(Vol. V) Plutarch, Moralia
p7 Isis and Osiris
(Part 1 of 5 on this website)
1351 All good things, my dear Clea,1 sensible men must ask from the gods; and especially do we pray that from those mighty gods we may, in our quest, gain a knowledge of themselves, so far as such a thing is attainable by men.2 For we believe that there is nothing more important for man to receive, or more ennobling for God of His grace to grant, than the truth. dGod gives to men the other things for which they express a desire, but of sense and intelligence He grants them only a share, inasmuch as these are His especial possessions and His sphere of activity. For the Deity is not blessed by reason of his possession of gold and silver,3 nor strong because of thunder and lightning, but through knowledge and intelligence. Of all the things that Homer said about the gods, he has expressed most beautifully this thought:4
Both, indeed, were in lineage one, and of the same country,
Yet was Zeus the earlier born and his knowledge was greater.
Thereby the poet plainly declares that the primacy of Zeus is nobler since it is elder in knowledge and in p9 wisdom. eI think also that a source of happiness in the eternal life, which is the lot of God, is that events which come to pass do not escape His prescience. But if His knowledge and meditation on the nature of Existence should be taken away, then, to my mind, His immortality is not living, but a mere lapse of time.5
21 Therefore the effort to arrive at the Truth, and especially the truth about the gods, is a longing for the divine. For the search for truth requires for its study and investigation the consideration of sacred subjects, and it is a work more hallowed than any form of holy living or temple service; and, not least of all, it is well-pleasing to that goddess whom you worship, a goddess exceptionally wise and a lover of wisdom, to whom, fas her name at least seems to indicate, knowledge and understanding are in the highest degree appropriate. For Isis is a Greek word,6 and so also is Typhon, her enemy, who is conceited, as his name implies,6 because of his ignorance and self-deception. He tears to pieces and scatters to the winds the sacred writings, which the goddess collects and puts together and gives into the keeping of those that are initiated into the holy rites, since this consecration, by a strict regimen and by abstinence from many kinds of food and from the lusts of the flesh, 352curtails licentiousness and the love of pleasure, and induces a habit of patient submission to the stern and rigorous services in shrines, the end and aim of which is the knowledge of Him who is the First, the Lord of All, the Ideal One.7 Him does the goddess urge us to seek, since He is near her and with her and in close communion. The name of her shrine also clearly promises knowledge and p11 comprehension of reality; for it is named Iseion,8 to indicate that we shall comprehend reality if in a reasonable and devout frame of mind we pass within the portals of her shrines.
31 Moreover, many writers have held her to be the daughter of Hermes,9 and many others the daughter of Prometheus,10 because of the belief that Prometheus is the discoverer of wisdom and forethought, and Hermes the inventor of grammar and music. bFor this reason they call the first of the Muses at Hermopolis Isis as well as Justice: for she is wise, as I have said,11 and discloses the divine mysteries to those who truly and justly have the name of "bearers of the sacred vessels" and "wearers of the sacred robes." These are they who within their own soul, as though within a casket, bear the sacred writings about the gods clear of all superstition and pedantry; and they cloak them with secrecy, thus giving intimation, some dark and shadowy, some clear and bright, of their concepts about the gods, intimations of the same sort as are clearly evidenced in the wearing of the sacred garb.12 For this reason, too, the fact that the deceased votaries of Isis are decked with these garments is a sign that these sacred writings accompany them, cand that they pass to the other world possessed of these and of naught else. It is a fact, Clea, that having a beard and wearing a coarse cloak does not make philosophers, nor does dressing in linen and shaving the hair make votaries of Isis; but the true votary of Isis p13 is he who, when he has legitimately received what is set forth in the ceremonies connected with these gods, uses reason in investigating and in studying the truth contained therein.
41 It is true that most people are unaware of this very ordinary and minor matter: the reason why the priests remove their hair and wear linen garments.13 Some persons do not care at all to have any knowledge about such things, while others say that the priests, dbecause they revere the sheep,14 abstain from using its wool, as well as its flesh; and that they shave their heads as a sign of mourning, and that they wear their linen garments because of the colour which the flax displays when in bloom, and which is like to the heavenly azure which enfolds the universe. But for all this there is only one true reason, which is to be found in the words of Plato:15 "for the Impure to touch the Pure is contrary to divine ordinance." No surplus left over from food and no excrementitious matter is pure and clean; and it is from forms of surplus that wool, fur, hair, and nails originate and grow.16 So it would be ridiculous ethat these persons in their holy living should remove their own hair by shaving and making their bodies smooth all over,17 and then should put on and wear the hair of domestic animals. We should believe that when Hesiod18 said,
p15 Cut not the sere from the green when you honour the gods with full feasting,
Paring with glittering steel the member that hath the five branches,
he was teaching that men should be clean of such things when they keep high festival, and they should not amid the actual ceremonies engage in clearing away and removing any sort of surplus matter. But the flax springs from the earth which is immortal; fit yields edible seeds, and supplies a plain and cleanly clothing, which does not oppress by the weight required for warmth. It is suitable for every season and, as they say, is least apt to breed lice; but this topic is treated elsewhere.19
51 The priests feel such repugnance for things that are of a superfluous nature that they not only eschew most legumes, as well as mutton and pork,20 which leave a large residuum, but they also use no salt21 with their food during their periods of holy living. For this they have various other reasons, but in particular the fact that salt, by sharpening the appetite, makes them more inclined to drinking and eating. To consider salt impure, because, as Aristagoras has said, when it is crystallizing many minute creatures are caught in it and die, is certainly silly.
353It is said also that they water the Apis from a well of his own, and keep him away from the Nile altogether, not that they think the water unclean because of the crocodile, as some believe; for there is nothing which the Egyptians hold in such honour as the Nile. But the drinking of the Nile water is p17 reputed to be fattening and to cause obesity.22 They do not want Apis to be in this condition, nor themselves either; but rather they desire that their bodies, the encasement of their souls, shall be well adjusted and light, and shall not oppress and straiten the divine element by the predominance and preponderance of the mortal.
61 As for wine, those who serve the god in Heliopolis bring none at all into the shrine, bsince they feel that it is not seemly to drink in the day-time while their Lord and King is looking upon them.23 The others use wine, but in great moderation. They have many periods of holy living when wine is prohibited, and in these they spend their time exclusively in studying, learning, and teaching religious matters. Their kings also were wont to drink a limited quantity24 prescribed by the sacred writings, as Hecataeus25 has recorded; and the kings are priests. The beginning of their drinking dates from the reign of Psammetichus; before that they did not drink wine nor use it in libation as something dear to the gods, thinking it to be the blood of those who had once battled against the gods, and from whom, when they had fallen and had become commingled with the earth, they believed vines to have sprung. cThis is the reason why drunkenness drives men out of their senses and crazes them, inasmuch as they are then filled with the blood of their forbears. These tales Eudoxus says in the second book of his World Travels are thus related by the priests.
p19 71 As for sea-fish, all Egyptians do not abstain from all of them,26 but from some kinds only; as, for example, the inhabitants of Oxyrhynchus abstain from those that are caught with a hook;27 for, inasmuch as they revere the fish called oxyrhynchus (the pike), they are afraid that the hook may be unclean, since an oxyrhynchus may have been caught with it. The people of Syenê abstain from the phagrus28 (the sea-bream); for this fish is reputed to appear with the oncoming of the Nile, and to be a self-sent messenger, dwhich, when it is seen, declares to a glad people the rise of the river. The priests, however, abstain from all fish; and on the ninth day of the first month, when every one of the other Egyptians eats a broiled fish in front of the outer door of his house, the priests do not even taste the fish, but burn them up in front of their doors.29 For this practice they have two reasons, one of which is religious and curious, and I shall discuss it at another time,30 since it harmonizes with the sacred studies touching Osiris and Typhon; the other is obvious and commonplace, in that it declares that fish is an unnecessary and superfluous food, and confirms the words of Homer, who, in his poetry, represents neither the Phaeacians, who lived amid a refined luxury, nor the Ithacans, ewho dwelt on an island, as making any use of fish, nor did even the companions of Odysseus, while on such a long voyage and in the midst of the sea, until they had come to the extremity of want.31 In fine, these people hold the sea to be derived from purulent p21 matter, and to lie outside the confines of the world and not to be a part of it or an element, but a corrupt and pestilential residuum of a foreign nature.32
81 Nothing that is irrational or fabulous or prompted by superstition, as some believe, has ever been given a place in their rites, but in them are some things that have moral and practical values, and others that are not without their share in the refinements of history or natural science, as, for example, that which has to do with the onion. fFor the tale that Dictys, the nurseling of Isis, in reaching for a clump of onions, fell into the river and was drowned is extremely incredible. But the priests keep themselves clear of the onion33 and detest it and are careful to avoid it, because it is the only plant that naturally thrives and flourishes in the waning of the moon. It is suitable for neither fasting nor festival, because in the one case it causes thirst and in the other tears for those who partake of it.
In like manner they hold the pig to be an unclean animal,34 because it is reputed to be most inclined to mate in the waning of the moon, and because the bodies of those who drink its milk break out with leprosy and scabrous itching.35354The story which they relate at their only sacrifice and eating of a pig at the time of the full moon, how Typhon, while he was pursuing a boar by the light of the full moon, found the wooden coffin in which lay the body of Osiris, which he rent to pieces and scattered,36 they do not p23 all accept, believing it to be a misrepresentation, even as many other things are.
Moreover, they relate that the ancient Egyptians put from them luxury, and self-indulgence, to such a degree that they used to say that there was a pillar standing in the temple at Thebes which had inscribed upon it curses against Meinis,37 their king, bwho was the first to lead the Egyptians to quit their frugal, thrifty, and simple manner of living. It is said also that Technactis,38 the father of Bocchoris,39 when he was leading his army against the Arabians, because his baggage was slow in arriving, found pleasure in eating such common food as was available, and afterwards slept soundly on a bedding of straw, and thus became fond of frugal living; as the result, he invoked a curse on Meinis, and, with the approval of the priests, had a pillar set up with the curse inscribed upon it.
91 The kings were appointed from the priests or from the military class, since the military class had eminence and honour because of valour, and the priests because of wisdom. But he who was appointed from the military class was at once made one of the priests and a participant in their philosophy, cwhich, for the most part, is veiled in myths and in words containing dim reflexions and adumbrations of the truth, as they themselves intimate beyond question by appropriately placing sphinxes40 before their p25 shrines to indicate that their religious teaching has in it an enigmatical sort of wisdom. In Saïs the statue of Athena, whom they believe to be Isis, bore the inscription: "I am all that has been, and is, and shall be, and my robe no mortal has yet uncovered."
Moreover, most people believe that Amoun is the name given to Zeus in the land of the Egyptians,41 a name which we, with a slight alteration, pronounce Ammon. But Manetho of Sebennytus dthinks that the meaning "concealed" or "concealment" lies in this word.aHecataeus42 of Abdera, however, says that the Egyptians use this expression one to another whenever they call to anyone, for the word is a form of address. When they, therefore, address the supreme god, whom they believe to be the same as the Universe, as if he were invisible and concealed, and implore him to make himself visible and manifest to them, they use the word "Amoun"; so great, then, was the circumspection of the Egyptians in their wisdom touching all that had to do with the gods.
101 Witness to this also are the wisest of the Greeks: eSolon, Thales, Plato, Eudoxus, Pythagoras, who came to Egypt and consorted with the priests;43 and in this number some would include Lycurgus also. Eudoxus, they say, received instruction from Chonuphis of Memphis, Solon from Sonchis of Saïs, and Pythagoras from Oenuphis of Heliopolis. Pythagoras, it seems, fwas greatly admired, and he also greatly admired the Egyptian priests, and, copying p27 their symbolism and occult teachings, incorporated his doctrines in enigmas. As a matter of fact most of the Pythagorean precepts44 do not at all fall short of the writings that are called hieroglyphs; such, for example, as these: "Do not eat upon a stool"; "Do not sit upon a peck measure"; "Do not lop off the shoots of a palm-tree";45 "Do not poke a fire with a sword within the house."
For my part, I think also that their naming unity Apollo, duality Artemis, the hebdomad Athena, and the first cube Poseidon,46 bears a resemblance to the statues and even to the sculptures and paintings with which their shrines are embellished. For their King and Lord Osiris they portray by means of an eye and a sceptre;47355there are even some who explain the meaning of the name as "many-eyed"48 on the theory that os in the Egyptian language means "many" and iri "eye"; and the heavens, since they are ageless because of their eternity, they portray by a heart with a censer beneath.49 In Thebes there were set up statues of judges without hands, and the statue of the chief justice had its eyes closed, to indicate that justice is not influenced by gifts or by intercession.50
The military class had their seals engraved with the form of a beetle;51 for there is no such thing as a p29 female beetle, but all beetles are male.52 They eject their sperm into a round mass which they construct, since they are no less occupied in arranging for a supply of food53 than in preparing a place to rear their young.
