Within the legend and folklore recorded about ancient Egypt by Strabo (c. 64 BCE-24 CE) and Diodorus Siculus (1st century BCE), an odd tale can be found referencing a city called Rhinocolura, which is thought to have been located around modern-day El-Arish, Egypt. The founding of the city was attributed to a certain King Actisanes, a legendary figure with dubious historical authenticity. Whatever the case, this Actisanes was said to have been an Ethiopian who came to power in ancient Egypt. A stickler for law and order, he allegedly held mass criminal trials of defendants from all over the realm. Those who were found guilty in these large-scale prosecutions, it was said, did not face execution after their trials. Yet, they also were not released without punishment. Instead, the criminals were supposedly given a physical mark of their guilt and then were subsequently transported off to a penal colony. Diodorus Siculus recorded the tale, writing, “he took all who had been judged guilty, and cutting off their noses, settled them in a colony on the edge of the desert, founding the city which was called Rhinocolura [clipped nose] after the lot of its inhabitants” (The Library of History, Book I, chapter 60). Of course, after later generations replaced the original settlers, the people of Rhinocolura would have looked like any other average ancient Egyptian. The name for the colony, however, stuck.
Written by C. Keith Hansley.
Picture Attribution: (Photograph of a wall from the Temple of Horus, Edfu, taken by Gary Todd, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and WorldHistoryPics.com).
- The Library of History, by Diodorus Siculus, edited by Giles Laurén (Sophron Editor, 2014).
- Strabo’s Geography, translated by H.C. Hamilton and W. Falconer (1903 edition), republished in The Complete Works of Strabo (Delphi Classics, 2016).