It will be obvious, from this description of the valley of the Nile,
that it formed a country which in ancient times isolated and secluded,
in a very striking manner, from all the rest of the world. It was wholly
shut in by deserts, on every side, by land; and the shoals, and
sand-bars, and other dangers of navigation which marked the line of the
coast, seemed to forbid approach by sea. Here it remained for many ages,
under the rule of its own native ancient kings. Its population was
peaceful and industrious. Its scholars were famed throughout the world
for their learning, their science, and their philosophy.

It was in these ages, before other nations had intruded upon its
peaceful seclusion, that the Pyramids were built, and the enormous
monoliths carved, and those vast temples reared whose ruined columns are
now the wonder of mankind. During these remote ages, too, Egypt was, as
now, the land of perpetual fertility and abundance. There would always
be corn in Egypt, wherever else famine might rage. The neighboring
nations and tribes in Arabia, Palestine, and Syria, found their way to
it, accordingly, across the deserts on the eastern side, when driven by
want, and thus opened a way of communication. At length the Persian
monarchs, after extending their empire westward to the Mediterranean,
found access by the same road to Pelusium, and thence overran and
conquered the country. At last, about two hundred and fifty years before
the time of Cleopatra, Alexander the Great, when he subverted the
Persian empire, took possession of Egypt, and annexed it, among the
other Persian provinces, to his own dominions. At the division of
Alexander's empire, after his death, Egypt fell to one of his generals,
named Ptolemy. Ptolemy made it his kingdom, and left it, at his death,
to his heirs. A long line of sovereigns succeeded him, known in history
as the dynasty of the Ptolemies--Greek princes, reigning over an
Egyptian realm. Cleopatra was the daughter of the eleventh in the line.

[...]
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