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Nomes of Lower Egypt, I-V.

I started writing this egons ago—late January—but it got enormous and unwieldy and I never managed to whip it into much of a presentable shape.  But then, this is a blog—there’s nothing wrong with posting incomplete ideas per se.  If this ever gets finished, it’ll be a page of its own on the sidebar here.

So I was working on Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia 5.11:

Deinde Arsinoës ac iam dicta Memphis, inter quam et Arsinoiten nomon in Libyco turres quæ pyramides vocantur, et labyrinthus, in Mœridis lacu nullo addito ligno exædificatus, et oppidum Crialon.

Next, [the town of] Arsinoë, and Memphis, already mentioned; between it and the Arsenoite nome, towards the Libyan, the towers called the Pyramids, and the Labyrinth on Lake Moeris, which was constructed without any wood; and the town of Crialon.

The translation I was referencing (Perseus’) translated in Libyco as “upon the Libyan side” with a note on Libya that “he calls the whole of the country on the western bank of the Nile by this name”—but I don’t think this is quite right; certainly Libya means Africa, and north Africa, and north Africa west of Egypt, but Libycus is certainly in this case even narrower: I think he is referring to another of the Egyptian nomes, a nomos Libycus.

I wasn’t even sure there was a Libyan nome to begin with; Wikipedia’s table of nomes doesn’t, as of this writing, have the Greco-Roman names of the nomes, only the Egyptian ones… so I sort of set myself up a quest to find that sort of information.  It is, of course, not as easy as it sounds, even given that the classical names are usually derived from the names of the capital cities.

Take an Egyptian name: even when different lists have the same hieroglyphs, they may still give varying pronunciations—even more variant than in choice of vocalization, I mean.

Take the “modern” counterparts to the old capitals often listed and find they’re often copied from even older lists, where the names are in 1913ese: Matareeh for el-Mataria, for example. (I’ve tried to go with names that appear in Google Maps.) Also, Egypt was around a long time; cities rose to and fell from prominence over time, and the numbers of nomes shifted; the ‘traditional’ number for nomes in Lower Egypt appears to be twenty, but I’ve found lists of up to thirty-five, and I found at least forty such names in use. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that sometimes the lists are flat-out wrong; one puts Heliopolis in the easternmost nome of the Delta because of its identification with “Matareeh”; but while there is an El Matariya on the east end of the Delta, Heliopolis was actually near a different El Mataria, much closer to modern Cairo.

Anyway. This is not a new list; I’ve relied heavily on about six other lists; most helpful was Jacques Rougé’s Géographie ancienne de la Basse-Égypte which in large part appears to be devoted to just this sort of question. But I’ve also tried to gather as much confirmation as I could outside of mere lists, and indicated (or left out) information I was too unsure of.

I’ll only be posting a few at a time, to kind of stretch things out—I find myself with few enough things to post here as is, for some reason.

I

Nome

  • Egyptian: i҆nb-ḥḏ (Ineb Hedj, “White Wall”)
  • Greek: νομὸς Μεμφίτης (nomos Memphitēs, “Memphite nome”)

Capital

  • Egyptian: i҆nb-ḥḏ (Ineb Hedj)
  • Greek: Μέμφις (Memphis)
  • Nearest modern city: Mit Rahina, between Saqqara and Helwan

II

Nome

  • Egyptian: ḫpš [?] (Khepsh [?], “Shank/shoulder/strength”)
  • Greek: νομὸς Λητοπολίτης (nomos Lētopolitēs, “Letopolite nome”)

Capital

  • Egyptian: sḫm [?] (Sekhem)
  • Greek: Λητοῦς πόλις (Lētūs polis “Letopolis”)
  • Nearest modern city: Ausim

III

Nome

  • Egyptian: i҆mnty (Imenti [?], “West”)
  • Greek: νομὸς Λιβύης (nomos Libyēs, “nome of Libya”)

Capital

  • Egyptian: ???
  • Greek: Ἄπις (Apis)
  • Nearest modern city: Kom el-Hisn*

This also includes, perhaps, the νομὸς Μαρεώτης (nomos Mareōtēs “Mareote nome”) and the Andropolite nome. At any rate, there certainly was a nome called Libya, though the νομὸς Λιβυκός I was looking for is actually a bit hard to find attestations of, at least outside of Modern Greek. Ptolemy does talk about νομοῦ Λιβύης, though.

* ‘Kom el-Hisn’ doesn’t appear in Google Maps.

IV

Nome

  • Egyptian: nt rsw (Net Resu [?], “Southern shield”)
  • Greek: νομὸς Προσωρίτης [?] (nomos Prosōpitēs, “Prosopite nome”) [?]

Capital

  • Egyptian: ḏqꜣ-pr [?]
  • Greek: ??? (presumably Προσωπις, if this is the Prosopite nome)
  • Nearest modern city: Tanta

V

Nome

  • Egyptian: nt mḥt (Net-Mehet [?], “Northern shield”)
  • Greek: νομὸς Σαΐτης or νομὸς Σαείτης (nomos Saïtēs, “Saïte nome”)

Capital

  • Egyptian: ??? (Sa [?])
  • Greek: Σάϊς (Saïs)
  • Nearest modern city: Sais (Sa el-Hagar)

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