Thirst For Water

Early man developed the ability to reason and he realized that food, water, sex and sleep are good things and that pain, hunger and thirst were undesirable.  Long before human beings had the ability to control fire, before man started wearing clothing and before man invented the first wheel, they thirsted for pure drinking water.  The need for water is a basic human essential for maintaining life, without it, no civilization would have prospered.  Water has always had a great affect on humanity and civilization because water is so absolutely vital to our body systems.  Human beings are entirely dependent upon water, in fact, this simple substance, more than any other factor, guided the formation of civilization.

Dying of thirst was a real threat for early man so man needed to devise ways to measure water because he was concerned about how much water he would get versus how much was given to others.  Early man needed to learn how to share handfuls of water with the rest of the tribe and this was probably how primitive man first measured a defined volume of liquid.  When early man was near a stream or lake they bent down and cupped their hands to drink water when they got thirsty and they stopped when their thirst was met.  Skins made from the hide of a goat were probably the first receptacles used for water drinking vessels.  Early man probably toted water with them when they journeyed away from their villages.  Earthen ware drinking vessels eventually replaced skins for drawing and holding water, once man discovered the art of making pottery.  Having a standard size cups and bowls for water made it more convenient to drink, sell and trade according to liquid volume.

Around 3000 BC, the Jewish Old Testament is filled with references to springs and wells, and they developed laws regarding drinking water.  The basic rule was one of common property, stating that water which came from rivers and streams and water that formed springs belonged to every man, because water from natural sources was “provided by God”.  Many important sources of water came from wells, however, where human labor was necessary to gain access to the water, this drinking water was managed as a common resource, though not an open access resource.  Within each community, Jewish law prioritized access according to use, giving the highest priority to drinking water, then irrigation and grazing.  The very highest priority access was granted to those in need, regardless of whether they belonged to the well’s community of owners or not.  This is called the “Right of Thirst” and was written “Let all you who thirst, come to the water!”  Thus any traveler in an arid region could foresee a situation where he or she might need water from strangers for survival.  In satisfying the Right of Thirst, rules of access still applied, for villagers’ necessary drinking requirements took priority over outsiders’. But outsiders’ thirst took precedence over local grazing and other uses.

A camel can go without drinking longer than any other domestic animal.  In the cooler part of the year, a camel may not drink water for up to six months as it gets all the moisture it needs from its food.  Even during the blazing hot summer months, a camel may drink only once a week.  A camel conserves water so well that it can lose up to 40 percent of its body weight and still live.  When camels drink, they consume enormous amounts of water at one time.  A thirsty camel can drink over 5 gallons of water in one minute and a very thirsty camel such as one that has just finished a long, hot caravan trip can gulp 35 gallons of water in six minutes.  When a thirsty camel smells water, it rushes to the water, fights, and struggles to overcome anything in its way.  Sometimes watering troughs are broken or knocked over from frenzied camels rushing for water.  When a camel goes too long without water, it’s eyes fill with tears, they refuse to graze, and they begin to moan.  As the camel dehydrates, part of its hump wastes away.  The hydrogen contained in the hump is released, combining with oxygen to create water for the camel.  When the hump is wasted away, the camel dies.

Solomon had a harem of over 700 wives and concubines, yet he was enamored by a young Black virgin from Ethiopia. Solomon wished to plant his seed in Makeda ‘the Queen of Sheba’ but according to Ethiopian tradition, the Queen must remain chaste.  The shrewd king conspired to conquer the affection of this young queen with whom he had fallen in love.  Solomon invited Queen Makeda to a magnificent dinner at his palace and the meal lasted for several hours and featured hot, spicy foods that were certain to make all who ate thirsty and sleepy, as King Solomon had planned.  Since the meal ended very late, the king invited Queen Makeda to stay overnight in the palace in his quarters.  She agreed as long as they would sleep in separate beds and the king would not seek to take advantage of her.  He vowed to honor her chastity, but also requested that she not take anything in the palace.  Outraged by such a suggestion, the Queen protested that she was not a thief and then promised as requested.  Not long after the encounter, the Queen, dying of thirst, searched the palace for water.  Once she found a large water jar and proceeded to drink, the King startled her by stating, “You have broken your oath that you would not take anything by force that is in my palace.”  The Queen protested, of course, that surely the promise did not cover something so insignificant and plentiful as water, but Solomon argued that there was nothing in the world more valuable than water, for without it nothing could live.  Makeda reluctantly admitted the truth of this and apologized for her mistake, begging for water for her parched throat.  Solomon, now released from his promise, assuaged her thirst and his own, immediately taking the Queen as his lover.

