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point two chains of mountains stretch themselves from south to north, inclosing the district of country watered by the Nile, and accompanying it for three-fourths of the remainder of its
The valley is then greatly extended, and forms an extensive plain, triangular in shape, which is intersected by the different branches of the Nile pouring itself into the Mediterranean Sea.
Egypt is divided into three parts, Upper, Middle, and Lower. The first, Upper Egypt, bears the name of the Thebaid, from its ancient and principal city; and the third, Lower Egypt, is best known as the Delta, from its resemblance in form to the figure of the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet. The mouths of the Nile are connected with one another by many canals which intersect the Delta, and there are several lakes lying along the border of the Mediterra
Of the mountains which inclose the Egyptian valley, those on the western side are composed of a limestone formation, containing many fossil shells. Those on the eastern have, in addition to limestone, granite and sandstone; and between the islands of Philæ and Assouan, is found that peculiar kind of rose-coloured granite, known as the Syenite, of which so many of the interesting monuments of Egypt are formed.
The mountains are of moderate elevation, and bare of vegetation from their bases to their summits. They are not equally distant from each other, so that the Egyptian valley varies in breadth, enlarging considerably
as it advances towards the sea. In the granite region, the mountains are so near that there is only space for the river to pass ; while in the limestone district they are wider apart, and extend until they are ten miles asunder, the average width of the upper valley being about three miles. The Arabian, or eastern chain, finishes abruptly at Cairo, and the Libyan, or western, slopes gently down into the plain of the Delta. Defiles run off from these mountainchains, on the one side to the shores of the Red Sea, and on the other towards the Oases in the Libyan Desert. From the coast of Egypt on the Mediterranean Sea to the cataract near Assouan, is a space of five hundred and twenty miles; and allowing for its limited breadth, the extent of the kingdom of Egypt has been reckoned to be somewhat less than the area of England. The surface of this narrow strip of country may be said to be convex, with a deep furrow in its centre, in which the Nile runs. Any overflow, therefore, of the banks of the river inundates to a large extent the surrounding district, even to the foot of the mountains
“Which like giants stand,
To sentinel enchanted land." All the territory that the Nile waters becomes fruitful and is cultivated soil, while the remainder is desert. It is not without cause, therefore, that Egypt has been spoken of as the offspring of the Nile. The deposits brought down in its repeated overflows from the moun
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tains of Abyssinia constitute its soil, which is replenished and fertilized every year, and rendered capable of bearing two or more crops. The country from year to year is, in consequence, gaining in elevation, and the most ancient cities, which were originally built sufficiently high to be free from the inundation, are now periodically under water. The soil is exceedingly porous, and the slime and manure left by the Nile make the labour of cultivation very easy, while cisterns, reservoirs, and channels, are constructed to assist in the work of irrigation. The Nile is certainly a mighty river, and in the unaided length of its course, receiving no tributary stream from Ilak in Nubia to the sea, it is without a parallel. Its whole extent is calculated to be upwards of two thousand five hundred miles.
To the advantages which they derived from the Nile is to be ascribed the disposition and practice of the Egyptians in rendering it Divine honours, and in this, as in many other pitiable instances, the gifts of the one true God to his creatures were perverted by human folly and sin into the very means of banishing the remembrance of him from their minds, and were made the occasion for the most degrading idolatry. They loved and served the creature rather than the Creator. The sources of the Nile were a subject of mystery to the ancient geographers, which modern researches have not yet fully cleared up. Herodotus, Eratosthenes, and Nero, prosecuted inquiries with no conclusive results.
In modern times, it has been conjectured that communication exists between the Nile and the Niger, and two distinct streams have been traced which pour their tributary waters into the upper Nile. The one, the Astaboras, or Tacazze, and the other, the Blue Nile, or Astapus, the sources of which, lying in the Mountains of the Moon, have been traced, and mistaken for those of the Nile itself by Bruce and other travellers. Those of the White, or true Nile, have yet to be explored.
The cataracts of the Nile have been the objects of terror to the traveller, and of wonder to those who have read exaggerated descriptions of their greatness, as almost rivalling those of the newly-discovered western world. The cataract of Syene, the first on a journey from the Mediterranean up the Nile, is the only one that has a claim to be treated of as belonging to ancient Egypt. It is a very simple and unpretending fall of water, the grandeur and awful magnificence of which have principally existed in the warm and vivid fancy of those who have written respecting it. Stories have been told of heights of two hundred feet, from which the water is precipitated, and of the noise being heard at the distance of many miles. It is at this point that the two chains of mountains take their rise, and the water of the Nile descending from Abyssinia passes over the range of rocks by which they are connected. The river in consequence is broken up into a number of small streams, which boil and dash against the rocks; and the channel, though navigable, is dangerous, and requires caution and skill in managing the boat. Here is the boundary of ancient Egypt and Ethiopia, and of modern Egypt and the district of Nubia. It is situated in latitude 24° N., about five hundred and twenty miles from the Mediterranean.
The inundation of the Nile is the chief physical phenomenon of the country, and there is every reason to believe that it continues much the same now as in ancient times. It is a most interesting sight to observe the changes which gradually take place in the river. Without any apparent cause or premonitory sign, the water becomes turbid and red, gradually overflows its banks, and inundates the surrounding country; and as gradually, having reached its height, retires within its proper limits, and recovers its clear and limpid appear
The cause of this phenomenon is now understood to be the rain which falls periodically in Abyssinia, and which begins in the month of March. It becomes apparent in the increase of the Nile about the end of June, and the river enlarges in quantity for three months, taking the six months following for its restoration to its usual size. At the cataracts it rises forty feet, at Thebes about thirty-five, and at Rosetta its increased height is about three feet and a half. It continues only about three or four days at its greatest and least elevations respectively. During the time of the inundation, in the month of September, Egypt is like a