He Brings Prosperity

(Chapter 177) In Amasis' reign, Herodotus tells us, the river enriched the land, the land the people, and towns flourished in the greatest prosperity Egypt had seen. The annual deposit of silt from the Nile flood from July to October was the source of Egypt's agricultural wealth. During the flood, towns and cities on the crests of hills were surrounded by a sheet of water, upon which communication was by boat. At low water, Egypt was transected by many canals. It is easy to see why wheeled transport was never important, and the wheel came in with the war chariot. Amasis, probably with his early days in mind, decreed the law that every Egyptian had to explain how he made his living to the governor of his province every year. Anyone without visible means of support was put to death, which probably tended to reduce crime. Solon brought this law to Athens, and Herodotus highly approves of it. This is a good example of the kind of laws that Livy tells us had to be made humane when the Twelve Tables were drawn up on the basis of Athenian laws. Greeks loved the death penalty. In Athens, they threw the condemned in a pit, among other creative means of execution.



This is a good selection for infinitives, of which many occur. I cannot see why Egypt is in the nominative in the first sentence; there are only infinitives following it, and I would expect the accusative. I itched to change the text, but maybe I will find out my misconception. The word meaning provincial governor is easy to deduce from its parts. Note the verb used for the penalty, a euphemism. I imagine death would straighten anybody out. The last sentence has some nice participial phrases that hinder easy passage to English. If the sentence about Solon is initially obscure, try separating it into three groups of words; the accusatives do not all go together, by the way. Finally, we have a subjunctive to enjoy.

It is said that under Pharaoh Amasis Egypt prospered most greatly, the [bounty] from the river to the land, and from the land to the people, and the state in itself at that time gave rise to twenty thousand inhabited places in all. Amasis is the author of the following law: each one of the Egyptians is to make clear every year to the governor of his nome whence his living comes. If he does not do this, nor proves his life honest, he is to be corrected by death. Solon the Athenian, taking this from Egypt, established the law for the Athenians. May this law, being a blameless law, be kept forever!

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Composed by J. B. Calvert
Last revised 15 July 1999