[ocr errors]


ир that will bear corn. Yet, adds he, if the inha. bitants, which at present are few in comparison of what they were said to be formerly, eat commonly wheat bread ; Egypt, with its great crops, would scarce produce what would support them y.

He observes, lastly, that the soil of Egypt is so barren, that it is very uncommon to meet with plants or shrubs : the earth is clayey and of a dark colour. It is nothing, to speak properly, but a composition of salt and dustz. The feeds and the trees which they plant, do not increase or shoot but by the force of water. It is for this reason, that in Egypt they have neither wood for firing nor buildinga. With respect to the overflowings of the Nile, it is, says he, an error, to believe that the waters of that river, at the time of its waxing, bring with it a mud that enriches the lands. When the Nile is at eighteen feet high, it comes to the reddish earth of which its borders are composed, in the bigher Egypt. The water being rapid, molders and carries away its borders, and stains it of a colour which appears about the consistence of milk. ; but it brings no inud properly so called *.

Granger concludes from all these observations, that Egypt, so far from having fupplied other countries with

provisions, was not in a state to find a maintenance for the infinite number of inhabitants with which they pretend it was formerly peoplede.

The other travellers do not speak of Egypt in a way so disadvantageous as Granger. They agree, it is true, as to the aridity of this countryd; but they do not look upon this defect as an obstacle to its fruitfulness. . Among many travellers, whose evidence I might bring, I shall content

y Granger, p. 4. 5. II.

z Jbid. p. 12. & 26. a lbid. p. 12. & 13.

Ibid. p. 20. * He told me, that he was certain, from repeated experiments, that there was nineteen times less mud in the waters of the Nile than in those of the Seine. See also Shaik's travels, t. 2. p. 188. • Granger, p. 4.'

Pietro d'ella Valle, lettr. 11. p. 218.; Maillet, defcript. de l'Egypte, leter. 9. p. 3. M 2


inyself with that of Maillet; who, by the long stay he made in Egypt, could acquire an exact knowledge of that country. Egypt, says he, to speak properly, is nothing but an huge and solid rock. As soon as you dig a little in the ground, or you rake in the sand, you ineet with the rock, except in the Delta, which, he thinks, has been formed by the mud of the Nilee. Yet Maillet will have it, that you now find a soil in Egypt, which, if cultivated, would produce abundantly.* : for he is far from thinking, that they low at present the same quantity of land as formerly. Indeed ihey cultivate as much as the real state of Egypt will permit; but that space is not nearly so extenfive as formerly. The bad policy of the Turks is the cause of this difference. The government has thought proper to forbid the exportation of corn ; therefore they have lowed no more than the fields bordering on the Nile. For the same reason they have given over watching and maintaining the banks and the canals with the same at. tention they did formerly . It is not therefore astonishing, that Egypt does not now produce the same quantity of corn it did in ancient times.

This account is very opposite to that of M. Granger. The only fact in which there two travellers agree, is, that at this time there is no corn exported from Egypt; but for what reasons, that is what they do not agree in. Let us endeavour to propose some conjectures on a question at this time so difficult to determine.

It is very certain, that, for want of care and atention,

e Defcript. de l'Egypte, lettr. 1. p. 18. & 19.

* Maillet does not seem to have inuch agreement with himself. In his ninth letter, p.4.& 5. he fays, that, at present, in Egypt, the lands produce commonly ten for one: and he adds afterwards, that a grain of wheat commonly produces from twenty-five to thirty ears. This second fact contradicts the former, and the contradiction is manifest. There is certainly an error in one or other of the calculations. For, according to the last account, the lands in Egypt should produce at this time at least three hundred for one. But as M. Maillet did not digest and publish his memoirs, we do not know whether to implite to him or his editor, the contradictions we fo frequently meet with in this work. ? Maillet, lettr. 7. 3. & 31. lettr. 9. p. a.

a some place where they were removed on all sides from 0. ther feeds or plants. But as this matter has still great difficulties, I shall not undertake to pronounce on all these questions. I have laid open the facts as I found them in different authors. I leave the decision to the judgment of the readers *.

[ocr errors]

a great part of the canals, which served heretofore to fertilize Egypt, are filled up.

