Red Sea

Red Sea the usual designation of the large body of water separating Egypt from Arabia. The following account of it is based upon the Scriptures and other ancient and modern authorities. SEE SEA.

I. Names. — The sea known to us as the Red Sea was by the Israelites called the sea (הִיָּם, Ex 14:2,9,16,21,28; Ex 15:1,4,8,10,19; Jos 24:6-7; and many other passages); and specially "the sea of Siph" (יִםאּסוּŠ, Ex 10:19; Ex 13:18; Ex 15:4,22; Ex 23:31; Nu 14:25; Nu 21:4; Nu 33:10-11; De 1:40; De 11:4; Jos 2:10; Jos 4:23; Jos 24:6; Jg 11:16; 1Ki 9:26; Ne 9:9; Ps 106:7,9,22; Ps 136:13,15; Jer 49:21). It is also perhaps written Suphcah', סוּפָה (Sept. Ζωόβ), in Nu 21:14, rendered "Red Sea" in the A.V.; and in like manner, in De 1:1, סוּŠ, without יִם. The Sept. always renders it ) ἡ ἐρυθρὰ θάλασσα (except in Jg 11:16, where סוּŠ, Σίφ, is preserved). So, too, in the New Test. (Ac 7:36; Heb 11:29); and this name is found in the Apocrypha (1 Maccabees 4:9; Wisdom of Solomon 10:18; 19:7) and Josephus (Ant. 8:6, 4). By the classical geographers this appellation, like its Latin equivalent Mare Rubrum or M. Erythroeum, was extended to all the seas washing the shores of the Arabian peninsula, and even the Indian Ocean: the Red Sea itself, or Arabian Gulf, was οΑ῾᾿ράβιος κόλπος, or Α᾿ραβικὸς κ.,, or Sinus Arabicus, and its eastern branch, or the Gulf of 'Akabah, Αἰλανίτης, Ε᾿λανίτης, Ε᾿λανιτικὸς κόλπος, Sinus Elanites, or S. Elaniticius. The Gulf of Suez was specially the Heroopolitic Gulf, ῾Ηρωοπολίτης κόλπος, Sinus Heroopolites, or S. Heroopoliticus. Dr. Beke (Sinai in Arabia [Lond. 1878], p. 361 sq.) contends (in keeping with his wild notion that the Mizraim of the Bible was not Egypt, but the peninsula of Arabia) that the Gulf of 'Akabah, and not that of Suez, was the Yam-Suph of the Hebrews, chiefly on the rash assumption that the former only was known to the Israelites, whereas the itinerary of Moses clearly distinguishes Eziongeber on the one from the crossing at the other (Nu 8:10,26,26). Among the peoples of the East, the Red Sea has for many centuries lost its old names: it is now called generally by the Arabs, as it was in mediaeval times, Bahr-el-Kulzum, "the Sea of El-Kulzum," after the ancient Clysma, "the sea-beach," the site of which is near, or at, the modern Suez. In the Koran, part of its old name is preserved, the rare Arabic word ya1manm being used in the account of the passage of the Red Sea (see also El- Beydawi, Comment. on the Kuran, 7:132, p. 341; 20:81, p. 602). These Biblical names require a more detailed consideration.

1. Yam, יָם (Coptic, iom; Arabic, yamm), signifies "the sea," or any sea. It is also applied to the Nile (exactly as the Arabic bahr is so applied) in Ne 3:8, "Art thou better than populous No, that was situate among the rivers (yeoraim), [that had] the waters round about it, whose rampart [was] the sea (yam), and her wall was from the sea (yam)?" See also Isa 19:5.

Bible concordance for RED SEA.

