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been repeatedly transcribed; and every scholar, with pious indignation, has deplored the irreparable shipwreck of the learning, the arts, and the genius, of antiquity. For my own part, I am strongly tempted to deny both the fact and the consequences. The fact is indeed marvellous; “Read and wonder!” says the historian himself: and the solitary report of a stranger who wrote at the end of six hundred years on the confines of Media is overbalanced by the silence of two annalists of a more early date, both Christians, both natives of Egypt, and the most ancient of whom, the patriarch Eutychius, has amply described the conquest of Alexandria." The rigid sentence of Omar is repugnant to the sound and orthodox precept of the Mahometan casuists: they expressly declare, that the religious books of the Jews and Christians, which are acquired by the right of war, should never be committed to the flames; and that the works of profane science," historians or poets, physicians or philosophers, may be lawfully applied to the use of the faithful." A more destructive zeal may perhaps be attributed to the first successors of Mahomet; yet in this instance the conflagration would have speedily expired in the deficiency of materials. I shall not recapitulate the disasters of the Alexandrian library, the involuntary flame that was kindled by Caesar in his own defence,” or the mischievous bigotry of the Christians who studied to destroy the monuments of idolatry.” But
* This curious anecdote will be vainly sought in the annals of Eutychius, and
if we gradually descend from the age of the Anto- chAP.
nines to that of Theodosius, we shall learn from a chain of contemporary witnesses, that the royal palace and the temple of Serapis no longer contained the four, or the seven, hundred thousand volumes, which had been assembled by the curiosity and magnificence of the Ptolemies." Perhaps the church and seat of the patriarchs might be enriched with a repository of books; but if the ponderous mass of Arian and Monophysite controversy were indeed consumed in the public baths, a philosopher may allow, with a smile, that it was ultimately devoted to the benefit of mankind. I sincerely regret the more valuable libraries which have been involved in the ruin of the Roman empire; but when I seriously compute the lapse of ages, the waste of ignorance, and the calamities of war, our treasures, rather than our losses, are the object of my surprise. Many curious and interesting facts are buried in oblivion; the three great historians of Rome have been transmitted to our hands in a mutilated state, and we are deprived of many pleasing compositions of the lyric, iambic, and dramatic poetry of the Greeks. Yet we should
gratefully remember, that the mischances of time and A.
accident have spared the classic works to which the suffrage of antiquity” had adjudged the first place of genius and glory: the teachers of ancient knowledge, who are still extant, had perused and compared the
4 Aulus Gellius (Noctes Atticae, vi. 17), Ammianus Marcellinus (xxii.16), and Orosius (l. vi. c. 15). They all speak in the past tense, and the words of Ammianus are remarkably strong : fuerunt Bibliothecae innumerabiles; et loquitur monumentorum veterum concinens fides, &c.
* Renaudot answers for versions of the Bible, Hexapla, Catenae Patrum, Commentaries, &c. (p. 170). Our Alexandrian MS. if it came from Egypt, and not from Constantinople or Mount Athos (Wetstein, Prolegom. ad N.T. p. 8, &c.), might possibly be among them.
* I have often perused with pleasure a chapter of Quintilian (Institut. Orator. xi), in which that judicious critic enumerates and appreciates the series of Greek and Latin classics.
writings of their predecessors; ' nor can it fairly be
presumed that any important truth, any useful dis-
Administration of Egypt.
• Such as Galen, Pliny, Aristotle, &c. On this subject Wotton (Reflections on ancient and modern Learning, p. 85–95) argues with solid sense, against the lively exotic fancies of Sir William Temple. The contempt of the Greeks for barbaric science would scarcely admit the Indian or AEthiopic books into the library of Alexandria; nor is it proved that philosophy has sustained any real loss from their exclusion.
