When the Nile overflows, the country is converted into a sea, and nothing appears but the cities, which look like the islands in the Aegean. At this season boats no longer keep the course of the river, but sail right across the plain. On the voyage from Naucratis to Memphis at this season, you pass close to the pyramids, whereas the usual course is by the apex of the Delta, and the city of Cercasorus. You can sail also from the maritime town of Canobus across the flat to Naucratis, passing by the cities of Anthylla and Archandropolis. Herodotus Histories II
Naucratis (nŏk´retĬs), was an ancient city of Egypt, on the Canopic branch of the Nile, 45 mi (72 km) SE of Alexandria. It was probably given to colonists from nine Greek cities, including among other Miletus and Corinth, by Psamtik in the 7th century BC and was the first Greek settlement in Egypt.
The rise of Alexandria and the shifting of the Nile led to its decline. The site has been excavated, revealing pottery of a Greek type and ruins of Greek temples.
Drawing Faucher-Gudin of a plan published by Petrie. The site of the Hellenion is marked A, an Arab village B, the temenos of Hera and Apollo E, that of the Dioskuri F, and that of Aphrodite G.
G Maspero, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia and Assyria:
The Milesians had established here some time previously, on a canal connected with the main arm of the river, the factory of Naucratis, which long remained in obscurity, but suddenly developed at the beginning of the XXVIth dynasty, when Sais became the favourite residence of the Pharaohs. This town Amasis made over to the Greeks so that they might make it the commercial and religious centre of their communities in Egypt. Temples already existed there, those of Apollo and Aphrodite, together with all the political and religious institutions indispensable to the constitution of an Hellenic city; but the influx of immigrants was so large and rapid, that, after the lapse of a few years, the entire internal organism and external aspect of the city were metamorphosed. New buildings rose from the ground with incredible speed—the little temple of the Dioskuri, the protectors of the sailor, the temple of the Samian Hera, that of Zeus of Ægina, and that of Athene;* ere long the great temenos, the Hellenion, was erected at the public expense by nine Æolian, Ionian, and Dorian towns of Asia Minor, to serve as a place of assembly for their countrymen, as a storehouse, as a sanctuary, and, if need be, even as a refuge and fortress, so great was its area and so thick its walls.**
It was not possible for the constitution of Naucratis to be very homogeneous, when a score of different elements assisted in its composition. It appears to have been a compromise between the institutions of the Dorians and those of the Ionians. Its supreme magistrates were called timuchi, but their length of office and functions are alike unknown to us. The inspectors of the emporia and markets could be elected only by the citizens of the nine towns, and it is certain that the chief authority was not entirely in the hands either of the timuchi or the inspectors; perhaps each quarter of the town had its council taken from among the oldest residents. A prytanasum was open to all comers where assemblies and banquets were held on feast-days; here were celebrated at the public expense the festivals of Dionysos and Apollo Komasos. Amasis made the city a free port, accessible at all times to whoever should present themselves with peaceable intent, and the privileges which he granted naturally brought about the closing of all the other seaports of Egypt. When a Greek ship, pursued by pirates, buffeted by storms, or disabled by an accident at sea, ran ashore at some prohibited spot on the coast, the captain had to appear before the nearest magistrate, in order to swear that he had not violated the law wilfully, but from the force of circumstances. If his excuse appeared reasonable, he was permitted to make his way to the mouth of the Canopic branch of the Nile; but when the state of the wind or tide did not allow of his departure, his cargo was transferred to boats of the locality, and sent to the Hellenic settlement by the canals of the Delta. This provision of the law brought prosperity to Naucratis; the whole of the commerce of Egypt with the Greek world passed through her docks, and in a few years she became one of the wealthiest emporia of the Mediterranean. The inhabitants soon overflowed the surrounding country, and covered it with villas and townships. Such merchants as refused to submit to the rule of their own countrymen found a home in some other part of the valley which suited them, and even Upper Egypt and the Libyan desert were subject to their pacific inroads. The Milesians established depots in the ancient city of Abydos;* the Cypriots and Lesbians, and the people of Ephesus, Chios, and Samos, were scattered over the islands formed by the network of canals and arms of the Nile, and delighted in giving them the names of their respective countries;** Greeks of diverse origin settled themselves at Neapolis, not far from Panopolis; and the Samians belonging to the Æschrionian tribe penetrated as far as the Great Oasis; in fact, there was scarcely a village where Hellenic traders were not found, like the bakals of to-day, selling wine, perfumes, oil, and salted provisions to the natives, practising usury in all its forms, and averse from no means of enriching themselves as rapidly as possible.
Naucratis a Greek trade post in Egypt
This article incorporates text from the public domain Catholic Encyclopedia.