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Moeris, Lake Of

MOERIS, LAKE OF, the lake which formerly filled the deep depression of the Fayum to the Nile level, now shrunken and sunk more than 200 'ft. to the shallow Birket el Kerun. In remote prehistoric times the Fayum depression was probably dry, but with the gradual rise of the river bed the high Nile reached a level at which it could enter through the natural or artificial channel now known as the Bahr Yusuf. The borders of the lake were occupied by a neolithic people, and the town of Crocodilopolis grew up very early on the eastern slope south of the channel, where the higher ground formed a ridge in the lake. The rise continuing (at the rate of about 4 in. to the century) the waters threatened to flood the town; consequently under the Xllth Dynasty great embankments were made to save the settled land from encroachment. The line of the embankment is still traceable in places and marked by monuments of the Xllth Dynasty kings, an obelisk of Senwosri I. at Ebgig, and colossi of Amenemhe' III. at Biahmu. The latter ornamented the quay of the port of Crocodildpolis, and projected into the lake on high bases. As the Nile fell the broad expanse of the lake lowered, and the water pouring back through the channel was of value for summer irrigation; the inflow and outflow were regulated by sluices, and the capture of fish here and in the Jake was enormous. The channel which was of such importance was called the " Great Channel," Mewer, in Greek Moeris. The native name of the lake was Shei, " the lake," later Pi6m, " the sea " (whence Fayum); Teshei, " the land of the lake," was the early name of the region. At its capital Crccodilopolis and elsewhere the crocodile god Sobk (Suchus) was worshipped. Senwosri II. of the Xllth Dynasty built his pyramid at Illahun at the outer end of the channel, Amenemhe III. built his near the inner end at Hawara, and the vast labyrinth attached to it was probably his funerary temple. This king was afterwards worshipped in more than one locality about the lake under the name Marres (his praenomen Nemare) or Peremarres, i.e. Pharaoh Marres. The mud poured in at high Nile made rich deposits on the eastern slope; in the reign of Philadelphus large reclamations of land were made, veterans from the Syrian War were settled in the " Lake " (Ai/.ij'ij), and the latter quickly became a populous and very fertile province. Strabo's account of the Lake of Moeris must be copied from earlier writers, for in his day the outflow had been stopped probably for two centuries, and the old bed of the lake was dotted with flourishing villages to a great depth below the level of the Nile. Large numbers of papyri of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods have been found in and about the Fayum, which continued to flourish through the first two centuries of the Roman rule.

See W. M. F. Petrie, Hawara Biahmu and Arsinoe (London, 1889) ; R. H. Brown, The Fayum and Lake Moeris (London, 18921; B. P. Grenfell, A. S. Hunt and D. G. Hogarth, Fayum Towns and their Papyri (London, 1900); H. J C. Beadnell, The Topography and Geology of the Fayum Province of Egypt (Cairo, 1905). (F. LL. G.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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