111bTherefore, Clea, whenever you hear the traditional tales which the Egyptians tell about the gods, their wanderings, dismemberments, and many experiences of this sort, you must remember what has been already said, and you must not think that any of these tales actually happened in the manner in which they are related. The facts are that they do not call the dog by the name Hermes as his proper name, but they bring into association with the most astute of their gods that animal's watchfulness and wakefulness and wisdom,b since he distinguishes between what is friendly and what is hostile by his knowledge of the one and his ignorance of the other, as Plato54 remarks. Nor, again, do they believe that the sun rises as a new-born babe from the lotus, cbut they portray the rising of the sun in this manner to indicate allegorically the enkindling of the sun from the waters.55 So also Ochus, the most cruel and terrible of the Persian kings, who put many to death and finally slaughtered the Apis56 and ate him for dinner in the company of his friends, the Egyptians called the "Sword"; and they call him by that name even to this day in their list of kings.57 But manifestly they p31 do not mean to apply this name to his actual being; they but liken the stubbornness and wickedness in his character to an instrument of murder. If, then, you listen to the stories about the gods in this way, accepting them from those who interpret the story reverently and philosophically, dand if you always perform and observe the established rites of worship, and believe that no sacrifice that you can offer, no deed that you may do will be more likely to find favour with the gods than your belief in their true nature, you may avoid superstition which is no less an evil than atheism.58
121 Here follows the story related in the briefest possible words with the omission of everything that is merely unprofitable or superfluous:
They say that the Sun, when he became aware of Rhea's intercourse with Cronus,59 invoked a curse upon her that she should not give birth to a child in any month or year; but Hermes, being enamoured of the goddess, consorted with her. Later, playing at draughts with the moon, he won from her the seventieth part of each of her periods of illumination,60 and from all the winnings he composed five days, and intercalated them as an addition to the three hundred and sixty days. eThe Egyptians even now call these five days intercalated61 and celebrate them as the birthdays of the gods. They relate that on the first p33 of these days Osiris was born, and at the hour of his birth a voice issued forth saying, "The Lord of All advances to the light." But some relate that a certain Pamyles,62 while he was drawing water in Thebes, heard a voice issuing from the shrine of Zeus, which bade him proclaim with a loud voice that a mighty and beneficent king, Osiris, had been born; and for this Cronus entrusted to him the child Osiris, which he brought up. It is in his honour that the festival of Pamylia is celebrated, a festival which resembles the phallic processions. fOn the second of these days Arueris was born whom they call Apollo, and some call him also the elder Horus. On the third day Typhon was born, but not in due season or manner, but with a blow he broke through his mother's side and leapt forth. On the fourth day Isis was born in the regions that are ever moist;63 and on the fifth Nephthys, to whom they give the name of Finality64 and the name of Aphroditê, and some also the name of Victory. There is also a tradition that Osiris and Arueris were sprung from the Sun, Isis from Hermes,65356and Typhon and Nephthys from Cronus. For this reason the kings considered the third of the intercalated days as inauspicious, and transacted no business on that day, nor did they give any attention to their bodies until nightfall. They relate, moreover, that Nephthys became the wife of Typhon;66 but Isis and Osiris were enamoured of each other67 and consorted together in p35 the darkness of the womb before their birth. Some say that Arueris came from this union and was called the elder Horus by the Egyptians, but Apollo by the Greeks.
131 One of the first acts related of Osiris in his reign was to deliver the Egyptians from their destitute and brutish manner of living.68 This he did by showing them the fruits of cultivation, by giving them laws, and by teaching them to honour the gods. bLater he travelled over the whole earth civilizing it69 without the slightest need of arms, but most of the peoples he won over to his way by the charm of his persuasive discourse combined with song and all manner of music. Hence the Greeks came to identify him with Dionysus.70
During his absence the tradition is that Typhon attempted nothing revolutionary because Isis, who was in control, was vigilant and alert; but when he returned home Typhon contrived a treacherous plot against him and formed a group of conspirators seventy-two in number. He had also the co-operation of a queen from Ethiopia71 who was there at the time and whose name they report as Aso. Typhon, having secretly measured Osiris's body cand having made ready a beautiful chest of corresponding size artistically ornamented, caused it to be brought into the room where the festivity was in progress. The company was much pleased at the sight of it and admired it greatly, whereupon Typhon jestingly promised to present it to the man who should find the chest to be exactly his length when he lay down in it. They all tried it in turn, but no one fitted it; then Osiris got into it and p37 lay down, and those who were in the plot ran to it and slammed down the lid, which they fastened by nails from the outside and also by using molten lead. Then they carried the chest to the river and sent it on its way to the sea through the Tanitic Mouth. Wherefore the Egyptians even to this day name this mouth the hateful and execrable. Such is the tradition. They say also that the date on which this deed was done was the seventeenth day of Athyr,72 when the sun passes through Scorpion, dand in the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Osiris; but some say that these are the years of his life and not of his reign.73
141 The first to learn of the deed and to bring to men's knowledge an account of what had been done were the Pans and Satyrs who lived in the region around Chemmis,74 and so, even to this day, the sudden confusion and consternation of a crowd is called a panic.75 Isis, when the tidings reached her, at once cut off one of her tresses and put on a garment of mourning in a place where the city still bears the name of Kopto.76 Others think that the name means deprivation, efor they also express "deprive" by means of "koptein."77 But Isis wandered everywhere at her wits' end; no one whom she approached did she fail to address, and even when she met some little children she asked them about the chest. As it p39 happened, they had seen it, and they told her the mouth of the river through which the friends of Typhon had launched the coffin into the sea. Wherefore the Egyptians think that little children possess the power of prophecy,78 and they try to divine the future from the portents which they find in children's words, especially when children are playing about in holy places and crying out whatever chances to come into their minds.
They relate also that Isis, learning that Osiris in his love had consorted with her sister79 through ignorance, in the belief that she was Isis, fand seeing the proof of this in the garland of melilote which he had left with Nephthys, sought to find the child; for the mother, immediately after its birth, had exposed it because of her fear of Typhon. And when the child had been found, after great toil and trouble, with the help of dogs which led Isis to it, it was brought up and became her guardian and attendant, receiving the name of Anubis, and it is said to protect the gods just as dogs protect men.80
151 Thereafter Isis, as they relate, learned 357that the chest had been cast up by the sea near the land of Byblus81 and that the waves had gently set it down in the midst of a clump of heather. The heather in a short time ran up into a very beautiful and massive stock, and enfolded and embraced the chest with its growth and concealed it within its trunk. The king of the country admired the great size of the plant, and cut off the portion that enfolded the chest (which was now hidden from sight), and used it as a pillar to p41 support the roof of his house. These facts, they say, Isis ascertained by the divine inspiration of Rumour, and came to Byblus and sat down by a spring, all dejection and tears;82 she exchanged no word with anybody, save only that she welcomed the queen's maidservants and treated them with great amiability, plaiting their hair for them band imparting to their persons a wondrous fragrance from her own body. But when the queen observed her maidservants, a longing came upon her for the unknown woman and for such hairdressing and for a body fragrant with ambrosia. Thus it happened that Isis was sent for and became so intimate with the queen that the queen made her the nurse of her baby. They say that the king's name was Malcander; the queen's name some say was Astartê, others Saosis, and still others Nemanûs, which the Greeks would call Athenaïs.
161 They relate that Isis nursed the child by giving it her finger to suck instead of her breast, cand in the night she would burn away the mortal portions of its body. She herself would turn into a swallow and flit about the pillar with a wailing lament, until the queen who had been watching, when she saw her babe on fire, gave forth a loud cry and thus deprived it of immortality. Then the goddess disclosed herself and asked for the pillar which served to support the roof. She removed it with the greatest ease and cut away the wood of the heather which surrounded the chest; then, when she had wrapped up the wood in a linen cloth and had poured perfume upon it, she p43 entrusted it to the care of the kings; and even to this day the people of Byblus venerate this wood which is preserved in the shrine of Isis. dThen the goddess threw herself down upon the coffin with such a dreadful wailing that the younger of the king's sons expired on the spot. The elder son she kept with her, and, having placed the coffin on board a boat, she put out from land. Since the Phaedrus river toward the early morning fostered a rather boisterous wind, the goddess grew angry and dried up its stream.
171 In the first place where she found seclusion, when she was quite by herself, they relate that she opened the chest and laid her face upon the face within and caressed it and wept. The child came quietly up behind her and saw what was there, and when the goddess became aware of his presence, she turned about and gave him one awful look of anger. eThe child could not endure the fright, and died. Others will not have it so, but assert that he fell overboard into the sea from the boat that was mentioned above.83 He also is the recipient of honours because of the goddess; for they say that the Maneros of whom the Egyptians sing at their convivial gatherings is this very child.84 Some say, however, that his name was Palaestinus or Pelusius, and that the city founded by the goddess was named in his honour. They also recount that this Maneros who is the theme of their songs was the first to invent music. But some say that the word is not the name of any person, but an expression belonging to the vocabulary of drinking and feasting: "Good luck be ours in things like this!", fand that this is really the idea expressed p45 by the exclamation "maneros" whenever the Egyptians use it. In the same way we may be sure that the likeness of a corpse which, as it is exhibited to them, is carried around in a chest, is not a reminder of what happened to Osiris, as some assume; but it is to urge them, as they contemplate it, to use and to enjoy the present, since all very soon must be what it is now and this is their purpose in introducing it into the midst of merry-making.85
181 As they relate, Isis proceeded to her son Horus, who was being reared in Buto,86 and bestowed the chest in a place well out of the way; but Typhon, who was hunting by night in the light of the moon, happened upon it. 358Recognizing the body he divided it into fourteen parts87 and scattered them, each in a different place. Isis learned of this and sought for them again, sailing through the swamps in a boat of papyrus.88 This is the reason why people sailing in such boats are not harmed by the crocodiles, since these creatures in their own way show either their fear or their reverence for the goddess.
The traditional result of Osiris's dismemberment is that there are many so‑called tombs of Osiris in Egypt;89 for Isis held a funeral for each part when she had found it. Others deny this and assert that she caused effigies of him to be made and these she distributed among the several cities, pretending that she was giving them his body, in order that he might receive divine honours in a greater number of cities, band also that, if Typhon should succeed in overpowering Horus, he might despair of ever finding p47 the true tomb when so many were pointed out to him, all of them called the tomb of Osiris.90
Of the parts of Osiris's body the only one which Isis did not find was the male member,91 for the reason that this had been at once tossed into the river, and the lepidotus, the sea-bream, and the pike had fed upon it;92 and it is from these very fishes the Egyptians are most scrupulous in abstaining. But Isis made a replica of the member to take its place, and consecrated the phallus,93 in honour of which the Egyptians even at the present day celebrate a festival.
191 Later, as they relate, Osiris came to Horus from the other world and exercised and trained him for the battle. After a time Osiris asked Horus what he held to be the most noble of all things. When Horus replied, "To avenge one's father and mother for evil done to them," cOsiris then asked him what animal he considered the most useful for them who go forth to battle; and when Horus said, "A horse," Osiris was surprised and raised the question why it was that he had not rather said a lion than a horse. Horus answered that a lion was a useful thing for a man in need of assistance, but that a horse served best for cutting off the flight of an enemy and annihilating him. When Osiris heard this he was much pleased, since he felt that Horus had now an adequate preparation. It is said that, as many were continually transferring their allegiance to Horus, Typhon's concubine, Thueris, also came over to him; and a serpent which pursued her dwas cut to pieces by Horus's men, and now, in memory of this, the people throw down a rope in their midst and chop it up.
p49 Now the battle, as they relate, lasted many days and Horus prevailed. Isis, however, to whom Typhon was delivered in chains, did not cause him to be put to death, but released him and let him go. Horus could not endure this with equanimity, be laid hands upon his mother and wrested the royal diadem from her head; but Hermes put upon her a helmet like unto the head of a cow.
Typhon formally accused Horus of being an illegitimate child, but with the help of Hermes to plead his cause it was decided by the gods that he also was legitimate. Typhon was then overcome in two other battles. eOsiris consorted with Isis after his death, and she became the mother of Harpocrates, untimely born and weak in his lower limbs.94
The Editor's Notes:
1 The priestess for whom Plutarch composed his collection of stories about the Bravery of Women (Moralia, 242E ff.).
2Cf. Plutarch, Moralia, 780F-781A and 355C, infra.
3Cf. Themistus, Oration xxxiii. p365 B-D.
4Iliad, XIII.354; quoted also in Moralia, 32A, and Life and Writings of Homer, II.114.
6 Plutarch is attempting to connect "Isis" with οἶδα, know, and "Typhon" with Τυφῶ, puff up. See, however, 375C, infra.
8 As if derived from οἶδα, know, and ὄν, being.
10Cf.365F, infra, and Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, I.106.1, 21 (p382, Potter).
12Cf. Dittenberger, Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum, No. 754 (not included in the third edition), or Altertümer von Pergamon, VIII.2, p248, no. 326; also Moralia, 382C.
13Cf. Herodotus, II.37 and 81.
14 In Saïs and Thebaïs according to Strabo, XVII.40 (p812).
15Phaedo, 67B; Cf.Moralia, 108D.
16Cf. Apuleius, Apology, chap. 26.
