The Egyptians were very famous for geometrical knowledge: and as all the
flat part of their country was annually overflowed, it is reasonable to
suppose that they made use of this science to determine their lands, and to
make out their several claims, at the retreat of the waters. Many indeed
have thought, that the confusion of property, which must for a while have
prevailed, gave birth to practical geometry, in order to remedy the
evil: and in consequence of it, that charts and maps were first delineated
in this country. These, we may imagine, did not relate only to private
demesnes: but included also the course of the Nile in its various branches;
and all the sea coast, and its inlets, with which lower Egypt was bounded.
It is very certain, that the people of Colchis, who were a colony from
Egypt, had charts of this sort, with written descriptions of the seas and
shores, whithersoever they traded: and they at one time carried on a most
extensive commerce. We are told, says the Scholiast upon Apollonius,
that the Colchians still retain the laws and customs of their forefathers:
and they have pillars of stone, upon which are engraved maps of the
continent, and of the ocean: Εισι δε, φησι, και νομοι παρ’ αυτοις των
Προγωνον, και Στηλαι, εν ἁις γης και θαλασσης αναγραφαι εισι. The poet,
upon whom the above writer has commented, calls these pillars, κυρβεις:
which, we are told, were of a square figure, like obelisks: and on these,
he says, were delineated all the passages of the sea; and the boundaries of
every country upon the earth.
Ὁι δη τοι γραπτας πατερων ἑθεν ειρυονται
Κυρβεας, ὁις ενι πασαι ὁδοι, και πειρατ’ εασιν
Ὑγρης τε, τραφερης τε, περιξ επινεισσομενοισιν.
These delineations had been made of old, and transmitted to the Colchians
by their forefathers; which forefathers were from Egypt.
If then the Colchians had this science, we may presume that their mother
country possessed it in as eminent a degree: and we are assured, that they
were very knowing in this article. Clemens Alexandrinus mentions, that
there were maps of Egypt, and charts of the Nile very early. And we are
moreover told, that Sesostris (by which is meant the Sethosians) drew upon
boards schemes of all the countries, which he had traversed: and copies of
these were given both to the Egyptians, and to the Scythians, who held
them in high estimation. This is a curious account of the first delineation
of countries, and origin of maps; which were first described upon
pillars. We may from hence be enabled to solve the enigma concerning
Atlas, who is said to have supported the heavens upon his shoulders. This
took its rise from some verses in Homer, which have been strangely
misconstrued. The passage is in the Odyssey; where the poet is speaking of
Calypso, who is said to be the daughter of Atlas, ολοοφρονος, a person of
deep and recondite knowledge:
Ατλαντος θυγατηρ ολοοφρονος, ὁστε θαλασσης
Πασης βενθεα οιδεν, εχει δε τε ΚΙΟΝΑΣ αυτος
Μακρας, ἁι Γαιαν τε και Ουρανον αμφις εχουσιν.
It is to be observed, that when the antients speak of the feats of
Hercules, we are to understand the Herculeans; under the name of Cadmus is
meant the Cadmians; under that of Atlas, the Atlantians. With this
allowance how plain are the words of Homer! The Atlantians settled in
Phrygia and Mauritania; and, like the Colchians, were of the family of Ham.
They had great experience in sea affairs: and the poet tells us, that they
knew all the soundings in the great deep.
Εχει δε τε Κιονας αυτος
Μακρας, ἁι Γαιην τε και Ουρανον αμφις εχουσιν.