2. Yam-Suph, יִםאּסוּŠ; in the Coptic version, phiom nshapi; A.V. "Red Sea." The meaning of suph, and the reason of its being applied to this sea, have given rise to much learned controversy. Gesenius renders it rush, reed, sea-weed. It is mentioned in the Old Test. almost always in connection with the sea of the Exodus. It also occurs in the narrative of the exposure of Moses in the יאֹר (yet (yeah); for he was laid in supinh, on the brink of the yen;r (Ex 2:3), where (in the suph) he was found by Pharaoh's daughter (ver. 5); and in the "burden of IEgypt" (Isaiah 19), with the drying-up of the waters of Egypt, "And the waters shall fail from the sea (yam), and the river (nahloir) shall be wasted and dried up. And they shall turn the rivers (nahar', constr. pl.) far away; [and] the brooks (yeor) of defence (or of Egypt?) shall be emptied and dried up: the reeds and flags (suph) shall wither. The paper reeds by the brooks (yeor), by the mouth of the brooks (yeor), and everything sown by the brooks (yeor) shall wither, be driven away, and be no [more]. The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks (yeor) shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish. Moreover, they that work in fine flax, and they that weave net works (white linen?) shall be confounded. And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make sluices [and] ponds for fish" (ver. 5-10). Suph only occurs in one place besides those already referred to. In Jon 2:5 it is written, "The waters compassed me about, [even] to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds (suph) were wrapped about my head." With this single exception, which shows that this product was also found in the Mediterranean, suph is Egyptian, either in the Red Sea or in the yeor, and this yeor in Exodus 2 was in the land of Goshen.

The signification of סוּŠ, suph, must be gathered from the foregoing passages. In Arabic, the word with this signification (which commonly is "wool") is found only in one passage in a rare lexicon (the Mohkam MS.). The author says, "Suf-el-bahr (the suf of the sea) is like the wool of sheep. And the Arabs have a proverb, 'I will come to thee when the sea ceases to wet the suf," i.e. never. The סוּŠ of the יָם, it seems quite certain, is a sea- weed resembling wool. Such sea-weed is thrown up abundantly on the shores of the Red Sea. Furst says, s.v. סוּŠ, "Ab AEthiopibus herba qumdam supho appellabatur, quae in profundo Maris Rubri crescit, quae rubra est, rubrumque colorem continet, pannis tingendis inservientem, teste Hieronymo de qualitate Maris Rubri" (p. 47, etc.). Diodorus (3 c. 19), Artemidorus (ap. Strabo, p. 770), and Agatharchides (ed. Muller, p. 136, 137) speak of the weed of the Arabian Gulf. Ehrenberg enumerates Fucus latifolius on the shores of this sea, and at Suez Fucmus crispus, F. trinodis, F. turbinatuts, F. papillosus, F. caiaphamnus, etc., and the specially red weed Trichodesmium erythnrceum. The Coptic version renders siuph by shari (see above), supposed to be the hieroglyphic sher (sea?). If this be the same as the sari of Pliny (see next paragraph), we must conclude that shari, like suph, was both marine and fluvial. The passage in Jonah proves it to be a marine product, and that it was found in the Red Sea the nummerous passages in which that sea is called the sea of suph leave no doubt.

Definition of red

3. The "Red Sea," ἡ ἐρυθρὰ θάλασσα. The origin of this appellation has been the source of more speculation even than the obscure suph, for it lies more within the range of general scholarship. The theories advanced to account for it have been often puerile and generally unworthy of acceptance. Their authors may be divided into two schools. The first have ascribed it to some natural phenomenon, such as the singularly red appearance of the mountains of the western coast, looking as if they were sprinkled with Havana or Brazil snuff, or brick-dust (Bruce), or of which the redness was reflected in the waters of the sea (Gosselin, ii, 78-84); the red color of the water sometimes caused by the presence of zoophytes (Salt; Ehrenberg); the red coral of the sea; the red sea-weed; and the red storks that have been seen in great numbers, etc. Reland (De Mare Rubro, Diss. Miscell. i, 59-117) argues that the epithet red was applied to this and the neighboring seas on account of their tropical heat; as, indeed, was said by Artemidorus (ap. Strabo, 16:4, 20), that the sea was called red because of the reflection of the sun. The second have endeavored to find an etymological derivation. Of these the earliest (European) writers proposed a derivation from Edom, "red," by the Greeks translated literally. Among them were Fuller (Miscell. Sacr. 4 c. 20); before him Scaliger, in his notes to Festues, s.v. "AEgyptinos" (ed. 1574); and still earlier Genebrard (Comment. ad Ps. 106). Bochart (Phaleg, 4:c. 34) adopted this theory (see Reland, Diss. Miscell. [ed. 1706] i, 85). The Greeks and Romans tell us that the sea received its name from a great king, Erythras, who reigned in the adjacent country (Strabo, 16:4, § 20; Pliny, H. N. 6 c. 23, § 28; Agatharch. i, § 5; Philostr. 3:15; and others). The stories that have come down to us appear to be distortions of the tradition that Himyer was the name of apparently the chief family of Arabia Felix, the great South Arabian kingdom, whence the Himyerites and Homeritae. Himyer appears to be derived from the Arabic "ahmar," red (Himyer was so called because of the red color of his clothing; "aafar" also signifies "red," and is the root of the names of several places in the peninsula so called on account of their redness (see Marasid, p. 263, etc.); this may point to Ophir: φοίνιξ is red, and the Phoenicians came from the Erythraean Sea (Herod. 7:89).