The Romans afterwards knew well their importance. They were very attentive to have them cleansed 8. The Mahometans have negle&ted to keep up these works. We ought not therefore to say, that they sow as much now as they lowed formerly, since the Nile no longer waters the fame quantity. But allowing a very great difference between the actual itate of Egypt and its ancient-state, I am always surprised that that country could ever be said to have furnifhed such immense quantities of provisions as historians mention. We cannot justify their accounts, but by comparing the ancient produce of Egypt with that of certain districts whose fertility is so very extraordinary. Herodotus affirms, that in Babylon, the ground produced two, and sometimes three hundred to ones. They bring every year a prodigious quantity of corn from Chili, a country extremely barren, and where we do not see lands in tillage but only in some valleys. But these lands produce sixty, eighty, and an hundred for one', while our best lands in France do not produce above ten or twelve to one at most ki which they have in Chili from one acre, is at least equal to what we have from ten in our provinces the most fruit. ful in corn. The fertility is still greater in some provinces of Peru. There they gather from four to five hundred for one of all sorts of grain".

But we are convinced, by many experiments, that one may make the earth bear and yield much more than it commonly does. This secret depends on the manner of cul. tivation and tillage". Can we not then attribute this prodigious fecundity, which the ancients say Egypt enjoyed,

Thus the crop

[ocr errors]

& See Sueton. in Auguft. c. 18.; Aurel. Vitor. epitom. c. 1.

b L. 1. n. 193. This is nearly the calculation of Theophrastus. Hist. plant. 1.8. c. 7. p. 162.

· Voyage de Freziet, p. 70.& có.
k Journ. des scav. Aout, 1750. p. 538.

· Voyage de Frezier, p. 137.; Hift. des Incas, t. 2. p. 335.; Conqu. du,
Peroli, t. 1. p. 46.& 47.
* Mem. de Trok. Juillet 1750, p. 1565.& 1566.


[ocr errors]

to some particular method pra&ised formerly by the Egyptians? The land of Egypt being no longer cultivated, and that for a long time with the same care and industry it was in former ages, its fertility cannot have been the same. Lastly, if we believe a celebrated naturalist, the earth is exhausted by length of time. It should not then be furprising, that Egypt, which was one of the first inhabited countries, should now be less fertile than heretofore.

Besides, it is not the only country which has experienced fuch an alteration. If we believe Pliny, formerly in Lybia, the bushel of corn yielded one hundred and fifty for one It must be, that things are strangely changed since the time of this naturalist. At this time, according to the report of Shaw, a most exact relater, the bushel of wheat does not produce in that country above eight or twelve for one. He was told, indeed, that certain districts produce much more; but he assures us, at the same time, that the crop never comes to an hundred fold p. Pliny adds, that they had sent to Augustus å stalk of wheat which came from Lybia, which bore more than four hundred blades, all coming from one grain, and fixed to the same root. They fhewed one, almost the fame, to Nero 9. Shaw says also, that he has seen at Algier a stalk of wheat which contained fourscore ears. He speaks of another which had produced one hundred and twenty“. But we must observe, that there is great difference as to the produce, between one feed that grows alone, and those which come up all at once in a fown field. Experience teaches us, that one seed alone, grows and produces an hundred times more than those that are put together in a great quan. tity in the same place. They then starve each other. The ears of which these authors speak, had probably grown in

[ocr errors]

* Buffon, hist. nat. t. 1. p. 243.

o L. 18. sect. 21. p. 111. P Shaw's travels, t. 1. p. 283. & 286. 9 Plin. l. 18. sect. 21. p. 111. Shaw's travels, t. 1. p. 283. & 286.

s Journ. des scav. ann. 1681. Janv. p. 11. ann. 1750. Aout. p. 538.; Spectacle de la nature, t. 2. p. 292.; Traité de la cult, des terres, par M. Duhamel, t. 2. p.23.


[blocks in formation]

OF cond. part, there are none which appear to have

been more or better cultivated than those, which concern cloathing. We fee taste and magnificence shine equally in the description Moses gives of the habits of the high priest and the vails of the tabernacle. The tissue of all these works was of linen, goats hair, of wool, and of byffus z. The richest colours, gold, embroidery, and precious stones, united to embellish it. But let us enter on each particular.


Of the colours employed in dying of suffs.

ΤΗ HE art of dying must have made a very rapid progress

in the earliest times in some corintries. Moses speaks of stuffs.dyed sky-blue, purple, and double scarlet ; he also speaks of the skins of sheep dyed orange and violet ». These

[ocr errors]

* I have often had occasion to discourse of the actual fertility of Egypt with a person of credit, who had resided many years, either at Alexandria, or Cairo: he does not think that Egypt produces near so much as it is faid to have done formerly; the lands remaining uncultivated in the greatest part of the Upper Egypt, for want of inhabitants.

On the byssus, see part 1. book 2. chap. 2. u See Exod. c. 25. V.4. & 5.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »