Front Page Titles (by Subject) OF ISIS AND OSIRIS, OR OF THE ANCIENT RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY OF EGYPT. - The Morals, vol. 4
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OF ISIS AND OSIRIS, OR OF THE ANCIENT RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY OF EGYPT. - Plutarch, The Morals, vol. 4 
Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by Several Hands. Corrected and Revised by William W. Goodwin, with an Introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 5 Volumes. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878). Vol. 4.
Part of: Plutarch’s Morals, 5 vols.
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OF ISIS AND OSIRIS, OR OF THE ANCIENT RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY OF EGYPT.
1.It becomes wise men, dame Clea,* to go to the Gods for all the good things they would enjoy. Much more ought we, when we would aim at that knowledge of them which our nature can arrive at, to pray that they themselves would bestow it upon us; truth being the greatest good that man can receive, and the goodliest blessing that God can give. Other good things he bestows on men as they want them, they being not his own peculiars nor of any use to himself. For the blessedness of the Deity consists not in silver and gold, nor yet his power in lightnings and thunders, but in knowledge and wisdom. And it was the best thing Homer ever said of Gods, when he pronounced thus:
where he declares Jupiter’s prerogative in wisdom and science to be the more honorable, by terming it the elder. I, for my own part, do believe that the felicity of eternal living which the Gods enjoy lies mainly in this, that nothing escapes their cognizance that passes in the sphere of generation, and that, should we set aside wisdom and the knowledge of true beings,‡ immortality itself would not be life, but merely a long time.
2. And therefore the desire of truth, especially in what relates to the Gods, is a sort of grasping after divinity, it using learning and enquiry for a kind of resumption of things sacred, a work doubtless of more religion than any ritual purgation or charge of temples whatever, and especially most acceptable to the Goddess you serve, since she is more eminently wise and speculative, and since knowledge and science (as her very name* seems to import) appertain more peculiarly to her than any other thing. For the name of Isis is Greek, and so is that of her adversary Typhon, who, being puffed up† through ignorance and mistake, pulls in pieces and destroys that holy doctrine, which she on the contrary collects, compiles, and delivers down to such as are regularly advanced unto the deified state; which, by constancy of sober diet, and abstaining from sundry meats and the use of women, both restrains the intemperate and voluptuous part, and habituates them to austere and hard services in the temples, the end of which is the knowledge of the original, supreme, and mental being, which the Goddess would have them enquire for, as near to herself and as dwelling with her. Besides, the very name of her temple most apparently promises the knowledge and acquaintance of true being (τὸ ὄν), for they call it Iseion (Ἴσειον), as who should say, We shall know true being, if with reason and sanctimony we approach the sacred temples of this Goddess.
3. Moreover, many have reported her the daughter of Hermes, and many of Prometheus; the latter of which they esteem as the author of wit and forecast, and the former of letters and music. For the same reason also they call the former of the Muses at Hermopolis at the same time Isis and Justice, Isis being (as we before said) no other than wisdom, and revealing things divine to such as are truly and justly styled the sacred bearers, and keepers of the sacred robes; and these are such as have in their minds, as in an ark, the sacred doctrine about the Gods, cleansed from superstitious frights and vain curiosities, keeping out of sight all dark and shady colors, and exposing to sight the light and gay ones, to insinuate something of the like kind in our persuasion about the Gods as we have represented to us in the sacred vestments. Wherefore, in that the priests of Isis are dressed up in these when they are dead, it is a token to us that this doctrine goes with them to the other life, and that nothing else can accompany them thither. For as neither the nourishing of beards nor the wearing of mantles can render men philosophers, so neither will linen garments or shaved heads make priests to Isis; but he is a true priest of Isis, who, after he hath received from the laws the representations and actions that refer to the Gods, doth next apply his reason to the enquiry and speculation of the truth contained in them.
4. For the greater part of men are ignorant even of this most common and ordinary thing, for what reason priests lay aside their hair and go in linen garments. Some are not at all solicitous to be informed about such questions; and others say their veneration for sheep is the cause why they abstain from their wool as well as their flesh, and that they shave their heads in token of mourning, and that they wear linen because of the bloomy color which the flax sendeth forth, in imitation of that ethereal clarity that environs the world. But indeed the true reason of them all is one and the same. For it is not lawful (as Plato saith) for a clean thing to be touched by an unclean; but now no superfluity of food or excrementitious substance can be pure or clean; but wool, down, hair, and nails come up and grow from superfluous excrements. It would be therefore an absurdity for them to lay aside their own hair in purgations, by shaving themselves and by making their bodies all over smooth, and yet in the mean time to wear and carry about them the hairs of brutes. For we ought to think that the poet Hesiod, when he saith,
would teach us to keep the feast when we are already cleansed from such things as these, and not in the solemnities themselves to use purgation or removal of excrementitious superfluities. But now flax springs up from an immortal being, the earth, and bears an eatable fruit, and affords a simple and cleanly clothing, not burdensome to him that is covered with it, and convenient for every season of the year, and which besides (as they tell us) is the least subject to engender vermin; but of this to discourse in this place would not be pertinent.
5. But now the priests do so abhor all kinds of superfluous excrements, that they not only decline most sorts of pulse, and of flesh that of sheep and swine, which produce much superfluity, but also in the time of their purgations they exclude salt from their meals. For which, as they have several other good reasons, so more especially this, that it whets the appetite and renders men over-eager after meat and drink. For that the reason why salt is not accounted clean should be (as Aristagoras tells us) because that, when it is hardened together, many little animals are catched in it and there die, is fond and ridiculous. They are also said to water the Apis from a well of his own, and to restrain him altogether from the river Nile, — not because they hold the water for polluted by reason of the crocodile, as some suppose, for there is nothing in the world in more esteem with the Egyptians than the Nile, but because the water of the Nile being drunk is observed to be very feeding, and above all others to conduce to the increase of flesh. But they would not have the Apis nor themselves neither to be over fat; but that their bodies should sit light and easy about their souls, and not press and squeeze them down by a mortal part overpowering and weighing down the divine.
6. They also that at Heliopolis (Sun-town) wait upon the sun never bring wine into his temple, they looking upon it as a thing indecent and unfitting to drink by daylight, while their lord and king looks on. The rest of them do indeed use it, but very sparingly. They have likewise many purgations, wherein they prohibit the use of wine, in which they study philosophy, and pass their time in learning and teaching things divine. Moreover their kings, being priests also themselves, were wont to drink it by a certain measure prescribed them in the sacred books, as Hecataeus informs us. And they began first to drink it in the reign of Psammetichus; but before that time they were not used to drink wine at all, no, nor to pour if forth in sacrifice as a thing they thought any way grateful to the Gods, but as the blood of those who in ancient times waged war against the Gods, from whom, falling down from heaven and mixing with the earth, they conceived vines to have first sprung; which is the reason (say they) that drunkenness renders men besides themselves and mad; they being, as it were, gorged with the blood of their ancestors. These things (as Eudoxus tells us in the second book of his Travels) are thus related by the priests.
7. As to sea-fish, they do not all of them abstain from all, but some from one sort, and some from another. As for example, the Oxyrynchites abstain from such as are catched with the angle and hook; for, having the fish called oxyrynchus (the pike) in great veneration, they are afraid lest the hook should chance to catch hold of it and by that means become polluted. They of Syene also abstain from the phagrus (or sea-bream) because it is observed to appear with the approaching overflow of the Nile, and to present itself a voluntary messenger of the joyful news of its increase. But the priests abstain from all in general. But on the ninth day of the first month, when every other Egyptian eats a fried fish before the outer door of his house, the priests do not eat any fish, but only burn them before their doors. For which they have two reasons; the one whereof, being sacred and very curious, I shall resume by and by (it agreeing with the pious reasonings we shall make upon Osiris and Typhon); the other is a very manifest and obvious one, which, by declaring fish to be not a necessary but a superfluous and curious sort of food, greatly confirms Homer, who never makes either the dainty Phaeacians or the Ithacans (though both islanders) to make use of fish; no, nor the companions of Ulysses either in so long a voyage at sea, until they came to the last extremity of want. In short, they reckon the sea itself to be made of fire and to lie out of Nature’s confines, and not to be a part of the world or an element, but a preternatural, corrupt, and morbid excrement.
8. For nothing hath been ranked among their sacred and religious rites that savored of folly, romance, or superstition, as some do suppose; but some of them were such as contained some signification of morality and utility, and others such as were not without a fineness either in history or natural philosophy. As, for instance, in what refers to the onions; for that Dictys, the foster-father of Isis, as he was reaching at a handful of onions, fell into the river and was there drowned, is extremely improbable. But the true reason why the priests abhor, detest, and avoid the onion is because it is the only plant whose nature it is to grow and spread forth in the wane of the moon. Besides, it is no proper food, either for such as would practise abstinence and use purgations, or for such as would observe the festivals; for the former, because it causeth thirst, and for the latter, because it forceth tears from those that eat it. They likewise esteem the swine as an unhallowed animal, because it is observed to be most apt to engender in the wane of the moon, and because that such as drink its milk have a leprosy and scabbed roughness in their bodies. But the story which they that sacrifice a swine at every full moon are wont to subjoin after their eating of it, — how that Typhon, being once about the full of the moon in pursuit of a certain swine, found by chance the wooden chest wherein lay the body of Osiris, and scattered it, — is not received by all, but looked upon as a misrepresented story, as a great many more such are. They tell us moreover, that the ancients did so much despise delicacy, sumptuousness, and a soft and effeminate way of living, that they erected a pillar in the temple at Thebes, having engraven upon it several grievous curses against King Meinis, who (as they tell us) was the first that brought off the Egyptians from a mean, wealthless, and simple way of living. There goes also another story, how that Technatis, father to Bocchoris, commanding an army against the Arabians, and his baggage and provisions not coming in as soon as was expected, heartily fed upon such things as he could next light on, and afterwards had a sound sleep upon a pallet, whereupon he fell greatly in love with a poor and mean life; and for this reason he cursed Meinis, and that with the consent of all the priests, and carved that curse upon a pillar.
9. But their kings (you must know) were always chosen either out of the priesthood or soldiery, the latter having the right of succession by reason of their military valor, and the former by reason of their wisdom. But he that was chosen out of the soldiery was obliged immediately to turn priest, and was thereupon admitted to the participation of their philosophy, whose genius it was to conceal the greater part in tales and romantic relations, containing dark hints and resemblances of truth; which it is plain that even themselves would insinuate to us, while they are so kind as to set up Sphinxes before their temples, to intimate that their theology contained in it an enigmatical sort of learning. Moreover, the temple of Minerva which is at Sais (whom they look upon as the same with Isis) had upon it this inscription: I am whatever was, or is, or will be; and my veil no mortal ever took up. Besides, we find the greater part to be of opinion that the proper name of Jupiter in the Egyptian tongue is Amun (from which we have derived our word Ammon). But now Manetho the Sebennite thinks this word signifies hidden and hiding; but Hecataeus of Abdera saith, the Egyptians use this word when they call anybody; for that it is a term of calling. Therefore they must be of the opinion that the first God is the same with the universe; and therefore, while they invoke him who is unmanifest and hidden, and pray him to make himself manifest and known to them, they cry Amun. So great therefore was the piety of the Egyptians’ philosophy about things divine.
10. This is also confirmed by the most learned of the Greeks (such as Solon, Thales, Plato, Eudoxus, Pythagoras, and as some say, even Lycurgus) going to Egypt and conversing with the priests; of whom they say Eudoxus was a hearer of Chonuphis of Memphis, Solon of Sonchis of Sais, and Pythagoras of Oenuphis of Heliopolis. Whereof the last named, being (as is probable) more than ordinarily admired by the men, and they also by him, imitated their symbolical and mysterious way of talking, obscuring his sentiments with dark riddles. For the greatest part of the Pythagoric precepts fall nothing short of those sacred writings they call hieroglyphical, such as, Do not eat in a chariot; Do not sit on a choenix (or measure); Plant not a palm-tree; Stir not fire with a knife within the house. And I verily believe, that their terming the unit Apollo, the number two Diana, the number seven Minerva, and the first cube Neptune, refers to the columns set up in their temples, and to things there acted, aye, and painted too. For they represent their king and lord Osiris by an eye and a sceptre. There are some also that interpret his name by many-eyed, as if os in the Egyptian tongue signified many, and iri an eye. And the heaven, because by reason of its eternity it never grows old, they represent by a heart with a censer under it. There were also statues of judges erected at Thebes, having no hands; and the chief of them had also his eyes closed up, hereby signifying that among them justice was not to be solicited with either bribery or address. Moreover, the men of the sword had a beetle carved upon their signets, because there is no such thing as a female beetle; for they are all males, and they generate their young in certain round pellets formed of dirt, being herein as well providers of the place in which they are to be engendered, as of the matter of their nutrition.
11. When therefore you hear the tales which the Egyptians relate about the Gods, such as their wanderings, discerptions, and such like disasters that befell them, you are still to remember that none of these things have been really so acted and done as they are told. For they do not call the dog Hermes properly, but only attribute the warding, vigilancy, and philosophic acuteness of that animal, which by knowing or not knowing distinguishes between its friend and its foe (as Plato speaks), to the most knowing and ingenious of the Gods. Nor do they believe that the sun springs up a little boy from the top of the lotus, but they thus set forth his rising to insinuate the kindling of his rays by means of humids. Besides, that most savage and horrible king of the Persians named Ochus, who, when he had massacred abundance of people, afterwards slaughtered the Apis, and feasted upon him, both himself and his retinue, they called the Sword; and they call him so to this very day in their table of kings, hereby not denoting properly his person, but resembling by this instrument of murder the severity and mischievousness of his disposition. When therefore you thus hear the stories of the Gods from such as interpret them with consistency to piety and philosophy, and observe and practise those rites that are by law established, and are persuaded in your mind that you cannot possibly either offer or perform a more agreeable thing to the Gods than the entertaining of a right notion of them you will then avoid superstition as a no less evil than atheism itself.
