A description of the city and the countryside. Compare Verse 11 with conditions of today. Verses 89-41 reveal how the ancients estimate a scholar and a gentleman.
THE size of the city is of moderate dimensions.
2 It is about forty furlongs 1 in circumference, as far as one could conjecture.
3 It has its towers arranged in the shape of a theatre, with thoroughfares leading between them now the crossroads of the lower towers are visible but those of the upper towers are more frequented.
4 For the ground ascends, since the city is built upon a mountain.
5 There are steps too which lead up to the crossroads, and some people are always going up, and others down and they keep as far apart from each other as possible on the road because of those who are bound by the rules of purity, lest they should touch anything which is unlawful.
6 It was not without reason that the original founders of the city built it in due proportions, for they possessed clear insight with regard to what was required.
7 For the country is extensive and beautiful.
8 Some parts of it are level, especially the districts which belong to Samaria, as it is called, and which border on the land of the Idumeans, other parts are mountainous, especially those which are contiguous to the land of Judea.
9 The people therefore are bound to devote themselves to agriculture and the cultivation of the soil that by this means they may have a plentiful supply of crops.
10 In this way cultivation of every kind is carried on and an abundant harvest reaped in the whole of the aforesaid land.
11 The cities which are large and enjoy a corresponding prosperity are well-populated, but they neglect the country districts, since all men are inclined to a life of enjoyment, for every one has a natural tendency towards the pursuit of pleasure.
12 The same thing happened in Alexandria, which excels all cities in size and prosperity.
13 Country people by migrating from the rural districts and settling in the city brought agriculture into disrepute: and so to prevent them from settling in the city, the king issued orders that they should not stay in it for more than twenty days. 2
14 And in the same way he gave the judges written instructions, that if it was necessary to issue a summons against any one who lived in the country, the case must be settled within five days.
15 And since he considered the matter one of great importance, he appointed also legal officers for every district with their assistants, that the farmers and their advocates might not in the interests of business empty the granaries of the city, I mean, of the produce of husbandry.
16 I have permitted this digression because it was Eleazar who pointed out with great
clearness the points which have been mentioned.
17 For great is the energy which they expend on the tillage of the soil.
18 For the land is thickly planted with multitudes of olive trees, with crops of corn and pulse, with vines too, and there is abundance of honey.
19 Other kinds of fruit trees and dates do not count compared with these.
20 There are cattle of all kinds in great quantities and a rich pasturage for them.
21 Wherefore they rightly recognise that the country districts need a large population, and the relations between the city and the villages are properly regulated.
22 A great quantity of spices and precious stones and gold is brought into the country by the Arabs.
23 For the country is well adapted not only for agriculture but also for commerce, and the city is rich in the arts and lacks none of the merchandise which is brought across the sea.
24 It possesses too suitable and commodious harbours at Askalon, Joppa, and Gaza, as well m at Ptolemais which was founded by the King and holds a central position compared with the other places named, being not far distant from any of them.
25 The country produces everything in abundance, since it is well watered in all directions and well protected from storms.
26 The river Jordan, as it is called, which never runs dry, flows through the land.
27 Originally the country contained not less than 60 million acres--though afterwards the neighbouring peoples made incursions against it--and 600,000 men were settled upon it in farms of a hundred acres each.
28 The river like the Nile rises in harvest-time and irrigates a large portion of the land.
29 Near the district belonging to the people of Ptolemais it issues into another river and this flows out into the sea.
30 Other mountain torrents, as they are called, flow down into the plain and encompass the parts about Gaza and the district of Ashdod.
31 The country is encircled by a natural fence and is very difficult to attack and cannot be assailed by large forces, owing to the narrow passes, with theft overhanging precipices and deep ravines, and the rugged character of the mountainous regions which surround all the land.
32 We were told that from the neighbouring mountains of Arabia copper and iron were formerly obtained.
33 This was stopped, however, at the time of the Persian rule, since the authorities of the time spread abroad a false report that the working of the mines was useless and expensive in order to prevent their country from being destroyed by the mining in these districts and possibly taken away from them owing to the Persian rule, since by the assistance of this false report they found an excuse for entering the district.
34 I have now, my dear brother Philocrates, given you all the essential information upon this subject in brief form.
35 I shall describe the work of translation in the sequel.
36 The High Priest selected men of the finest character and the highest culture, such as one would expect from their noble parentage.
37 They were men who had not only acquired proficiency in Jewish literature but had studied most carefully that of the Greeks as well.
38 They were specially qualified therefore for serving on embassies
and they undertook this duty whenever it was necessary.
39 They possessed a great facility for conferences and the discussion of problems connected with the law.
40 They espoused the middle course--and this is always the best course to pursue.
41 They abjured the rough and uncouth manner, but they were altogether above pride and never assumed an air of superiority over others, and in conversation they were ready to listen and give an appropriate answer to every question.
42 And all of them carefully observed this rule and were anxious above everything else to excel each other in its observance and they were all of them worthy of their leader and of his virtue.
43 And one could observe how they loved Eleazar by their unwillingness to be torn away from him and how he loved them.
44 Far besides the letter which he wrote to the king concerning their safe return, he also earnestly besought Andreas to work for the same end and urged me, too, to assist to the best of my ability.
45 And although we promised to give our best attention to the matter, he said that he was still greatly distressed, for he knew that the king out of the goodness of his nature considered it his highest privilege, whenever he heard of a man who was superior to his fellows in culture and wisdom, to summon him to his court.
46 For I have heard of a fine saying of his to the effect that by securing just and prudent men about his person he would secure the greatest protection for his kingdom, since such friends would unreservedly give him the most beneficial advice.
47 And the men who were now being sent to him by Eleazar undoubtedly possessed these qualities.
48 And he frequently asserted upon oath that he would never let the men go if it were merely some private interest of his own that constituted the impelling motive-but it was for the common advantage of all the citizens that he was sending them.
49 For, he explained, the good life consists in the keeping of the enactments of the law, and this end is achieved much more by hearing than by reading.
50 From this and other similar statements it was clear what his feelings towards them were.
154:1 A furlong is 1/8 mile (i. e. 220 yards).
154:2 This account of the measures adopted at Alexandria to prevent the depopulation of the countryside through migrations into the city is an interesting revelation that the question was as acute 2000 years ago as it is today.