18Works and Days, 742‑743. The meaning of these somewhat cryptic lines is, of course, that one should not pare one's nails at table; cf. also Moralia, ed. Bernardakis, vol. VII. p90.
19 Plutarch touches briefly on this subject in Moralia, 642C.
20Cf.Herodotus, II.37, and Moralia, 286E.
21Cf.infra, 363E; Moralia, 684F, 729A; and Arrian, Anabasis, III.4.4.
22Cf. Aelian, De Natura Animalium, XI.10.
23Cf. Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras, 97 and 98, who says that Pythagoreans would have nothing to do with (p17)wine in the day-time. See also the critical note on the opposite page.
The critical note to the Greek text reads:
ἡμέρας] ἱερέας Moser; ὑπηρέτας Michael, but cf. Diogenes Laertius, VIII.19 οἴνου δὲ μεθ’ ἡμέραν μὴ γεύεσθαι.
25 Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, II. p153, Hecataeus no. B 11.
27Cf. Strabo, XVII.1.40 (p812); Aelian, De Natura Animalium, X.46; Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus, II.39.5 (p34 Potter); also 358B and 380B, infra.
28Cf. Aelian, De Natura Animalium, X.19.
30 Plutarch does not explain this elsewhere (cf.363E, infra), but the reason may be that given by Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, VII.6.34.1 (p850 Potter), that fish do not breathe the same air as other living creatures.
31 Homer, Od.IV.369 and XII.332. Cf. also Moralia, 730C, D. The facts are as stated, but the deduction that fishing was despised in Homeric times is not warranted.
33Cf.Aulus Gellius, XX.8.
35Cf.Moralia, 670F; Aelian, De Natura Animalium, X.16; Tacitus, Histories, V.4.
37 Usually known as Menes. The name is variously written by Greek authors as Min, Minaeus, Menues, Menas. According to tradition he was the first king of Egypt. His reign is put circa 3500 or 3400 B.C.Cf.Herodotus, II.4. In Diodorus, I.45, is found this same story.
38 Tefnakthe (also spelled Tnephachthos or Tnephachtho by Greek writers), after much fighting, made himself king of Lower Egypt circa 725 B.C.
39 Bekneranef, king of Egypt circa 718‑712 B.C., was according to Greek tradition, a wise and just ruler. An apocryphal story about him may be found in Aelian, De Natura Animalium, XII.3.
40Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, V.5.31, chap. 5 (p664 Potter).
42Cf. Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Hecataeus (60), No. B, 8.
43Cf. Diodorus, I.96 and 98; Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, I.69.1, chap. 15 (p356 Potter); Moralia, 578F, and Life of Solon, chap. xxvi. (92E).
44 For these precepts cf.Moralia, 12E-F, and Life of Numa, chap. xiv. (69C); Athenaeus, X.77 (452D); Iamblichus, Protrepticus, chap. xxi. (pp131‑160); Diogenes Laertius, VIII.17‑18.
45Cf.365B, infra, and Xenophon, Anabasis, II.3.16.
46Cf., for example, 381F and 393B, infra, and Iamblichus, Comment. in Nichomachiº Arithmetica, 14.
47 Occasionally found on the monuments; cf.371E, infra.
49Cf. Horapollo, Hieroglyphics, 1.22.
51 The Egyptian scarab, or sacred beetle. Cf. Pliny, Nat. Hist.XXX.13 (30).
52Cf.381A, infra. The idea that all beetles are male was very common in antiquity; cf., for example, Aelian, De Natura Animalium, X.15; Porphyry, De Abstinentia, IV.9.
53 They are σκατοφάγοι. [Thayer Note: a piece of Loeb edition prudery, unhelpful to those with no Greek. Σκατοφάγοι = eaters of excreta.]
54Cf. Plato's Republic, 375E, and the note in Adam's edition (Cambridge, 1902).
55Cf.368F and 400A, infra.
56 The sacred bull.
57 Both Cambyses and Ochus are said to have killed the sacred bull Apis; cf.368F, infra, and Herodotus, III.29, for Cambyses; for Ochus, 363C, infra, and Aelian, Varia Historia, IV.8. In De Natura Animalium, X.28, Aelian says that both Cambyses and Ochus were guilty of this offence.
58Cf.Moralia, 164E, 165C, 378A, 379E.
59Cf.Moralia, 429F; Diodorus, I.13.4; Eusebius, Praeparatio Evang.II.1.1‑32.
60 Plutarch evidently does not reckon the ἕνη καὶ νέα (the (p31)day when the old moon changed to the new) as a period of illumination, since the light given by the moon at that time is practically negligible. An intimation of this is given in his Life of Solon, chap. xxv (92C). Cf. also Plato, Cratylus, 409B, and the scholium on Aristophanes' Clouds, 1186. One seventieth of 12 lunar months of 29 days each (348 days) is very nearly five days.
62 What is known about Pamyles (or Paamyles or Pammyles), a Priapean god of the Egyptians, may be found in Kock, Com. Att. Frag.II. p289. Cf. also 365B, infra.
63 The meaning is doubtful, but Isis as the goddess of vegetation, of the Nile, and of the sea, might very naturally be associated with moisture.
64Cf.366B and 375B, infra.
65Cf. 352A, supra.
66Cf. 375B, infra.
69Cf. Diodorus, I.17.1‑3; 18.5‑6; 20.3‑4.
70Cf.362B, 364D-F, infra, and Herodotus, II.42 and 144.
72 November 13. Cf. also 366D and 367E, infra.
74Cf. Herodotus, II.91 and 156, and Diodorus, I.18.2.
75Cf.E. Harrison, Classical Review, vol. XL pp6 ff.
76Cf. Aelian, De Natura Animalium, X.23.
77 The word kopto, "strike," "cut," is used in the middle voice in the derived meaning "mourn" (i.e. to beat oneself as a sign of mourning). Occasionally the active voice also means "cut off," and from this use Plutarch derives the meaning "deprive."
78Cf. Dio Chrysostom, OratioXXXII p364 D (660 Reiske), and Aelian, De Natura Animalium, XI.10, ad fin.
79 Nephthys; cf.366B, 368E, and 375B, infra.
81Cf.Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, II.1.3.
82Cf. the similar account of Demeter in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (ii.), 98 ff.
83 At the end of the preceding chapter.
ON ISIS AND OSIRIS.
All good things, O Clea, it behoves persons that have sense to solicit from the gods. But more especially now that we are in quest of the knowledge of themselves (so far as such knowledge is attainable by man), do we pray to obtain the same from them with their own consent: inasmuch as there is nothing more important for a man to receive, or more noble for a god to grant, than Truth. For all other things which people require, the Deity who gives them doth not possess, nor use for his own purposes. For the Godhead is not blessed by reason of his silver and gold, nor yet almighty through his thunders and lightnings, but on account of knowledge and intelligence, and this is the finest thing of all that Homer hath said, when he pronounced concerning the gods:—
"Both have one source, and both one country bore,
But Jove was first born, and his knowledge more."
He has represented the sovereignty of Jupiter as more majestic on account of his knowledge and wisdom, being at the same time the more ancient of the two. And I am of opinion that the happiness of the eternal life which is the attribute of God consists in his not being ignorant of
future events, in virtue of his knowledge, for if the knowing and understanding of events were taken away, then immortality becomes not life but duration.
II. On this account a desire for religious knowledge is an aiming at Truth, particularly that relating to the gods—a pursuit containing both in the acquisition and in the search a reception, as it were, of things sacred—an occupation more pious than any observation of abstinence, or religious service: but particularly well-pleasing to this goddess who is the special object of thy devotion; for she is both wise, and a lover of wisdom; as her name appears to denote that, more than any other, knowing and knowledge belong to her. For "Isis" is a Greek word, and so is "Typhon," her enemy, for he is "puffed up" by want of knowledge and falsehood, and tears to pieces, and puts out of sight, the sacred word which the goddess again gathers up and puts together, and gives into the charge of those initiated into the religion; whilst by means of a perpetually sober life, by abstinence from many kinds of food and from venery, she checks intemperance and love of pleasure, accustoming people to endure her service with bowels not enervated by luxury, but hardy and vigorous; the object of all which is the knowledge of the First, the Supreme, and the Intelligible; whom the goddess exhorts von to seek after, for he is both by her side, and united with her. The very name of her Temple clearly promises both the communication and the understanding of That which is—for it is called the "Ision," inasmuch as That which is shall be known if we enter with intelligence and piously into the sacred rites of the goddess.
III. Besides this, many have made her out to be daughter of Hermes; many others, of Prometheus: of whom the latter they hold to be the inventor of wisdom and fore-knowledge; Hermes, of grammar and of music.
For which reason, of the Muses at Hermopolis they call the foremost one "Isis," and "Justice-Wisdom," as hath been stated; and they show the divine mysteries to such as be truly and rightfully styled "carriers of sacred things," and "wearers of sacred robes": these are they that carry in the soul, as it were in a copper, the sacred story respecting the gods that cleanses the recipient from all superstition, and magical follies: and who wrap themselves up, sometimes in things black and dusky, at other times bright and conspicuous—darkly showing forth the same notions as regards opinion of the gods as are expressed with respect to the sacred vestment. For which reason, the circumstance that the votaries of Isis, upon their death, are clothed with these robes, is a symbol that they go into the next world carrying with them this Word, and nothing else. For it is not, Clea, the wearing of beards and the dressing in long gowns that makes people philosophers; neither does the linen surplice and shaven crown make votaries of Isis, but the real Isiacist is he that is competent to investigate by the aid of the Word, the symbolism, and the ceremonies connected with these deities (after he has been lawfully empowered so to do); and who meditates upon the Truth which is involved in them.
IV. For it is a fact that most people do not understand that most general, and insignificant circumstance, for what reason the priests cut off their hair, and wear linen robes: some do not trouble themselves at all to know the cause for these two rules, whilst others say that they abstain from the use of wool, as they do from the flesh, out of veneration for the sheep; that they shave the head in token of their mourning (for Osiris), and that they wear linen on account of the colour the flax in blossom displays, which resembles the smiling atmosphere encompassing
the earth. But the real cause is the same for all, because (as Plato observes), it is not lawful for one not pure to handle what is pure. Now no superfluity of nutrition or excrement is either chaste or pure. Now it is out of such superfluity that wool and hair, and down, and the nails, spring and grow. For it were absurd that people should divest themselves of their own hair, shaving the body very smoothly, during the fasts, and yet should envelope themselves in the hair of beasts, and we ought to suppose that when Hesiod says:—
"Nor from the five-branched thing, on holy day,
Cut with the steel the dry from green away,"
He teaches that people ought to make themselves clear from such things beforehand, and so keep the festival, not in the middle of the religious services to occupy themselves with the cleaning and the removal of excrementitious things. Again, the flax springs out of what is immortal, the earth, and produces an edible fruit, and furnishes a smooth and cleanly clothing, that does not weigh one down with the covering, and well-suited also to any season, and is least of all others apt to breed lice, as they say, concerning all which points there is another legend.
V. The priests so greatly dislike the nature of excrementitious things, that they not only reject most kinds of pulse, and the flesh of sheep and swine, as producing much superfluity of nutriment, but during the fasts they even banish all salt from their meals, assigning many other reasons for so doing, and particularly that salt makes people more fond of drinking and of eating, by sharpening the appetite: for to consider, as Aristagoras pretends, that salt is not pure because multitudes of little insects are caught and die in it as it is congealing, is mere folly. They are said also to give the Apis drink out of a well of his own, but to keep
him away from the Nile; not that they hold the Nile water to be polluted by reason of the crocodiles, as some think, for nothing is so venerated by Egyptians as the Nile, but because drinking the water of the Nile is supposed above all other to fatten, and produce corpulence; for they do not wish to have the Apis in such condition, nor themselves either, but to render their bodies active and lightly moved by their souls, and not to weigh down and crush the divine part by the mortal ones growing strong and preponderating.
VI. As for wine, they that serve the god at Heliopolis, do not usually carry it into the temple, for the reason that it is not decent to drink when the Lord and King of day is looking on. The others use it indeed, but sparingly, and keep many fasts where wine is forbidden; during which they spend their time in arguing, learning, and seeking things pertaining to religion: but the kings used to drink a measured quantity, prescribed by the sacred books (as Hecataeus relates in his History), although they were also priests. They began to drink from the reign of Psammetichus, for before him they drank no wine, neither did they make libation of it as a thing acceptable to the gods, but as the blood of the gods’ greatest enemies, out of whom they believe it sprung when they were fallen, and mingled with the earth, for which reason the being drunk makes men out of their senses and furious, inasmuch as they are then possessed by the authors of the blood. This story Eudoxus tells us in the second book of his "Travels," is so related by the priests.
VII. As to sea fish, all do not abstain from every sort, but from some kinds only, as for instance, the natives of Oxyrynchites abstain from all that are caught with a hook; for worshipping as they do the fish called oxyrynchus, they are afraid that the hook may not be unpolluted in consequence of an oxyrynchus having been caught by the same.