12. The story is thus told after the most concise manner, the most useless and unnecessary parts being cut off. They tell us how that once on a time, Rhea having accompanied with Saturn by stealth, the Sun found them out, and pronounced a solemn curse against her, containing that she should not be delivered in any month or year; but that Hermes, afterwards making his court to the goddess, obtained her favor, in requital of which he went and played at dice with the Moon, and won of her the seventieth part from each day, and out of all these made five new days, which he added to the three hundred and sixty other days of the year; and these the Egyptians therefore to this day call the Epagomenae (or the superadded days), and they observe them as the birthdays of their Gods. Upon the first of these, as they say, Osiris was born, and a voice came into the world with him, saying, The Lord of all things is now born. There are others that affirm that one Pamyles, as he was fetching water at Thebes, heard a voice out of the temple of Jupiter, bidding him to publish with a loud voice that Osiris, the great and good king, was now born; and that he thereupon got to be foster-father to Osiris, Saturn entrusting him with the charge of him, and that the feast called Pamylia (resembling the Priapeian procession which the Greeks call Phallephoria) was instituted in honor of him. Upon the second day Arueris was born, whom some call Apollo, and others the elder Horus. Upon the third Typhon was born, who came not into the world either in due time or by the right way, but broke a hole in his mother’s side, and leaped out at the wound. Upon the fourth Isis was born in Panygra. And upon the fifth Nephthys, whom they sometimes call the end, and sometimes Venus, and sometimes also Victory. Of these they say Osiris and Arueris were begot by the Sun, Isis by Hermes, and Typhon and Nephthys by Saturn. For which reason their kings, looking upon the third of the Epagomenae as an inauspicious day, did no business upon it, nor took any care of their bodies until the evening. They say also that Nephthys was married unto Typhon, and that Isis and Osiris were in love with one another before they were born, and enjoyed each other in the dark before they came into the world. Some add also that Arueris was thus begotten, and that he was called by the Egyptians the elder Horus, and by the Greeks Apollo.
13. And they say that Osiris, when he was king of Egypt, drew them off from a beggarly and bestial way of living, by showing them the use of grain, and by making them laws, and teaching them to honor the Gods; and that afterwards he travelled all the world over, and made it civil, having but little need of arms, for he drew the most to him, alluring them by persuasion and oratory, intermixed with all sorts of poetry and music; whence it is that the Greek look upon him as the very same with Bacchus. They further add that Typhon, while he was from home, attempted nothing against him; for Isis was very watchful, and guarded him closely from harm. But when he came home, he formed a plot against him, taking seventy-two men for accomplices of his conspiracy, and being also abetted by a certain Queen of Ethiopia, whose name they say was Aso. Having therefore privately taken the measure of Osiris’s body, and framed a curious ark, very finely beautified and just of the size of his body, he brought it to a certain banquet. And as all were wonderfully delighted with so rare a sight and admired it greatly, Typhon in a sporting manner promised that whichsoever of the company should by lying in it find it to be of the size of his body, should have it for a present. And as every one of them was forward to try, and none fitted it, Osiris at last got into it himself, and lay along in it; whereupon they that were there present immediately ran to it, and clapped down the cover upon it, and when they had fastened it down with nails, and soldered it with melted lead, they carried it forth to the river side, and let it swim into the sea at the Tanaitic mouth, which the Egyptians therefore to this day detest, and abominate the very naming of it. These things happened (as they say) upon the seventeenth of the month Athyr, when the sun enters into the Scorpion, and that was upon the eight and twentieth year of the reign of Osiris. But there are some that say that was the time of his life, and not of his reign.
14. And because the Pans and Satyrs that inhabited the region about Chemmis were the first that knew of this disaster and raised the report of it among the people, all sudden frights and discomposures among the people have been ever since called panics. But when Isis heard of it, she cut off in that very place a lock of her hair, and put on a mourning weed, where there is a town at this day named Kopto; others think that name signifies bereaving, for that some use the word for depriving. And as she wandered up and down in all places, being deeply perplexed in her thoughts, and left no one she met withal unspoken to, she met at last with certain little children, of whom also she enquired about the ark. Now these had chanced to see all that had passed, and they named to her the very mouth of the Nile by which Typhon’s accomplices had sent the vessel into the sea; for which reason the Egyptians account little children to have a faculty of divination, and use more especially to lay hold on their omens when they play in sacred places or chance to say any thing there, whatever it be. And finding afterwards that Osiris had made his court to her sister, and through mistake enjoyed her instead of herself, for token of which she had found the melilot garland which he had left hard by Nephthys, she went to seek for the child; for her sister had immediately exposed it as soon as she was delivered of it, for fear of her husband Typhon. And when with great difficulty and labor she had found it, by means of certain dogs which conducted her to it, she brought it up; and he afterwards became her guardsman and follower, being named Anubis, and reported to guard the Gods as dogs do men.
15. Of him she had tidings of the ark, how it had been thrown out by the sea upon the coasts of Byblos, and the flood had gently entangled it in a certain thicket of heath. And this heath had in a very small time run up into a most beauteous and large tree, and had wrought itself about it, clung to it, and quite enclosed it within its trunk. Upon which the king of that place, much admiring at the unusual bigness of the plant, and cropping off the bushy part that encompassed the now invisible chest, made of it a post to support the roof of his house. These things (as they tell us) Isis being informed of by the divine breath of rumor, went herself to Byblos; where when she was come, she sate her down hard by a well, very pensive and full of tears, insomuch that she refused to speak to any person, save only to the queen’s women, whom she complimented and caressed at an extraordinary rate, and would often stroke back their hair with her hands, and withal transmit a most wonderful fragrant smell out of her body into theirs. The queen, perceiving that her women’s bodies and hair thus breathed of ambrosia, greatly longed to become acquainted with this new stranger. Upon this she being sent for, and becoming very intimate with the queen, was at last made nurse to her child. Now the name of this king (they tell us) was Malcander; and the queen, some say, was called Astarte, and some Saosis, and others Nemanun (which in Greek is as much as to say Athenaïs).
16. Isis nursed the child by putting her finger into his mouth instead of the breast; and in the night-time she would by a kind of lambent fire singe away what was mortal about him. In the mean while, herself would be turned to a swallow, and in that form would fly round about the post, bemoaning her misfortune and sad fate; until at last, the queen, who stood watching hard by, cried out aloud as she saw her child all on a light flame, and so robbed him of immortality. Upon which the Goddess discovered herself, and begged the post that held up the roof; which when she had obtained and taken down, she very quickly cropped off the bushy heath from about it and wrapping the trunk in fine linen and pouring perfumed oil upon it, she put it into the hands of their kings; and therefore the Byblians to this very day worship that piece of wood, laying it up in the temple of Isis. Then she threw herself down upon the chest, and her lamentations were so loud, that the younger of the king’s two sons died for very fear; but she, having the elder in her own possession, took both him and the ark, and carried them on shipboard, and so took sail. But the river Phaedrus sending forth a very keen and chill air, it being the dawning of the morn, she grew incensed at it, and dried up its current.
17. And in the first place where she could take rest, and found herself to be now at liberty and alone, she opened the ark, and laid her cheeks upon the cheeks of Osiris, and embraced him and wept bitterly. The little boy seeing her came silently behind her, and peeping saw what it was; which she perceiving cast a terrible look upon him in the height of her passion; the fright whereof the child could not endure, and immediately died. But there are some that say it was not so, but that in the forementioned manner he dropped into the sea, and was there drowned. And he hath divine honors given him to this very day upon the Goddess’s account; for they assure us that Maneros, whom the Egyptians so often mention in their carols at their banquets, is the very same. But others say that the boy was named Palaestinus or Pelusius, and that the city of that name was so called from him, it having been built by the Goddess. They also relate that this Maneros, so often spoken of in their songs, was the first that invented music. But some there are that would make us believe that Maneros was not the name of any person, but a certain form of speech, made use of to people in drinking and entertaining themselves at feasts, by way of wishing that all things might prove auspicious and agreeable to them; for that is the thing which the Egyptians would express by the word Maneros, when they so often roar it forth. In like manner they affirm that the likeness of a dead man, which is carried about in a little box and shown at feasts, is not to commemorate the disaster of Osiris, as some suppose, but was designed to encourage men to make use of and to enjoy the present things whilst they have them, since all men must quickly become such as they there see; for which reason they bring it into their revels and feasts.
18. But when Isis came to her son Horus, who was then at nurse at Buto, and had laid the chest out of the way, Typhon, as he was hunting by moonshine, by chance lighted upon it, and knowing the body again, tore it into fourteen parts, and threw them all about. Which when Isis had heard, she went to look for them again in a certain barge made of papyrus, in which she sailed over all the fens. Whence (they tell us) it comes to pass, that such as go in boats made of this rush are never injured by the crocodiles, they having either a fear or else a veneration for it upon the account of the goddess Isis. And this (they say) hath occasioned the report that there are many sepulchres of Osiris in Egypt, because she made a particular funeral for each member as she found them. There are others that tell us it was not so, but that she made several effigies of him and sent them to every city, taking on her as if she had sent them his body; so that the greater number of people might pay divine honors to him, and withal, if it should chance that Typhon should get the better of Horus, and thereupon search for the body of Osiris, many bodies being discoursed of and shown him, he might despair of ever finding the right one. But of all Osiris’s members, Isis could never find out his private part, for it had been presently flung into the river Nile, and the lepidotus, sea-bream, and pike eating of it, these were for that reason more scrupulously avoided by the Egyptians than any other fish. But Isis, in lieu of it, made its effigies, and so consecrated the phallus for which the Egyptians to this day observe a festival.
19. After this, Osiris coming out of hell to assist his son Horus, first labored and trained him up in the discipline of war, and then questioned him what he thought to be the gallantest thing a man could do; to which he soon replied, to avenge one’s father’s and mother’s quarrel when they suffer injury. He asked him a second time, what animal he esteemed most useful to such as would go to battle. Horus told him, a horse; to which he said that he wondered much at his answer, and could not imagine why he did not rather name a lion than a horse. Horus replied, that a lion might indeed be very serviceable to one that needed help, but a horse would serve best to cut off and disperse a flying enemy. Which when Osiris heard, he was very much pleased with him, looking upon him now as sufficiently instructed for a soldier. It is reported likewise that, as a great many went over daily unto Horus, Typhon’s own concubine Thueris deserted also; but that a certain serpent, pursuing her close at the heels, was cut in pieces by Horus’s men, and that for that reason they still fling a certain cord into the midst of the room and then chop it to pieces. The battle therefore continued for several days, and Horus at last prevailed; but Isis, although she had Typhon delivered up to her fast bound, yet would not put him to death, but contrariwise loosed him and let him go. Which when Horus perceived, he could not brook it with any patience, but laid violent hands upon his mother, and plucked the royal diadem from off her head. But Hermes presently stepped in, and clapped a cow’s head upon her instead of a helmet. Likewise, when Typhon impeached Horus for being a bastard, Hermes became his advocate, and Horus was judged legitimate by all the Gods. After this, they say that Typhon was worsted in two several battles. Isis had also by Osiris, who accompanied with her after his decease, Harpocrates, who came into the world before his time and was lame in his lower parts.
20. These then are most of the heads of this fabular narration, the more harsh and coarse parts (such as the description of Horus and the beheading of Isis) being taken out. If therefore they say and believe such things as these of the blessed and incorruptible nature (which is the best conception we can have of divinity) as really thus done and happening to it, I need not tell you that you ought to spit and to make clean your mouth (as Aeschylus speaks) at the mentioning of them. For you are sufficiently averse of yourself to such as entertain such wicked and barbarous sentiments concerning the Gods. And yet that these relations are nothing akin to those foppish tales and vain fictions which poets and story-tellers are wont, like spiders, to spin out of their own bowels, without any substantial ground or foundation for them, and then weave and wire-draw them out at their own pleasures, but contain in them certain abstruse questions and rehearsals of events, you yourself are, I suppose, convinced. And as mathematicians do assert the rainbow to be an appearance of the sun so variegated by reflection of its rays in a cloud, so likewise the fable here related is the appearance of some doctrine whose meaning is transferred by reflection to some other matter; as is plainly suggested to us as well by the sacrifices themselves, in which there appears something lamentable and very sad, as by the forms and makes of their temples, which sometimes run out themselves into wings, and into open and airy circs, and at other times again have under ground certain private cells, resembling vaults and tombs. And this is most plainly hinted to us by the opinion received about those of Osiris, because his body is said to be interred in so many different places. Though it may be they will tell you that some one town, such as Abydos or Memphis, is named for the place where his true body lies; and that the most powerful and wealthy among the Egyptians are most ambitious to be buried at Abydos, that so they may be near the body of their God Osiris; and that the Apis is fed at Memphis, because he is the image of Osiris’s soul, where also they will have it that his body is interred. Some also interpret the name of this city to signify the haven of good things, and others, the tomb of Osiris. They add, that the little island at Philae is at other times inaccessible and not to be approached to by any man, and that the very birds dare not venture to fly over it nor the fish to touch upon its banks; yet upon a certain set time the priests go over into it, and there perform the accustomed rites for the dead, and crown his tomb, which stands there shaded over by a tree called methida, exceeding any olive in bigness.
21. But Eudoxus saith that, though there be in Egypt many tombs reported to be his, yet his true body lies at Busiris, for that was the place of his birth; neither can there be any room for dispute about Taphosiris, for that its very name bespeaks it, Osiris’s tomb. I pass by their cleaving of wood, their peeling of flax, and the wine libations then made by them, because many of their secret mysteries are therein contained. And it is not of this God only, but of all others also that are not ungotten and incorruptible, that the priests pretend that their bodies lie buried with them and are by them served, but their souls are stars shining in heaven; and they say that the soul of Isis is by the Greeks called the Dog, but by the Egyptians, Sothis; and that of Horus, Orion; and that of Typhon, the Bear. They also tell us, that towards the support of the animals honored by them all others pay the proportion assigned them by the laws, but that those that inhabit the country of Thebais are the only men that refuse to contribute any thing, because they believe in no mortal God, but in him only whom they call Cneph, who is ungotten and immortal.
