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places (as about Elephantine), and in others less-varying according to the distance down the stream. The consequence,
and indeed the proof, of which is, that the highest scale in the Nilometer at the island of Elephantine, which served to measure the inundation in the reigns of the early Roman emperors, is now far below the level of the ordinary high Nile; and the obelisk of Matareeh or Heliopolis, the Colossi of the Theban plain, and other similarly situated monuments, are flooded to a certain height by the waters of the inundation, and imbedded in a stratum of alluvial soil deposited around their base.
The continual increase in the elevation of the bed of the river naturally produced those effects mentioned by Herodotus and other writers, who state that the Egyptians were obliged from time to time to raise their towns and villages, in order to secure them from the effects of the inundation; and that the same change in the levels of the Nile and the land took place in former ages, as at the present day, is shown by the fact of Sabaco having found it necessary to elevate the towns throughout the country, which had been previously protected by similar means in the reign of Sesostris. This was done by the inhabitants of each place, who had been condemned for great crimes to the public works. Bubastis was raised more than any other city; and the lofty mounds of Tel Basta, which mark its site, fully confirm the observation of Herodotus, and show, from the height of those mounds above the present plain, after a lapse of 770 years, that "the Ethiopian monarch elevated the sites of the towns much more than his predecessor Sesostris had done," when that conqueror employed his captives in making the canals of Egypt. And if its height was in proportion to the number of its criminals, Bubastis could not boast of the morality of its inhabitants.
On a rough calculation, it may be said that the land about Elephantine has been raised about nine feet in 1700 years; at Thebes, about seven; and in a less degree towards the Delta and the sea, where the extensive surface of the land (compared to the narrow valley above Memphis) alters the proportions in
its elevation, until at the mouths of the Nile there is no perceptible rise of the soil from alluvial deposit.
There is another singular fact connected with the inundation in different places: that throughout the valley lying to the S. of the Delta, the actual banks of the Nile are much more elevated than the land of the interior at a distance from the river, and are seldom quite covered with water even during the highest inundations; though the bank then projects very little above the level of the stream; and, in some places, the peasant is obliged to keep out the water by temporary embankments. This difference of level may be accounted for partly by the continued cultivation of the soil by the river side, which, being more conveniently situated for artificial irrigation, has a constant succession of crops; for it is known that tillage has the effect of raising land, from the accumulation of decayed vegetable substances, the addition of dressing, and other causes; and the greater depression of the plain in the interior is owing, in some degree, to the numerous channels in that direction, and to the effect of the currents which pass over it as the water covers the land: though they are not sufficient to account for the great difference between the height of the bank and the land near the edge of the desert, which is often 12 or 15 feet, as may be seen from the comparative height of the same horizontal dyke at those two points.
These elevated roads, the sole mode of communication by land from one village to another during the inundation, commence on a level with the bank of the river, and, as they extend to the interior, are there so much higher than the fields, that room is afforded for the construction of arches to enable the water to pass through them; though the larger bridges are only built on those parts, where ancient or modern canals have caused a still greater depression of the land.
The canals, like the dykes, were the constant care of the magistrates in old times; and they were furnished with sluices and other appliances to regulate the supply of water, and to turn the fisheries to good account.
The water of the inundation was differently managed in
various districts. This depended either on the relative levels of the adjacent lands, or on the crops they happened to be cultivating at the time. When a field lay fallow, or the last crop had been gathered, the water was permitted to overflow it as soon as its turn came to receive it from the nearest sluices; or, in those parts where the levels were low and open to the ingress of the rising stream, as soon as the Nile had arrived at a sufficient height; but when the last autumn crop was in the ground, every precaution was taken to keep the field from being inundated; and "as the water rose gradually, they kept it out by small dams, which could be opened if required, and closed again without much trouble.'
As the Nile subsided, the water was retained in the fields by proper embankments; and the mouths of the canals being again closed, it was prevented from returning into the falling stream. By this means the irrigation of the land was prolonged considerably, and the fertilising effects of the inundation continued until the water was absorbed. And so rapidly does the hot sun of Egypt, even at this late period of the season,-in the months of November and December,-dry the mud when once deprived of its covering of water, that no fevers are generated, and no illness visits those villages which have been entirely surrounded by the inundation.
The land being cleared of the water, and presenting in some places a surface of liquid mud, in others nearly dried by the sun and the strong N.W. winds (that continue at intervals to the end of autumn and the commencement of winter), the husbandman prepared the ground to receive the seed; which was either done by the plough and hoe, or by more simple means, according to the nature of the soil, the quality of the produce they intended to cultivate, or the time the land had remained under water.
When the levels were low, and the water had continued long upon the land, they often dispensed with the plough, and, like their successors, broke up the ground with hoes, or simply dragged the moist mud with bushes after the seed had been thrown upon the surface; and then merely drove a number of
* Diodor. i. 36.
Fig. 4. Goats treading in the grain, when sown in the field, after the water has subsided.
6 is sprinkling the seed from the basket he holds in his left hand; the others are driving the goats over the ground. The hieroglyphic word above, Sk, or Skai, signifies "tillage," and is followed by the demonstrative sign, a plough.