Thrice-Greatest Hermes, Vol. 1, by G.R.S. Mead, [1906]


XLI. 1. Those, however, who combine with the above [considerations] of the Physicists some of the Mathematic [doctrines] derived from star-lore, think that the solar cosmos is called Typhon and the lunar Osiris. [*4]

2. For [they think] that the Moon, in that its light is generative and moistening, is favourable both for breedings of animals and sproutings of plants; whereas the Sun, with untempered and harsh fire, burns and

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withers up [all] that are growing and blowing, and with fiery heat renders the major part of the earth entirely uninhabitable, and in many places utterly masters the Moon.

3. For which cause Egyptians always call Typhon Seth, [*1]--that is, "that which oppresses and constrains by force."

4. And they have a myth that Heracles is settled in the Sun and accompanies him in his revolutions, while Hermes does the same with the Moon.

5. For the [revolutions] of the Moon resemble works of reason (logos) and super-abundant wisdom, while those of the Sun are like penetrating strokes [given] with force and power. [*2]

6. Moreover, the Stoics say that the sun is kept burning and nourished from the sea, [*3] whereas to the Moon the waters of springs and lakes send up a sweet and mild exhalation.

XLII. 1. The Egyptian myth runs that the death of Osiris took place on the seventeenth, when the full-moon is most conspicuously at the full.

2. Wherefore the Pythagoreans call this day also "Interception," [*4] and regard this number as expiable.

3. For the "sixteen" being square and the "eighteen" oblong [*5]--which alone of plane numbers happen to have their perimeters equal to the areas contained by them [*6]--the mean, "seventeen," coming between them, intercepts and divorces them from one another, and divides

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the ratio of "nine" to "eight" [*1] by being cut into unequal intervals.

4. And eight-and-twenty is the number of years which some say Osiris lived, and others that he reigned; [*2] for this is the number of the lights of the Moon, and it rolls out its own circle in this number of days.

5. And at what they call the Burials of Osiris they cut the tree-trunk and make it into a crescent-shaped coffin, because the Moon, when it approaches the Sun, becomes crescent-shaped and hides itself away.

6. And the tearing of Osiris into fourteen pieces they refer enigmatically to the days in which the luminary wanes after full-moon up to new-moon.

7. And the day on which it first appears, escaping from his beams and passing by the Sun, they call "Imperfect Good."

8. For Osiris is "Good-doer." The name, indeed, means many things, but chiefly what they call "Might energising and good-doing." And the other name of the God,--Omphis, Hermaeus [*3] says, means [also] when translated, "Benefactor."

XLIII. 1. Moreover, they think that the risings of the Nile have a certain analogy with the lights of the Moon.

2. For the greatest [rising], about Elephantine, is eight-and-twenty cubits, the same number as are the lights and measures of its monthly periods; and the least, about Mendes and Xois, is of six cubits, [analogous] to the half -moon; while the mean, about Memphis, when it is the right quantity, [is] of fourteen cubits, [analogous] to the full-moon.

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3. And [they consider] the Apis the animated image of Osiris, and that he is conceived whenever generative light from the Moon fastens on a cow in heat.

4. For which cause also many of the markings of the Apis--lights shading off into darks--resemble the configurations of the moon.

5. Moreover, on the new-moon of the month Phamenoth [*1] they keep festival, calling it "Entrance" [*2] of Osiris into the Moon, as it is the beginning of spring.

6. By thus placing the power of Osiris in the Moon, they mean that Isis consorts with him while being [at the same time] the cause of his birth. [*3]

7. For which cause also they call the Moon Mother of the cosmos, and think that she has a male-female nature,--for she is filled by the Sun and made pregnant, and again of herself sends forth and disseminates into the air generative principles.

8. For [they say] she does not always overmaster the destruction wrought by Typhon; [*4] but, though frequently mastered, even when bound hand and foot she frees herself again by her generative power, and fights the way through to Horus.

9. And Horus is the cosmos surrounding the earth--not entirely exempt from destruction either, nor yet from generation.

XLIV. 1. Some, moreover, make out of the myth a riddle of the phenomena of eclipses also.

2. For the Moon is eclipsed at the full, when the Sun has the station opposite it, she entering the shadow of the earth,--just as they say Osiris [entered] the

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coffin. And she again conceals the Sun and causes him to disappear, on the thirtieth [of the month], though she does not entirely destroy him, as neither did Isis Typhon.