II. Physical Description. — In extreme length, the Red Sea stretches from the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb (or rather Ras Bab el-Mandeb), in lat. 12° 40' N., to the modern head of the Gulf of Suez, lat. 30° N. Its greatest width may be stated roughly at about 200 geographical miles; this is about lat. 16° 30'. but the navigable channel is here really narrower than in some other portions, groups of islands and rocks stretching out into the sea between thirty and forty miles from the Arabian coast and fifty miles from the African coast. From shore to shore, its narrowest part is at Ras Benlas, lat. 24°, on the African coast, to Rias Beridi opposite, a little north of Yembo', the port of El-Medineh; and thence northwards to Rias Mohammad (i.e. exclusive of the gulfs of Suez and the 'Akabah) the sea maintains about the same average width of 100 geographical miles. Southwards from Ras Benas it opens out in a broad reach; contracts again to nearly the above narrowness at Jiddah (correctly Jeddah), lat. 21° 30', the port of Mekkeh, and opens to its extreme width south of the last- named port.

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At Ras Mohammad the Red Sea is split by the granitic peninsula of Sinai into two gulfs — the westernmost, or Gulf of Suez, is now about 130 geographical miles in length, with an average width of about eighteen, though it contracts to less than ten miles; the easternmost, or Gulf of el- 'Akabah, is only about ninety miles long from the Strait of Tiran to

'Akabah, and of proportionate narrowness. The navigation of the Red Sea and Gulf of Suez near the shores is very difficult from the abundance of shoals, coral-reefs, rocks, and small islands, which render the channel intricate, and cause strong currents often of unknown force and direction; but in mid-channel, exclusive of the Gulf of Suez, there is generally a width of 100 miles clear, except the Dedalus reef (Wellsted, 2, 300). The bottom in deep soundings is in most places sand and stones from Suez as far as Jiddah, and thence to the strait it is commonly mud. The deepest sounding in the excellent Admiralty chart is 1054 fathoms, in lat. 22° 30'.

Journeying southwards from Suez, on our left is the peninsula of Sinai; on the right is the desert coast of Egypt, of limestone formation, like the greater part of the Nile valley in Egypt, the cliffs on the sea-margin stretching landwards in a great rocky plateau, while more inland a chain of volcanic mountains (beginning about lat. 28° 4' and running south) rear their lofty peaks at intervals above the limestone, generally about fifteen miles distant. Of the most importance is Jebel Ghirib, 6000 feet high; and as the Strait of Jubal is passed, the peaks of the primitive range attain a height of about 4500 to 6900 feet, until the "Elba" group rises in a huge mass about lat. 220. Farther inland is the Jebel ed Dukhkh an, the "porphyry mountain" of Ptolemy (4, 5, § 27; M. Claudianus, see Muller, Geogr. Min. Atlas 7), 6000 feet high, about twenty-seven miles from the coast, where the porphyry quarries formerly supplied Rome, and where are some remains of the time of Trajan (Wilkinson, Modern Egypt and Thebes, 2, 383); and besides these, along this desert southwards are "quarries of various granites, serpentines, breccia verde, slates, and micaceous, talcose, and other schists" (ibid. p. 382). Jebel ez-Zeit, "the mountain of oil," close to the sea, abounds in petroleum (ibid. p. 385). This coast is especially interesting in a Biblical point of view, for here were some of the earliest monasteries of the Eastern Church, and in those secluded and barren mountains lived very early Christian hermits. The convent of St. Anthony (of the Thebais), "Deir Mar Antuniyus," and that of St. Paul, "Deir Mar Bolus," are of great renown, and were once important. They are now, like all Eastern monasteries, decayed; but that of St. Anthony gives, from its monks, the patriarch of the Coptic Church, formerly chosen from the Nitrian monasteries (ibid. p. 381). South of the "Elba" chain, the country gradually sinks to a plain, until it rises to the highland of Jidan, lat. 15°, and thence to the strait extends a chain of low mountains. The greater part of the African coast of the Red Sea is sterile, sandy, and thinly peopled —

