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Legends Of The Gods The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations

Page: 88

[In Sec. XXIV. Plutarch goes on to say that the Assyrians commemorate Semiramis, the Egyptians Sesostris, the Phrygians Manis or Masdis, the Persians Cyrus, and the Macedonians Alexander, yet these [heroes] are not regarded as gods by their peoples. The kings who have accepted the title of gods have afterwards had to suffer the reproach of vanity and presumption, and impiety and injustice.]

[SECOND EXPLANATION OF THE STORY.]

XXV. There is another and a better method which some employ in explaining this story. They assert that what is related of Typhon, Osiris, and Isis is not to be regarded as the afflictions of gods, or of mere mortals, but rather as the adventures of certain great Daemons. These beings, they say, are supposed by some of the wisest of the Greek philosophers, that is to say, Plato, Pythagoras, Xenocrates, and Chrysippus, in accordance with what they had learned from ancient theologians, to be stronger and more powerful than men, and of a nature superior to them. They are, at the same time, inferior to the pure and unmixed nature of the gods, as partaking of the sensations of the body, as well as of the perceptions of the soul, and consequently liable to pain as well as pleasure, and to such other appetites and affections, as flow from their various combinations. Such affections, however, have a greater power and influence over some of them than over others, just as there are different degrees of virtue and vice found in these Daemons as well as in mankind. In like manner, the wars of the Giants and the Titans which are so much spoken of by the Greeks, the detestable actions of Kronos, the combats between Apollo and the Python, the flights of Dionysos, and the wanderings of Demeter, are exactly of the same nature as the adventures of Osiris and Typhon. Therefore, they all are to be accounted for in the same manner, and every treatise of mythology will readily furnish us with an abundance of other similar instances. The same thing may also be affirmed of those other things which are so carefully concealed under the cover of mysteries and imitations.

[In Sec. XXVI. Plutarch points out that Homer calls great and good men "god-like" and "God's compeers," but the word Daemon is applied to the good and bad indifferently (see Odyssey, vi. 12; Iliad, xiii. 810, v. 438, iv. 31, &c.). Plato assigns to the Olympian Gods good things and the odd numbers, and the opposite to the Daemons. Xenocrates believed in the existence of a series of strong and powerful beings which take pleasure in scourgings and fastings, &c. Hesiod speaks of "holy daemons" (Works and Days, 126) and "guardians of mankind," and "bestowers of wealth," and these are regarded by Plato as a "middle order of beings between the gods and men, interpreters of the wills of the gods to men, and ministering to their wants, carrying the prayers and supplications of mortals to heaven, and bringing down thence in return oracles and all other blessings of life." Empedocles thought that the Daemons underwent punishment, and that when chastened and purified they were restored to their original state.]


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