3. And when Nephthys conceives Anubis, Isis adopts him. For Nephthys is that which is below the earth and non-manifest, while Isis [is] that which is above the earth and manifest.

4. And the circle just touching them and called "Horizon," as being common to both of them, has been called Anubis, and is likened to a dog for its characteristic; for the dog has the use of its sight both by day and night alike.

5. And Anubis seems to possess this power among Egyptians--just as Hecate with Greeks--being at one and the same time chthonian and olympian. [*1]

6. Some, however, think that Anubis is Kronos; [*2] wherefore as he breeds all things out of himself and conceives (kuun) [all] in himself, he got the name of Dog (kyw'n).

7. There is, then, for the worshippers of Anubis some [mystery] or other that may not be spoken of. [*3]

8. In olden times, indeed, the dog enjoyed the highest honours in Egypt; but seeing that when Cambyses [*4] slew the Apis and cast it out, no [animal] approached or touched its carcase but only the dog, he [thus] lost the [distinction of] being first and most honoured of the rest of the animals.

9. There are some, however, who call the shadow of the earth into which they think the Moon falls and is eclipsed, Typhon.


^318:4 This is a worse guess than even that of the Physicists. Cf. li. 5.

^319:1 Cf. lxii. 2 et al.

^319:2 Cf. the Stoic attributes of Heracles in xl. 7.

^319:3 If this is intended for the Great Sea of Space, it would be credible.

^319:4 antifraxin.

^319:5 Square and Oblong were two of the fundamental "pairs of opposites" among the Pythagoreans. Cf. xlviii. 5.


^320:1 The sesquioctave. In areas 8 is half of 16, and 9 of 18; while in a proportional measuring-rod or canon of 27 units, intervals of 8, 9, and 10 units succeeding one another complete the 27.

^320:2 Cf. xiii. 8, 9.

^320:3 Cf. xxxviii. 2.

^321:1 Copt, the same--roughly corr. to March.

^321:2 embasin--or perhaps "Embarking."

^321:3 That is, is both wife and mother.

^321:4 Typhon being the Sun according to this theory.

^322:1 That is, infernal and celestial.

^322:2 In the sense of Time.

^322:3 This seems to suggest that Plutarch, though he faithfully records what "people say," by no means wishes his readers to believe them.

^322:4 But see xi. 4 and xxxi. 4.

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XLV. 1. From [all of] which it seems not unreasonable to conclude that no simple [explanation] by itself gives the right meaning, but that they all collectively do so.

2. For neither drought nor wind nor sea nor darkness is the essential of Typhon, but the whole hurtful and destructive [element] which is in nature.

3. For we must neither place the principles of the whole in soulless bodies, as [do] Democritus and Epicurus, nor yet assume one Reason (Logos) [only] and one Providence that prevails over and masters all things as demiurge [or artificer] of quality-less matter, as [do] the Stoics.

4. For it is impossible either that anything at all of no worth should exist where God is cause of all, or of worth where [He is cause] of nothing.

5. For "reciprocal" [is] cosmos' "harmony, as that of lyre or bow," according to Heracleitus, [*1] and according to Euripides:

There could not be apart good things and bad,
But there's a blend of both so as to make things fair. [*2]

6. Wherefore this exceedingly ancient doctrine also comes down from the theologers and law-givers to poets and philosophers--[a doctrine] that has its origin set down to no man's name, and yet possessed of credit, strong and not so easy to efface, surviving in many places not in words or voices [*3] only, but also in [secret]

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perfectionings and [public] offerings, both non-Greek and Greek [ones]--that neither does the universe mindless and reason-less and guidance-less float in "That which acts of its own will," nor is there one Reason [only] that rules and guides, as though with rudder as it were and bits obedient to the reins; but that [the universe] is many things and these a blend of evil things and good.

7. Or, rather, seeing that Nature produces nothing, generally speaking, unmixed down here, it is not that from two jars a single mixer, like a tavern-keeper, pouring things out like drinks, mixes them up for us, but that from two opposite principles and two antagonistic powers--the one leading [things] to the right and on the straight [road], the other upsetting and undoing [them]--both life has been made mixed, and cosmos (if not the whole, at anyrate this [cosmos] which surrounds the earth and comes after the Moon) irregular and variable, and susceptible of changes of every kind.