22. They therefore who suppose that, because many things of this sort are both related and shown unto travellers, they are but so many commemorations of the actions and disasters of mighty kings and tyrants who, by reason of their eminent valor or puissance, wrote the title of divinity upon their fame, and afterwards fell into great calamities and misfortunes, — these, I say, make use of the most ready way of eluding the story, and plausibly enough remove things of harsh and uncouth sound from Gods to men. Nay, I will add this farther, that the arguments they use are fairly enough deduced from the things themselves related. For the Egyptians recount, that Mercury was, in regard to the make of his body, with one arm longer than the other, and that Typhon was by complexion red, Horus white, and Osiris black, as if they had been indeed nothing else but men. They moreover style Osiris a commander, and Canopus a pilot, from whom they say the star of that name was denominated. Also the ship which the Greeks call Argo — being the image of Osiris’s ark, and therefore, in honor of it, made a constellation — they make to ride not far from Orion and the Dog; whereof the one they believe to be sacred to Horus, and the other to Isis.
23. But I fear this would be to stir things that are not to be stirred, and to declare war not only (as Simonides speaks) against length of time, but also against many nations and families of mankind, whom a religious reverence towards these Gods holds fast bound like men astonished and amazed. And this would be no other than going about to remove so great and venerable names from heaven to earth, thereby shaking and dissolving that worship and persuasion that hath entered into almost all men’s constitutions from their very birth, and opening vast doors to the Atheists’ faction, who convert all divine matters into human, giving also a large license to the impostures of Euhemerus the Messenian, who out of his own brain contrived certain memoirs of a most incredible and imaginary mythology, and thereby spread all manner of Atheism throughout the world. This he did by describing all the received Gods under the style of generals, sea-captains, and kings, whom he makes to have lived in the more remote and ancient times, and to be recorded in golden characters in a certain country called Panchon, with which notwithstanding never any man, either Barbarian or Grecian, had the good fortune to meet, except Euhemerus alone, who (it seems) sailed to the land of the Panchoans and Triphyllians, that neither have nor ever had a being.
24. And although the actions of Semiramis are sung among the Assyrians as very great, and likewise those of Sesostris in Egypt, and the Phrygians to this very day style all illustrious and strange actions manic, because Manis, one of their ancient kings (whom some call Masdes) was a brave and mighty person; and although Cyrus enlarged the empire of the Persians, and Alexander that of the Macedonians, within a little matter of the world’s end; yet have they still retained the names and memorials of gallant princes. And if some, puffed up with excessive vain-glory (as Plato speaks), having their minds enflamed at once with both youthful blood and folly, have with an unruly extravagancy taken upon them the style of Gods and had temples erected in their honor, yet this opinion of them flourished but for a short season, and they afterwards underwent the blame of great vanity and arrogancy, conjoined with the highest impiety and wickedness; and so,
Like smoke they flew away with swift-paced Fate;*
and being dragged away from the altars like fugitive slaves, they have now nothing left them but their tombs and graves. Which made Antigonus the Elder, when one Hermodotus had in his poems declared him to be son to the Sun and a God, to say to him: Friend, he that empties my close-stool-pan knows no such matter of me. And Lysippus the carver had good reason to quarrel with the painter Apelles for drawing Alexander’s picture with a thunder-bolt in his hand, whereas himself had made him but with a spear, which (he said) was natural and proper for him, and a weapon the glory of which no time would rob him of.
25. Therefore they maintain the wiser opinion, who hold that the things here storied of Typhon, Osiris, and Isis were not the events of Gods, nor yet of men, but of certain grand Daemons, whom Plato, Pythagoras, Xenocrates, and Chrysippus (following herein the opinion of the most ancient theologists) affirm to be of greater strength than men, and to transcend our nature by much in power, but not to have a divine part pure and unmixed, but such as participates of both the soul’s nature and the body’s sensation, capable of receiving both pleasure and pain, and all the passions that attend these mutations, which disorder some of them more and others of them less. For there are divers degrees both of virtue and vice, as among men, so also among Daemons. For what they sing about among the Greeks, concerning the Giants and the Titans, and of certain horrible actions of Saturn, as also of Python’s combats with Apollo, of the flights of Bacchus, and the ramblings of Ceres, come nothing short of the relations about Osiris and Typhon and others such, which everybody may lawfully and freely hear as they are told in the mythology. The like may be also said of those things that, being veiled over in the mystic rites and sacred ceremonies of initiation, are therefore kept private from the sight and hearing of the common sort.
26. We also hear Homer often calling such as are extraordinary good “Godlike,” and “God’s compeers,” and “gifted with wisdom by the Gods.”* But the epithet derived from Daemons we find him to bestow upon the good and bad indifferently, as,
“Daemon-like sir, make haste, why do you fear the Argives thus?”
And then on the contrary,
“When the fourth time he rushed on like a Daemon;”
and again where Jupiter speaks thus to Juno:
where he seems to make Daemons to be of a mixed and unequal temper and inclination. Whence it is that Plato assigns to the Olympic Gods dexter things and odd numbers, and the opposite to these to Daemons. And Xenocrates also is of opinion, that such days as are commonly accounted unlucky, and those holy days in which are used scourgings, beatings of breasts, fastings, uncouth words, or obscene speeches, do not appertain to the honor of Gods or of good Daemons; but he thinks there are in the air, that environs us about, certain great and mighty natures, but withal morose and tetrical ones, that take pleasure in such things as these, and if they have them, they do no farther mischief. On the other side, the beneficent ones are styled by Hesiod “Holy Daemons,” and “Guardians of Mankind,” and,
Givers of wealth, this royal gift they have.*
And Plato calls this sort the interpreting and ministering kind, and saith, they are in a middle place betwixt the Gods and men, and that they carry up men’s prayers and addresses thither, and bring from thence hither prophetic answers and distributions of good things. Empedocles saith also that Daemons undergo severe punishments for their evil deeds and misdemeanors:—
until, being thus chastened and purified, they are again admitted to that region and order that suits their nature.
27. Now such things and such like things as these they tell us are here meant concerning Typhon; how he, moved with envy and spite, perpetrated most wicked and horrible things, and putting all things into confusion, filled both land and sea with infinite calamities and evils, and afterwards suffered for it condign punishment. But now the avenger of Osiris, who was both his sister and wife, having extinguished and put an end to the rage and madness of Typhon, did not forget the many contests and difficulties she had encountered withal, nor her wanderings and travels to and fro, so far as to commit her many acts both of wisdom and courage to utter oblivion and silence; but she mixed them with their most sacred rites of initiation, and together consecrated them as resemblances, dark hints, and imitations of her former sufferings, both as an example and an encouragement of piety for all men and women that should hereafter fall under the like hard circumstances and distresses. And now both herself and Osiris being for their virtue changed from good Daemons into Gods, as were Hercules and Bacchus after them, they have (and not without just grounds) the honors of both Gods and Daemons joined together, their power being indeed everywhere great, but yet more especial and eminent in things upon and under the earth. For Serapis they say is no other than Pluto, and Isis the same with Proserpine; as Archemachus of Euboea informs us, as also Heraclides of Pontus, who delivers it as his opinion that the oracle at Canopus appertains to Pluto.
28. Besides, Ptolemaeus Soter saw in a dream the colossus of Pluto that stood at Sinope (although he knew it not, nor had ever seen what shape it was of) calling upon him, and bidding him to convey it speedily away to Alexandria. And as he was ignorant and at a great loss where it should be found, and was telling his dream to his familiars, there was found by chance a certain fellow that had been a general rambler in all parts (his name was Sosibius), who affirmed he had seen at Sinope such a colossus as the king had dreamt of. He therefore sent Soteles and Bacchus thither, who in a long time and with much difficulty, and not without the special help of a Divine Providence, stole it away and brought it to Alexandria. When therefore it was conveyed thither and viewed, Timothy the expositor and Manetho the Sebennite, concluding from the Cerberus and serpent that stood by it that it must be the statue of Pluto, persuaded Ptolemy it could appertain to no other God but Serapis; for he had not this name when he came from thence, but after he was removed to Alexandria, he acquired the name of Serapis, which is the Egyptian for Pluto. And when Heraclitus the physiologist saith, Pluto and Bacchus are one and the same, in whose honor men are mad and rave, we are thus led to the same doctrine. For those that will needs have Pluto to be the body, the soul being as it were distracted and drunken in it, do in my opinion make use of an over fine and subtle allegory. It is therefore better to make Osiris to be the same with Bacchus, and Serapis again with Osiris, he obtaining that appellation since the change of his nature. For which reason Serapis is a common God to all, as they who participate of divine matters best understand.
29. For there is no reason we should attend to the writings of the Phrygians, which say that one Charopos was daughter to Hercules, and that Typhon was son to Isaeacus, son of Hercules; no more than we have not to contemn Phylarchus, when he writes that Bacchus first brought two bullocks out of India into Egypt, and that the name of the one was Apis, and the other Osiris; but that Serapis is the name of him who orders the universe, from σαίϱειν, which some use for beautifying and setting forth. For these sentiments of Phylarchus’s are very foolish and absurd; but theirs are much more so who affirm Serapis to be no God at all, but only the name of the chest in which Apis lies; and that there are at Memphis certain great gates of copper, called the gates of oblivion and lamentation, which, being opened when they bury the Apis, make a doleful and hideous noise; which (say they) is the reason that, when we hear any sort of copper instrument sounding, we are presently startled and seized with fear. But they judge more discreetly who suppose his name to be derived from σεύεσθαι or σοῦσθαι (which signifies to be borne along) and so make it to mean, that the motion of the universe is hurried and borne along violently. But the greatest part of the priests do say that Osiris and Apis are both of them but one complex being, while they tell us in their sacred commentaries and sermons that we are to look upon the Apis as the beautiful image of the soul of Osiris. I, for my part, do believe that, if the name of Serapis be Egyptian, it may not improperly denote joy and merriment, because I find the Egyptians term the festival which we call merry-making in their language sairei. Besides, I find Plato to be of opinion, that Pluto is called Hades because he is the son of Αἰδώ (which is Modesty) and because he is a gentle God to such as are conversant with him. And as among the Egyptians there are a great many other names that are also definitions of the things they express, so they call that place whither they believe men’s souls to go after death, Amenthes, which signifies in their language the receiver and the giver. But whether this be one of those names that have been anciently brought over and transplanted out of Greece into Egypt, we shall consider some other time; but at present we must hasten to despatch the remaining parts of the opinion here handled.
30. Osiris therefore and Isis passed from the number of good Daemons into that of Gods; but the power of Typhon being much obscured and weakened, and himself besides in great dejection of mind and in agony and, as it were, at the last gasp, they therefore one while use certain sacrifices to comfort and appease his mind, and another while again have certain solemnities wherein they abase and affront him, both by mishandling and abusing such men as they find to have red hair, and by breaking the neck of an ass down a precipice (as do the Coptites), because Typhon was red-haired and of the ass’s complexion. Moreover, those of Busiris and Lycopolis never make any use of trumpets, because they give a sound like that of asses. And they altogether esteem the ass as an animal not clean but daemoniac, because of its resemblance to Typhon; and when they make cakes at their sacrifices upon the months of Payni and Phaophi, they impress upon them an ass bound. Also, when they do their sacrifices to the Sun, they enjoin such as perform worship to that God neither to wear gold nor to give fodder to an ass. It is also most apparent that the Pythagoreans look upon Typhon as a daemoniac power; for they say he was produced in an even proportion of numbers, to wit, in that of fifty-six. And again, they say that the property of the triangle appertains to Pluto, Bacchus, and Mars; of the quadrangle to Rhea, Venus, Ceres, Vesta, and Juno; of the figure of twelve angles to Jupiter; and of the figure of fifty-six angles to Typhon; — as Eudoxus relates.
31. And because the Egyptians are of opinion that Typhon was born of a red complexion, they are therefore used to devote to him such of the neat kind as they find to be of a red color; and their observation herein is so very nice and strict that, if they perceive the beast to have but one hair about it that is either black or white, they account it unfit for sacrifice. For they hold that what is fit to be made a sacrifice must not be of a thing agreeable to the Gods, but contrariwise, such things as contain the souls of ungodly and wicked men transformed into their shapes. Wherefore in the more ancient times they were wont, after they had pronounced a solemn curse upon the head of the sacrifice, and had cut it off, to fling it into the river Nile; but now they distribute it among strangers. Those also among the priests that were termed Sphragistae or Sealers were wont to seal the beast that was to be offered; and the engraving of their seal was (as Castor tells us) a man upon his knees with his hands tied behind him, and a knife set under his throat. They believe, moreover, that the ass suffers for being like him (as hath been already spoken of), as much for the stupidity and sensualness of his disposition as for the redness of his color. Wherefore, because of all the Persian monarchs they had the greatest aversion for Ochus, as looking upon him as a villanous and abominable person, they gave him the nickname of the ass; upon which he replied: But this ass shall dine upon your ox. And so he slaughtered the Apis, as Dinon relates to us in his history. As for those that tell us that Typhon was seven days flying from the battle upon the back of an ass, and having narrowly escaped with his life, afterwards begat two sons called Hierosolymus and Judaeus, they are manifestly attempting, as is shown by the very matter, to wrest into this fable the relations of the Jews.
