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Nile, Egypt's river (explored by ancient Egyptians to the Upper Blue Nile) and the confluence of the Bahr-el-Gazal with the White Nile, was known to Homer as ‘Aegyptos river’, to Hesiod as ‘Neilos’. Cambyses (c.525 bce) reached the desert south of Korosko, but Herodotus(1) knew little beyond Meroe. Anaxagoras made a good guess that the Nile flood was caused by melting snows, but the true cause was unknown. Alexander(3) the Great's explorations disproved that the Nile joined the Indus. Under the Ptolemies (see ptolemy(1)) the White Nile (Astapous), the Blue Nile, and sources of the Astaboras (Atbara) became known. It was confirmed that the annual flood came from rains in Ethiopia, as Aristotle had guessed. According to Juba(2) II, the Nile rose in the Atlas mountains and emerged in the east Sudan after two journeys underground. Nero's explorers passed the confluence of the Sobat with the White Nile, but were blocked by papyrus marshes (sudd). Circa ce 100 a traveller, Diogenes, reported from near Zanzibar (Rhapta) that snow-capped ‘Mountains of the Moon’ supplied two lakes feeding an affluent of the Nile, an indication of Lakes Victoria and Albert, and Mts. Kenya and Kilimanjaro. Neilus (Egyptian Ḥapi), the god of the inundation, is widely represented in Roman art. The use of nilometers to measure the annual flood made it possible in Egypt, alone in the ancient world, to calculate tax revenue in advance. The building of the Aswan High Dam in 1963 has raised the water-table throughout Egypt affecting ancient sites and leaching salts from below.


Ancient sources

A. B. Lloyd, Herodotus, book II (1975–1988).Find this resource:

    Strabo, passim.Find this resource:

      Seneca, Quaestiones naturales 6. 8. 3–4.Find this resource:

        Pliny (the Elder), Naturalis historia 5. 9. 48–59, 6. 184–186.Find this resource:

          Ptolemy, Geographia 1. 9. 4, 4. 8. 3.Find this resource:

            [Aristotle], De inundatione Nili, Études de Papyrologie (1971), 1–33.Find this resource:


              D. Bonneau, Le Crue du Nil (1963).Find this resource:

                D. Bonneau, Le Fisc et le Nil (1971).Find this resource:

                  M. Cary and E. H. Warmington, The Ancient Explorers (1929; Penguin/Pelican, 1963), 202–215.Find this resource:

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