_They had also long pillars, or obelisks, which referred to the sea; and
upon which was delineated the whole system both of heaven and earth_;
αμφις, _all around, both on the front of the obelisk, and on the other
sides_. Κιονες Κοσμου were certainly maps, and histories of the universe;
in the knowledge of which the Atlantians seem to have instructed their
brethren the Herculeans. The Grecians, in their accounts, by putting one
person for a people, have rendered the history obscure; which otherwise
would be very intelligible. There is a passage in Eusebius, which may be
rendered very plain, and to the purpose, if we make use of the clue
above-mentioned. Ἡροδοτος δε λεγει τον Ηρακλεα μαντιν και φυσικον
γενομενον παρα Ατλαντος του Βαρβαρου του Φρυγος διαδεχεσθαι τας του Κοσμου
Κιονας. This may be paraphrased in the following manner; and with such
latitude will be found perfectly consonant to the truth. _The Herculeans
were a people much given to divination, and to the study of nature. Great
part of their knowledge they are thought to have had transmitted to them
from those Atlantians, who settled in Phrygia, especially the history of
the earth and heavens; for all such knowledge the Atlantians had of old
consigned to pillars and obelisks in that country: and from them it was
derived to the Herculeans, or Heraclidæ, of Greece._ The Atlantians were
esteemed by the Grecians as barbarous: but they were in reality of the same
family. Their chief ancestor was the father of the Peleiadæ, or Ionim; of
whom I shall hereafter have much to say: and was the supposed brother of
Saturn. The Hellenes, though they did not always allow it, were undoubtedly
of his race. This may be proved from Diodorus Siculus, who gives this
curious history of the Peleiadæ, his offspring. Ταυτας δε μιγεισας
τοις ευφυεστατοις Ἡρωσι και Θεοις αρχηγους καταστηναι του πλειστου γενους
τον ανθρωπων, τεκουσας τους δι’ αρετην Θεους και Ἡρωας
ονομασθεντας.–Παραπλησεως δε και τας αλλας Ατλαντιδας γεννησαι παιδας
επιφανεις, ὡν τους μεν εθνων, τους δε πολεων γενεσθαι κτιστας· διοπερ ου
μονον παρ’ ενιοις των Βαρβαρων, αλλα και παρα τοις Ἑλλησι τους πλειστους
των αρχαιοτατων Ἡρωων εις ταυτας αναφερειν το γενος. _These daughters of
Atlas, by their connections and marriages with the most illustrious heroes,
and divinities, may be looked up to as the heads of most families upon
earth. And from them proceeded all those, who upon account of their
eminence were in aftertimes esteemed Gods and Heroes_. And having spoken of
Maia, and her offspring, the author proceeds to tell us, that _the other
Atlantides in like manner gave birth to a most noble race: some of whom
were the founders of nations; and others the builders of cities: insomuch
that most of the more antient heroes, not only of those abroad, who were
esteemed Barbari, but even of the Helladians, claimed their ancestry from
them_. And they received not only their ancestry, but their knowledge also,
του κοσμου κιονας; all the celestial and terrestrial phenomena, which had
been entrusted to the sacred pillars of the Atlantes, ἁι γαιην τε και
ουρανον αμφις εχουσιν, which contained descriptions both of the heavens,
and the earth. From Phrygia they came at last to Hellas, where they were
introduced by Anaximander, who is said, Εσδουναι πρωτον γεωγραφικον
πινακα, _to have been the first who introduced a geographical chart_: or,
as Laertius expresses it, Γης και Θαλαττης περιμετρον, _the
circumference of the terraqueous globe delineated_.
Though the origin of maps may be deduced from Egypt, yet they were not the
native Egyptians, by whom they were first constructed. Delineations of this
nature were the contrivance of the Cuthites, or Shepherds. They were, among
other titles, styled Saïtæ; and from them both astronomy and geometry were
introduced in those parts. They, with immense labour, drained the lower
provinces; erected stupendous buildings; and raised towers at the mouths of
the river, which were opportunely situated for navigation. For, though the
Mizraim were not addicted to commerce, yet it was followed by other
families besides the Cuthites, who occupied the lower provinces towards the
sea. The towers which were there raised served for lighthouses, and were,
at the same time, temples, denominated from some title of the Deity, such
as Canoph, Caneph, Cneph; also Perses, Proteus, Phanes, and Canobus. They
were on both accounts much resorted to by mariners, and enriched with
offerings. Here were deposited charts of the coast, and of the navigation
of the Nile, which were engraved on pillars, and in aftertimes sketched out
upon the Nilotic Papyrus. There is likewise reason to think that they were
sometimes delineated upon walls. This leads me to take notice of a passage
from Pherecydes Syrus, which seems to allude to something of this nature:
though, I believe, in his short detail that he has misrepresented the
author from whom he copied. He is said, by Theopompus, πρωτον περι της
φυσεως, και Θεων, Ἑλλησι γραφειν, _to have been the first who wrote for the
benefit of his countrymen about nature and the Gods_. Suidas mentions,
that he composed a theogony; all which knowledge, we are assured, came from