32. And so much for the allegories and secret meanings which this head affords us. And now we begin at another head, which is the account of those who seem to offer at something more philosophical; and of these we will first consider the more simple and plain sort. And they are those that tell us that, as the Greeks are used to allegorize Kronos (or Saturn) into chronos (time), and Hera (or Juno) into aer (air) and also to resolve the generation of Vulcan into the change of air into fire, so also among the Egyptians, Osiris is the river Nile, who accompanies with Isis, which is the earth; and Typhon is the sea, into which the Nile falling is thereby destroyed and scattered, excepting only that part of it which the earth receives and drinks up, by means whereof she becomes prolific. There is also a kind of a sacred lamentation used to Saturn, wherein they bemoan him “who was born in the left side of the world, and died in the right.” For the Egyptians believe the eastern part to be the world’s face, and the northern its right hand, and the southern its left. And therefore the river Nile, holding its course from the southern parts towards the northern, may justly be said to have its birth in the left side and its death in the right; for which reason, the priests account the sea abominable, and call salt Typhon’s foam. And it is one of the things they look upon as unlawful and prohibited to them, to use salt at their tables. And they use not to salute any pilots, because they have to do with the sea. And this is not the least reason of their so great aversedness to fish. They also make the picture of a fish to denote hatred. And therefore at the temple of Minerva at Sais there was carved in the porch an infant and an old man, and after them a hawk, and then a fish, and after all a hippopotamus, which, in a symbolical manner, contained this sentence: O! ye that are born and that die, God hateth impudence. From whence it is plain, that by a child and an old man they express our being born and our dying; by a hawk, God; by a fish, hatred (by reason of the sea, as hath been before spoken); and by a river-horse, impudence, because (as they say) he killeth his sire and forceth his dam. That also which the Pythagoreans are used to say, that the sea is the tear of Saturn, may seem to hint out to us that it is not pure nor congenial with our race.
33. These then are the things that may be uttered without doors and in public, they containing nothing but matters of common cognizance. But now the most learned and reserved of the priests do not term the Nile only Osiris, and the sea Typhon; but in general, the whole principle and faculty of rendering moist they call Osiris, as believing it to be the cause of generation and the very substance of the seminal moisture. And on the other hand, whatever is a-dust, fiery, or any way drying and repugnant to wet, they call Typhon. And therefore, because they believe he was of a red and sallow color when he was born, they do not greatly care to meet with men of such looks nor willingly converse with them. On the other side again they report that Osiris, when he was born, was of a black complexion, because that all water renders earth, clothes, and clouds black, when mixed with them; and the moisture also that is in young persons makes their hair black; but grayness, like a sort of paleness, comes up through over much draught upon such as are now past their vigor and begin to decline in years. In like manner, the spring time is gay, fecund, and very agreeable; but the autumn, through defect of moisture, is both destructive to plants and sickly to men. Moreover the ox called Mnevis, which is kept at Heliopolis (and is sacred to Osiris, and judged by some to be the sire of Apis), is of a coal-black color, and is honored in the second place after Apis. To which we may add, that they call Egypt (which is one of the blackest soils in the world) as they do the black part of the eye, Chemia. They also liken it to the heart, by reason of its great warmth and moisture, and because it is mostly enclosed by and removed towards the left (that is, the southern) part of the earth, as the heart is with respect to a man’s body.
34. They believe also that the sun and moon do not go in chariots, but sail about the world perpetually in certain boats; hinting hereby at their feeding upon and springing first out of moisture. They are likewise of the opinion that Homer (as well as Thales) had been instructed by the Egyptians, which made him affirm water to be the spring and first original of all things; for that Oceanus is the same with Osiris, and Tethys with Isis, so named from τίτθη, a nurse, because she is the mother and nurse of all things. For the Grecians call the emission of the genital humor ἀπουσία, and carnal knowledge συνουσία: they also call a son υἱός, from ὕδωϱ, water, and ὗσαι, to wet; and likewise Bacchus ὕης, the wetter, they looking upon him as the lord of the humid nature, he being no other than Osiris. For Hellanicus hath set him down Hysiris, affirming that he heard him so pronounced by the priests; for so he hath written the name of this God all along in his history, and that, in my opinion, not without good reason, derived as well from his nature as his invention.
35. And that therefore he is one and the same with Bacchus, who should better know than yourself, Dame Clea, who are not only president of the Delphic prophetesses, but have been also, in right of both your parents, devoted to the Osiriac rites? And if, for the sake of others, we shall think ourselves obliged to lay down testimonies for the proof of our present assertion, we shall notwithstanding remit those secrets that must not be revealed to their proper place. But now the things which the priests do publicly at the interment of the Apis, when they carry his body on a raft to be buried, do nothing differ from the procession of Bacchus. For they hang about them the skins of hinds, and carry branches in their hands, and use the same kind of shoutings and gesticulations that the ecstatics do at the inspired dances of Bacchus. For which reason also many of the Greeks make statues of Dionysos Tauromorphos (or Bacchus in the form of a bull). And the Elean women, in their ordinary form of prayer, beseech the God to come to them with his ox’s foot. The Argives also have a Bacchus named Bougenes (or ox-gotten); and they call him up out of the waters by sounding of trumpets, flinging a young lamb into the abyss for him that keeps the door there; and these trumpets they hide within their thyrsi (or green boughs), as Socrates, in his Treatise of Rituals, relates. Likewise the tales about the Titans, and what they call the Mystic Night, have a strange agreement with what they tell us of the discerptions, resurrections, and regenerations of Osiris; as also what relates to their sepulchres. For not only the Egyptians (as hath been already spoken) do show in many several places the chests in which Osiris lies; but the Delphians also believe that the relics of Bacchus are laid up with them just by the oracle-place; and the Hosii (or holy men) perform a secret sacrifice within the temple of Apollo, when the Thyiades rouse the God of the fan (as they call him). Now that the Greeks do not esteem Bacchus as the lord and president of wine only, but also of the whole humid nature, Pindar alone is a sufficient witness, when he saith,
For which cause it is forbidden to such as worship Osiris, either to destroy a fruit-tree or to stop up a well.
36. And they call not only the Nile, but in general every humid, the efflux of Osiris. And a pitcher of water goes always first in their sacred processions, in honor of the God. And they make the figure of a figleaf both for the king and the southern climate, which figleaf is interpreted to mean the watering and fructifying of the universe, for it seems to bear some resemblance in its make to the virilities of a man. Moreover, when they keep the feast of the Pamylia, which is a Phallic or Priapeian one (as was said before), they expose to view and carry about a certain image of a man with a threefold privity; for this God is a first origin, and every first origin doth by its fecundity multiply what proceeds from it. And we are commonly used instead of “many times” to say “thrice,” as “thrice happy,” and,
As many bonds thrice told, and infinite.*
Unless (by Jove) we are to understand the word treble as spoken by the ancients in a proper sense. For the humid nature, being in the beginning the chief source and origin of the universe, must of consequence produce the three first bodies, — the earth, air, and fire. For the story which is here told by way of surplusage to the tale — how that Typhon threw the privity of Osiris into the river, and that Isis could not find it, and therefore fashioned and prepared the resemblance and effigies of it, and appointed it to be worshipped and carried about in their processions, like as in the Grecian Phallephoria — amounts but to this, to instruct and teach us that the prolific and generative property of this God had moisture for its first matter, and that by means of moisture it came to immix itself with things capable of generation. We have also another story told us by the Egyptians, — how that once Apopis, brother to the Sun, fell at variance with Jupiter and made war upon him; but Jupiter, entering into an alliance with Osiris and by his means overthrowing his enemy in a pitched battle, afterwards adopted him for his son and gave him the name of Dionysus. It is easy to show that this fabular relation borders also upon the verity of physical science. For the Egyptians call the wind Jupiter, with which the parching and fiery property makes war; and though this be not the sun, yet hath it some cognation with the sun. But now moisture, extinguishing the excessiveness of drought, increases and strengthens the exhalations of wet, which give food and vigor to the air.
37. Moreover, the ivy, which the Greeks use to consecrate to Bacchus, is called by the Egyptians chenosiris, which word (as they tell us) signifies in their language Osiris’s tree. Ariston therefore, who wrote of the colony of the Athenians, lighted upon a certain epistle of Alexarchus, in which it is related that Bacchus, the son of Jupiter and Isis, is not called Osiris by the Egyptians, but Arsaphes, which denotes valiant. This is hinted at by Hermaeus also, in his first book about the Egyptians; for he saith, the name of Osiris is to be interpreted stout. I shall now pass by Mnaseas, who joins Bacchus, Osiris, and Serapis together, and makes them the same with Epaphus. I shall also omit Anticlides, who saith that Isis was the daughter of Prometheus, and that she was married to Bacchus. For the fore-mentioned proprieties of their festivals and sacrifices afford us a much more clear evidence than the authorities of writers.
38. They believe likewise that of all the stars, the Sirius (or Dog) is proper to Isis, because it bringeth on the flowing of the Nile. They also pay divine honor to the lion, and adorn the gates of their temples with the yawning mouths of lions, because the Nile then overflows its banks,
When first the mounting sun the Lion meets.*
And as they term the Nile the efflux of Osiris, so they hold and esteem the earth for the body of Isis; and not all of it either, but that part only which the Nile, as it were, leaps over, and thereby impregnates and mixes with it. And by this amorous congress they produce Horus. Now this Horus is that Hora, or sweet season and just temperament of the ambient air, which nourisheth and preserveth all things; and they report him to have been nursed by Latona in the marshy grounds about Buto, because moist and watery land best feeds those exhaled vapors which quench and relax drought and parching heat. But those parts of the country which are outmost and upon the confines and sea-coast they call Nephthys; and therefore they give her the name of Teleutaea (or the outmost) and report her to be married to Typhon. When therefore the Nile is excessive great, and so far passes its ordinary bounds that it approaches to those that inhabit the outmost quarters, they call this Osiris’s accompanying with Nephthys, found out by the springing up of plants thereupon, whereof the melilot is one; which (as the story tells us), being dropped behind and left there, gave Typhon to understand the wrong that had been done to his bed. Which made them say that Isis had a lawful son called Horus, and Nephthys a bastard called Anubis. And indeed they record in the successions of their kings, that Nephthys being married to Typhon was at first barren. Now if they do not mean this of a woman but of a Goddess, they must needs hint that the earth, by reason of its solidity, is in its own nature unfruitful and barren.
39. And the conspiracy and usurpation of Typhon will be the power of the drought, which then prevails and dissipates that generative moisture which both begets the Nile and increases it. And the queen of Ethiopia, that abetted his quarrel, will denote the southern winds that come from Ethiopia. For when these come to overpower the Etesian (or anniversary) winds which drive the clouds towards Ethiopia, and by that means prevent those showers of rain which should augment the Nile from discharging themselves down, Typhon then being rampant scorcheth all, and being wholly master of the Nile, which now through weakness and debility draws in its head and takes a contrary course, he next thrusts him hollow and sunk as he is into the sea. For the story that is told us of the closing up of Osiris in a chest seems to me to be nothing else but an imitation of the withdrawing and disappearing of the water. For which reason they tell us that Osiris was missing upon the month of Athyr; at which time the Etesian winds being wholly ceased, the Nile returns to his channel, and the country looks bare; the night also growing longer, the darkness increases, and so the power of light fades away and is overcome. And as the priests act several other melancholy things upon this occasion, so they cover a gilded cow with a black linen pall, and thus expose her to public view at the mourning of the Goddess, for four days together, beginning at the seventeenth of the month. For the things they mourn for are also four; the first whereof is the falling and recess of the river Nile; the second, because the northern winds are then quite suppressed by the southern overpowering them; the third, because the day is grown shorter than the night; and the last and chiefest of all, the barrenness of the earth, together with the nakedness of the trees, which then cast their leaves. And on the nineteenth day at night they go down to the sea-side, and the priest and sacred livery bring forth the chest, having within it a little golden ark into which they pour fresh and potable water, and all that are there present give a great shout for joy that Osiris is now found. Then they take fertile mould, and stir it about in that water, and when they have mixed with it several very costly odors and spices, they form it into a little image, in fashion like a crescent, and then dress it up in fine clothes and adorn it, intimating hereby that they believe these Gods to be the substance of earth and water.
40. But Isis again recovering Osiris, and rearing up Horus, made strong by exhalations, mists, and clouds, Typhon was indeed reduced, but not executed; for the Goddess who is sovereign over the earth would not suffer the opposite nature to wet to be utterly extinguished, but loosed it and let it go, being desirous the mixture should continue. For it would be impossible for the world to be complete and perfect, if the property of fire should fail and be wanting. And as these things are not spoken by them without a considerable show of reason, so neither have we reason wholly to contemn this other account which they give us; which is, that Typhon in the more ancient times was master of Osiris’s portion. For (say they) Egypt was once all sea. For which reason it is found at this day to have abundance of fish-shells, both in its mines and on its mountains. And besides that, all the springs and wells (which in that country are extreme numerous) have in them a salt and brackish water, as if some remainder of the ancient sea had run thither, to be laid up in store. But in process of time, Horus got the upper hand of Typhon; that is, there happened such an opportunity of sudden and tempestuous showers of rain, that the Nile pushed the sea out, and discovered the champaign land, and afterwards filled it up with continual profusions of mud; all which hath the testimony of sense to confirm it. For we see at this day that, as the river drives down fresh mud and lays new earth unto the old, the sea by degrees gives back and the salt water runs off, as the parts in the bottom gain height by new accessions of mud. We see, moreover, that the Pharos, which Homer observed in his time to be a whole day’s sail from Egypt, is now a part of it; not because it changed its place or came nearer the shore than before, but because, the river still adding to and increasing the main land, the intermediate sea was obliged to retire.
To speak the truth, these things are not far unlike the explications which the Stoics used to give of the Gods. For they also say that the generative and nutritive property of the air is called Bacchus; the striking and dividing property, Hercules; the receptive property, Ammon; that which passes through the earth and fruits, Ceres and Proserpine; and that which passes through the sea, Neptune.
41. But those who join with these physiological accounts certain mathematical matters relating to astronomy suppose Typhon to mean the world of the sun, and Osiris that of the moon; for that the moon, being endued with a prolific and moistening light, is very favorable both to the breeding of animals and the springing up of plants; but the sun, having in it an immoderate and excessive fire, burns and dries up such things as grow up and look green, and by its scorching heat renders a great part of the world wholly uninhabitable, and very often gets the better of the moon. For which reason the Egyptians always call Typhon Seth, which in their language signifies a domineering and compelling power. And they tell us in their mythology, that Hercules is placed in the sun and rides about the world in it, and that Hermes doth the like in the moon. For the operations of the moon seem to resemble reason and to proceed from wisdom, but those of the sun to be like unto strokes effected by violence and mere strength. But the Stoics affirm the sun to be kindled and fed by the sea, and the moon by the waters of springs and pools, which send up a sweet and soft exhalation to it.