The Syennites abstain from eating the phagrus; for that fish is thought to make its appearance together with the swelling of the Nile, and to announce its rise to rejoicing people, showing itself as a self-sent herald. But the priests abstain from all fish alike, and when on the first day of the ninth month the Egyptians feast each one on broiled fish before his house door, the priests do not taste thereof, but burn fish to ashes in front of their own doors, assigning two reasons for this usage; the one of which being religious and important, and connected with the pious inquiry concerning Osiris and Typhon, I will take up again further on; the other, an obvious and ready explanation, making out fish to be an unnecessary and over-luxurious article of diet, agrees with Homer who represents neither the luxurious Phaeaceans, nor the Ithacans, although islanders; as making use of fish, nor yet the shipmates of Ulysses on so long a voyage and out at sea, before they were reduced to the extreme of want. And in fine, they (the priests) hold the sea to proceed from fire, and as distinct from all else; neither a part nor an element of nature but something of a different sort, both destructive and the occasion of disease.
VIII. For nothing that is irrational or fabulous, or springing out of superstition (as some suppose), has been established in the religious rites but what has partly moral and salutary reasons, partly others not devoid of ingenuity in their bearings upon history and physics. For example, take the garlic (for the fable that Dictys, foster father of Isis, fell into the river and was lost as he was laying hold of some garlic is improbable to the last degree), but the priests entertain religious scruples about it and avoid and dislike the garlic, because this is the only plant that naturally grows and flourishes while the moon is on the wane; and it is suitable neither for persons keeping fast, nor holding festival, because it makes the one thirsty,
the other to shed tears when they eat thereof. In the same way they hold the swine to be an unholy animal because it seems to copulate most of all when the moon is on the wane, and of those who drink its milk, the bodies break out into leprosies and itchey eruptions; for the legend which they repeat over it, when they sacrifice (once for all) and eat a swine at the new moon, namely, that Typhon was pursuing a swine by the light of the full moon, and so found the wooden coffer, in which lay the body of Osiris and scattered the pieces, is not accepted by all; for they hold this, like many other things, to belong to false traditions. But they say that those of old were so hostile to luxury, extravagance, and delicate living, that they relate there was a column set up in the Temple of Thebes containing a curse engraved thereon against King Mnevis, the first that drew away the Egyptians from their old way of living without voyaging, without money, and of primitive simplicity. It is further said that Technatis, father of Banchoreus, once when marching towards Arabia, when his table-service was behindhand, dined upon what food was procurable and afterwards slept soundly upon a mattress, and thus became enamoured of simple fare; and in consequence of this, uttered a curse upon Mnevis, and with the approval of the priests, set up a pillar publishing the anathema.
IX. For the kings used to be elected out of either the sacerdotal or the military class, the latter enjoying dignity and honour on account of valour, the former on account of wisdom; but he that was elected out of the military class immediately became one of the priests, and was initiated into their wisdom, which was for the most part shrouded in fables and stories giving obscure indications and glimpses of the truth, as indeed they themselves half acknowledge by kindly setting up the Sphinxes in front of their temples, as though their religious teaching contained wisdom hidden
in enigmas. And the shrine of Minerva at Sais (whom they consider the same with Isis) bears this inscription, "I am all that hath been, and is, and shall be; and my veil no mortal has hitherto raised." Furthermore, as most people believe that the proper name of Jupiter amongst the Egyptians is "Ammies" (which we corruptly call "Ammon"). Manetho the Sebennyte is of opinion that the "hidden" and "hiding" is expressed by this word. Hecataeus of Abdera says that the Egyptians use this word to one another, when they are calling anyone to them; for the word is one of calling to, for which reason the Supreme God (whom they consider the same with the All) they invoke as being hidden and invisible, and exhort him to make himself visible and apparent, and therefore call him "Amun": so great therefore was the piety of the Egyptians in their teaching respecting the gods.
X. The wisest of the Greeks bear testimony to this, such as Solon, Thales, Plato, Eudoxus, Pythagoras (some say Lycurgus also), by their travelling into Egypt and conversing with the priests. Eudoxus, for example, they say, received lessons from Chonupheus of Memphis; Solon, from Sonchis of Sais; Pythagoras from Oenuphis of Heliopolis; and he being probably the most admired of these visitors, and himself admiring the people, copied their symbolical and mysterious style, and wrapped up his doctrines in enigmas; for the most part of the Pythagorean precepts do not fall short of the so-called hieroglyphic writings in obscurity; such, for instance, as, "Not to eat off a chair;" "Not to sit down upon a corn-measure;" "Not to plant a palm-tree;" "Not to stir the fire with a sword in the house." And I myself think that the fact that the men (of his sect) call the unit "Apollo," the two "Diana," the seven, "Minerva;" and "Neptune" the first Cube; is analogous to the things set up upon the temples, and in truth to those done and painted there. For the
king and lord, Osiris, they represent by an eye and a sceptre, and some even interpret the name as "Many-eyed," the "os" signifying many, and the "iri," eye, in the Egyptian language: and Heaven, as being exempt from old age by reason of its eternity, by a heart with an altar of incense placed below it. And in Thebes there were dedicated statues of Judges wanting the hands: whilst that of the chief-judge had also the eyes closed, showing that Justice is above bribes, and not to be moved by prayer. The Military class had the beetle for device on signet, for the beetle is never female, but all are males, and they breed by depositing their seed [in balls of dung]; since they make these balls, not so much to provide material for food, as a place for propagation of their kind.
XI. When therefore you shall hear the fables the Egyptians tell about the gods—their wanderings, cutting to pieces, and many such like mishaps you ought to bear in mind what has been above stated, and not to suppose that any of them happened or was done in the manner related. For they do not really call the dog "Hermes," but the animal's watchfulness, sleeplessness, and sagacity (for by knowledge and absence of knowledge it distinguishes between friend and foe, as Plato says) make it appropriate to the most sagacious of the gods: neither do they suppose that the sun rises as a new born child out of a lotus, but it is in this way they picture the rising of the sun, enigmatically expressing that the solar fire is derived from moisture. For that most savage and terrible King of the Persians, Ochus—who put many to death, and finally butchered Apis and dined upon him along with his friends—they styled "The Sword," and still call him by that name in the list of kings; that is not actually describing his person, but likening the hardness and wickedness of his disposition to an instrument of slaughter. In the same way must you hear the stories about the gods, and
receive them from such as interpret mythology, in a reverent and philosophic spirit, both performing constantly and observing the established rites of the worship, and believing that no sacrifice nor act is more well pleasing to the gods, than is the holding the true faith with respect to them, so will you escape an evil no less great than Atheism, namely, Superstition.
XII. The following myth is related in the briefest terms possible, divested of everything unnecessary and superfluous. They tell that the sun having discovered Rhea secretly copulating with Saturn, laid a curse upon her, that she should not bring forth a child in either month or year: that Hermes being in love with the goddess copulated with her; and afterwards playing at counters with the Moon and winning from her the seventieth part of each one of her lights, out of the whole composed five days, the which he added to the three hundred and sixty, which days now the Egyptians call "additional," and keep as the birthdays of the gods; that on the first of these was born Osiris, and that, a voice issued forth with him in the birth, that "the Lord of all is entering into light." But some relate that a certain Pamyle, when drawing water out of the Temple of Jupiter at Thebes, heard a voice ordering her to proclaim with a loud cry, "A great king, beneficent Osiris, is born," and for this cause she nursed Osiris, when Saturn put him into her hands; and also the festival "Pamylia," is celebrated in his honour, resembling in character the phallic processions. On the second was born Aroeris, whom some call Apollo, some the elder Horus. On the third Typhon, neither in due time, nor in the right place, but, breaking through with a blow, he leaped out through his mother's side. On the fourth was Isis born, in very wet places. On the fifth was Nephthys, the same as the "End," and "Venus," whom some call Victory. They say that Osiris was begotten by the Sun, as also
Aroeris, by Hermes Isis, by Saturn Typhon and Nephthys; that Osiris and Isis fell in love with each other and copulated under the cloak of darkness in the womb; some say that in this manner was Aroeris begotten, and therefore is called by Egyptians, the elder Horus, by the Greeks, Apollo.
XIII. That when Osiris reigned over the Egyptians he made them reform their destitute and bestial mode of living, showing them the art of cultivation, and giving them laws, and teaching them how to worship the gods. Afterwards he travelled over the whole earth, civilizing it; far from requiring arms, he tamed mankind through persuasion and reasoning joined with song of all kinds and music which he brought over; wherefore he is held by the Greeks to be the same with Bacchus. That Typhon, during his absence, did not rebel, because Isis was on her guard, and able to keep watch upon him vigorously; but after Osiris returned Typhon laid a plot against him, having taken seventy and two men into the conspiracy, and having for helper a queen coming out of Ethiopia, whom they call Asò. That she secretly measured the body of Osiris, and made to the size a handsome and highly ornamented coffer which he carried into the banqueting room. And as they were all delighted with its appearance and admired it; Typhon promised in sport that whoever should lie down within it, and should exactly fit, he would make him a present of the chest; and after the others had tried, one by one, and nobody fitted it; then Osiris got in, and laid himself down, thereupon the conspirators running up shut down the lid, and fastened it with spike-nails from the outside, and poured melted lead over them, and so carried it out to the River, and let it go down down the Tanaite branch into the sea: which branch on that account is hateful, and unlucky for Egyptians to name. These things are said to have been done on the 17th day of the month
Athor, when the sun is passing through the Scorpion, Osiris then being in the eight and twentieth year of his reign. Some have it that he had lived, not reigned, such a time.
XIV. The first to discover the mischief were the Pans and Satyrs inhabiting the country round Chemmis and to give intelligence about what had happened, whence the sudden terrors and fears of the multitude are to the present day called "panics." Isis on the news, sheared off one of her tresses, and put on a mourning robe, whence the city, even to the present day has the name of "Copto" (I beat the breast); but others think the name signifies bereavement, from "coptein" "to deprive." As she wandered about everywhere, not knowing what to do, she met no one without speaking to him, nay, even when she fell in with little children, she inquired of them about the coffer; these last chanced to have seen it, and told her the branch of the River through which Typhon's accomplices had let the chest drift into the sea. From this circumstance the Egyptians believe that little children possess the faculty of prophesy, and that especially the future is fore-shown by their cries when they are playing in the temple courts, and calling out whatever it may be. And having discovered that he (Typhon) had fallen in love and copulated with his sister, in ignorance, as Osiris had done with herself, and seeing the proof thereof in the garland of melilote flower which he had left behind him with Nephthys, she sought for the infant (for she had brought it forth at once, through her fear of Typhon), she found it at last with trouble and difficulty, through dogs guiding her to the place. This infant Isis nursed, and he grew up her guard and minister, being denominated Anubis; and said to watch for the gods just as dogs do for men.
XV. Proceeding thence, she learnt by inquiry that the chest had been washed up by the sea at a place called Byblus, and that the surf had gently laid it under an Erica tree. This Erica, a most lovely plant, growing up very large in a very short time had enfolded, embraced, and concealed the coffer within itself. The king of the place being astonished at the size of the plant, and having cut away the clump that concealed the coffer from sight, set the latter up as a pillar to support his roof. They tell how Isis having learnt all this by the divine breath of fame, came to Byblus, and sitting down by the side of a spring all dejected and weeping spoke not a word to any other persons, but saluted and made friends of the maid servants of the queen, by dressing their hair for them, and infusing into their bodies a wonderful perfume out of herself; when the queen saw her maids again, she fell a longing to see the stranger, whose hair and whose body breathed of ambrosial perfume; and so she was sent for, becoming intimate with the queen, was made nurse of her infant. The king's name they say was Malacander, herself some call Astarte, others Sooses, others Neinanoë, who is the same with the Greek Athenais.
XVI. Isis is said to have suckled the child by putting, instead of her nipple, her finger into his mouth, and by night she singed away the mortal parts of his body. She turned herself into a swallow and flew around the pillar until the queen watched her, and cried out when she saw her child all on fire, and so took away the boy's immortality. Then the goddess, manifesting herself, asked .or the pillar of the roof, and having removed it with the greatest ease, she cut away the Erica that surrounded it. This plant she wrapped up in a linen cloth, pouring perfume over it, and gave it in charge to the king; and to this day the people of Byblus venerate the wood, which is preserved in the temple of Isis. The coffin she clasped in
her arms, and wailed so loud that the younger of the king's sons died of fright at it, the elder she took with her and putting the coffer on board a ship, put to sea; but when the river Phaedrus sent forth too rough a gale, she grew wrath, and dried up the stream.
XVII. As soon as ever she obtained privacy, and was left by herself, having opened the coffer and laid her face upon the face of the corpse, she wailed and wept; but when the little boy observed this, and came up quietly from behind to spy, she perceived him, and turning round gave him a dreadful look in her rage, the child could not stand the fright, and died. Some say it was not so, but in the manner just stated he tumbled (in his fright) into the sea, but that he receives honours for the sake of the goddess, for the Maneros, whom the Egyptians sing about at their feasts, is this child. Others say that the boy is called Palaestinos, or Pelusios, and that the city was named after him, having been founded by the goddess. The Maneros that is sung about, they relate, first invented music. But some pretend "Maneros" is not the name of a person, but an expression suited to people drinking and keeping holiday and signifying "May things of the sort come with good luck," for that the Egyptians exclaim this, each time, upon the Maneros being uttered; just as, indeed, the exhibition of a dead man in his coffin carried round at feasts is not a reminder of the mourning for Osiris, as some interpret it, but merely intended to warn one to make use of the present and enjoy it, as very soon they themselves shall be as he, which is why they bring it in to the feast.
