isis unveiled: chapter xiv (ancient mysteries)

“As far back as we can glance into history, to the reign of Menes, the most ancient of the kings that we know anything about, we find proofs that the Egyptians were far better acquainted with hydrostatics and hydraulic engineering than ourselves. The gigantic work of turning the course of the Nile – – – or rather of its three principal branches – – – and bringing it to Memphis, was accomplished during the reign of that monarch, who appears to us as distant in the abyss of time as a far-glimmering star in the heavenly vault.

Says Wilkinson: “Menes took accurately the measure of the power which he had to oppose, and he constructed a dyke whose lofty mounds and enormous embankments turned the water eastward, and since that time the river is contained in its new bed.”  Herodotus has left us a poetical, but still accurate description of the lake Moeris, so called after the Pharaoh who caused this artificial sheet of water to be formed.

The historian has described this lake as measuring 450 miles in circumference, and 300 feet in depth. It was fed through artificial channels by the Nile, and made to store a portion of the annual overflow for the irrigation of the country, for many miles round. Its numerous floodgates, dams, locks, and convenient engines were constructed with the greatest skill.

The Romans, at a far later period, got their notions on hydraulic constructions from the Egyptians, but our latest progress in the science of hydrostatics has demonstrated the fact of a great deficiency on their part in some branches of that knowledge.

Thus, for instance, if they were acquainted with that which is called in hydrostatics the great law, they seem to have been less familiar with what our modern engineers know as water-tight joints. Their ignorance is sufficiently proved by their conveying the water through large level aqueducts, instead of doing it at a less expense by iron pipes beneath the surface.

But the Egyptians evidently employed a far superior method in their channels and artificial water-works. Notwithstanding this, the modern engineers employed by Lesseps for the Suez Canal, who had learned from the ancient Romans all their art could teach them, deriving, in their turn, their knowledge from Egypt – – – scoffed at the suggestion that they should seek a remedy for some imperfections in their work by studying the contents of the various Egyptian museums.

Nevertheless, the engineers succeeded in giving to the banks of that “long and ugly ditch”, as Professor Carpenter calls the Suez Canal, sufficient strength to make it a navigable water-way, instead of a mud-trap for vessels as it was at first.”

H. P. Blavatsky

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