And here I cannot but amend the reading of Pliny, or at least shew that it wants mending; in whom we read thus: "Thence the Nabateans inhabit the town called Petra, the Rock, in a valley little less than two miles in bigness, surrounded with inaccessible mountains, a river running between. It is distant from Gaza, a town of our shore, 600 miles: from the Persian bay, 122 miles. Two double ways meet here; the way of those who went to Palmyra of Syria; and of those who came from Gaza." Those words, "it is distant from Gaza," &c. are they with which we have to do.
What! six hundred miles from Gaza to Petra, the metropolis of the Moabites? I wonder the very learned Heidman should so softly swallow down these words, and that without any regret. But let me have leave to conjecture that Pliny, in his own copy, wrote thus, "It is distant from Gaza, a town of our shore, CX.M": but by the carelessness of the transcribers, the numerical letter X was cut into two parts, after this manner,) (, and the left half of it, at length, closed in with the former C, in this manner (), and so at last passed into D; and the other right-hand half remained thus, C, and was reckoned for a hundred.
However we may mistake in our conjecture, yet certainly concerning the space and number of the miles, we do not so mistake. For allow thirty-eight miles, or thereabouts, between Petra and Asphaltites, and grant twenty miles, or thereabouts, to the breadth of that sea (that we may go something in the middle between Pliny and Josephus concerning the breadth of it), then there will remain of the hundred and ten miles which we suppose Pliny wrote, fifty-two miles, or thereabout, from that sea to Gaza: which is not far from the mark. But the mark is vastly overshot, when six hundred miles are assigned from Gaza to Petra. You will surely favour our computation, and conjecture of the injury done Pliny by the transcribers, when you shall have observed, that the first shore of Gaza is, according to Ptolemy, as we have said, in degree 65.26; and Petra is only in degree 66.45.
Let us, therefore, grant fifty-two or fifty-three miles, or thereabouts, for the breadth of the land from the shore of the Mediterranean sea to the Asphaltites: you must allow some more miles between the Mediterranean shore and Jordan: because by how much the more broad the Asphaltites is, so much the less broad is the land; and the same must be said of the sea of Gennesaret and Samochonitis. And Galilee is not only straitened according as they are enlarged; but it is straitened also by the territories of Tyre and Sidon running between it and the sea.
So that it would be in vain to trace out an exact breadth of the land every where; and it would be ridiculous to measure it by any one measure or extension. It is well enough, if one come near the thing by some convenient guess here and there, or err not much of it.
The determination of the length of the land seems more sure, while it is measured out by towns and cities, from Sidon to the river of Egypt: but here also is not the same space to all; and in some places the measuring is very uncertain.