XVIII. But when Isis had gone to see her son Horus (who was at nurse in the city Butò), and had put the coffer away, Typhon being out a hunting by moonlight came upon it, and recognising the corpse, tore it into fourteen pieces,
and scattered them abroad. Isis having heard of this, sought after the fragments, passing over the swamps in a papyrus boat; for which cause such as sail in papyrus boats are never injured by the crocodiles, because they either fear or respect the goddess, from this circumstance there are many places called "Tombs of Osiris" all over Egypt, because she, whenever she came upon a fragment of the body, there celebrated a funeral. Some deny this, but say that she made images and gave them to the several cities, giving them as the actual body, in order that they may receive honours from those sailing past, and that if Typhon should get the better of Horus, when searching for the real tomb he may be baffled, from many being so called and pointed out. Of the members of Osiris the only one Isis was unable to find was the genital member, for it had been thrown at first into the River, and lepidotus, phagrus, and oxyrynchus had fed upon it, which kinds of fish the natives scruple to eat above all others, and that Isis in its stead made a model and consecrated it, namely the phallus, in honour whereof the Egyptians hold a festival.
XIX: Afterwards Osiris came from the shades to Horus, and trained and exercised him for war, and then asked him "What he thought the finest thing possible?" and when he replied "to avenge one's father and mother when ill treated;" he asked him secondly "what he considered the most useful animal to people going to battle?" and when Horus answered, "the horse," Osiris wondered at it and was puzzled why he said the horse instead of the lion. But when Horus explained that the lion indeed was serviceable to one standing in need of aid, but the horse can both save him that flees and also destroy the enemy: Osiris on hearing this was rejoiced at the supposition that Horus had provided himself with horses. And as numbers came over from time to time to the side of Horus, Typhon's concubine, Thucris by name, came also, and a serpent pursuing
her was cut to pieces by the friends of Horus; and now in memory of this event, they throw down a rope in the midst of all, and chop it to pieces. The battle lasted for many days, and Horus vanquished, but Isis having received from him Typhon in chains, did not destroy, but on the contrary unbound and let him go free. This Horus did not endure with patience, but he laid hands on his mother, and pushed the crown off her head; whereupon Hermes placed a bull's skull upon her instead of helmet. And when Typhon brought a charge of illegitimacy against Horus, Hermes acting as his counsel, Horus was pronounced legitimate by the gods. After this Typhon was beaten in two other battles; and Isis conceived by Osiris copulating with her after death, and brought forth the prematurely born, and weak in his lower limbs, Harpocrates.
XX. These are pretty nearly the heads of the legend, the most blasphemous parts being omitted; for example, about the dismemberment of Horus, and the decapitation of Isis, because if these things people believe and say concerning blessed and incorruptible natures (by whose medium the idea of the deity is mainly conceived) as having been really done, and really having happened to them—then, as Æschylus hath it:—
"We must spit at the tale, and rinse the mouth:"
and there is no more need of talking to you, in fact, you are yourself disgusted at people holding such absurd and uncivilized notions respecting the gods. Are not these things exactly like the fine-spun fables and empty tales that poets and story tellers, like spiders, breed out of themselves, without foundation from first to last, and weave and spread them out? Nevertheless, this history
contains certain questions, and descriptions of real events; and in the same way as mathematicians say that the rainbow is the image of the sun, variously coloured through the reflection of the image upon the cloud, so the legend before us is a kind of reflection of a history reflecting the true meaning upon other things; as is shown forth by the sacrifices containing a representation of mourning and sadness; as also by the ground plan of the temples, in some parts spreading out into colonnades, and courts open to the sky and lightsome, in others having under ground hidden and dark galleries (like that at Thebes), and halls as well; and above all, by the belief of the Osiris worshippers, where his body is said to be deposited in several places at once. Abydos, perhaps, or the little town Memphis, they say, is celebrated for possessing the only true body: and that at Abydos are buried the rich and noble of the Egyptians, ambitious to share the burial place of Osiris’ body, whilst in Memphis is kept the Apis, the "Image of the soul of Osiris," where his body also is said to lie.
XXI. That city's name also some interpret as "Harbour of good things," others as "Tomb of Osiris;" but the "Nisbitane" placed close to the gates, is universally shunned and unapproachable, not even a bird perches upon it, nor a fish comes up to it; but at a particular season the priests cross over, and offer burnt offerings, and crown the monument which is overshadowed with the shrub called "methides," and exceeding in size any olive tree. But Eudoxus states that though there are many so-called Tombs in Egypt, yet that the true monument was erected at Busiris, for that that was the birthplace of Osiris; for thy; name "Taphosiris" requires no explanation since the name itself means "Tomb of Osiris." I approve of the chopping of wood, the cutting down of flax, the pouring out
of libation, inasmuch as the generality of mystic rites are interspersed with these ceremonies, and not only the priests of this, but also of the other gods (that is of all that are not unborn and incorruptible) assert that their bodies are deposited with them, and are taken care of after their decease, but that their souls shine in heaven as stars; and that of Isis so called by the Greeks the Dog-star, but by the Egyptians Sothis; that of Horus, Orion, that of Typhon, the Bear, and towards the keep of the sacred animals, all the rest of Egypt pay an assessment, but the inhabitants of the Thebaid alone refuse to pay, because they do not hold with mortal deities; but with them whom they themselves call "Kneph," who is unborn and incorruptible.
XXII. Since many places of the sort are called and shown as divine Tombs, those who suppose them to be in reality those of kings and tyrants (who by reason of their extraordinary merit, or power, had arrogated honours to themselves by the fame of their superhuman nature, and had afterwards shared the common lot), whose terrible or mighty deeds or fates are thus commemorated, such persons find a very easy evasion of the legend, and shift its indecency from the gods upon men; and they obtain support from the religious rites. For the Egyptians relate that Hermes had one arm bent so that it could not be straightened, that Typhon was red in complexion, Horus white, and that Osiris was black skinned—just as so many men born in the course of nature. Besides, they call a general "Osiris," and a pilot "Canopus" (after whom the star is named); also that the ship which the Greeks call the Argo, was the representation of the bark of Osiris, made a constellation of in his honour; and it moves along at no great distance from Orion anti the Dog-star, of which the Egyptians hold the one to be sacred to Horus, the other to Isis.
XXIII. I am afraid that this is "moving things that ought not to be moved, and making war not only upon antiquity" (as Simonides hath it), but upon many tribes and families of man, possessed with veneration for these particular deities, when people let nothing alone, but transfer these great names from the heavens to the earth, and do their best to eradicate and destroy (or nearly so) the respect and faith implanted in men from their infancy, and opening a wide door to the atheistical sort, and also to him that humanizes the gods, and giving a splendid opportunity to the deceptions of Evemerus, the Messenian, who, by composing treatises upon his false and unfounded mythology, disseminated atheism all over the world, reducing all deities alike to the names of generals, admirals, and kings, pretended to have flourished in old times; transcribing all this forsooth from the inscriptions in letters of gold set up at Panchon which said inscriptions no foreigner nor Greek, save Evemerus alone, as it seems, has met with, when he made his voyage to the Panchoans and Triphyllans, people that never were, nor are, in any part of the globe.
XXIV. And yet great exploits are sung amongst Assyrians, namely those of Semiramis, and great in Egypt those of Sesostris; the Phrygians even to this day call splendid exploits "Manic," on account of Manis, one of their ancient kings, having been good and powerful amongst them, whom some also call "Masdes." Cyrus led the Persians, Alexander the Macedonians, conquering as they went, to all but the utmost limits of the world; they nevertheless have the name and the memory of good kings (not of gods); and if some few, puffed up with vanity, as Plato says, "with souls inflamed by youth and ignorance,"
have out of insolence assumed the style of gods, and the dedication of temples in their honour, yet their glory has flourished but a brief space, and thereafter they incurred the charge of vanity and arrogance, coupled with that of impiety and transgression of law:—
"Raised up like smoke, they quickly fell to earth:"
And now like fugitives that can be arrested, they are dragged out from their temples and altars, they keep nothing but their names and tombs. On which account, Antigonus the Elder, when a certain Hermodatus, in his verses, compared him to the Sun, and styled him a god, replied, "The carrier of my night-stool has not so good an opinion of me"; and with reason did Lysippus, the sculptor, censure Apelles, the painter, because in painting Alexander's portrait he had put a thunderbolt into his hand, whereas he himself had put a spear, the glory of which no time shall efface, inasmuch as it is genuine and appropriate.
XXV. Do they, therefore, better, who believe the legends told about Typhon, Osiris, and Isis, not to refer to either gods or men, but to certain great Powers (dæmons), whom Plato, Pythagoras, Xenocrates, and Chrysippus (following the ancient theologians) assert to have been created far stronger than men, and greatly surpassing our nature in power, but yet having the divine part not entirely unmixed nor unalloyed, but combined with the nature of the soul and the senses of the body, susceptible of pleasure and pain, and all other emotions the result of these, that by their vicissitudes disturb, some in a greater, others in a less degree; for, in that case, as amongst men, so amongst dæmons, exist degrees of virtue and of vice. For the deeds of the Giants and Titans, sung of by the Greeks, certain atrocious actions of Saturn, the pitched battle between Python and Apollo, the flight of Bacchus, the
wanderings of Ceres do not fall short in absurdity of the legends about Osiris and Typhon, and the others that one may hear told by mythologists to any amount—all the things that are shrouded in mystic ceremonies, and are presented by rites, being kept secret and out of sight from the vulgar, and have a shape similar to those mentioned of the Egyptians.
XXV. We also hear Homer perpetually styling the surpassingly good, "godlike," and "equal to gods," and—
… "having from gods their sense:"
whereas he applies the epithet derived from dæmons indifferently to good and bad:—
"Approach Dæmonian; wherefore fearest thou so—The Argives?"
"When like a dæmon the fourth time he charged:"
"O dæmon-like! what harm hath Priam done thee,
Or Priam's race, that thus thou aye should strive
The beauteous town of Troy from earth to raze?"
As though the dæmons had a mixed and inconsistent nature and disposition. For which reason Plato attributes to the Olympian gods all things ingenious and extraordinary; but the opposite of these to dæmons; and Xenocrates thinks that the unlucky days of the month, and whatever festivals are accompanied with stripes and blows, abusive or obscene language, have nothing to do with honouring the gods or good dæmons: but that there are certain Powers of Nature existing in the circumambient air, great and strong indeed, but malignant and ill-tempered, who take delight in such things, and if they obtain them, betake themselves to nothing worse. But the good ones, on the contrary, Hesiod styles "pure dæmons," and "guardians of men";—
"Givers of wealth; and with such royal power."
And Plato terms this species "Hermeneutic" and "Dæmonean," a middle class between gods and men, conveying up thither vows and prayers from mankind, and bringing down from thence to earth prophesies and gifts of things good. Empedocles even asserts that dæmons suffer punishment for their sins both of commission and omission:—
"Celestial wrath pursues them down to sea;
Sea spits them out on earth: earth to the rays
Of Sol unweared: he to the eddying air
Sends back the culprits; each receives in turn,
And all alike reject the hateful crew:"
until having been thus chastened and purified, they obtain once more their natural place and position.
XXVII. Akin to these and suchlike stories are, they say, the legends told concerning Typhon; how that he committed dreadful crimes out of envy and spite, and by throwing all things into confusion he filled with evils all the land and sea as well, and finally was punished for it. But the avenger of Osiris, his Sister and Wife, who extinguished and put a stop to the madness and fury of Typhon; did not forget the contests and struggles she had gone through, nor yet her own wanderings, nor did she suffer oblivion and silence to envelope her many deeds of wisdom, many feats of courage, but by intermingling with the most sacred ceremonies, images, hints, and representations of her sufferings of yore, she consecrated at one and the same time, both lessons of piety and consolation in suffering for men and women when overtaken by misfortune. And she, together with Osiris, having been translated from the rank of good dæmons up to that of gods, by means of their virtue (as later was done with Hercules and Bacchus) receive, not inappropriately, the united honours of gods and of dæmons everywhere, both in the regions
above earth, and in those under ground, possessing the supreme power, for they say that Serapis is no other than Pluto, and Isis Proserpine, as Archemoros of Euboea has asserted; as also Heraclitus of Pontas, when he supposes the Oracle at Canopas to belong to Pluto.