Around 775 BC, a remarkable story is told of king Soüs, who was besieged by the Clitorians, the inhabitants of Kleitor in ancient Arcadia in a barren spot where it was impossible to get freshwater.  His soldiers were suffering from thirst, so the king agreed that he would restore to the besiegers all his conquests, provided that himself and all his men should drink of the nearest spring.  King Soüs called his soldiers together, and made an offer for a reward to any man that would forbear drinking. Not a man among them was able to forbear, in short, when they had all drunk their fill.   When all were satisfied, Soüs approached the spring, and, in the presence of his own soldiers and those of the enemy, merely sprinkled his face; then, without allowing a drop of water to enter his mouth.  The king marches off in the face of his enemies, refusing to yield up his conquests, stating that the articles of the agreement were unfulfilled, because himself and all his men had not drunk of their water.

Tantalus, a Greek mythological figure was welcomed to Zeus’ table in Olympus, where he misbehaved by stealing ambrosia and nectar to bring it back to his people, and reveal the secrets of the gods.  For his crimes, he was condemned to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches, with the fruit ever eluding his grasp, and the water always receding before he could take a drink, so he was never able to quench his thirst.   A different version of this story tells how Tantalus did one of the most disgusting acts in Greek mythology, killing his son Pelops, cutting him up and roasting the pieces of his body and then serving him to the Gods at a dinner party.  However, the Gods understood what was going on and they refused to eat.  The punishment of Tantalus was an eternal punishment, much like Sisyphus suffered.  When someone is tantalized, that person can’t get what they need or desire because it is always out of reach, or too hard to get.

In 325 BC, Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) Macedonian King and conqueror of one of the largest empires in history, led his men through the Gedrosian desert a mountainous country along the northwestern shores of the Indian Ocean in search of Darius a Persian king, where the water was scarce and he and his army also had to battle sandstorms.  They covered four hundred miles in eleven days, and Alexander and his soldiers were nearly dead from thirst.  Some Macedonian scouts had gone ahead to select a camp-site and when they returned they brought back a few bags of water from a distant river, so they offered Alexander a helmet full of water.  Although his mouth was dry so much that he was nearly choking from thirst, he gave the helmet back with his thanks and explained, “There is not enough for everyone, and if I drink, the others will faint.  I cannot bear to drink alone and since it is not possible for me to share so little with everybody I will have to wait.”

Alexander’s army plodded on the next day suffering from the heat and raging thirst and finally in the evening, Alexander reached the Oxus river, but most of the troops were unable to keep pace with him.  Alexander lit up beacons so that his men could see their way to the new camp.  Those that arrived first, were quickly revived by having something to eat and drink, and then they were ordered by Alexander to fill skins, or any vessels that could find for carrying water, so they could bring relief to their comrades that were still marching there.  But some of these men gulped the water down too greedily and died from blockage of the windpipe.  Alexander stood at the point where the troops were arriving, and he did not leave and would not take any food or drink, until his entire column had passed him.

Jesus went through Samaria on the way back from Judaea to Galilee, and He arrived at the town of Sychar, near the field Jacob gave to his son Joseph.  Jesus, was tired from walking so He sat down by Jacob’s well.  It was the middle of the day, when He saw a Samaritan woman with a bucket, come for some water, and Jesus said to her, “Please can I have a drink.”  The woman replied, “What, you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?”  Jesus answered, “If only you knew what God gives and who I am, you would ask me, and get water for life.”  “But sir,” she said, “you haven’t a bucket, and it’s a deep well.  How can you get water of life?  Jacob gave us this well, his family used it and watered their animals here.  You don’t claim to be better than Jacob, do you?”  Jesus said, “Anyone who drinks this well water will be thirsty again, but if they drink the water I supply, they will never be thirsty again.  My water is like an internal spring, always supplying the kind of water that leads to real life.”  The woman asked, “Please give me your kind of water!  Then I will never be thirsty, and won’t have to fetch water again.”