* This curious and authentic intelligence of Murtadi (p. 284–289) has not been discovered either by Mr. Ockley, or by the self-sufficient compilers of the Modern Universal History.
to the public welfare. Under his administration the CHAP. fertility of Egypt supplied the dearth of Arabia; and —t
a string of camels, laden with corn and provisions, covered almost without an interval the long road from Memphis to Medina." But the genius of Amrou soon renewed the maritime communication which had been attempted or achieved by the Pharaohs, the Ptolemies, or the Caesars; and a canal, at least eighty miles in length, was opened from the Nile to the Red Sea. This inland navigation, which would have joined the Mediterranean and the Indian ocean, was soon discontinued as useless and dangerous: the throne was removed from Medina to Damascus, and the Grecian fleets might have explored a passage to the holy cities of Arabia."
Of his new conquest, the caliph Omar had an imper- . populous
fect knowledge from the voice of fame and the legends of the Koran. He requested that his lieutenant would place before his eyes the realm of Pharaoh and the Amalekites; and the answer of Amrou exhibits a lively and not unfaithful picture of that singular country.” “O commander of the faithful, Egypt is a compound of black earth and green plants, between a pulverised mountain and a red sand. The distance from Syene to the sea is a month's journey for a horseman. Along the valley descends a river, on which the blessing of the Most High reposes both in
the evening and morning, and which rises and falls
* Eutychius, Annal. tom. ii. p. 320. Elmacin, Hist. Saracen. p. 35.
w On these obscure canals, the reader may try to satisfy himself from D’Anville (Mem. sur l'Egypte, p. 108–110. 124. 132), and a learned thesis maintained and printed at Strasburg in the year 1770 (Jungendorum marium fluviorumque molimina, p. 39—47. 68–70). Even the supine Turks have agitated the old project of joining the two seas (Mémoires du Baron de Tott, tom. iv).
* A small volume, des Merveilles, &c. de l'Egypte, composed in the xiiith century by Murtadi of Cairo, and translated from an Arabic MS. of cardinal Mazarin, was published by Pierre Vatier, Paris, 1666. The antiquities of Egypt are wild and legendary; but the writer deserves credit and esteem for his account of the conquest and geography of his native country (see the correspondence of Amrou and Omar, p. 279–289).
cop. with the revolutions of the sun and moon. When
the annual dispensation of Providence unlocks the springs and fountains that nourish the earth, the Nile rolls his swelling and sounding waters through the realm of Egypt: the fields are overspread by the salutary flood; and the villages communicate with each other in their painted barks. The retreat of the inundation deposits a fertilising mud for the reception of the various seeds: the crowds of husbandmen who blacken the land may be compared to a swarm of industrious ants; and their native indolence is quickened by the lash of the task-master, and the promise of the flowers and fruits of a plentiful increase. Their hope is seldom deceived; but the riches which they extract from the wheat, the barley, and the rice, the legumes, the fruit-trees, and the cattle, are unequally shared between those who labour and those who possess. According to the vicissitudes of the seasons, the face of the country is adorned with a silver wave, a verdant emerald, and the deep yellow of a golden harvest.” Yet this beneficial order is sometimes interrupted; and the long delay and sudden swell of the river in the first year of the conquest might afford some colour to an edifying fable. It is said, that the annual sacrifice of a virgin” had been interdicted by the piety of Omar; and that the Nile lay sullen and
* In a twenty years' residence at Cairo, the consul Maillet had contemplated that varying scene, the Nile (lettre ii. particularly p. 70. 75); the fertility of the land (lettre ix). From a college at Cambridge, the poetic eye of Gray had seen the same objects with a keener glance: What wonder in the sultry climes that spread, Where Nile, redundant o'er his summer bed, From his broad bosom life and verdure flings, And broods o'er Egypt with his wat'ry wings; If with advent’rous oar, and ready sail, The dusky people drive before the gale: Or on frail floats to neighbouring cities ride, That rise and glitter o'er the ambient tide. (Mason's Works and Memoirs of Gray, p. 199, 200). * Murtadi, p. 164–167. The reader will not easily credit a human sacrifice under the Christian emperors, or a miracle of the successors of Mahomet.