XXVIII. Ptolemy Soter beheld in a dream the Colossus of Pluto at Sinope, (though he had not before known nor seen what it was in appearance,) ordering him to bring it as soon as possible to Alexandria; and when he was ignorant and at a loss as to where the statue then stood, and was relating the vision to his friends, there was found a man, a great traveller, by name Sosibius, that declared he had seen at Sinope just such a Colossus as the king had dreamt he saw. He therefore despatched Soteles and Dionysius, who after much time and with difficulty (not, however, without divine aid) stole and brought away the statue. And when it was brought and seen, then Timotheus, the interpreter, and Manetho, the Sebennite, and their fellows, conjecturing that it was a figure of Pluto (drawing this conclusion from the Cerberus and the Serpent), made Ptolemy believe that it is of no other god, but of Serapis, for it did not come bearing such a name from the other place, but after it had been brought to Alexandria, it got the name that Pluto bears amongst the Egyptians, namely, Serapis. And seeing that Heraclitus, the natural philosopher, asserts that "Hades and Dionysos are the same person, when they are infuriated and rave," they (the Egyptians) slip unconsciously into the same belief. For such as explain that Hades means the Body, because the Soul is as it were out of its senses, and drunken, when confined therein, such people are too far fetched in their interpretation. It is better, therefore, to connect Osiris with Bacchus, and Serapis with Osiris, for
the latter obtained this appellation after he had changed his nature, inasmuch as Serapis is common to all, in the same way as such as have partaken of the sacred rites know that Osiris is.
XXIX. For it is not worth while paying any attention to the Phrygian sacred books, wherein it is said that Serapis was the daughter of Hercules, and Typhon, son of Isaicus, son of…, nor yet to avoid treating Phylarchus with contempt for saying that Bacchus first brought two oxen out of India to Egypt; the name of one of which was Apis, of the other Osiris. For Serapis is the name of Him who puts in order the universe (πᾶν), joined to "sairein" which some say means "to beautify and arrange." For these remarks of Phylarchus are absurd; yet far more absurd the opinion of such as say Serapis is no god at all, but the coffin of Apis is so called: (they also talk of certain brazen doors at Memphis, named the "Doors of Oblivion and Wailing," which when they bury Apis utter a deep and harsh sound, for which reason [we are forbidden] to touch any sounding vessel of brass.) More endurable is the explanation of such as derive it from "stimulating (σεύεσθαι) the motion of the universe. But the most part of the priests say that "Osiris" and "Apis" are united into the same word, for they explain and inform us that we ought to consider the Apis as a beautiful image of the soul of Osiris. But for my part, if the name of Serapis is really Egyptian, and I think it signifies Cheerfulness and Rejoicing, founding my conjecture on the fact that the Egyptians call the festival of Rejoicing,
"Sai rei," in fact Plato says that Hades is so named as the "Son of Respectfulness," and a god benevolent to such as dwell with him; and amongst the Egyptians many other of the names (of gods) are significant words; also that subterraneous place whither they believe the souls go after death, they call "Amenthen," the name signifying "that which gives and takes," But whether this be one of the names carried out of Greece in ancient times, and brought back again, we will consider further on; at present it is our business to go through the remaining parts of this belief.
XXX. Osiris and Isis passed from the rank of good dæmons to that of deities; but the power of Typhon although dimmed and crushed, and still, as it were, in the last agony and convulsions, they nevertheless propitiate and soothe by means of certain sacrifices: but occasionally they humiliate and insult him at certain festivals, when they abuse red haired men and tumble an ass down a precipice; for example this is done by the people of Memphis, because Typhon was red haired, and like an ass in complexion. The people of Busiris and Lycopolis do not use trumpets at all because they make a sound like the ass: and altogether, they regard the ass as an unclean and dæmon-like animal on account of his resemblance to that personage: they make cakes also at the sacrifice of the month Paÿni and of Phaophi, and print upon them for device an ass tied. And at the sacrifice to the Sun, they enjoin those that worship this god, not to wear upon the person ornaments of gold, nor to give food to an ass. The Pythagoreans, too, prove that they regard Typhon as a dæmonic Power, for they say in perfect measure that Typhon was born on the fifty-sixth; and again that the
(figure) of the Triangle belongs to Pluto, Bacchus and Mars; that of the Tetragon to Rhea, Venus, Ceres, Vesta, and Juno; that of the Dodecagon to Jove; but that of the Fifty-six sided figure to Typhon—as Eudoxus hath related.
XXXI. The Egyptians, believing that Typhon was born with red hair, dedicate to sacrifice the red coloured oxen, and make the scrutiny so close that if the beast should have even a single black or white hair, they consider it unfit for sacrifice; because such beast, offered for sacrifice, is not acceptable to the gods, but the contrary (as is) whatsoever has received the souls of unholy and unjust men, that have migrated into other bodies. For which reason they heap curses on the head of the victim, cut it off, and formerly used to throw it into the River, but nowadays they sell it to foreigners. But the ox intended for sacrifice, those of the priests entitled "Sealers" used to seal: the signet bearing (as Castor relates) an engraving of a man forced down on his knees, with hands twisted round upon his back, having a sword placed against his throat. The ass has got the credit of this resemblance [to Typhon] as they think, on account of his stupidity and unruliness, as well as his colour; for which reason as they detest Ochus especially of the Persian Kings, as sacrilegious and polluted, they surnamed him "the Ass," and he replying, "The Ass shall feast upon your Bull," he slaughtered the Apis, as Dinon tells us. But those who say that Typhon made his flight out of the battle during seven days upon an ass; and after escaping begot Hierosolymus and Judæus—these are discovered by that very fact to be lugging the Jewish history into the legend.
XXXII. These things, then, afford grounds for the explanations above advanced. Let us start afresh, and consider the most straightforward expositions; that is to say, those who are reputed to treat the subject in a more philosophic
manner. These are such as pretend, like the Greeks, that Saturn symbolizes Time, Juno the Air, the birth of Vulcan, the change of Air into Fire; and similarly amongst the Egyptians, that Osiris is the Nile, copulating with Isis the Earth; Typhon, the Sea, into which the Nile flowing vanishes and is dispersed, except as much part as the earth has taken from him and received, and becomes productive thereby. There is, too, a religious lament made over Saturn, and it laments "him that is born in the left region, and that dies in the right." For the Egyptians hold that the Eastern parts are the face of the World, the Northern its right hand, the Southern its left. The Nile, therefore, flowing from the North, and in the South swallowed up by the sea, is as reasonably said to have his birth in the left hand region, and his death in the right. On which account the priests abominate the sea, and call salt "the foam of Typhon," and it is one of their prohibitions, "Not to put salt upon the table," and they do not speak to mariners, nor make use of the sea, and they keep the ox away from the sea, and from this cause principally do they reject fish, and write up "Hate fish." At any rate, at Sais, in the forecourt of the temple of Minerva, there was sculptured a child, an old man, after this a hawk, next, a fish, and at the end of all, a river-horse, and it signifies symbolically, "O ye that are coming into life, and ye that are going out of it [The Deity abhors impudence] … for the reason [they put the] old man .. . By the hawk they mean God, by the fish, hatred, on account of the sea, as has been above stated; by the river horse, impudence, for that beast is reported to kill its sire, and copulates forcibly with its dam: and the saying of the Pythagoreans that the sea is Saturn's tears, seed, may seem to imply the impurity and unsociable nature of the same element.
XXXIII. Let these stories then be told by foreigners, since they offer an explanation within everybody's reach; but the more learned among the priests do not only call the Nile, "Osiris," and the sea, "Typhon," but give the name of Osiris generally to every Principle and Power productive of moisture; regarding this as the cause of generation and the essence of seed. "Typhon" they call everything dry, fiery, dessicative, and antagonistic to moisture; for which reason as they believe him to have been red skinned and yellowish in person, they do not very willingly meet, or converse with pleasure with people having such a complexion; on the other hand they fable that Osiris was black-coloured because all water blackens earth, clouds, and garments, when mingled therewith; and in young people the presence of moisture renders the hair black, whereas greyness is, as it were, a growing pale, that by reason of dessication, comes upon them who are past their prime. The Spring too is flourishing, generative, and agreeable; but Autumn through the deficiency of moisture is both injurious to plants, and pestilential to animals. And the Ox that is kept at Heliopolis, which they call Mnevis (sacred to Osiris, and which some believe to be the sire of the Apis) is black, and receives secondary honours to those paid to Apis. Besides, Egypt which is of a black soil to the highest degree, as well as the black part of the eye, they call "Chemia," and compare it to a heart, for it is hot and moist, and is chiefly inclosed and annexed to the southern parts of the habitable world, in the same manner as the heart is in the left hand parts of man.
XXXIV. The Sun and the Moon they symbolize as
using not chariots but boats for vehicles in performing their courses, expressing allegorically their nourishment and origin from moisture: and they think that Homer, like Thales, had learnt from the Egyptians to lay down that Water was the beginning and origin of all things, for that his ocean is Osiris, and his Tethys Isis, as nursing, and helping to breed up all things. For the Greeks call the emission of seed ἀπουσία, and copulation συνουσία; and ὑιὸς from ὕδωρ and ὗσαι, and Bacchus they entitle "γυς," as being lord of the moist principle, he being no other than Osiris, in fact Hellenicus has put down that he heard Osiris called Ysiris by the priests; and he persists in so denominating that god, probably on account of his nature, and his invention.
XXXV. That indeed he is the same with Bacchus, who is more fitted to know than yourself, Clea, you who have headed the Bacchanals at Delphi, and have been initiated into the rites of Osiris, ever since your childhood? But if for the sake of other people we must produce testimony, let us put on one side the things not to be revealed; but the ceremonies the priests perform in public when they are conveying the body on a raft, at the burial of the Apis, differ in nothing from the Bacchanalea; for they tie fawn-skins about them, and carry thyrsi, and make shoutings and motions like those possessed with the divine frenzy in honour of Bacchus; for which cause many of the Greeks represent Dionysos in the form of a Bull in his images; and the women of the Eleians when praying, exhort the "god with the bull's foot," to come to them. The Argives too have a Bacchus by title the "Bull-born;" and they call him up out of water by the sound of trumpets, casting into the deep pool as offerings to the "Pylaochus." The trumpets they conceal within the thyrsi as Socrates has described it in his treatise on Rituals. The Titanic also and Nyctelean rites are of the same kind with
the fabled tearing to pieces of the body of Osiris, his re-turnings to life, and his new births; and, similarly, the stories about his burials. For the Egyptians, as already stated, show Tombs of Osiris in many places; and the Delphians believe that the relics of Bacchus are deposited with themselves by the side of the Oracle: and their "Holy Ones" offer a secret sacrifice in the Temple of Apollo at what time the Bacchantes waken up "Him of the winnowing fan." And that the Greeks hold Bacchus for lord and leader not only of the wine but of the whole element of Moisture, Pindar is sufficient testimony where he says, "May Bacchus that rejoiceth greatly in trees and pastures, augment the pure light of Autumn," for which reason it is forbidden to those that worship Osiris to destroy any cultivated tree, or to stop up any spring of water.
XXXVI. For not the Nile only, but all moisture in general they call the "Issue of Osiris," and the water vase always leads the procession of the priests in honour of the god, and by the figure of a fig-leaf they represent a king, and the Southern quarter of the world; and the fig-leaf is interpreted as the watering and stimulation of all things, and it is supposed to resemble in its shape the organ of generation. And when they celebrate (as already stated) the feast of Pamylia, which is a phallic one, they expose and carry about an image of which the genital member is thrice the natural size; for the god is the Final Cause, and every Final Cause multiplied by generation a function, that which proceeds from itself: and for "often" we are accustomed to say "thrice," for example "thrice-happy," and—
"Three times as many chains, without an end."
Unless perhaps, this triplication of the member was understood by the ancients in its strict sense; inasmuch as the
moist Principle being the Final Cause and origin of all things, has produced from the beginning the three first elements, Earth, Air, Fire. For the tale that is tacked on to the myth, how that Typhon threw away the genital member of Osiris into the River, and that Isis could not find it, but deposited and prepared a model of the same, ordaining that people should honour it and carry the phallus about—all this permits us to infer that the generative and seminal power of the god had first for materials moisture, and by means of moisture was mixed up with the things fitted by Nature to participate in birth. There is another legend of the Egyptians that Apopis, being brother of the Sun, made war upon Jupiter, and that Jupiter adopted for son Osiris who had assisted him, and had brought the war to an end along with him, and surnamed him Bacchus. Of this legend the fabulous character can be shown to contain a touch of truth as regards natural history. For the Egyptians give the name of Jupiter to the breath, to which everything dry and fiery is antagonistic. This latter element is not the Sun, but has a certain affinity to the Sun; now moisture quenching the excess of dryness, augments and strengthens the exhalations by means of which the wind is nourished and made vigorous.
XXXVII. And, moreover, the Greeks consecrate the ivy to Bacchus, and amongst the Egyptians it is called "Kenosiris," the name signifying (as they say) the "plant of Osiris"—Ariston, therefore, who wrote the "Colonies of the Athenians," met with an epistle of Alexarchus (a writer without any knowledge of the subject) in which it is related that Bacchus, being son of Isis, was not called "Osiris" by the Egyptians, but "Arsaphes" (in his First Book), this name signifying manliness. Hermæus, too, declares the same thing in his First Book "Upon the
Egyptians," for he says that Osiris" interpreted is "weighty." I pass by Mnaseas who identifies with Epaphus both Bacchus, Osiris, and Serapis; I also pass over Anticlidas who, says that Isis was daughter of Prometheus, and consort of Bacchus—for the above-stated peculiarities in the sacrifices and ceremonies carry with them proof more convincing than any testimony.