Egypt. It is certain that he studied in that country; whence we may
conclude, that the following history is Egyptian. He says, that Zas, or
Jupiter, composed a large and curious robe, upon which he described the
earth, and the ocean, and the habitations upon the ocean. Ζας ποιει
φαρος μεγα τε, και καλον, και εν αυτῳ ποικιλλει Γην, και Ωγηνον, και τα
Ωγηνου δωματα. Now, Zas, or, as it should be rendered, Zan, was the Dorian
title of Amon. And Ogenus, the Ocean, was the most antient name of the
Nile; whence the Grecians borrowed their Oceanus. Ὁι γαρ Αιγυπτιοι
νομιζουσιν ωκεανον ειναι τον παρ’ αυτοις ποταμον Νειλον. _The Egyptians, by
the term Oceanus, understand their own river Nilus_. The same author, in
another place, calls this river Oceames. Τον δε ποταμον αρχαιοτατον
μεν ονομα σχειν Ωκεαμην, ὁς εστιν Ἑλλενιστι ωκεανος. The former term,
Ogenus, whence the Greeks borrowed their Oceanus, was a compound of
Oc-Gehon, and Avas originally rendered Ogehonus. It signifies the noble
Gehon, and is a name taken from one of the rivers of Paradise. The Nile was
sometimes called simply Gehon, as we learn from the author of the Chronicon
Paschale. Εχει δε (ἡ Αιγυπτος) ποταμον Γηων–Νειλον καλουμενον. It was
probably a name given by the Cuthites, from whom, as will be hereafter
shewn, the river Indus had the name of Phison. Ποταμοι ονομαστοι
Ινδος, ὁ και Φεισων, Νειλος, ὁ και Γηων. _The two most celebrated rivers
are the Indus, the same as the Phison, and the Nile, which is called the
Gehon._ The river, also, of Colchis, rendered Phasis, and Phasin, was,
properly, the Phison. The Nile, being of old styled Oc-Gehon, and having
many branches, or arms, gave rise to the fable of the sea monster Ægeon,
whom Ovid represents as supporting himself upon the whales of the ocean.
Ægæona suis immania terga lacertis.
The Scholiast upon Lycophron informs us farther, that the river had three
names; and imagines that upon this account it was called Triton.
Τριτων ὁ Νειλος, ὁτι τρις μετωνομασθη· προτερον γαρ Ωκεανος αν
εκαλειτο, δευτερον Αετος·–το δε Νειλος νεον εστι. I shall not at present
controvert his etymology. Let it suffice, that we are assured, both by this
author and by others, that the Nile was called Oceanus: and what is alluded
to by Pherecydes is certainly a large map or chart. The robe of which he
speaks was indeed a Pharos, Φαρος; but a Pharus of a different nature from
that which he describes. It was a building, a temple, which was not
constructed by the Deity, but dedicated to him. It was one of those towers
of which I have before treated; in which were described upon the walls, and
otherwise delineated, Ωγηνος και Ωγηνου δωματα, the course of the Gehon, or
Nile; and the towns and houses upon that river.
I imagine that the shield of Achilles, in Homer, was copied from something
of this sort which the poet had seen in Egypt: for Homer is continually
alluding to the customs, as well as to the history, of that kingdom. And,
it is evident, that what he describes on the central part of the shield, is
a map of the earth, and of the celestial appearances.
Εν μεν Γαιαν ετευξ’, εν δ’ Ουρανον, εν δε θαλασσαν.
Εν δ’ ετιθει ΠΟΤΑΜΟΙΟ μεγα σθενος ΩΚΕΑΝΟΙΟ.
The antients loved to wrap up every thing in mystery and fable: they have
therefore described Hercules, also, with a robe of this sort:
Ποικιλον ἑιμα φερων, τυπον Αιθερος, εικονα Κοσμου:
_He was invested with a robe, which was a type of the heavens, and a
representation of the whole world._
The garment of Thetis, which the poets mention as given her upon her
supposed marriage with Peleus, was a Pharos of the same kind as that
described above. We may learn, from Catullus, who copied the story, that
the whole alluded to an historical picture preserved in some tower; and
that it referred to matters of great antiquity, though applied by the
Greeks to later times, and ascribed to people of their own nation.
Pulvinar vero Divæ geniale locatur
Sedibus in mediis; Indo quod dente politum
Tincta tegit roseo conchylis purpura fuco.
Hæc vestis priscis hominum variata figuris
Heroum mirâ virtutes indicat arte.
It contained a description of some notable achievements in the first ages;
and a particular account of the Apotheosis of Ariadne, who is described,
whatever may be the meaning of it, as carried by Bacchus to heaven. The
story is said to have been painted on a robe, or coverlet; because it was
delineated upon a Pharos: that word being equivocal, and to be taken in
either sense. And here I cannot but take notice of the inconsistency of the
Greeks, who make Theseus a partaker in this history; and suppose him to
have been acquainted with Ariadne. If we may credit Plutarch, Theseus,
as soon as he was advanced towards manhood, went, by the advice of his
mother Æthra, from Trœzen, in quest of his father Ægeus at Athens. This was
some years after the Argonautic expedition; when Medea had left Jason, and
put herself under the protection of this same Ægeus. After having been
acknowledged by his father, Theseus went upon his expedition to Crete;
where he is said to have first seen Ariadne, and to have carried her away.