42. It is fabled by the Egyptians that Osiris’s death happened upon the seventeenth day of the mouth, at which time it is evident that the moon is at the fullest. For which reason the Pythagoreans call that day Antiphraxis (or disjunction) and utterly abominate the very number. For the middle number seventeen, falling in betwixt the square number sixteen and the oblong parallelogram eighteen (which are the only plane numbers that have their peripheries equal with their areas), disjoins and separates them from each other; and being divided into unequal portions, it makes the sesquioctave proportion (9: 8). Moreover, there are some that affirm Osiris to have lived eight and twenty years; and others again, that he only reigned so long, for that is the just number of the moon’s degrees of light and of the days wherein she performs her circuit. And after they have cleft the tree, at the solemnity they call Osiris’s Burial, they next form it into an ark in fashion like a crescent, because the moon, when it joins the sun, becomes first of that figure and then vanishes away. Likewise the division of Osiris into fourteen parts sets forth unto us symbolically the number of days in which that luminary is decreasing, from the full to the change. Moreover, the day upon which she first appears, after she hath now escaped the solar rays and passed by the sun, they term “imperfect good;” for Osiris is beneficient, and as this name hath many other significations, so what they call “effectuating and beneficent force” is none of the least. Hermaeus also tells us, that his other name of Omphis, when interpreted, denotes a benefactor.
43. They moreover believe that the several risings of the river Nile bear a certain proportion to the variations of light in the moon. For they say that its highest rise, which is at Elephantine, is eight and twenty cubits high, which is the number of its several lights and the measures of its monthly course; and that at Mendes and Xois, which is the lowest of all, it is six cubits high, which answers the half-moon; but that the middlemost rise, which is at Memphis, is (when it is at its just height) fourteen cubits high, which answers the full moon. They also say that the Apis is the living image of Osiris, and that he is begotten when a prolific light darts down from the moon and touches the cow when she is disposed for procreation; for which reason many things in the Apis bear resemblance to the shapes of the moon, it having light colors intermixed with shady ones. Moreover, upon the kalends of the month Phamenoth they keep a certain holiday, by them called Osiris’s ascent into the moon, and they account it the beginning of their spring. Thus they place the power of Osiris in the moon, and affirm him to be there married with Isis. which is generation. For which cause they style the moon the mother of the world, and believe her to have the nature both of male and female, because she is first filled and impregnated by the sun, and then herself sends forth generative principles into the air, and from thence scatters them down upon the earth. For that Typhonian destruction doth not always prevail; but it is very often subdued by generation and fast bound like a prisoner, but afterwards gets up again and makes war upon Horus. Now this Horus is the terrestrial world, which is not wholly exempted from either generation or destruction.
44. But there are some that will have this tale to be a figurative representation of the eclipses. For the moon is under an eclipse at the full, when the sun is in opposition to her, because she then falls into the shadow of the earth, as they say Osiris did into his chest. But she hides and obscures the sun at the new moon, upon the thirtieth day of the month, but doth not extinguish the sun quite, any more than Isis did Typhon. And when Nephthys was delivered of Anubis, Isis owned the child. For Nephthys is that part of the world which is below the earth, and invisible to us; and Isis that which is above the earth, and visible. But that which touches upon both these, and is called the horizon (or bounding circle) and is common to them both, is called Anubis, and resembles in shape the dog, because the dog makes use of his sight by night as well as by day. And therefore Anubis seems to me to have a power among the Egyptians much like to that of Hecate among the Grecians, he being as well terrestrial as Olympic. Some again think Anubis to be Saturn; wherefore, they say, because he produces all things out of himself and breeds them in himself, he had the name of Kyon (which signifies in Greek both a dog and a breeder) Moreover, those that worship the dog have a certain secret meaning that must not be here revealed. And in the more remote and ancient times, the dog had the highest honor paid him in Egypt; but after that Cambyses had slain the Apis and thrown him away contemptuously like a carrion, no animal came near to him except the dog only; upon this he lost his first honor and the right he had of being worshipped above other creatures. There are also some that will have the shadow of the earth, into which they believe the moon to fall when eclipsed, to be called Typhon.
45. Wherefore it seems to me not to be unconsonant to reason to hold that each of them apart is not in the right, but all together are. For it is not drought, nor wind, nor sea, nor darkness, but every part of Nature that is hurtful or destructive, that belongs to Typhon. For we are not to place the first origins of the universe in inanimate bodies, as do Democritus and Epicurus; nor to make one reason, and one forecast overruling and containing all things, the creator of matter without attribute, as the Stoics do; for it is alike impossible for any thing bad to exist where God is the cause of all things, and for any thing good to exist where he is the cause of nothing. For the harmony of the world is (according to Heraclitus) like that of a bow or a harp, alternately tightened and relaxed; and according to Euripides,
And therefore this most ancient opinion hath been handed down from the theologists and law-givers to the poets and philosophers, it having an original fathered upon none, but having gained a persuasion both strong and indelible, and being everywhere professed and received by barbarians as well as Grecians, — and that not only in vulgar discourses and public fame, but also in their secret mysteries and open sacrifices, — that the world is neither hurried about by wild chance without intelligence, discourse, and direction, nor yet that there is but one reason, which as it were with a rudder or with gentle and easy reins directs it and holds it in; but that on the contrary, there are in it several differing things, and those made up of bad as well as good; or rather (to speak more plainly) that Nature produces nothing here but what is mixed and tempered. Not that there is as it were one store-keeper, who out of two different casks dispenses to us human affairs adulterated and mixed together,* as a host doth his liquors; but by reason of two contrary origins and opposite powers — whereof the one leads to the right hand and in a direct line, and the other turns to the contrary hand and goes athwart — both human life is mixed, and the world (if not all, yet that part which is about the earth and below the moon) is become very unequal and various, and liable to all manner of changes. For if nothing can come without a cause, and if a good thing cannot afford a cause of evil, Nature then must certainly have a peculiar source and origin of evil as well as of good.
46. And this is the opinion of the greatest and wisest part of mankind. For some believe that there are two Gods, as it were two rival workmen, the one whereof they make to be the maker of good things, and the other of bad. And some call the better of these God, and the other Daemon; as doth Zoroaster the Magian whom they report to be five thousand years elder than the Trojan times. This Zoroaster now called the one of these Horomazes, and the other Arimanius; and affirmed, moreover, that the one of them did, of any thing sensible, the most resemble light, and the other darkness and ignorance; but that Mithras was in the middle betwixt them. For which cause the Persians call Mithras the Mediator. And they tell us, that he first taught mankind to make vows and offerings of thanksgiving to the one, and to offer averting and feral sacrifice to the other. For they beat a certain plant called omomi in a mortar, and call upon Pluto and the dark; and then mix it with the blood of a sacrificed wolf, and convey it to a certain place where the sun never shines, and there cast it away. For of plants they believe that some appeartain to the good God, and others again to the evil Daemon; and likewise they think that such animals as dogs, fowls, and urchins belong to the good, but water animals to the bad, for which reason they account him happy that kills most of these.
47. These men moreover tell us a great many romantic things about these Gods, whereof these are some. They say that, Horomazes springing from purest light, and Arimanius on the other hand from pitchy darkness, these two are therefore at war with one another; and that Horomazes made six Gods, whereof the first was the author of benevolence, the second of truth, the third of law and order; and the rest, one of wisdom, another of wealth, and a third of that pleasure which accrues from good actions; and that Arimanius likewise made the like number of contrary Gods to confront them. After this, Horomazes, having first trebled his own magnitude, mounted up aloft, as far above the sun as the sun itself above the earth, and so bespangled the heavens with stars. But one star (called Sirius, or the Dog) he set as a kind of sentinel or scout before all the rest. And after he had made four and twenty Gods more, he placed them all in an egg-shell. But those that were made by Arimanius (being themselves also of the like number) breaking a hole in this beauteous and glazed egg-shell, bad things came by this means to be intermixed with good. But the fatal time is now approaching, in which Arimanius, who by means of this brings plagues and famines upon the earth, must of necessity be himself utterly extinguished and destroyed; at which time, the earth being made plain and level, there will be one life and one society of mankind, made all happy and of one speech. But Theopompus saith, that, according to the opinion of the Magi, each of these Gods subdues and is subdued by turns for the space of three thousand years apiece, and that for three thousand years more they quarrel and fight, and destroy each other’s works; but that at last Pluto shall fail, and mankind shall be happy, and neither need food nor yield a shadow. And that the God who has projected these things shall then for some time take his repose and rest; but yet this time is not so much to him, although it seem so to man, whose sleep is but short.
48. Such then is the mythology of the Magi. But the Chaldaeans say, there are Gods of the planets also, two whereof they style benefics, and two malefics; the other three they pronounce to be common and indifferent. As for the Grecians, their opinions are obvious and well known to every one; to wit, that they make the good part of the world to appertain to Jupiter Olympius, and the hateful part to Pluto; and likewise, that they fable Harmonia to have been begotten by Venus and Mars, the one whereof is rough and quarrelsome, and the other sweet and generative. In the next place consider we the great agreement of the philosophers with these people. For Heraclitus doth in plain and naked terms call war the father, the king, and the lord of all things; and saith that Homer, when he first prayed,
Discord be damned from Gods and human race,*
little thought he was then cursing the origination of all things, they owing their rise to aversation and quarrel. He also saith, that the sun will never exceed his proper bounds; and if he should, that
Tongues, aids of justice, soon will find him out.
Empedocles also calls the benefic principle love and friendship, and very often sweet-looked harmony; and the evil principle
Pernicious enmity and bloody hate.
The Pythagoreans use a great number of terms as attributes of these two principles; of the good, they use the unit, the terminate, the permanent, the straight, the odd, the square, the equal, the dexter, and the lucid; and again of the bad, the two, the interminate, the fluent, the crooked, the even, the oblong, the unequal, the sinister, and the dark; insomuch that all these are looked upon as principles of generation. But Anaxagoras made but two, the intelligence and the interminate; and Aristotle called the first of these form, and the latter privation. But Plato in many places, as it were shading and veiling over his opinion, names the first of these opposite principles the Same, and the second the Other. But in his book of Laws, when he was now grown old, he affirmed, not in riddles and emblems but in plain and proper words, that the world is not moved by one soul, but perhaps by a great many, but not by fewer than two; the one of which is beneficent, and the other contrary to it and the author of things contrary. He also leaves a certain third nature in the midst between, which is neither without soul nor without reason, nor void of a self-moving power (as some suppose), but rests upon both of the preceding principles, but yet so as still to affect, desire, and pursue the better of them; as I shall make out in the ensuing part of this discourse, in which I design to reconcile the theology of the Egyptians principally with this sort of philosophy.
49. For the frame and constitution of this world is made up of contrary powers, but yet such as are not of such equal strength but that the better is still predominant. But it is impossible for the ill one to be quite extinguished, because much of it is interwoven with the body and much with the soul of the universe, and it always maintains a fierce combat with the better part. And therefore in the soul, intellect and reason, which is the prince and master of all the best things, is Osiris; and in the earth, in the winds, in the waters, in the heaven, and in the stars, what is ranged, fixed, and in a sound constitution (as orderly seasons, due temperament of air, and the revolutions of the stars) is the efflux and appearing image of Osiris. Again, the passionate, Titanic, irrational, and brutal part of the soul is Typhon; and what in the corporeal nature is adventitious, morbid, and tumultuous (as irregular seasons, distemperatures of air, eclipses of the sun, and disappearings of the moon) is, as it were, the incursions and devastations of Typhon. And the name of Seth, by which they call Typhon, declares as much; for it denotes a domineering and compelling power, and also very often an overturning, and again a leaping over. There are also some that say that Bebon was one of Typhon’s companions; but Manetho saith, Typhon himself was called Bebon. Now that name signifies restraining and hindering; as who should say, “while all things march along in a regular course and move steadily toward their natural end, the power of Typhon stands in their way and stops them.”
50. For which reason they assign him the ass, the most brutal and sottish of all the tame beasts, and the crocodile and river-horse, the most savage and fierce of all the wild beasts. Of the ass we have spoken already. They show us at Hermopolis the statue of Typhon, which is a river-horse with a hawk on his back fighting with a serpent; where they set out Typhon by the river-horse, and by the hawk that power and principle which Typhon possesses himself of by violence, and thereupon ceases not to disturb others and to be disturbed himself by his malice. For which reason also, when they are to offer sacrifice upon the seventh day of the month Tybi, at the festival which they call the Arrival of Isis out of Phoenicia, they print the river-horse bound upon their sacred cakes. Besides this, there is a constant custom at the town of Apollo, for every one to eat some part of a crocodile; and having upon a certain set day hunted down as many of them as they are able, they kill them, and throw down their car casses before the temple. And they tell us that Typhon made his escape from Horus in the form of a crocodile; for they make all bad and noxious things — whether animals, plants or passions — to be the works, the members and the motions of Typhon.
51. On the other hand, they represent Osiris by an eye and a sceptre, the one whereof expresses forecast, and the other power. In like manner Homer, when he called the governor and monarch of all the world
Supremest Jove, and mighty Counsellor,*
seems to me to denote his imperial power by supremest, and his well-advisedness and discretion by Counsellor. They also oftentimes describe this God by a hawk, because he exceeds in quickness of sight and velocity in flying, and sustains himself with very little food. He is also said to fly over the bodies of dead men that lie unburied, and to drop down earth upon their eyes. Likewise, when he alights down upon the bank of any river to assuage his thirst, he sets his feathers up on end, and after he hath done drinking, he lets them fall again. Which he plainly doth because he is now safe and escaped from the danger of the crocodile; but if he chances to be catched, his feathers then continue stiff as before. They also show us everywhere Osiris’s statue in the shape of a man, with his private part erect, to betoken unto us his faculty of generation and nutrition; and they dress up his images in a flame-colored robe, esteeming the sun as the body of the power of good, and as the visible image of intelligible substance. Wherefore we have good reason to reject those that ascribe the sun’s globe unto Typhon, to whom appertaineth nothing of a lucid or salutary nature, nor order, nor generation, nor motion attended with measure and proportion, but the clean contrary to them. Neither is that parching drought, which destroys many animals and plants, to be accounted as an effect of the sun, but of those winds and waters which in the earth and air are not tempered according to the season, at which time the principle of the unordered and interminate nature acts at random, and so stifles and suppresses those exhalations that should ascend.