8. For if nothing has been naturally brought into existence without a cause, and Good cannot furnish cause of Bad, the nature of Bad as well as Good must have a genesis and principle peculiar to itself.

XLVI. [*1] 1. And this is the opinion of most of the most wise.

2. For some think there are two craft-rival Gods, as it were,--one the artificer of good [things], the other of [things] worthless. Others call the better "God" and the other "Daimon," as Zoroaster the Mage, who, they tell us, lived five thousand years before the Trojan War.

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3. Zoroaster, then, called the one Oromazes, and the other Areimanios, and further announced that the one resembled light especially of things sensible, and the other, contrariwise, darkness and ignorance, while that between the two was Mithres; wherefore the Persians call Mithres the Mediator.

4. He taught them, moreover, to make offerings of gladsome prayers to the one, and to the other of melancholy de-precations.

5. For bruising a certain plant called "moly" [*1] in a mortar, they invoke Hades and Darkness; then mixing it with the blood of a wolf whose throat has been cut, they carry it away and cast it into a sunless spot.

6. For they think that both of plants some are of the Good God and others of the Evil Daimon; and of animals, dogs, for instance, and birds [*2] and hedgehogs of the Good, and water-rats of the Bad; wherefore they consider fortunate the man who kills the largest number [of the last].

XLVII. 1. Not that they also do not tell many mythic stories about the Gods; such as are, for example, the following:

Oromazes, born from the purest light, and Areimanios, of the nether darkness, are at war with one another.

2. And the former made six Gods: the first of good mind, the second of truth, the third of good order, and of the rest, one of wisdom, one of wealth, and the producer of things sweet following things fair; while the latter [made] craft-rivals as it were to those equal in number.

3. Then Oromazes having tripled himself, removed himself from the sun so far as the sun is distant from the earth, and adorned the heaven with stars; and he

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established one star above all as warder and look-out, [namely] Sirius.

4. And having made four-and-twenty other gods, he put them into an egg.

Whereupon those that were made from Areimanios, just the same in number, piercing through the egg . . . [*1]--whence the bad have been mingled with the good.

5. But a time appointed by Fate will come when Areimanios's letting loose of pestilence and famine must be utterly brought to an end, and made to vanish by these [good gods], and the earth becoming plane and level, there must ensue one mode of life and one way of government for men, all being happy and one-tongued. [*2]

6. Theopompus, however, says that, according to the Magi, for three thousand years alternately one of the Gods conquers and the other is conquered, and for yet another three thousand years they fight and war, and each undoes the work of the other.

7. But that in the end Hades fails, and men shall be happy, neither requiring food nor casting shadow; [*3] while the God who has contrived these things is still and at rest for a time--not otherwise long for a God, but proportionate to a man's sleeping.

8. The style of myth among the Magi, then, is somewhat after this manner.

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XLVIII. 1. Moreover, Chaldaeans declare that of the planets--which they call birth-presiding gods--two are good workers, two ill-doers, while three are intermediates and common.

2. As for the dogmas of the Greeks, they are, I take it, plain to all, ascribing as they do the good allotment to Olympian Zeus, and that which has to be averted to Hades.

3. Moreover, they have a myth that Harmony is the child of Aphrodite and Ares, the latter of whom is harsh and strife-loving, while the former is gentle and a lover of love-striving.

4. For Heracleitus plainly calls "War"--"father and king and lord of all," [*1] and says that Homer, when he prays "that strife and hatred cease from gods as well," [*2] forgets that he is imprecating the means of birth of all, in that they have their genesis from conflict and antipathy; that:

"Sun will not o'erstep his proper bounds, for if he do, Furies, Eight's bodyguard, will find him out." [*3]

5. The Pythagorics [also], in a list of names, set down the predicates of Good as--One, Finite, Abiding, Straight, Odd, Square, Equal, Right, Light; and of Bad as--Two, Infinite, Moving, Curved, Even, Oblong, Unequal, Left, Dark,--on the ground that these are the underlying principles of genesis.

6. