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Legends Of The Gods The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations

Page: 82

[FN#304] In Egyptian, Khebt, in the VIIIth nome of Lower Egypt.

XV. At length Isis received more particular news that the chest had been carried by the waves of the sea to the coast of Byblos, and there gently lodged in the branches of a bush of tamarisk, which in a short time had grown up into a large and beautiful tree, and had grown round the chest and enclosed it on every side so completely that it was not to be seen. Moreover, the king of the country, amazed at its unusual size, had cut the tree down, and made that part of the trunk wherein the chest was concealed into a pillar to support the roof of his house. These things, they say, having been made known to Isis in an extraordinary manner by the report of demons, she immediately went to Byblos, where, setting herself down by the side of a fountain, she refused to speak to anybody except the queen's women who chanced to be there. These, however, she saluted and caressed in the kindest manner possible, plaiting their hair for them, and transmitting into them part of that wonderful odour which issued from her own body. This raised a great desire in the queen their mistress to see the stranger who had this admirable faculty of transfusing so fragrant a smell from herself into the hair and skin of other people. She therefore sent for her to court, and, after a further acquaintance with her, made her nurse to one of her sons. Now, the name of the king who reigned at this time at Byblos was Melkander (Melkarth?), and that of his wife was Astarte, or, according to others, SaƓsis, though some call her Nemanoun, which answers to the Greek name Athenais.

XVI. Isis nursed the child by giving it her finger to suck instead of the breast. She likewise put him each night into the fire in order to consume his mortal part, whilst, having transformed herself into a swallow, she circled round the pillar and bemoaned her sad fate. This she continued to do for some time, till the queen, who stood watching her, observing the child to be all of a flame, cried out, and thereby deprived him of some of that immortality which would otherwise have been conferred upon him. The goddess then made herself known, and asked that the pillar which supported the roof might be given to her. Having taken the pillar down, she cut it open easily, and having taken out what she wanted, she wrapped up the remainder of the trunk in fine linen, and having poured perfumed oil over it, she delivered it again into the hands of the king and queen. Now, this piece of wood is to this day preserved in the temple, and worshipped by the people of Byblos. When this was done, Isis threw herself upon the chest, and made at the same time such loud and terrible cries of lamentation over it, that the younger of the king's sons who heard her was frightened out of his life. But the elder of them she took with her, and set sail with the chest for Egypt. Now, it being morning the river Phaedrus sent forth a keen and chill air, and becoming angry she dried up its current.


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