52. Moreover, in the sacred hymns of Osiris they call him up “who lies hidden in the arms of the sun.” And upon the thirtieth day of the month Epiphi they keep a certain festival called the Birthday of the eyes of Horus, when the sun and the moon are in one direct line; as esteeming not only the moon but also the sun to be the eye and light of Horus. Likewise the three and twentieth day of the month Phaophi they make to be the nativity of the staves of the sun, which they observe after the autumnal equinox, intimating hereby that he now wants, as it were, a prop and a stay, as suffering a great diminution both of heat and light by his declining and moving obliquely from us. Besides this, they lead the sacred cow seven times about her temple at the time of the winter solstice. And this going round is called the seeking of Osiris, the Goddess being in great distress for water in winter time. And the reason of her going round so many times is because the sun finishes his passage from the winter to the summer tropic in the seventh month. It is reported also that Horus, the son of Isis, was the first that ever sacrificed to the sun upon the fourth day of the month, as we find it written in a book called the Birthdays of Horus. Moreover, they offer incense to the sun three times every day; resin at his rising, myrrh when it is in the mid-heaven, and that they call Kyphi about the time of his setting. (What each of these means, I shall after wards explain.) Now they are of opinion that the sun is atoned and pacified by all these.
But to what purpose should I heap together many things of this nature? For there are some that scruple not to say plainly that Osiris is the sun, and that he is called Sirius by the Greeks, although the Egyptians, adding the article to his name, have obscured and brought its sense into question. They also declare Isis to be no other than the moon, and say that such statues of her as are horned were made in imitation of the crescent; and that the black habit in which she so passionately pursues the sun, sets forth her disappearings and eclipses. For which reason they used to invoke the moon in love-concerns; and Eudoxus also saith that Isis presides over love-matters. Now these things have in them a show and semblance of reason; whereas they that would make Typhon to be the sun deserve not to be heard.
53. But we must again resume our proper discourse. Isis is indeed that property of Nature which is feminine and receptive of all production; in which sense she was called the nurse and the all-receiver by Plato, and the Goddess with ten thousand names by the common sort, because being transmuted by reason she receives all manner of shapes and guises. But she hath a natural love to the prime and principal of all beings (which is the good principle), and eagerly affects it and pursues after it; and she shuns and repels her part of the evil one. And although she be indeed both the receptacle and matter of either nature, yet she always of herself inclines to the better of them, and readily gives way to it to generate upon her and to sow its effluxes and resemblances into her; and she rejoices and is very glad when she is impregnated and filled with productions. For generation is the production of an image of the real substance upon matter, and what is generated is an imitation of what is in truth.
54. And therefore not without great consonancy do they fable that the soul of Osiris is eternal and incorruptible, but that his body is often torn in pieces and destroyed by Typhon, and that Isis wanders to and fro to look him out, and when she hath found him, puts him together again. For the permanent being, the mental nature, and the good, is itself above corruption and change; but the sensitive and corporeal part takes off certain images from it, and receives certain proportions, shapes, and resemblances, which, like impressions upon wax, do not continue always, but are swallowed up by the disorderly and tumultuous part, which is chased hither from the upper region and makes war with Horus, who is born of Isis, being the sensible image of the mental world. For which reason he is said to be prosecuted for bastardy by Typhon, as not being pure and sincere, — like his father, the pure absolute reason, unmixed and impassible, — but embased with matter by corporeity. But he gets the better of him, and carries the cause, Hermes (that is, reason) witnessing and proving that Nature produces the world by becoming herself of like form with the mental property. Moreover, the generation of Apollo by Isis and Osiris, while the Gods were yet in Rhea’s womb, hints out unto us that, before this world became visible and was completed by reason, matter, being convinced by Nature that she was imperfect alone, brought forth the first production. For which reason they also say, this deity was born a cripple in the dark, and they call him the elder Horus; for he was not the world, but a kind of a picture and phantom of the world to be afterwards.
55. This Horus is terminate and complete of himself, yet hath he not quite destroyed Typhon, but only taken off his over great activity and brutal force. Whence it is they tell us that at Copto the statue of Horus holds fast in hand the privities of Typhon; and they fable that Mercury took out Typhon’s sinews and used them for harp-strings, to denote unto us that, when reason composed the universe, it made one concord out of many discords, and did not abolish but accomplish* the corruptible faculty. Whence it comes that this power, being weak and feeble in the present state of things, blends and mixes with passible and mutable parts of the world, and so becomes in the earth the causer of concussions and shakings, and in the air of parching droughts and tempestuous winds, as also of hurricanes and thunders. It likewise infects both waters and winds with pestilential diseases, and runs up and insolently rages as high as the very moon, suppressing many times and blackening the lucid part, as the Egyptians believe. They relate that Typhon one while smote Horus’s eye, and another while plucked it out and swallowed it up, and afterwards gave it back to the sun; intimating by the blow the monthly diminution of the moon, and by the blinding of him its eclipse, which the sun cures again by shining presently upon it as soon as it hath escaped from the shadow of the earth.
56. Now the better and more divine nature consists of three; or of the intelligible part, of matter, and of that which is made up of both, which the Greeks call Cosmos (that is trimness) and we the world. Plato therefore uses to name the intelligible part the form, the sample, and the father; and matter the mother, the nurse, and the seat and receptacle of generation; and that again which is made up of both, the offspring and the production. And one would conjecture that the Egyptians called it the most perfect of triangles, because they likened the nature of the universe principally to that; which Plato also in his Commonwealth seems to have made use of to the same purpose, when he forms his nuptial diagram. Now in that triangle the perpendicular consists of three parts, the base of four, and the subtense of five, its square being equal in value with the squares of the two that contain it. We are therefore to take the perpendicular to represent the male property, the base the female, and the subtense that which is produced by them both. We are likewise to look upon Osiris as the first cause, Isis as the faculty of reception, and Horus as the effect. For the number three is the first odd and perfect number, and the number four is a square, having for its side the even number two. The number five also in some respects resembles the father and in some again the mother, being made up of three and two; besides, πάντα (all things) seems to be derived from πάντε (five) and they use πεμπάσασθαι (which is telling five) for counting.* Moreover, the number five makes a square equal to the number of letters used among the Egyptians, as also to the number of years which Apis lived. They are also used to call Horus Min, which signifieth as much as seen; for the world is perceptible to sense and visible. And Isis they sometimes call Muth, and sometimes again Athyri, and sometimes Methyer. And by the first of these names they mean mother, by the second Horus’s mundane house (as Plato calls it, the place and receptacle of generation); but the third is compounded of two words, the one whereof signifies full, and the other the cause; for the matter of the world is full, and it is closely joined with the good and pure and well ordered principle.
57. And it may be, Hesiod also, when he makes the first things of all to be chaos, earth, hell, and love, may be thought to take up no other principles than these, if we apply these names as we have already disposed them, to wit, that of earth to Isis, that of love to Osiris, and that of hell to Typhon; for he seems to lay the chaos under all, as a kind of room or place for the world to lie in. And the subject we are now upon seems in a manner to call for Plato’s tale, which Socrates tells us in the Symposium about the production of Eros (or Love), where he saith, that once on a time Poverty, having a mighty desire of children, laid her down by Plenty’s side as he was asleep, and that she thereupon conceiving by him brought forth Eros, who was of a nature both mixed and various, as coming of a father that was good and wise and had sufficiency of all things, but of a mother that was very needy and poor; and that by reason of her indigence she still hankered after another, and was eagerly importunate for another. For this same Plenty is no other than the first amiable, desirable, complete, and sufficient being; and matter is that which he called Poverty, she being of herself alone destitute of the property of good, but when she is impregnated by it, she still desires and craves for more. Moreover, the world (or Horus) that is produced out of these two, being not eternal, nor impassible, nor incorruptible, but ever a making, does therefore machinate, partly by shifting of accidents and partly by circular motions, to remain still young and never to die.
58. But we must remember that we are not to make use of fables as if they were doctrinal throughout, but only to take that in each of them which we shall judge to make a pertinent resemblance. And therefore, when we treat of matter, we need not (with respect to the sentiments of some philosophers) to conceit in our minds a certain body void of soul and of all quality, and of itself wholly idle and unactive. For we use to call oil the matter of an unguent, and gold the matter of a statue, though they are not destitute of all quality. And we render the very soul and mind of a man as matter to reason, to be dressed up and composed into science and virtue. There have been some also that have made the mind to be a receptacle of forms and a kind of imprimary for things intelligible; and some are of opinion again that the genital humidity in the female sex is no active property nor efficient principle, but only the matter and nutriment of the production. Which when we retain in our memories, we ought to conceive likewise that this Goddess, which always participates of the first God and is ever taken up with the love of those excellencies and charms that are about him, is not by nature opposite to him; but that, as we are used to say of a good natured woman, that, though she be married to a man and constantly enjoys his embraces, yet she hath a fond kind of longing after him, so hath she always a strong inclination to the God, though she be present and round about him, and though she be impregnated with his most prime and pure particles.
59. But where Typhon falls in and touches upon her extreme parts, it is there she appears melancholy, and is said to mourn, and to look for certain relics and pieces of Osiris, and to array them with all diligence; she receiving all things that die and laying them up within herself, as she again brings forth and sends up out of herself all such things as are produced. And those proportions, forms, and effluxes of the God that are in the heaven and stars do indeed continue always the same; but those that are sown abroad into mutable things, as into land, sea, plants, and animals, are resolved, destroyed, and buried, and afterwards show themselves again very often, and come up anew in several different productions. For which reason the fable makes Typhon to be married to Nephthys, and Osiris to have accompanied with her by stealth. For the utmost and most extreme parts of matter, which they call Nephthys and the end, is mostly under the power of the destructive faculty; but the fecund and salutary power dispenses but a feeble and languid seed into those parts, which is all destroyed by Typhon, except only what Isis taking up doth preserve, cherish, and improve.
60. And in general, Typhon is the prevailing power, as both Plato and Aristotle insinuate. Moreover, the generative and salutary part of nature hath its motion towards him, in order to procure being; but the destroying and corruptive part hath its motion from him, in order to procure not-being. For which reason they call the former part Isis, from going (ἴεσθαι) and being borne-along with knowledge, she being a kind of a living and prudent motion. For her name is not of a barbarous original; but, as all the Gods have one name (θεός) in common, and that is derived from the two words, θέων (running) and θεατός (visible); so also this very Goddess is both from motion and science at once called Isis by us and Isis also by the Egyptians. So likewise Plato tells us, that the ancients called οὐσία (being) ἰσία (knowledge), as also that νόησις (intelligence) and φϱόνησις (prudence) had their names given them for being a φοϱά (agitation) and motion of νοῦς (mind), which was then, as it were, ἱέμενος and φεϱόμενος (set in motion and borne-along); and the like he affirmeth of συνιέναι (to understand), that it was as much as to say “to be in commotion.”* Nay he saith, moreover, that they attribute the very names of ἀγαθόν (good) and ἀϱετή (virtue) to the ideas of running (θέω) and of ever-flowing (ἀεὶ ϱ̔έω)† which they imply; as likewise, on the other hand again, they used terms opposite to motion by way of reproach; for they called what clogged, tied up, locked up, and confined nature from agitation and motion ϰαϰία (baseness or ill motion), ἀποϱία (difficulty or difficult motion), δειλία (fearfulness or fearful motion) and ἀνία (sorrow or want of motion).
61. But Osiris had his name from ὅσιος and ἱεϱός (pious and sacred) compounded; for he is the common idea of things in heaven and things in the lower world, the former of which the ancients thought fit to style ἱεϱά, and the latter ὅσια. But the principle which discloses things heavenly, and which appertains to things whose motion tends up wards (ἄνω), is called Anubis, and sometimes he is also named Hermanubis, the former name referring to things above, and the latter to things beneath. For which reason they also sacrifice to him two cocks, the one whereof is white and the other of a saffron color, as esteeming the things above to be entire and clear, and the things beneath to be mixed and various. Nor need any one to wonder at the formation of these words from the Grecian tongue; for there are many thousand more of this kind, which, accompanying those who at several times removed out of Greece, do to this very day sojourn and remain among foreigners; some whereof when poetry would bring back into use, it hath been falsely accused of barbarism by those men, who love to call such words strange and outlandish. They say, moreover, that in the so-called books of Hermes there is an account given of the sacred names; and that power which presides over the circulation of the sun is called Horus, and by the Greeks Apollo; and that which is over the winds is by some called Osiris, and by others Serapis, and by others again in the Egyptian tongue Sothi. Now the word Sothi signifies in Greek to breed (ϰύειν) and breeding; and therefore, by an obliquation of the word ϰύειν, the star which they account proper to the Goddess Isis is called in Greek ϰύων, which is as well dog as breeder. And although it be but a fond thing to be over contentious about words, yet I had rather yield to the Egyptians the name of Serapis than that of Osiris, since I account the former to be foreign, and the latter to be Greekish, but believe both to appertain to one God and to one power.
62. And the Egyptian theology seems to favor this opinion. For they oftentimes call Isis by the name of Minerva, which in their language expresseth this sentence, “I came from myself,” and is significative of a motion proceeding from herself. But Typhon is called (as hath been said before) Seth, Bebon, and Smu, which names would insinuate a kind of a forcible restraint, and an opposition or subversion. Moreover, they call the loadstone Horus’s bone, and iron Typhon’s bone, as Manetho relates. For as iron is oftentimes like a thing that is drawn to and follows the loadstone, and oftentimes again flies off and recoils to the opposite part; so the salutary, good, and intelligent motion of the universe doth, as by a gentle persuasion, invert, reduce, and make softer the rugged and Typhonian one; and when again it is restrained and forced back, it returns into itself, and sinks into its former interminateness. Eudoxus also saith that the Egyptian fable of Jupiter is this, that being once unable to go because his legs grew together, he for very shame spent all his time in the wilderness; but that Isis dividing and separating these parts of his body, he came to have the right use of his feet. This fable also hints to us by these words, that the intelligence and reason of the God, which walked before in the unseen and inconspicuous state, came into generation by means of motion.