XXXVIII. Of the stars, they hold Sirius to be Isis’ Water-carrier, they honour the Lion, and decorate the gateways of temples with gaping lions’ heads, because the Nile swells:—
"When first the Sun doth with the Lion join."
And as they hold and believe the Nile the issue of Osiris, so do they regard the earth as the body of Isis: not indeed the whole earth but just as much as the Nile inundates, fecundating and mingling with it; for from the union they beget Horus. Horus is that which preserves and nourishes all thing, namely the Seasons and the regulator of the circumambient air; and they tell that he was nursed by Leto in the marshes round Buto, because the watery and thoroughly soaked earth chiefly nurses the exhalations that quench and relax the dryness and drought of the air. "Nephthys" they call the remotest parts and boundaries of the land, and those contiguous to the sea; for which reason they style Nephthys the "end," and say that she is the consort of Typhon. And when the Nile rising beyond the usual height, and growing great, approaches on the opposite side towards the extremities of the country, they call this the copulation of Osiris with Nephthys, which is betrayed by the springing up of plants; amongst which is the melilote, by which flowers having fallen off and been left behind (by Osiris) Typhon made the discovery of the injury done to his bed: from which same copulation
Isis indeed conceived Horus legitimately, but Nephthys had Anubis, a bastard. However, in the "Successions of the Kings" they record that Nephthys, being married to Typhon, was at first barren, and if they tell this not of a woman, but of a goddess, they express enigmatically that the entire extent of the country was unproductive, and bore no crops from barrenness.
XXXIX. The conspiracy and tyranny of Typhon means the power of drought getting the better of, and destroying the moisture that both generates and augments the Nile: and his helper, the Queen of the Ethiopians, signifies the south winds from Ethiopia; for when these prevail over the Etesian winds (which drive the clouds towards Ethiopia), and hinder them from dissolving into rains and swelling the Nile, then does Typhon take possession and burn; and at that time he has completely mastered the Nile, which through weakness is contracted and shrunk up within itself; and drives it out, hollow and humble, into the sea: for the shutting up of Osiris in the coffer probably means nothing else than the concealment and disappearance of the water: for which reason they say that Osiris vanished in the month Athyr, at which time, the Etesian winds having entirely ceased, the Nile recedes, and the country is laid bare, and night lengthening, darkness is increased, and the power of light wastes away and is subdued, and the priests also perform other dismal rites, and cover a gilt ox with a black veil of linen; and so exhibit it in mourning for the goddess (for they consider the ox as the animated image of Osiris) for four consecutive days, beginning with the seventeenth. For the things mourned for are four in number: first, the Nile failing and shrinking; secondly, the Northerly breezes entirely extinguished through the Southerly getting the upper hand; thirdly, the day growing shorter than the night; and in addition to all this, the exposure of the
land, coupled with the stripping of the trees, which cast their leaves at that very time. But on the nineteenth at night they go down to the sea, and the "Dressers" and priests bring out the sacred coffer containing a little golden ark, into which they take and pour water from the river, and a shout is raised by the assistants, as though Osiris had been found: next, they knead garden earth with this water, and mingling therewith frankincense and precious spices, they model a little image in the shape of the Moon, and this they robe and decorate, expressing thereby that they hold these deities to be the Principles of Earth and Water.
XL. But when Isis has recovered Osiris, and is making Horus grow, strengthened by means of exhalations clouds and mists, Typhon has been conquered indeed, but not destroyed, because the goddess of the Earth hath not suffered the Principle opposed to moisture to be entirely exterminated, but she lowered and slackened the same, wishing that the mixture might still continue: inasmuch as it was not possible for the world to be complete if the fiery principle failed and were exterminated, and if all this is not told in so many words, yet one may not reasonably regret the story that Typhon of old conquered the party of Osiris. For Egypt was once sea; for which cause many places in the mines and in the mountains are found to contain shells to the present day; and all springs, and wells, whereof there are many, have their water brackish and bitter; as though being a stale remnant of the former sea which had collected there. But in time, Osiris got the better of Typhon; that is a good season of rains having cone on the Nile drove off the sea, and brought to light the flat ground, and filled up the same with its alluvial deposits: a thing that has for it the testimony of our senses: for we see even now that through the River's perpetually bringing down fresh mud, and adding on the
land, the deep water gradually recedes, and the sea runs back, in consequence of the bottom rising up through the alluvial deposit: and the Pharos which Homer knew as distant a day's sail from Egypt, is new a part thereof: not that the island itself has grown larger, or come nearer, but because the sea has retreated through the river's forming and making the mainland to grow. This however is of the same kind with the theological theories of the Stoics, for they too say that the generative and nutritive spirit is Bacchus; the impulsive and separative, Hercules; the receptive, Ammon; Ceres and Proserpine, that which pervades the earth and her fruits; and Neptune that pervading the sea.
XLI. But such as mix with these physical doctrines others derived from astrology and the mathematics, think that Typhon signifies the solar world, and Osiris the Lunar: for that the moon having her light of a fertilising and more watery nature is favourable to the breeding of animals and the growing of plants: but that the sun is ordained with his unmitigated light to heat and parch up things that grow up and flourish, and to render the great part of the earth utterly uninhabitable through his blazing, and also to get the better of the Moon herself. For which reason the Egyptians always call Typhon "Seth," which signifies that which tyrannises, and which forcibly constrains, and they fable that Hercules resides in the Sun, and travels about with him, but Hermes does the same with the Moon; for the effects of the Moon resemble the actions of reason, and those dictated by wisdom; whereas those of the Sun are like strokes brought to pass through violence and force, and the Stoics say that the Sun is set on fire, and derives his nutriment from the sea, whereas to the Moon the fountain
and lacustrine waters send up a sweet and gentle exhalation.
XLII. On the seventeenth day of the month took place, as the Egyptians fable, the death of Osiris, on which day the full Moon being completed becomes most conspicuous: on which account the Pythagoreans call that day "Antiphraxis," (precaution); and generally abominate that particular number, for sixteen being a square number and eighteen having sides of unequal length which alone of the integral numbers have the peculiarity of possessing external measurements equal to the areas contained by them, the seventeen intruding hedges off and disjoins them from one another, and distracts the proportion of one to eight, because it is itself cut up into unequal parts. The number of years that some say Osiris lived, others that he reigned, was eight-and-twenty: for just so many are the lights of the moon, and for so many days doth she revolve about her circle. By the wood they cut down at the so-called burials of Osiris, and construct therewith a crescent-shaped coffer, they signify that the Moon when she approaches the Sun, becomes crescent-shaped and hides herself: and the tearing up of Osiris into fourteen parts they interpret of the days during which the luminary wanes after full moon, until the new moon, and the day when she first appears after escaping the brightness of, and passing by the Sun, they style "Imperfect Good"; for Osiris is a doer of good, and his name signifies many things, but especially, as they say, "the power that is active and beneficial"; and the other name of Osiris, namely, "Ompis" means, according to Hermaeus, by interpretation "Benefactor."
XLIII. For they are of opinion that to the lights of the Moon the risings of the Nile bear a certain analogy: for the greatest rising, that about Elephantine, is of eight-and-twenty cubits, the same in number as the lights and measures of her monthly revolutions, the lowest, around Mendes and Xois, is of six cubits, analogous to her half-quartering; and the mean, that round Memphis, when it is of the regular height, is fourteen cubits, corresponding to the full moon. Apis, they say, is the animated image of Osiris, and he is conceived when a generative light falls strongly from the Moon, and touches a cow that is in heat; for which cause many of the decorations of Apis resemble the appearances of the Moon; for he blackens over his shining parts with dusky robes, because it is on the new moon of the month Phamenath that they hold the festival, called by them "the Entrance of Osiris into the Moon"; being the commencement of spring. Thus they place the power of Osiris within the Moon, and say that Isis, being cause of his birth is also his consort. On this account they call the Moon the Mother of Saturn, and hold that she is of hermaphrodite nature, for she is filled and impregnated by the Sun, and again she emits and disseminates in the air generative principles: for that she doth not always express the mischief wrought by Typhon; but being after conquered by the birth, and bound thereby, she nevertheless emerges again and fights her way through to Horus: this latter is the universe surrounding the earth, which is not entirely exempt either from generation or destruction.
XLIV. Some make an allegory out of the rule of the eclipses, for the Moon is eclipsed at her full, when the Sun holds the station opposite to her when she falls into the shadow of the earth, in the same way as they tell Osiris did into the coffer; and she herself, upon the thirtieth conceals and puts out of sight, yet does not altogether destroy,
the Sun, as neither did Isis Typhon. And when Nephthys conceives Anubis, Isis adopts him, for Nephthys signifies what is under the earth and invisible; Isis, what is above ground and visible; and the circle touching these, called the Horizon, and common to both, has been named Anubis, and is figured as a dog; for the dog has the use of his sight both by night and by day; and Anubis appears to have the same office with the Egyptians that Hermes has with the Greeks, being both infernal and celestial. Some, however, think that Anubis signifies Time, wherefore as he brings forth all things out of himself, and conceives all things within himself, he gets the title of Dog. Besides, the votaries of Anubis celebrate a certain mystery, and in old times the dog enjoyed the highest honours in Egypt. But when Cambyses had slain the apis and cast him out, nothing approached, or tasted of the carcase, except the dog, so he lost his place of the first, and the most honoured of all the other animals. And there are some that think he is the shadow of the earth into which the Moon passes when she is eclipsed, and they call him Typhon.
XLV. From all which, it is not unreasonable to conclude that no one singly says what is right, and that all collectively do so; for it is neither drought, nor wind, nor the sea, nor darkness, but generally every hurtful and mischievous part that earth contains, which belongs to Typhon. For we must not place the principles of the all in lifeless bodies, as do Democritus and Epicurus: nor yet assume as modeller of untreated matter, one Reason and one Providence, like the Stoics, that prevails over and subdues all things: for it is impossible that anything at all, whether bad or good, should exist, where God is cause of nothing. For the harmony of the universe is reciprocal, like that
of a lyre or bow, according to Heraclitus, and according to Euripides:—
"Evil and good cannot occur apart;
There is a mixture to make all go well."
Consequently this is a most ancient notion, that comes down from theologians and lawgivers to poets and philosophers, which has its origin unattributed, but the belief therein strong and not to be effaced, not consisting in words and reports, but in ceremonies and sacrifices, of Barbarians and Greeks alike, and diffused in many places, that neither is the Universe without mind, without reason, and without guidance, and tossed about at random, nor yet is there One Reason that rules and directs all things as it were, by a rudder and by guiding reins, but that there are many such directors, and made up out of good and bad; or rather, to speak generally, inasmuch as Nature produces nothing unmixed here below, it is not one Dispenser that like a retail dealer mixes together things for us out of two vessels and distributes the same, but it is from two opposite Principles and two antagonistic Powers; the one guiding us to the right hand and along the straight road, the other upsetting and rebuffing us, that Life becomes of a mixed nature; and also the Universe (if not the whole, yet that which surrounds Earth, and lies below the Moon), is made inconsistent with itself, and variable and susceptible of frequent changes. For if nothing can happen without cause, and good cannot furnish cause for evil, it follows that the nature of Evil, as of Good, must have an origin and principle of its own.
XLVI. And this is the opinion of most men, and those
the wisest, for they believe, some that there are Two Gods, as it were of opposite trades—one the creator of good, the other of bad things; others call the better one "God," the other "Dæmon," as did Zoroaster the Magian, who, they record, lived 5,000 years before the Trojan War. He therefore calls the former "Oromazes," the latter "Arimanios;" and furthermore explains that of all the objects of sense, the one most resembles Light, the other Darkness, and Ignorance; and that Mithras is between the two, for which reason the Persians call Mithras the "Mediator," and he [Zoroaster] taught them to offer sacrifice of vows and thanksgiving to the one, of deprecation and mourning to the other. For they bruise a certain herb called "omoine" in a mortar and invoke Hades and Darkness, and mixing it with the blood of a wolf they have sacrificed, they carry away and throw it into a place where the Sun never comes, for of plants they believe some to belong to the good God, others to the evil Dæmon; and similarly of animals, dogs, birds, and land hedgehogs belong to the Good, but to the Bad One water rats, for which reason they hold happy men that have killed the greatest number of such things.
XLVII. They too, nevertheless, tell many fabulous stories concerning their gods—for example, the following: that Oromazes sprang out of the purest Light, but Arimanios out of Darkness; they wage war upon each other. Oromazes created six gods, the first of Goodwill, the second of Truth, the third of Order, of the rest one of Wisdom, one of Wealth, one of Pleasure in things beautiful. The other God created, as it were, opponents to these deities, equal in number. Then Oromazes, having augmented himself threefold, severed from the Sun as much space as the Sun is distant from Earth, and adorned the heavens with stars; and one star he appointed before all for guard
and look out, namely Sirius. And having created four-and-twenty other gods, he shut them up in an egg; but those made by Arimanios, being as many as they, pierced the egg that had been laid, and so the bad things were mixed up with the good. But a time appointed by fate is coming, in which Arimanios having brought on famine and pestilence must needs be destroyed by the same and utterly vanish; when the earth becoming plain and level there shall be one life and one government of men, all happy and of one language. Theopompus says that, according to the Magi, one of the Gods shall conquer, the other be conquered, alternately for 3,000 years; for another 3,000 years they shall fight, war, and undo one the works of the other; but in the end Hades shall fail, and men shall be happy, neither requiring food nor constructing shelter: whilst the God who hath contrived all this is quiet and resting himself for a time, for that God may well slumber, but not long, like as a man reposing for a moderate space. The religious system of the Magi is of the aforesaid character.