All this, I say, was done after Jason had married Medea, and had children
by her; and after she had left him and was come to Athens. But the story of
Ariadne, in the above specimen, is mentioned as a fact of far older date.
It was prior to the arrival of Medea in Greece, and even to the Argonautic
expedition. It is spoken of as a circumstance of the highest antiquity:
consequently, Theseus could not any ways be concerned in it.
There, is an account in Nonnus of a robe, or Pharos, which Harmonia is
supposed to have worn when she was visited by the Goddess of beauty. There
was delineated here, as in some above mentioned, the earth, and the
heavens, with all the stars. The sea, too, and the rivers, were
represented; and the whole was, at the bottom, surrounded by the ocean.
Πρωτην Γαιαν επασσε μεσομφαλον, αμφι δε γαιῃ
Ουρανον εσφαιρωσε τυπῳ κεχαραγμενον αστρων.
Συμφερτην δε θαλασσαν εφηρμοσε συζυγι Γαιῃ,
Και ποταμους ποικιλλεν· επ’ ανδρομεῳ δε μετωπῳ
Ταυροφυης μορφουτο κερασφορος εγχλοος εικων.
Και πυματην παρα πεζαν εϋκλωστοιο χιτωνος
Ωκεανος κυκλωσε περιδρομον αντυγα Κοσμου.
All this relates to a painting, either at Sidon or Berytus; which was
delineated in a tower, or temple, sacred to Hermon.
Orpheus alludes to a Pharos of this sort, and to the paintings and
furniture of it, in his description of the robes with which Apollo, or
Dionusus, is invested. He speaks of them as the same Deity.
Ταυτα δε παντα τελειν ἱερᾳ σκευῃ πυκασαντα,
Σωμα θεου πλαττειν περιαυγους Ηελιοιο.
Πρωτα μεν αργυφεαις εναλιγκιον ακτινεσσι
Πεπλον φοινικεον, πυρι εικελον, αμφιβαλεσθαι.
Αυταρ ὑπερθε νεβροιο παναιολου ἑυρυ καθαψαι
Δερμα πολυστικτον θηρος κατα δεξιον ωμον,
Αστρων δαιδαλεων μιμημ’, ἱερου τε πολοιο.
Ειτα δ’ ὑπερθε νεβρης χρυσεον ζωστηρα βαλεσθαι,
Παμφανοωντα, περιξ στερνων φορεειν, μεγα σημα.
Ευθυς, ὁτ’ εκ περατων γαιης Φαεθων ανορουσων
Χρυσειαις ακτισι βαλῃ ῥοον Ωκεανοιο,
Αυγη δ’ ασπετος ῃ, ανα δε δροσῳ αμφιμιγεισα,
Μαρμαιρῃ δινῃσιν ἑλισσομενη κατα κυκλον
Προσθε θεου, ζωνε δ’ αρ’ ὑπο στερνων αμετρητων
Φαινετ’ αρ’ ωκεανου κυκλος, μεγα θαυμ’ εσιδεσθαι.
When the poet has thus adorned the Deity, we find, towards the conclusion,
that these imaginary robes never shew to such advantage as in the morning.
_When the sun_, says he, _rises from the extremities of the earth, and
enlightens the ocean with his horizontal rays; then they appear in great
splendour, which is increased by the morning dew._ All this investiture of
the Deity relates to the earth and the heavens, which were delineated upon
a skin, δερμα πολυστικτον θηρος, styled πεπλον. This is described,
Αστρων δαιδαλεων μιμημ’, ἱερου τε πολοιο: _as a copy and imitation of all
the celestial appearances_. The whole was deposited in a Pharos upon the
sea shore, upon which the sun, at his rising, darted his early rays; and
whose turrets glittered with the dew: Ὑπο στερνων αμετρητων φαινετ’ αρ’
ωκεανου κυκλος: from the upper story of the tower, which was of an
unmeasurable height, there was an unlimited view of the ocean. This vast
element surrounded the edifice like a zone; and afforded a wonderful
phænomenon. Such, I imagine, is the solution of the enigma.