the first of another tongue to be settled down in Egypt. And in those very places from which they had been expelled the slipways of their ships and the ruins of their buildings were in existence up to my time. Now, Psammetichus got hold of Egypt thus.

I have mentioned the oracle in Egypt many times by now and so I will give an account about it on the ground that it is worthy. That oracle is sacred to Leto and set up in a large city by the so-called Sebennytian mouth of the Nile for one sailing upstream, up from the sea. And Bouto’s the name of that city where the oracle is, as it has been named by me before too. There is a shrine in that Bouto of Apollo and Artemis and the temple of Leto, the very in which the oracle is, itself is in fact large and has foregates of ten fathoms in height. What among the visible was furnishing me the greatest marvel I will point out. In that precinct is Leto’s temple, made out of one stone in height and in length and each wall’s equal in those respects; of forty cubits is each of those dimensions. And as the covering down on the roof another stone lies on top with its eaves of four cubits.

Now, thus the temple of the things visible to me in that shrine is most marvellous and of the second rank things the island that is called Chemmis. It is situated in a deep and broad lake by the shrine in Bouto and that island is said by the Egyptians to be floating. I myself for my part saw it neither floating nor moving and marvel on hearing that it is truly a floating island. Anyhow, on that is a large shrine of Apollo and three altars are erected, while there grow on it numerous palms and many other trees, both fruit-bearing and barren. And, by saying an account as follows in explanation, the Egyptians assert it is floating, that on that island that was not previously floating Leto, who was of the eight gods who were the first to come into being and was settled in the city of Bouto, right where that oracle of hers is, after she had received Apollo as a deposit from Isis, brought him through to safety by concealing him in the island that is now spoken of as floating, when Typhon searched and went over everything, since he wished to seek out Osiris' child. Apollo and Artemis, they say, are Dionysus and Isis' children and Leto became their nurse and savior. In Egyptian Apollo's Orus, Demeter Isis and Artemis Boubastis. So, from that account and no other, Aeschylus, the son of Euphorion, seized what I will point out, quite alone of those born earlier; for he made Artemis be Demeter's daughter. The island, then, on account of that came to be floating. That account thus they give.

Psammetichus was king of Egypt fifty-four years, of which the thirty but one Azotus in Syria, a large city, he sat down against and besieged, until he removed it, and that Azotus of all cities for the longest time, while it was being besieged, held out, of those that we know of.

Of Psammetichus was born a son, Necos, and he became king of Egypt, he who was the first to set his hand to the trench that leads to the Red sea, which Darius the Persian dug through a second time. In its length it's a sailing of four days and in breadth it was dug so as for two triremes to sail together as they are being rowed. Its water is led from the Nile to it and is led a little upstream of the city of Boubastis alongside Patoumus, the Arabian city, and it extends to the Red sea. There was dug first the parts of the Egyptian plain that extend to Arabia and next to them upstream of the plain is the mountain that stretches by Memphis, in which the stone-quarries are. It is alongside that mountain's foothills, indeed, that the trench is led from the west lengthwise to the east and thereafter stretches into chasms, as it leads from the mountain to the south and the south wind into the Arabian gulf. And where is the the smallest and shortest way from the north sea to cross over to the south and that same that is called the Red, from Mount Casium that forms the border between Egypt and Syria, from there are exactly a thousand stades to the Arabian gulf. That is the shortest way, but the trench is as much longer as it is more twisted, by the digging of which in King Necos' time twelve myriads of Egyptians perished. Now, Necos ceased from digging in the middle, when a prophecy like the following had come to be in his way, that he was working for the barbarian. The Egyptians call all of a tongue not similar to theirs barbarians.

(to be continued)

Text and photographs Copyright © 1999—2003 Lost Trails
all rights reserved