XLVIII. The Chaldeans hold that the gods belong to the planets, of whom two they call "doers of good," two "makers of evil;" the other three they describe as intermediate and neutral. But the notions of the Greeks are, I suppose, plain enough to every one, for they make the good part that of the Olympian Jove, that of the hostile deity they give to Hades; and they fable that Harmony was the child of Venus and Mars, of whom the one is cruel and quarrelsome, the other gentle, and presiding over birth. Consider too the philosophers that side with them, for Heraclitus directly calls Mars, father, lord, and ruler of all things; and says that Homer, when he prays that
"Perish Contention, both from gods and men,"
forgets that he is cursing the origin of all things, inasmuch
as they derive their origin from contention and antipathy, and the Sun will not overpass his appointed limits, otherwise:
"The avenging tongue of Law would find him out,"
and Empedocles calls the Beneficent Principle "Love" and "Friendship," and frequently too, Harmony, "with glowing face," but the Evil Principle he styles
"Contentiousness accurst, and blood-stained War."
Now the Pythagoreans characterize these Principles by several names: the Good One, as the "One," the "Definite," the "Abiding," the "Straight," the "Exceeding," the "Square," the "Equal," the "Right-handed," the "Bright;" the Bad One as the "Two," the "Indefinite," the "Unstable," the "Crooked," the "Sufficient," the "Unequally-sided" (parallelogram), the "Unequal," the "Left-handed," the "Dark"—inasmuch as these are supposed the final causes of existence—Anaxagoras defines them as "Mind," and the "Infinite;" Aristotle, the one as "Form," the other as "Deprival." Plato, as it were mystifying and veiling the matter, denominates in many places one of the opposing Principles as "The Same;" the second, as "The Other;" but in his "Laws," being now grown older, he no longer speaks in riddles and symbolically, but names them directly. "Not by one soul," says he, "was the universe set in motion, but by several, perhaps, at all events, by not less than Two; whereof the one is beneficent, the other antagonistic to this, and the creator of opposite effects: and there is room for a Third Principle to exist, one intermediate between the Two, which is neither destitute of soul, nor of reason, nor of impulse from within (as some suppose), but subordinate to those Two Principles, ever seeking after the Better One, and desiring and following after it," as the part of the treatise
which follows will show, for he adopts into this system chiefly the religious notions of the Egyptians.
XLIX. For the origin and constitution of this world are mixed, being formed out of opposite principles—not, however, of equal force with each other, but the superiority belonging to the Better One. But it is impossible that the Bad One should be entirely destroyed, as it is largely implanted in the body, largely in the soul of the all, and always contending against the Better One. Now in the soul, Mind, and Reason, the best masters and guides, are Osiris; but in Earth and Water, Winds and Stars, that which is ordered, permanent, and healthy, in seasons, temperament, and revolutions, are the issue of Osiris, and the image of him made visible. But Typhon is the part of the soul that is subject to the passions, Titan-like, unreasonable, and impulsive; but of the body (he is) the part that is unsound, subject to disease, and liable to disturbance by bad seasons and inclement weather, by the concealments of the Sun, and the disappearances of the Moon—such as deviations from its course, vanishings, and whirlwinds. And the name "Seth," by which they call Typhon, proves this; for it signifies "That which tyrannizes and constrains by force," it likewise signifies a "return," and again an "overleaping." Bebaeon, again, some say, was one of the companions of Typhon, whilst Manethos asserts that Typhon was called "Bebon," and that the name signifies a "holding back," and "hindrance,"—implying that the power of Typhon stands in the way of things going on regularly and towards their proper end.
L. For which reason, they give him for attribute the most stupid of all tame animals, namely, the ass; and of the wild, the most savage, namely, the crocodile and the hippopotamus. With respect to the ass we have already explained the meaning, but at Hermopolis they show as a figure of Typhon a hippopotamus, upon which stands a
hawk fighting with a serpent; by the hippopotamus signifying Typhon, by the hawk power and virtue, [or sovereignty,] which Typhon frequently gains by force, and never ceases to be disturbed by his own wickedness, and to disturb others; for which cause when they sacrifice on the 7th of the month Sybi (which they call "The Coming of Isis out of Phœnicia") they stamp upon the consecrated cakes the figure of a hippopotamus bound. In the city Apollinopolis, it is the custom that every one must by all means eat a bit of crocodile [once a year]. And on one day they catch and kill as many crocodiles as they can, and lay them out in front of the temple, saying that Typhon ran away from Horus changing himself into a crocodile,—thus making out all animals, plants, and feelings, that are noxious and bad, to be the productive parts and instigations of Typhon.
LI. Osiris, on the contrary, they represent by an eye and a sceptre, whereof the one signifies foresight, the other power; in the same way as Homer by calling Jupiter, who governs and reigns over all, by the titles "Supreme" and "Knowing," probably indicates by the "Supreme" his power, by the "Knowing" his good counsel and intelligence. They frequently represent this god by the figure of a hawk, for that bird excels all in acuteness of sight and swiftness of flying; and by nature digests its food most rapidly of all. The bird is also said, when corpses are lying about unburied, to hover over them, and drop earth upon their eyes. And when in order to drink it descends upon the river, it sets its wings upright, and having drank bends them back again; by which it is evident that it protects itself, and escapes from the crocodile, for if it should be swallowed up, the wing remains as it stood, fixed upright. In many places also, they exhibit a statue of Osiris in the
human shape, erecting the genitals, on account of his generative and nutritive character, whilst the flame-coloured robe investing his images, is [put] because they regard the Sun as the body of the Good Principle, the visible form of the Intelligible Being. Hence we ought to pay no attention to such as assign to Typhon the sphere of the Sun—he that has nothing bright, nor salutary, neither order, nor power of generating, nor motion regulated by measure and reason; but all the opposite qualities belong to him. For drought which destroys many things, both of animals and vegetables, must not be put down as the effect of the Sun, but of the winds and waters in earth and air not being seasonably mingled together, when the Principle of disorderly and unregulated force has got loose and has extinguished the exhalations.
LII. In the sacred hymns to Osiris they invoke "Him that is carried within the arms of the Sun," and on the 30th day of the mouth Emphi they celebrate "the Birthday of the Eyes of Horus," when the Sun and the Moon are come into one straight line, inasmuch as they consider not the Moon alone, but the Sun also as the eye and the light of Horus. And on the 8th day from the end of the month Phaophi they celebrate that of "The Sun's walking-stick," after the autumnal equinox, signifying that he requires as it were a support, and strengthening, as he grows weak both in heat and light, and moves away from us, bending down, and crooked. And again upon the eve of the winter solstice they carry the Cow seven times around the temple; and this circular procession is named the "Seeking for Osiris," as though the goddess were longing for the winter rays from the Sun; and they walk round so many times, because he completes his journey from the winter solstice to the summer solstice in the seventh month. And on the 4th day from the beginning of the month it is said that Horus, son of Isis, was the first that offered sacrifice,
as it is written in what are entitled "The Birthdays of Horus," and in fact they on each day burn incense to the Sun of three different sorts, namely, resin at his rising, myrrh at noontide, that which is called "kyphi," at his setting, of which the signification that each bears I will explain further on; and by means of all these they believe they propitiate and worship the Sun. And what need is there to bring together many things to the same effect? There are some that assert point-blank that Osiris is the Sun, and is named Sirius by the Greeks (for amongst the Egyptians the prefixing of the article has caused the name to be mistaken ), and make out Isis to be no other than the Moon; and one particular of her images, those figured with horns, are (say they) imitations of the crescent; whilst by those covered with black they interpret her wanings, and envelopment in darkness, during which she longs for, and follows after the Sun: for which reason they invoke the Moon for aid in love affairs; and Isis, says Eudoxus, presides over amours. These stories, indeed, have a certain share of plausibility, but as for those that make out Typhon to be the Sun, these are not even to be listened to. Let us, however, now resume our proper theme.
LIII. For Isis is the Female Principle of Nature, and that which is capable of receiving all generation, in virtue of which she is styled by Plato, "Nurse," and "All-receiving," but by the generality, "The one of numberless names;" because she is converted by the Logos (Reason) into, and receives, all appearances and forms. But she has, implanted in her nature, the love for the First and Supreme of all, the which is identical with the Good, and this she longs after and continually pursues: whereas the part that belongs to the Bad One she flees from and repels,
though she is the field and material for them both; of herself always inclining towards the Better One, and permitting it to generate and discharge into herself emissions and likenesses, wherewith she rejoices and is glad to be impregnated, and to be filled with births—for birth is an image of existence in Matter, and that which is born is a copy of that which is.
LIV. From all this, they do not absurdly to fable that the soul of Osiris is eternal and incorruptible, but that his body Typhon did tear to pieces and put out of sight; and Isis wandered about, sought for it, and joined it together again; for that which is, the Intelligible and the Good, is above all change or corruption, but the Sensible and Corporeal models certain images after His likeness, and borrows certain rational principles, forms, and resemblances, which, like seal-impressions in wax, do not last for ever, but the disorderly and turbulent Principle, driven down hither from above, seizes upon them—that Principle which is at war with the Horus whom Isis bore, who is the Sensible image of the Intelligible World. For this reason he (Horus) is related to have had a charge of illegitimacy brought against him by Typhon, because he is not pure and without alloy like his father the Word (Reason), (who exists by himself free from admixture and from passion), but is bastardized by Matter, on account of his bodily part. Nevertheless he gains his cause through Hermes, that is the Word (Reason), bearing witness and proving how that Nature changing her from after the model of the Intelligible, produces the World. For the birth of Apollo that came to pass between Isis and Osiris, whilst the (twin) gods as yet lay within the womb of Rhea, darkly expresses that this world first became visible, and that Matter, being proved to be incomplete in itself, was perfected by the Word (Reason), and thus produced the first birth. On which account they tell that this god was lame and lying
in darkness, and they name him the "Elder Horus;" for the world did not exist, but an image as it were, a spectre of the world that was to be.
LV. Now this Horus is well-defined, and complete, he has not destroyed Typhon utterly, but stripped him of his activity and strength: for which reason they say the statue of Horus at Coptos grasps in his one hand the genitals of Typhon, and they fable that Hermes cut out the sinews of Typhon, and used them for lyre strings, thereby meaning that the Word brought the all into harmony, made it concordant out of discordant parts, and did not destroy its destructive principle, but merely ham-strung it. Hence, this principle is weak and inoperative here below, mingling itself and clinging close to such members as are subject to corruption and to change, it is the creator of earthquakes and tremors in the ground, of droughts in the air, and strange blasts; and, again, of whirlwinds and lightnings. and it infects waters and winds with pestilences, and rears up and tosses itself as far as the Moon, oftentimes checking and darkening her lustre, as the Egyptians believe. And they tell that Typhon at one time hit Horus; at another struck out his eye and swallowed it up, and then gave it back to the Sun; signifying by blow the monthly waning of the Moon, by blinding, her eclipse, which the Sun remedies, when he again reflects himself upon her, after she has passed through the shadow of the earth.
LVI. Now the better and more divine Nature is made up of Three—the Intelligible, Matter, and that formed out of these two, which the Greeks denominate World. Plato calls the Intelligible "Idea," "Model," "Father," and Matter he terms "Mother," "Nurse," the seat and receptacle of generation; and that which results from both he is accustomed to denominate "Issue," and "Birth," and we may conjecture that the Egyptians [reverence] the
most beautiful kind of triangle, because they liken it to the nature of the universe, and Plato seems to employ this figure in his "Republic," when drawing up his Marriage scheme. The triangle, too, has this property—three the right angle, and four the base, and five the hypothenuse, being of equal value with the lines containing it. We must therefore compare the line forming the right angle to the male, the base to the female, the hypothenuse to the child of the two; and the one to be Osiris, as the Final Cause; the other, Isis as the recipient; the third, Horus as the result; for as to the Three, the first, it is uneven and perfect; for the Four, a square with a perfect side, is the produce of the Two: as for the Five, it partly resembles the father, partly the mother, being made up of the three and the two; also the All derives its name from the Five (πάντα, πέντε) and to reckon is called "counting by fives," for the number Five produces when squared the same number as that of the letters of the Egyptian alphabet, and also the number of years that Apis lived. Horus they are accustomed to style "Kaimis," that is "He that is seen," for the world is an object of sense, and visible to the eye; and Isis is sometimes styled "Mouth," sometimes "Athyri" and "Methyer;" by the first of these names they signify "Mother," by the second "The worldly house of Horus" (in the same way as Plato has the "Seat" and "Receptacle of generation"); the third title is a compound from "full" and "cause," because Matter is full of the world; and is made up of that which is good, pure, and well arranged.