63. The sistrum likewise (or rattle) doth intimate unto us, that all things ought to be agitated and shook (σείεσθαι), and not to be suffered to rest from their motion, but be as it were roused up and awakened when they begin to grow drowsy and to droop. For they tell us that the sistrum averts and frights away Typhon, insinuating hereby that, as corruption locks up and fixes Nature’s course, so generation again resolves and excites it by means of motion. Moreover, as the sistrum hath its upper part convex, so its circumference contains the four things that are shaken; for that part of the world also which is liable to generation and corruption is contained by the sphere of the moon, but all things are moved and changed in it by means of the four elements, fire, earth, water, and air. And upon the upper part of the circumference of the sistrum, on the outside, they set the effigies of a cat carved with a human face; and again, on the under part, below the four jingling things, they set on one side the face of Isis, and on the other the face of Nephthys; symbolically representing by these two faces generation and death (for these are changes and alterations of the elements), and by the cat representing the moon, because of the different colors, the night-motion and the great fecundity of this animal. For they say that she brings forth first one, then two, and three, and four, and five, and so adds one until she comes to seven; so that she brings eight and twenty in all, which are as many as there are days in each moon; but this looks more like a romance. This is certain, that the pupils of her eyes are observed to fill up and grow large upon the full of the moon, and again, to grow less upon its decrease. And the human face of the cat shows how the changes of the moon are governed by mind and reason.
64. To sum up all then in one word, it is not reasonable to believe that either the water or the sun or the earth or the heaven is Osiris or Isis; nor, again, that the fire or the drought or the sea is Typhon; but if we simply ascribe to Typhon whatever in all these is through excesses or defects intemperate or disorderly, and if on the other hand we reverence and honor what in them all is orderly, good, and beneficial, esteeming them the operations of Isis, and as the image, imitation, and discourse of Osiris, we shall not err. And we shall besides take off the incredulity of Eudoxus, who makes a great question how it comes to pass that neither Ceres hath any part in the care of love affairs (but only Isis), nor Bacchus any power either to increase the Nile or to preside over the dead. For we hold that these Gods are set over the whole share of good in common, and that whatever is either good or amiable in Nature is all owing to these, the one yielding the principles, and the other receiving and dispensing them.
65. By this means we shall be able to deal with the vulgar and more importunate sort also, whether their fancy be to accommodate the things that refer to these Gods to those changes which happen to the ambient air at the several seasons of the year, or to production of fruit and to the times of sowing and earing, affirming that Osiris is then buried when the sown corn is covered over by the earth, and that he revives again and re-appears when it begins to sprout. Which they say is the reason that Isis is reported, upon her finding herself to be with child, to have hung a certain amulet or charm about her upon the sixth day of the month Phaophi, and to have been delivered of Harpocrates about the winter solstice, he being in the first shootings and sprouts very imperfect and tender. And this is the reason (say they) that, when the lentils begin to spring up, they offer him their tops for first-fruits. They also observe the festival of her child-birth after the vernal equinox. For they that hear these things are much taken with them and readily give assent to them, and presently infer their credibility from the obviousness and familiarness of the matter.
66. Nor would this be any great harm either, would they save us these Gods in common, and not make them to be peculiar to the Egyptians, nor confine these names to the river Nile, and only to that one piece of ground which the river Nile waters; nor affirm their fens and their lotuses to be the subject of this mythology, and so deprive the rest of mankind of great and mighty Gods, who have neither a Nile nor a Buto nor a Memphis. As for Isis, all mankind have her, and are well acquainted with her and the other Gods about her; and although they had not anciently learned to call some of them by their Egyptian names, yet they from the very first both knew and honored the power which belongs to every one of them. In the second place, what is yet of greater consequence is, that they take a mighty care and fear lest, before they are aware, they change and dissolve the divine beings into blasts of winds, streams of water, sowings of corn, earings of land, accidents of the earth, and changes of seasons; as those who make Bacchus to be wine and Vulcan to be flame. Cleanthes also somewhere saith that Proserpine (or Persephone) is the breath of air which is carried (φεϱόμενον) through the corn and then dies (φονεύομενον); and again, a certain poet saith of reapers,
Then when the youth the legs of Ceres cut.
For these men seem to me to be nothing wiser than such as would take the sails, the cables, and the anchor of a ship for the pilot; the yarn and the web for the weaver; and the bowl or the mead or the ptisan for the doctor. And they over and above produce in men most dangerous and atheistical opinions, while they give the names of Gods to those natures and things that have in them neither soul nor sense, and that are necessarily destroyed by men who need them and use them.
67. No man can imagine these things can be Gods in themselves. And therefore nothing can be a God to men that is either without soul or under their power. But yet by means of these things we come to think them Gods that use them themselves and bestow them upon us, and that render them perpetual and continual. And those are not some in one country and others in another, nor some Grecians and others barbarians, nor some southern and others northern; but as the sun, moon, land, and sea are common to all men, but yet have different names in different nations, so that one discourse that orders these things, and that one forecast that administers them, and those subordinate powers that are set over every nation in particular, have assigned them by the laws of several countries several kinds of honors and appellations. And those that have been consecrated to their service make use, some of them of darker, and others again of clearer symbols, thereby guiding the understanding to the knowledge of things divine, not without much danger and hazard. For some not being able to reach their true meaning, have slid into down-right superstition; and others again, while they would fly the quagmire of superstition, have fallen unwittingly upon the precipice of atheism.
68. And for this reason we should here make most use of the reasonings from philosophy, which introduce us into the knowledge of things sacred, that so we may think piously of whatever is said or acted in religion; lest — as Theodorus once said that, as he reached forth his discourses in his right hand, some of his auditors received them in their left — so what things the laws have wisely constituted about the sacrifices and festivals we should take otherwise than as they are meant, and thereby fall into most dangerous errors and mistakes. That therefore we are to construe all these things by reference to reason, we may easily perceive by the Egyptians themselves. For upon the nineteenth day of the first month they keep a solemn festival to Hermes, wherein they eat honey and figs, and withal say these words, “Truth is a sweet thing.” And that amulet or charm which they fable Isis to hang about her is, when interpreted into our language, “A true voice.” Nor are we to understand Harpocrates to be either some imperfect or infant God, or a God of pulse (as some will have him), but to be the governor and reducer of the tender, imperfect, and inarticulate discourse which men have about the Gods. For which reason, he hath always his finger upon his mouth, as a symbol of talking little and keeping silence. Likewise, upon the month of Mesore, they present him with certain pulse, and pronounce these words: “The tongue is Fortune, the tongue is God.” And of all the plants that Egypt produces, they say the Persea is the most sacred to the Goddess, because its fruit resembles the heart, and its leaf the tongue. For there is nothing that man possesses that is either more divine, or that hath a greater tendency upon happiness, than discourse, and especially that which relates to the Gods. For which reason they lay a strict charge upon such as go down to the oracle there, to have pious thoughts in their hearts and words of good omen in their mouths. But the greater part act ludicrous things in their processions and festivals, first proclaiming good expressions, and then both speaking and thinking words of most wicked and lewd meaning, and that even of the Gods themselves.
69. How then must we manage ourselves at these tetrical, morose, and mournful sacrifices, if we are neither to omit what the laws prescribe us, nor yet to confound and distract our thoughts about the Gods with vain and uncouth surmises? There are among the Greeks also many things done that are like to those which the Egyptians do at their solemnities, and much about the same time too. For at the Thesmophoria at Athens the women fast sitting upon the bare ground. The Boeotians also remove the shrines of Achaea (or Ceres), terming that day the afflictive holiday, because Ceres was then in great affliction for her daughter’s descent into hell. Now upon this month, about the rising of the Pleiades, is the sowing time; and the Egyptians call it Athyr, the Athenians Pyanepsion; and the Boeotians Damatrios (or the month of Ceres). Moreover Theopompus relates, that those that live towards the sun-setting (or the Hesperii) believe the winter to be Saturn, the summer Venus, and the spring time Proserpine; and that they call them by those names, and maintain all to be produced by Saturn and Venus. But the Phrygians, being of opinion that the Deity sleeps in the winter and wakes in the summer, do, in the manner of ecstatics, in the winter time sing lullabies in honor of his sleeping, and in the summer time certain rousing carols in honor of his waking. In like manner the Paphlagonians say, he is bound and imprisoned in the winter, and walks abroad again in the spring and is at liberty.
70. And the nature of the season gives us suspicion that this tetrical sort of service was occasioned by the absenting of the several sorts of fruits at that time of the year; which yet the ancients did not believe to be Gods, but such gifts of the Gods as were both great and necessary in order to preserve them from a savage and bestial life. And at what time they saw both the fruits that came from trees wholly to disappear and fail, and those also which themselves had sown to be yet but starved and poor, they taking up fresh mould in their hands and laying it about their roots, and committing them a second time to the ground with uncertain hopes of their ever coming to perfection or arriving to maturity, did herein many things that might well resemble people at funerals and mourning for the dead. Moreover, as we use to say of one that hath bought the books of Plato, that he hath bought Plato, and of one that hath taken upon him to act the compositions of Menander, that he hath acted Menander; in like manner they did not stick to call the gifts and creatures of the Gods by the names of the Gods themselves, paying this honor and veneration to them for their necessary use. But those of after times receiving this practice unskilfully and ignorantly, applying the accidents of fruits, and the accesses and recesses of things necessary to human life, unto the Gods, did not only call them the generations and deaths of the Gods, but also believed them such, and so filled themselves with abundance of absurd, wicked, and distempered notions; and this, although they had the absurdity of such a monstrous opinion before their very eyes. And therefore Xenophanes the Colophonian might not only put the Egyptians in mind, if they believed those they worshipped to be Gods, not to lament for them, and if they lamented for them, not to believe them to be Gods; but also that it would be extremely ridiculous at one and the same time to lament for the fruits of the earth, and to pray them to appear again and make themselves ripe, that so they may be over again consumed and lamented for.
71. But now this in its true intention is no such thing. But they make their lamentation for the fruits; and their prayers to the Gods, who are the authors and bestowers of those fruits, that they would be pleased to produce and bring up again other new ones in the place of them that are gone. Wherefore it is an excellent saying among philosophers, that they that have not learned the true sense of words will mistake also in the things; as we see those among the Greeks who have not learned nor accustomed themselves to call the brazen and stone statues and the painted representations of the Gods their images or their honors, but the Gods themselves, are so adventurous as to say that Lachares stripped Minerva, that Dionysius cropped off Apollo’s golden locks, and that Jupiter Capitolinus was burned and destroyed in the civil wars of Rome. They therefore, before they are aware, suck in and receive bad opinions with these improper words. And the Egyptians are not the least guilty herein, with respect to the animals which they worship. For the Grecians both speak and think aright in these matters, when they tell us that the pigeon is sacred to Venus, the serpent to Minerva, the raven to Apollo, and the dog to Diana, as Euripides somewhere speaks:
But the greater part of the Egyptians worshipping the very animals themselves, and courting them as Gods, have not only filled their religious worship with matter of scorn and derision (for that would be the least harm that could come of their blockish ignorance); but a dire conception also arises therefrom, which blows up the feeble and simple minded into an extravagance of superstition, and when it lights upon the more subtle and daring tempers, outrages them into atheistical and brutish cogitations. Wherefore it seems not inconsonant here to recount what is probable upon this subject.
72. For that the Gods, being afraid of Typhon, changed themselves into these animals, and did as it were hide themselves in the bodies of ibises, dogs, and hawks, is a foolery beyond all prodigiousness and legend. And that such souls of men departed this life as remain undissolved after death have leave to be reborn into this life by these bodies only, is equally incredible. And of those who would assign some political reason for these things, there are some that affirm that Osiris in his great army, dividing his forces into many parts (which we in Greek call λόχοι and τάξεις), at the same time gave every of them certain ensigns or colors with the shapes of several animals upon them, which in process of time came to be looked upon as sacred, and to be worshipped by the several kindred and clans in that distribution. Others say again, that the kings of after times did, for the greater terror of their enemies, wear about them in their battles the golden and silver heads and upper parts of fierce animals. But there are others that relate that one of these subtle and crafty princes, observing the Egyptians to be of a light and vain disposition and very inclinable to change and innovation. and withal, when sober and unanimous, of an inexpugnable and irrestrainable strength by reason of their mighty numbers, therefore taught them, in their several quarters, a perpetual kind of superstition, to be the ground of endless quarrels and disputes among them. For the various animals which he commanded different cities to observe and reverence being at enmity and war with one another, and desiring one another for food, each party among them being upon the perpetual defence of their proper animals, and highly resenting the wrongs that were offered them, it happened that, being thus drawn into the quarrels of their beasts, they were, before they were aware, engaged in hostilities with one another. For at this very day, the Lycopolitans (or Wolf-town-men) are the only people among the Egyptians that eat the sheep, because the wolf, which they esteem to be a God, doth so too. And in our own times, the Oxyrynchites (or those of Pike-town), because the Cynopolitans (or those of Dog-town) did eat a pike, catched the dogs and slew them, and ate of them as they would do of a sacrifice; and there arising a civil war upon it, in which they did much mischief to one another, they were all at last chastised by the Romans.