first beyond Suez by Bedouin chiefly of the Ma'azi tribe; south of the Kliseir road are the 'Abab'deh; and beyond, the Bisharis, the southern branch of whom are called by Arab writers Bejt, whose customs, language, and ethnology demand a careful investigation, lwhich would unldoubtedly be repaid by curious results (see El-Makrizi's Khitat, Descr. of the Beja, and Descr. of the Desert of Eydhdb; Quatremree's Essays, on these subjects, in his Memoires Hist. et Geor. sur l'Egypte, ii, 134, 162: and The Genesis of the Earth and of Milan, 2d ed. p. 109); and then, coast-tribes of Abyssinia.

The Gulf of el-'Akabah (i.e. "of the mountain-road") is the termination of the long valley of the Ghor or 'Arabah that runs northwards to the Dead Sea. It is itself a narrow valley; the sides are lofty and precipitous mountains of entire barrenness; the bottom is a river-like sea, running nearly straight for its whole length of about ninety miles. The northerly winds rush down this gorge with uncommon fury, and render its navigation extremely perilous, causing at the same time strong counter-currents; while most of the few anchorages are open to the southerly gales. It "has the appearance of a narrow deep ravine, — extending nearly a hundred miles in a straight direction, and the circumjacent hills rise in some places two thousand feet perpendicularly from the shore" (Wellsted, 2, 108). The western shore is the peninsula of Sinai. The Arabian chain of mountains, the continuation of the southern spurs of the Lebanon, skirt the eastern coast, and rise to about 3500 feet; while Jebel Teibet-'Ali, near the strait, is 6000 feet. There is no pasturage and little fertility, except near the 'Akabah, where are date-groves and other plantations, etc. In earlier days tlis last-named place was, it is said, famous for its fertility. Thle island of Graia, Jeziret Fara'fin, once fortified and held by the Crusaders, is near its northern extremity on the Sinaitic side. The sea, from its dangers and sterile shores, is entirely destitute of boats.

The Arabian coast outside the Gulf of the 'Akabah is skirted by the range of Arabian mountains, which in some few places approach the sea, but generally leave a belt of coast country, called Tihameh, or the Ghor, like the Shephelah of Palestine. This tract is generally a sandy parched plain, thinly inhabited, these characteristics being especially strong in the north (Niebuhr, Descr. p. 305). The mountains of the Hejtz consist of ridges running parallel towards the interior, and increasing in height as they recede (Wellsted, 2, 242). Burckhardt remarks that the descent on the eastern side of these mountains, like the Lebanon and the whole Syrian range east of the Dead Sea, is much less than that on the western; and that the peaks seen from the east or land side appear mere hills (Arabicu, p. 321 sq.). In clear weather they are visible at a distance of forty to seventy miles (Wellsted, 2, 242). The distant ranges have a rugged pointed outline, and are granitic; at Wejh, with horizontal veins of quartz; nearer the sea many of the hills are fossiliferous limestone. while the beach hills "consist of light-colored sandstone, fronted by and containinng large quantities of shells and masses of coral" (p. 243). Coral also "enters largely into the composition of some of the most elevated hills." The more remarkable mountains are Jebel 'Ein-Unna (or 'Eynuwunna, Mardsid, s.v. "'Ein," ῎Οννη of Ptol.), 6090 feet high near the strait; a little farther south, and close to Mo'eileh, are mountains rising from 6330 to 7700 feet, of which Wellsted says: "The coast... is low, gradually ascending with a moderate elevation to the distance of six or seven miles, when it rises abruptly to hills of great height, those near Mowilah terminating in sharp and singularly shaped peaks... Mr. Irwin [1777]... has styled them Bullock's Horns. To me the whole group seemed to bear a great resemblance to representations which I have seen of enormous icebergs" (2, 176; see also the Admiralty chart, and Muiller's Geogr. Min.). A little north of Yembo is a remarkable group, the pyramidal mountains of Agratharchides; and beyond, about twenty-five miles distant, rises Jebel Radwa. Farther south Jebel Subh is remarkable for its magnitude and elevation, which is greater than any other between Yembo' and Jiddah; and still farther, but about eighty miles distant from the coast, Jebel Ras el-Kura rises behind the holy city Mekkeh (Mecca). It is of this mountain that Burckhardt writes so enthusiastically (how rarely is he enthusiastic!), contrasting its verdure and cool breezes with the sandy waste of Tihameh (Arabia, p. 65 sq.). The chain continues the whole length of the sea, terminating in the highlands of the Yemen. 'The Arabian mountains are generally fertile, agreeably different from the parched plains below and their own bare granite peaks above. The highlands and mountain summits of the Yemen, "Arabia the Happy," the Jebel as distinguished from the plain, are precipitous, lofty, and fertile (Niebuhr, Descr. p. 161), with many towns and villages in their vallevs and on their sides. The coast-line itself, or Tihameh, "north of Yembo', is of moderate elevation, varying from fifty to one hundlmred feet. with no beach. To the southward [to Jiddah] it is more sandy and less elevated; the inlets and harbors of the former tract may be styled coves, in the latter they are lagoons" (Wellsted, 2, 244). The coral of the Red Sea is remarkably abundant, and beautifully colored and variegated. It is often red, but the more common kind is white; and of hewn blocks of this many of the Arabian towns are built.

