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most extraordinary valley seems thus to have been formed and preserved 

by Nature herself for the special possession of man. She herself seems 

to have held it in reserve for him from the very morning of creation, 

refusing admission into it to every plant and every animal that might 

hinder or disturb his occupancy and control. And if he were to abandon 

it now for a thousand years, and then return to it once more, he would 

find it just as he left it, ready for his immediate possession. There 

would be no wild beasts that he must first expel, and no tangled forests 

would have sprung up, that his ax must first remove. Nature is the 

husbandman who keeps this garden of the world in order, and the means 

and machinery by which she operates are the grand evaporating surfaces 

of the seas, the beams of the tropical sun, the lofty summits of the 

Abyssinian Mountains, and, as the product and result of all this 

instrumentality, great periodical inundations of summer rain. 


For these or some other reasons Egypt has been occupied by man from the 

most remote antiquity. The oldest records of the human race, made three 

thousand years ago, speak of Egypt as ancient then, when they were 

written. Not only is Tradition silent, but even Fable herself does not 

attempt to tell the story of the origin of her population. Here stand 

the oldest and most enduring monuments that human power has ever been 

able to raise. It is, however, somewhat humiliating to the pride of the 

race to reflect that the loftiest and proudest, as well as the most 

permanent and stable of all the works which man has ever accomplished, 

are but the incidents and adjuncts of a thin stratum of alluvial 

fertility, left upon the sands by the subsiding waters of summer 



The most important portion of the alluvion of the Nile is the northern 

portion, where the valley widens and opens toward the sea, forming a 

triangular plain of about one hundred miles in length on each of the 

sides, over which the waters of the river flow in a great number of 

separate creeks and channels. The whole area forms a vast meadow, 

intersected every where with slow-flowing streams of water, and 

presenting on its surface the most enchanting pictures of fertility, 

abundance, and beauty. This region is called the Delta of the Nile. 


The sea upon the coast is shallow, and the fertile country formed by the 

deposits of the river seems to have projected somewhat beyond the line 

of the coast; although, as the land has not advanced perceptibly for the 

last eighteen hundred years, it may be somewhat doubtful whether the 

whole of the apparent protrusion is not due to the natural conformation 

of the coast, rather than to any changes made by the action of the 



The Delta of the Nile is so level itself, and so little raised above the 

level of the Mediterranean, that the land seems almost a continuation of 

the same surface with the sea, only, instead of blue waters topped with 

white-crested waves, we have broad tracts of waving grain, and gentle 

swells of land crowned with hamlets and villages. In approaching the 

coast, the navigator has no distant view of all this verdure and beauty. 

It lies so low that it continues beneath the horizon until the ship is 

close upon the shore. The first landmarks, in fact, which the seaman 

makes, are the tops of trees growing apparently out of the water, or the 

summit of an obelisk, or the capital of a pillar, marking the site of 

some ancient and dilapidated city. 


The most easterly of the channels by which the waters of the river find 

their way through the Delta to the sea, is called, as it will be seen 

marked upon the map, the Pelusiac branch. It forms almost the boundary 

of the fertile region of the Delta on the eastern side. There was an 

ancient city named Pelusium near the mouth of it. This was, of course, 

the first Egyptian city reached by those who arrived by land from the 

eastward, traveling along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. On 

account of its thus marking the eastern frontier of the country, it 

became a point of great importance, and is often mentioned in the 

histories of ancient times. 


The westernmost mouth of the Nile, on the other hand, was called the 

Canopic mouth. The distance along the coast from the Canopic mouth to 

Pelusium was about a hundred miles. The outline of the coast was 

formerly, as it still continues to be, very irregular, and the water 

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