73. And whereas there are many that say that the soul of Typhon himself took its flight into these animals, this tale may be looked upon to signify that every irrational and brutal nature appertains to the share of the evil Daemon. And therefore, when they would pacify him and speak him fair, they make their court and addresses to these animals. But if there chance to happen a great and excessive drought which, above what is ordinary at other times, brings along with it either wasting diseases or other monstrous and prodigious calamities, the priests then conduct into a dark place, with great silence and stillness, some of the animals which are honored by them; and they first of all menace and terrify them, and if the mischief still continues, they then consecrate and offer them up, looking upon this as a way of punishing the evil God, or at least as some grand purgation in time of greatest disasters. For, as Manetho relateth, they were used in ancient times to burn live men in the city of Ilithyia, entitling them Typhonian; and then they made wind, and dispersed and scattered their ashes into the air. And this was done publicly, and at one only season of the year, which was the dog-days. But those consecrations of the animals worshipped by them which are made in secret, and at irregular and uncertain times of the year as occasions require, are wholly unknown to the vulgar sort, except only at the time of their burials, at which they produce certain other animals, and in the presence of all spectators throw them into the grave with them, thinking by this means to vex Typhon and to abate the satisfaction he received by their deaths. For it is the Apis, with a few more, that is thought sacred to Osiris; but the far greater part are assigned to Typhon. And if this account of theirs be true, I believe it explains the subject of our enquiry as to such animals as are universally received and have their honors in common amongst them all; and of this kind is the ibis, the hawk, the cynocephalos, and the Apis himself; . . . for so they call the goat which is kept at Mendes.
74. It remains yet behind, that I treat of their beneficialness to man, and of their symbolical use; and some of them participate of some one of these, and others of both. It is most manifest therefore that they worship the ox, the sheep, and the ichneumon for their benefit and use; as the Lemniotes did the lark, for finding out the locusts’ eggs and breaking them, and the Thessalians the storks, because that, as their soil bred abundance of serpents, they at their appearance destroyed them all, for which reason they enacted a law that whoever killed a stork should be banished the country. Moreover the Egyptians honored the asp, the weasel, and the beetle, observing in them certain dark resemblances of the power of the Gods, like those of the sun in drops of water. For there are many that to this day believe that the weasel engenders by the ear, and brings forth by the mouth, and is therein a resemblance of the production of speech; and that the beetle kind also hath no female, but that the males cast out their sperm into a round pellet of earth, which they roll about by thrusting it backwards with their hinder feet, — and this in imitation of the sun, which, while itself moves from west to east, turns the heaven the contrary way. They also compared the asp to a star, for being always young, and for performing its motions with great ease and glibness, and that without the help of organs.
75. Nor had the crocodile his honor given him without a show of probable reason for it; but it is reported to have been produced by a representation of God, it being the only animal that is without tongue. For the divine discourse hath no need of voice, but “marching by still and silent ways, it guides mortal affairs by equal justice.”* Besides, they say he is the only animal that lives in water that hath his eye-sight covered over with a thin and transparent film, descending down from his forehead, so that he sees without being seen himself by others, in which he agrees with the first God. Moreover, in what place soever in the country the female crocodile lays her eggs, that may be certainly concluded to be the utmost extent of the rise of the river Nile for that year. For not being able to lay in the water, and being afraid to lay far from it, they have so exact a knowledge of futurity, that though they enjoy the benefit of the approaching stream at their laying and hatching, they yet preserve their eggs dry and untouched by the water. And they lay sixty in all, and are just as many days a hatching them, and the longest lived of them live as many years; that being the first measure which those that are employed about the heavens make use of. But of those animals that were honored for both reasons, we have already treated of the dog; but now the ibis, besides that he killeth all deadly and poisonous vermin, was also the first that taught men the evacuation of the belly by clysters, she being observed to be after this manner washed and purged by herself. Those also of the priests that are the strictest observers of their sacred rites, when they consecrate water for lustration, use to fetch it from some place where the ibis has been drinking; for she will neither taste nor come near any unwholesome or infectious water. Besides, with her two legs standing at large and her bill, she maketh an equilateral triangle; and the speckledness and mixture of her feathers, where there are black ones about the white, signify the gibbousness of the moon on either side.
76. Nor ought we to think it strange that the Egyptians should affect such poor and slender comparisons, when we find the Grecians themselves, both in their pictures and statues, make use of many such resemblances of the Gods as these are. For example, there was in Crete an image of Jupiter having no ears, for he that is commander and chief over all should hear no one. Phidias also set a serpent by the image of Minerva, and a tortoise by that of Venus at Elis, to show that maids needed a guard upon them, and that silence and keeping at home became married women. In like manner the trident of Neptune is a symbol of the third region of the world, which the sea possesses, situated below that of the heaven and air. For which reason they also gave their names to Amphitrite and the Tritons. The Pythagoreans also honored numbers and geometric figures with the names of Gods. For they called an equilateral triangle Minerva Coryphagenes (or crownborn) and Tritogeneia, because it is equally divided by perpendiculars drawn from the three angles. They likewise called the unit Apollo; the number two, contention and also audaciousness; and the number three, justice; for, wronging and being wronged being two extremes caused by deficiency and excess, justice came by equality in the middle. But that which is called the sacred quaternion, being the number thirty-six, was (according to common fame) the greatest oath among them, and was called by them the world, because it is made up of the first four even numbers and the first four odd numbers summed up together.
77. If therefore the most approved of the philosophers did not think meet to pass over or disesteem any significant symbol of the Divinity which they observed even in things that had neither soul nor body, I believe they regarded yet more those properties of government and conduct which they saw in such natures as had sense, and were endued with soul, with passion, and with moral temper. We are not therefore to content ourselves with worshipping these things, but we must worship God through them, — as being the more clear mirrors of him, and produced by Nature, — so as ever worthily to conceive of them as the instruments or artifices of that God which orders all things. And it is reasonable to believe that no inanimate being can be more excellent than an animate one, nor an insensible than a sensible; no, though one should heap together all the gold and emeralds in the universe. For the property of the Divinity consists not in fine colors, shapes, and slicknesses; but, on the contrary, those natures are of a rank below the very dead, that neither did nor ever can partake of life. But now that Nature which hath life and sees, and which hath the source of her motion from her own self, as also the knowledge of things proper and alien to her, hath certainly derived an efflux and a portion of that prudence which (as Heraclitus speaks) considers how the whole universe is governed. Therefore the Deity is no worse represented in these animals, than in the workmanships of copper and stone, which suffer corruptions and decays as well as they, and are besides naturally void of sense and perception. This then is what I esteem the best account that is given of their adoration of animals.
78. As to the sacred vestments, that of Isis is party-colored and of different hues; for her power is about matter, which becomes every thing and receives every thing, as light and darkness, day and night, fire and water, life and death, beginning and ending. But that of Osiris has no shade, no variety of colors, but one only simple one, resembling light. For the first principle is untempered, and that which is first and of an intelligible nature is unmixed; which is the reason why, after they have once made use of this garment, they lay it up and keep it close, invisible and not to be touched. But those of Isis are used often. For sensible things, when they are of daily use and familiar to us, afford us many opportunities to display them and to see them in their various mutations; but the apprehension of what is intelligible, sincere, and holy, darting through the soul like a flash of lightning, attends but to some one single glance or glimpse of its object. For which reason both Plato and Aristotle call this part of philosophy by the name of the epoptic or mysterious part, intimating that those who by help of reason have got beyond these fanciful, mixed, and various things mount up to that first, simple, and immaterial being; and when they have certainly reached the pure truth about it, they believe they have at last attained to complete philosophy.
79. And that which the present priests do darkly hint out and insinuate to us, though with much obscurity, great shyness, and precaution, — that this God is the governor and prince of those that are dead, and that he is no other than he who is called by the Greeks Hades and Pluto, — being not taken in its true sense, disturbs the minds of the greater part, while they suspect that the truly holy and good God Osiris lives within and beneath the earth, where the bodies of those who are supposed to have an end lie hid and buried. But he himself is at the remotest distance from the earth imaginable, being unstained and unpolluted, and clean from every substance that is liable to corruption and death. But men’s souls encompassed here with bodies and passions, have no communication with God, except what they can reach to in conception only, by means of philosophy, as by a kind of an obscure dream. But when they are loosed from the body, and removed into the unseen, invisible, impassible, and pure region, this God is then their leader and king; they there as it were hanging on him wholly, and beholding without weariness and passionately affecting that beauty which cannot be expressed or uttered by men. This the Goddess Isis is always caressing, affecting, and enjoying, according to the old tales, and by that means she fills this lower world with all those goodly and excellent things which partake of generation.
80. This then is that account of these things which best suits the nature of the Gods. And if I now must, according to my promise, say something concerning those things they daily offer by way of incense, you are in the first place to understand this, that these people make the greatest account imaginable of all endeavors that relate to health; and more especially in their sacrifices, purgations, and diets, health is no less respected than devotion. For they think it would be an unseemly thing to wait upon that nature that is pure and every way unblemished and untouched, with crazy and diseased minds or bodies. Whereas, therefore, the air that we most use and live in hath not always the same disposition and temperament, but in the night-time grows condense, compresses the body, and contracts the mind into a kind of melancholy and thoughtful habit, it becoming then as it were foggy and dozed, they therefore, as soon as they are up in the morning, burn rosin about them, refreshing and clearing the air by its scattered particles, and fanning up the native spirit of the body, which is now grown languid and dull; this sort of scent having something in it that is very impetuous and striking. And perceiving again at noon-time that the sun hath drawn up by violence a copious and gross exhalation out of the earth, they by censing mix myrrh also with the air; for heat dissolves and dissipates that puddled and slimy vapor which at that time gathers together in the ambient air. And physicians are also found to help pestilential diseases by making great blazes to rarefy the air; but it would be much better rarefied, if they would burn sweet-scented woods, such as cypress, juniper, and pine. And therefore Acron the physician is said to have gained a mighty reputation at Athens, in the time of the great plague, by ordering people to make fires near to the sick; for not a few were benefited by it. Aristotle likewise saith that the odoriferous exhalations of perfumes, flowers, and sweet meadows are no less conducing to health than to pleasure; for that their warmth and delicacy of motion gently relax the brain, which is of its own nature cold and clammy. And if it be true that the Egyptians in their language call myrrh bal, and that the most proper signification of that word is scattering away idle talk, this also adds some testimony to our account of the reason why they burn it.
81. Moreover, that they call Kyphi is a kind of a composition made up of sixteen ingredients, that is, of honey, wine, raisins, cyperus, rosin, myrrh, aspalathus, seseli, mastich, bitumen, nightshade, and dock; to which they add the berries of both the junipers (the one whereof they call the greater, and the other the lesser sort), as also calamus and cardamom. Neither do they put them together slightly or at a random rate; but the sacred books are read to the perfumers all the while they are compounding them. As for the number of the ingredients (sixteen), — although it may appear important, being the square of a square, and making the only square surface which has a periphery equal to its area, — yet I must needs say that this contributes but very little here. But it is the contained species (most of which are of aromatic properties) that send up a sweet fume and an agreeable exhalation, by which the air is changed; and the body, being moved by the breath, sinks into a calm and gentle sleep, and retains a temperament conducive to sleep; and without the disorders of drunkenness, as it were, it loosens and unties, like a sort of knots, the doziness and intenseness of the thoughts by day-time; and the fantastic part and that which is receptive of dreams it wipes like a mirror and renders clearer, with no less efficacy than those strokes of the harp which the Pythagoreans made use of before they went to sleep, to charm and allay the distempered and irrational part of the soul. For we find that strong scents many times call back the failing sense, but sometimes dull and obstruct it, their wasted parts diffusing themselves by their great fineness and subtilty through the whole body; like as some physicians tell us that sleep is produced when the fumes of meat, by creeping gently about the inwards, and as it were groping every part, cause a certain soft titillation.
They also use this Kyphi both for a drink and for a medicinal potion; for when drunk it is found to cleanse the inwards, it being a loosener of the belly. Besides all this, rosin is the creature of the sun, and they gather myrrh as the trees weep it out by moonlight; but now of those ingredients that make up Kyphi, there are some that delight more in the night, as those whose nature it is to be nourished by cool blasts, shades, dews, and humidities. For the light of day is one thing and simple; and Pindar saith, the sun is then seen
Through solitary air.*
But the air of night is a kind of composition; for it is made up of many lights and powers, which, like so many several seeds, flow down from every star into one place. They therefore very pertinently cense the former things by daytime, as being simples and deriving their original from the sun; and the latter at the entrance of the night, they being mixed and of many and different qualities.
[* ]This Clea was priestess to Isis and to Apollo Delphicus.
[† ]Il. XIII. 354.
[‡ ]That is, τὰ ὄντα in the Platonic sense, as opposed to τὰ γιγνόμενα. (G.)
[* ]Plutarch derives Isis, in the usual uncritical way of ancient etymology, from the Greek root ἰσ —, found in [Editor: illegible character]στε from ο[Editor: illegible character]δα. (G.)
[† ]That is, τετνφωμένος. (G.)
[* ]Hes. Works and Days, 740. That is, Do not cut your nails at a banquet of the Gods. The briefer precept of Pythagoras was, Παοὰ θυσίαν μὴ όνυχίξου. (G.)
[* ]From Empedocles.
[* ]See Odyss. VI. 12; Il. XIII. 810; V. 438; IV. 31.
[* ]Hesiod, Works and Days, 126.
[* ]Odyss. VIII. 340.
[* ]From Aratus.
[* ]From the Aeolus of Euripides, Frag. 21.
[* ]He alludes to Homer, who feigns Jupiter to have in his house two differing jars, the one filled with good things, and the other with bad. See Il. XXIV. 527.
[* ]Il. XVIII. 107.
[* ]Il. VIII. 22.
[* ]If we adopt Bentley’s emendation ἀνεπήρωσε for ἀνεπλήρωσε, we must translate, “did not abolish, but merely maimed, the corruptible faculty.” (G.)
[* ]See the preceding essay, § 36.
[* ]Most of the absurd etymologies proposed in this chapter are actually to be found in Plato’s Cratylus, from p. 401 C to p. 415 E. (G.)
[† ]The usual emendation for εὑροῦσι (which the MSS. give) is εὐροοῦσι. But Plato (Crat. 415 D) derives ἀρετή from τὸ ἀσχέτως καὶ τὸ ἀκωλύτως ἀεὶ ῥέον, from which he supposes a form ἀειρείτη to come, afterwards contracted into ἀρετή. I have therefore adopted the reading ἀεὶ ῥέουσι, and translated accordingly. (G.)
[* ]Euripides, Troad. 887.
[* ]Pindar, Olymp. I. 10.