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Bringing in fish and opening them, preparatory to their being salted.
the sculptures and other good authority; the "fishers of the Nile, and "they that cast angle into the brooks," "they that spread nets," and they "that make sluices and ponds for fish,”
are mentioned in the Bible; * and the Israelites remembered with regret "the fish which (they) did eat in Egypt freely." † They were eaten either fresh or salted; and at a particular month of the year, on the 9th day of the first month (Thoth), every person was obliged, by a religious ordinance, to eat a fried fish before the door of his house, with the exception of the priests, who were contented to burn it on that occasion.‡
Some fish were particularly prized for the table, and preferred as being more wholesome, as well as superior in flavour to others; among which we may mention the búlti§, the kishr,|| the benni,¶ the shall,** the shilbeh,†† and arábrab, the byad,‡‡ the karmoot,§§ and a few others; but it was unlawful to touch those which were sacred, as the oxyrhinchus, the phagrus, and the lepidotus: and the inhabitants of the city of Oxyrhinchus objected even to eat any fish caught by a hook, lest it should have been defiled by the blood of one they held so sacred.
The oxyrhinchus was probably the mizdeh, a mormyrus remarkable among the fish of the Nile for its pointed nose, as the word oxyrhinchus implies; and a prejudice is still felt
against it in some parts of Upper Egypt. Indeed, mizdeh is not very unlike the Coptic name of the city of (Oxyrhinchus) Mge. It is often repre
sented in the sculptures, and in bronze; and in the temple of the Great Oasis this fish is accompanied by the name of Athor, or Venus, showing it to have been one of her emblems.
431. At the Oasis.
§ Or booltee, Labrus Niloticus. Cyprinus Benni, or C. Lepidotus. + The Silurus Schilbe Niloticus. §§. Silurus Carmuth.
The phagrus was the eel; and the reason of its sanctity, like that of the former, was owing to its being unwholesome; and the best way of preventing its being eaten was to assign it a place among the sacred animals of the country.
The lepidotus is still uncertain; from its name it was a scaly fish; and representations of it in bronze are not uncommon, which
Bronze Lepidotus (in my possession).
show it to be the Cyprinus Lepidotus or Benni; though the Kishr, the bulti, and the Kelb el Bahr or Salmo Dentex (all wholesome, and the best of the insipid fish of the Nile) have each been invited to accept the name. It might reasonably be supposed that the Raad, or Electric fish of the Nile, would be one of the most sacred and forbidden for food; and it seems not to be represented among those caught in the ancient fishing It is a small fish; and the one I saw measured little more than a foot long, by 4 inches in depth. But it had the power of giving a very strong shock. It is the Melapterurus Electricus; and may have been the ancient Latus.
The name Raad, "thunder," is very remarkable, since the modern Egyptians are quite ignorant of the cause of its peculiar powers; and if it was borrowed by them from their predecessors, the question naturally arises, were they acquainted with electricity?
Like the sacred quadrupeds, they were not all regarded with the same reverence in different parts of the country; and the people of Cynopolis were in the habit of eating the oxyrhinchus, which " was the origin of a civil war between the two cities, till both sides, after doing each other great mischief, were severely punished by the Romans."
Besides the fish cured, or sent to market for the table, a very
great quantity was set apart expressly for feeding the sacred animals and birds,-as the cats, crocodiles, ibises, and others and some of the large reservoirs, attached to the temples, were used as well for keeping fish as for the necessary ablutions of the devout, and for various purposes connected with religion.
The quantity of fish in Egypt was a very great boon to the poor classes, and when the Nile overflowed the country the inhabitants of the inland villages benefited by this annual gift of the river, as the land did by the fertilizing mud deposited upon it. The canals, ponds, and pools, on the low lands, continued to abound in fish, even after the inundation had ceased; and it was then that their return to the Nile was intercepted by closing the mouths of the canals. The same happens at the present day, and so numerous are they, that the tax upon the profits now paid annually by the poor peasants to the Turkish government on the fish of a small canal amounts to 217.
The revenue from the fisheries was much larger in old times; though we may not believe that "while the water retired from the Lake Moris (which Ælian quaintly calls the 'fish harvest') the royal treasury received daily a talent of silver (supposed to be 1937. 158. English), and during the other six months, when the water flowed from the Nile into the lake, 20 mine” (about 641. 12s.). The sum said to have been derived from this source was given as a dowry to the queen, for the purchase of jewels, ointments, and other things connected with her toilet-a very liberal provision, being upwards of 94,000l. a-year; and when this formed only a portion of the pin-money of the Egyptian queens, who also received the revenues of the town of Anthylla, famous for its wines, they had no reason to complain of the allowance they enjoyed.
Though the fish of the Nile were a great benefit, their quality was not such as would satisfy modern taste, being insipid, and often muddy in flavour; but the Egyptians, like many others who live on rivers, were not connoisseurs in fish; and those of the sea were scarcely known to them, though the waters of the Mediterranean and the Arabian Gulf might have afforded them many excellent kinds. The sea was looked upon by them with abhor
rence; political reasons had led the government in old times to increase that aversion; and prejudice prevented their appreciating the good things it contained, which might have raised their taste above the carp-and-tench-level of their inexperience.
Of the various kinds of labourers few are worthy of notice, except the brickmakers; and their employment derives considerable interest from the detailed notice of it in the Bible, according as it does so remarkably with the Egyptian paintings. Brickmaking, a mere manual occupation, with nothing to stimulate the clever workman to improvement, was only followed by the meanest of the community, who had not even the satisfaction of working for themselves; for bricks were a government monopoly, and the pay for a tale of them was a small remuneration for this laborious drudgery in mud.
The use of crude bricks baked in the sun was universal throughout the country, for private and for many public buildings, and the dry climate of Egypt was peculiarly suited to those simple materials. They had the recommendation of cheapness, and even of durability; and those made 3000 years ago, whether with or 66 without straw," are even now as firm and fit for use as when first put up in the reigns of the Amunophs and Thothmes, whose names they bear. When made of the Nile mud, or alluvial deposit, they required straw to prevent their cracking; but those formed of clay (now called Háybeh), taken from the torrent beds on the edge of the desert, held together without straw; and crude brick walls frequently had the additional security of a layer of reeds or sticks placed at intervals to act as binders. The courses of bricks were also disposed occasionally in horizontal curves, or a succession of concave and convex lines, throughout the length of the wall; and this undulating arrangement was even adopted in stone, especially in quays by the river side.
Burnt bricks were not used in Egypt, and when found they are known to be of Roman time. Enclosures of gardens, or granaries, sacred circuits surrounding the courts of temples, walls of fortresses and towns, dwelling-houses and tombs, and even some few of the temples themselves were of crude brick,