The earliest navigation of the Red Sea (passing by the prehistorical Phoenicians) is mentionedl by Herodotus. "Sesostris (Rameses II) was the first who, passing the Arabian Gulf in a fleet of long vessels, reduced under his authority the inhabitants of the coast bordering the Erythraann Sea. Proceeding still farther, he came to a sea which, from the great number of its shoals, was not navigable;" and after another war against Ethiopia he set up a stela on the promontory of Dira, near the strait of the Arabian Gulf. Three centuries later, Solomon's navy was built "in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom" (1Ki 9:26). In the description of the Gulf of el'Akabah, it will be seen that this narrow sea is almost without any safe anchorage, except at the island of Graia near the 'Akabahl, and about fifty miles southward the Harbor of ed-Dhahab. It is supposed by some that the sea has retired here as at Suez, and that Eziongeber is now dry land. SEE ELATH; SEE EZIONGEBER. Solomon's navy was evidently constructed by Phoenician workmen of Hiram, for he "sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon." This was the navy that sailed to Ophir. We may conclude that it was necessary to transport wood as well as men to build and man these ships on the shores of the Gulf of the 'Akabah, which from their natural formation cannot be supposed to have much altered, and which were, besides, part of the Wilderness of the Wandering; and the Edomites were pastoral Arabs, unlike the seafaring Himyeritcs. Jehoshaphat also "made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold; but they went not, for the ships were broken at Eziongeber" (1Ki 22:48). The scene of this wreck has been supposed to be ed-Dhahab, where is a reef of rocks like a "giant's backbone" (=Eziongeber) (Wellsted, 2, 153), and tlis may strengthen an identification with that place. 'These ships of Jehoshaphat were mannled by "his servants," who, from their ignorance of the sea, may lave caused the wreck. Pharaoh-necho constructed a number of ships in the Arabian Gulf, and the remains of his works existed in the time of Herodotus (p. 159), who also tells us that these ships were manned by Phoenician sailors.

The fashion of the ancient ships of the Red Sea, or of the Phoenician ships of Solomon, is unknown. From Pliny we learn that the ships were of papyrus and like the boats of the Nile; and this statement was no doubt in some measure correct. But the coasting craft must have been very different from those employed in the Indian trade. More precise and curious is El- Maakrizi's description, written in the first half of the 15th century, of the shilps that sailed from Eidhab on the Egyptian coast to Jiddah: "'Their 'jelebehs' (P. Lobo, ap. Quatremere, Memoires, ii. 164, calls them 'gelves'), which carry the pilgrims on the coast, have not a nail used in them, but their planks are sewed together with fibre which is taken from the cocoanut-tree, and they calk them with the fibres of the wood of the date-palm; then they 'pay' them with butter or the oil of the Palmra Chriisti, or with the fat of the kirsh (Squalus cas'charias; Forskal, Desc?. Animalium, p. 8:No. 19)... The sails of these jelebehs are of mats made of the dom palm" (the Khitat, "Desert of Eidhalb"). The crews of the latter, when not exceptionally Phcenicians, as were Solomon's and Pharaoh- necho's, were without doubt generally Arabians rather than Egyptians — those Himyerite Arabs whose ships carried all the wealth of the East either to the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf. The people of 'Oman, the south-east province of Arabia, were among the foremost of these navigators (El- Mes'uidi's Golden Meadows, MS., and The Accounts of 'Two Mohammedan Travellers of the 9th Century). It was customary, probably to avoid the dangers and delays of the narrow seas, for the ships engaged in the Indian trade to trans-ship their cargoes at the Strait of Bab el- Mandeb to Egyptian and other vessels of the Red Sea (Agath. § 103, p. 190; anon. Peripl. § 26, p. 277, ed. Muller). The fleets appear to have sailed about the autumnal equinox, and returned in December or the middle of January (Pliny, H. N. 6 c. 23 § 26; comp. Peripl'. passim). Jerome says that the navigation was extremely tedious. At the present day the voyages are periodical and guided by the seasons; but the old skill of the seamen has nearly departed, and they are extremely timid, rarely venturing far from the coast.

