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34 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

 

ancient city of Philae, in latitude twenty-four degrees, and is known as UPPER EGYPT. The relative extent of these three great divisions of the country, as well as the course of the river and the shape of the valley, may be accurately traced on the accompanying map.

In addition to the three major divisions of the country, and for convenience of civil administration, ancient Egypt was divided into provinces called NOMES. Mention of such divisions has been found as early as the First Dynasty, and in the subsequent inscriptions the name of Hesf, or Nome, is constantly recurring. The number of the provinces differed at different periods, the lists of Herodotus and Diodorus being in several places incomplete or contradictory. The standard number of Nomes, according to Brugsch, was forty-two; and there is little doubt that the forty-two judges who constituted the High Court of Egypt, as well as the myth of the forty-two gods who presided over the tribunal of the dead, may be accounted for on the supposition of one judge for each Nome, called to a general council. Each of the Nomes had for its center a city and a temple, and here was established the seat of civil government for the district.

The possibilities of Egypt are all traceable to a single striking phenomenon-the annual inundation of the Nile. About the time of the summer solstice, when the sun looking down vertically upon the ice-gorges in the Abyssinian mountains melts the deposits of snow and pours them in yellow cascades to join their waters in the two great arms of the river, the first pulsations of the flood are felt in Egypt. Where the White Nile receives the Blue at Khartoom, the initial symptoms of the rise are sometimes felt as early as April; but the true swell of the waters does not generally begin until the middle or latter part of June. Then the volume of the river begins to increase; the channel fills to overflow; the current grows turbid, widens and deepens; by the middle of August the inundation proper pours into the valley, and by the autumnal equinox the flood is at its height. Then, after the maximum has been reached, the waters begin to recede.

The banks of the river are, in most places, higher than the adjacent valley-lands. To prevent a violent overflow, huge canals are cut into the bottoms at an angle with the course of the stream; and, during the recession of the flood, the mouths of these canals are closed and the retreat of the waters thus retarded. Almost five months elapse before the river finds his old bed, so that during nearly three-fourths of the year the manifestations of the swell are noticeable in Egypt.

The annual flood is by no means uniform throughout the whole course of the river. The greatest rise is in Upper, and the smallest in Lower Egypt. At the first cataract the inundation rises forty feet above low water. At Thebes, thirty-six feet is the maximum; at Cairo, twenty-five feet; while at the Damietta and Rosetta mouths of the Nile the average rise is only four feet. The volume of the annual overflow is, however, by no means uniform. In some years the flood is twice as great as in others. If the swell does not exceed eighteen or twenty feet the rise is regarded as scanty; from twenty to twenty-four feet is considered a meager Nile; from twenty-four to twenty-seven feet, a good Nile; while a flood of more than twenty-eight feet becomes destructive and dangerous. In a few rare instances there is no rise at all, which condition is a sure precursor of distress