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Legends Of The Gods The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations

Page: 78

[FN#278] Bunches of onions were offered to the dead at all periods of Egyptian history, and they were regarded as typical of the "white teeth" of Horus. The onion was largely used in medicine.

[FN#279] The pig was associated with Set, or Typhon, and the black variety was specially abominated because it was a black pig which struck Horus in the eye, and damaged it severely. See Book of the Dead, Chap. CXII.

[FN#280] In Egyptian, TAFNEKHT, the first king of the XXIVth Dynasty.

[FN#281] An unlikely story, for Tafnekht had no authority at Thebes.

IX. Now, the kings of Egypt were always chosen either out of the soldiery or priesthood, the former order being honoured and respected for its valour, and the latter for its wisdom. If the choice fell upon a soldier, he was immediately initiated into the order of priests, and by them instructed in their abstruse and hidden philosophy, a philosophy for the most part involved in fable and allegory, and exhibiting only dark hints and obscure resemblances of the truth. This the priesthood hints to us in many instances, particularly by the sphinxes, which they seem to have placed designedly before their temples as types of the enigmatical nature of their theology. To this purpose, likewise, is that inscription which they have engraved upon the base of the statue of Athene[FN#282] at Sais, whom they identify with Isis: "I am everything that has been, that is, and that shall be: and my veil no man hath raised." In like manner the word "Amoun," or as it is expressed in the Greek language, "Ammon," which is generally looked upon as the proper name of the Egyptian Zeus, is interpreted by Manetho[FN#283] the Sebennite[FN#284] to signify "concealment" or "something which is hidden."[FN#285] Hecataeus of Abdera indeed tells us that the Egyptians make use of this term when they call out to one another. If this be so, then their invoking Amoun is the same thing as calling upon the supreme being, whom they believe to be "hidden" and "concealed" in the universal nature, to appear and manifest itself to them. So cautious and reserved was the Egyptian wisdom in those things which appertained to religion.

[FN#282] The Egyptian goddess Net, in Greek {greek Nhid}, the great goddess of Sais, in the Western Delta. She was self-existent, and produced her son, the Sun-god, without union with a god. In an address to her, quoted by Mallet (Culte de Neit, p. 140), are found the words, "thy garment hath not been unloosed," thus Plutarch's quotation is correct.

[FN#283] He compiled a History of Egypt for Ptolemy II., and flourished about B.C. 270; only the King-List from this work is preserved.

[FN#284] He was a native of the town of Sebennytus.

[FN#285] Amen means "hidden," and AMEN is the "hidden god."

X. And this is still farther evinced from those voyages which have been made into Egypt by the wisest men among the Greeks, namely, by Solo, Thales Plato, Eudoxus, Pythagoras, and, as some say, even by Lycurgus himself, on purpose to converse with the priests. And we are also told that Eudoxus was a disciple of Chnouphis the Memphite, Solo of Sonchis the Saite, and Pythagoras of Oinuphis the Heliopolite. But none of these philosophers seems either to have been more admired and in greater favour with the priests, or to have paid a more especial regard to their method of philosophising, than this last named, who has particularly imitated their mysterious and symbolical manner in his own writings, and like them conveyed his doctrines to the world in a kind of riddle. For many of the precepts of Pythagoras come nothing short of the hieroglyphical representations themselves, such as, "eat not in a chariot," "sit not on a measure (choenix)," "plant not a palm-tree," and "stir not the fire with a sword in the house." And I myself am of the opinion that, when the Pythagoreans appropriated the names of several of the gods to particular numbers, as that of Apollo to the unit, of Artemis to the duad, of Athene to the seven, and of Poseidon to the first cube, in this they allude to something which the founder of their sect saw in the Egyptian temples, or to some ceremonies performed in them, or to some symbols there exhibited. Thus, their great king and lord Osiris is represented by the hieroglyphics for an eye and a sceptre,[FN#286] the name itself signifying "many-eyed," as we are told by some[FN#287] who would derive it from the words os,[FN#288] "many," and iri,[FN#289] an "eye," which have this meaning in the Egyptian language. Similarly, because the heavens are eternal and are never consumed or wax old, they represent them by a heart with a censer placed under it. Much in the same way are those statues of the Judges at Thebes without hands, and their chief, or president, is represented with his eyes turned downwards, which signifies that justice ought not to be obtainable by bribes, nor guided by favour or affection. Of a like nature is the Beetle which we see engraven upon the seals of the soldiers, for there is no such thing as a female beetle of this species; for they are all males, and they propagate their kind by casting their seed into round balls of dirt, which afford not only a proper place wherein the young may be hatched, but also nourishment for them as soon as they are born.


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