The Red Sea, as it possessed for many centuries the most important sea- trade of the East, contained ports of celebrity. Of these, Elath and Eziongeber alone appear to be mentioned in the Bible. The Heroopolitic Gulf is of the chief interest — it was near to Goshen; it was the scene of the passage of the Red Sea; it was also the seat of the Egyptian trade in this sea and to the Indian Ocean. Heroapolis is doubtless the same as Hero, and its site has been probably identified with the modern Abi-Kesheid, at the head of the old gulf. By the consent of the classics, it stood on or near the head of the gulf, and was sixty-eight miles (according to the Itinerary of Antoninus) from Clysma, by the Arabs called el-Kulzum, near the modern Suez, which is close to the present head. Suez is a poor town, and has only an unsafe anchorage with very shoal water. On the shore of the Ieroopolitic Gulf was also Arsinol, founded by Ptolemy Philadelphus; its site has not been settled. Berenice, founded by the same, on the southern frontier of Egypt, rose to importance under the Ptolemies and the Romans; it is now of no note. On the western coast was also the anchorage of Myos Hormos, a little north of the modern town el-Kuseir, which now forms the point of communication with the old route to Coptos. On the Arabian coast the principal ports are Mu'eileh, Yembo' (the port of el-Medineh), Jiddah (the port of Mekkeh), and Mukh, by us commonly written Mocha. The Red Sea in most parts affords anchorage for country vessels well acquainted with its intricacies, and able to creep along the coast among the reefs and islands that girt the shore. Numerous creeks on the Arabian shore (called "shuram," sing. "sharm") indent the land. Of these the anchorage called es-Sharm, at the southern extremity of the peninsula of Sinai, is much frequented.

The commerce of the Red Sea was, in very ancient times, unquestionably great. The earliest records tell of the ships of the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, and the Arabs. Although the ports of the Persian Gulf received a part of the Indian traffic, and the Himveritic maritime cities in the south of Arabia supplied the kingdom of Sheba, the trade with Egypt was, we must believe, the most important of the ancient world. That all this traffic found its way to the head of the Heroopolitic Gulf seems proved by the absence of any important Pharaonic remains farther south on the Egyptian coast. But the shoaling of the head of the gulf rendered the navigation, always dangerous, more difficult: it destroyed the former anchorages, and made it necessary to carry merchandise across the desert to the Nile. This change appears to have been one of the main causes of the decay of the commerce of Egypt. We have seen that the long-voyaging ships shifted their cargoes to Red-Sea craft at the strait; and Ptolemy Philadelphus, after founding Arsinoe and endeavoring to reopen the old canal of the Red Sea, abandoned the upper route and established the southern road from his new city Berenice, on the frontier of Egypt and Nubia, to Coptos, on the Nile. Strabo tells us that this was done to avoid the dangers encountered in navigating the sea (xvii, 1, § 45). Though the stream of commerce was diverted, sufficient seems to have remained to keep in existence the former ports, though they have long since utterly disappeared. Under the Ptolemies and the Romans the commerce of the Red Sea varied greatly, influenced by the decaying state of Egypt and the route to Palmyra (until the fall of the latter). But even its best state at this time cannot have been such as to make us believe that the 120 ships sailing from Myos Hormos, mentioned by Strabo (ii, v, § 12), were other than an annual convoy. The wars of Heraclius and Chosroes affected the trade of Egypt as they influenced that of the Persian Gulf. Egypt had fallen low at the time of the Arab occupation, and yet it is curious to note that Alexandria even then retained the shadow of its former glory. Since the time of Mohammed the Red Sea trade has been insignificant. But the opening of the Suez Canal has lately rendered it the great thoroughfare to India.

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