Around 610, Muhammad (570–632) Arabian founder of the religion of Islam, accepted by Muslims throughout the world as the last of the prophets of God, chose his foundation mares by a test of their endurance, courage and loyalty.  The hot desert wind blew against the tent, driving the dust inside.  His daughter Fatima walked softly in, carrying an earthenware jug full of cold water, and handed it to the Prophet.  “Please, stop tormenting yourself, Mohammed,” she said, “drink some water!”  “I will drink when the test is over, and then the horses can drink, too.  I cannot drink knowing they are thirsty,” said the Prophet.   “I do not understand this test, nor do I like it,” said Fatima angrily.  “Depriving the horses from drinking for three full days is cruel.  I cannot believe you would do it, a man who loves animals better than himself!”  “I must.  Allah commanded me, would you have me disobey God?  The spread of Islam depends greatly on the loyalty and strength of our horses.  The best of these horses, said Allah, will be honored till the end of time, but it is the evening of the third day now, so let us go to the horses and conduct the test.”

He took a horn that hung at the tent’s entrance, and walked toward an enclosure where about a hundred horses were confined, a little distance from the water hole of the oasis.  The horses looked reproachfully at their beloved master as he quickly opened the gate.  Tormented by thirst, the horses galloped to the water hole, but before they could reach it, Mohammed raised the horn to his lips and sounded the call for war.  The horses ignored it.  They were so thirsty that perhaps they couldn’t even hear it, and went on galloping toward the water.  But not all of them.  Five mares stopped.  Without hesitation, they turned around and returned to Mohammed, ready to do whatever was required of them.  The Prophet stroked their silky manes, with tears in his eyes as he led them to the water and envisioned the glorious future as they drank.  He knew that these mares would foal the finest of Arab horses, the only horses of pure blood, the horses that would help bring Islam to every corner of the Earth.

In 1095, Peter the Hermit a radical monk led an unofficial Crusade.  When his small army arrived in the Holy Lands, thousands perished because they were in need of food and water.  Some of the crusaders were saved by dogs that had followed them back to their camp.  When these dogs arrived at the camp, the thirsty people noticed they had muddy paws, and figured that the dogs must have found water.  They followed the dogs’ tracks and came to water.

In 1402, Timur, also known as Timur the lame or Tamerlane (1336-1405) Central Asian conqueror was known for his intelligence and military skill was able to conquer an empire stretching from Russia to India, and from the Mediterranean Sea to Mongolia.  Timur decided to strike at the Ottoman Empire and he realized that a meaningful supply of water was essential to both armies.  After receiving reports from his scouts, he developed an ingenious plan to give him an advantage in the coming conflict.  While waiting for the Ottomans to appear, Timur used his large corps of engineers and his 32 trained elephants to build a diversion dam across Çubuk Creek, the only major water source in the area, with the exception of a few wells.  A gap was left in the diversion dam, to give the approaching Turks the illusion that the creek still flowed unimpeded. Then, a canal of about one and a quarter miles in length was dug parallel to the creek.  The canal then made a northwest turn along a smaller tributary creek which ran through a small but deep valley.  Finally, a somewhat smaller diversion dam was constructed to temporarily contain the diverted water in a reservoir after the first diversion dam was closed.

As the hot, thirsty, and nearly worn out Turkish army approached the battlefield from several days of forced marches they saw the Mongolian forces arrayed in battle formation along the banks of Çubuk Creek just south of the town.  Then, before their very eyes, the Turks saw their main source of water reduced to a trickle, and shortly disappear altogether.  Frantically searching for an alternative source, the Ottomans found a single well, but it had, been fouled by the Timur’s men.  With no other source of water available, the morale of the Ottoman army plummeted.

In 1895, Booker T. Washington (1856–1915) African-American spokesman and leader gave a speech before a predominantly white audience at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta.  His ‘Atlanta Compromise’ address, as it came to be called, where he noted that one-third of the population of the South is of the Negro race became one of the most important and influential speeches in American history.  Washington said, “A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel.  From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal, ‘Water, water; we die of thirst!’  The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’  A second time the signal, ‘Water, water; send us water!’ ran up from the distressed vessel, and was answered, ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’  And a third and fourth signal for water was answered, ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’  The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.”  The Amazon River is so huge that it pushes fresh water far out into the ocean.  The Amazon is responsible for a fifth of the total volume of fresh water entering the oceans worldwide.  Offshore of the mouth of the Amazon, potable water can be drawn from the ocean while still out of sight of the coastline.

Written for Randomness Inked Scribbling the Unspoken Let it Bleed Weekly Prompt Challenge 16, where the prompt today is “Thirst”.

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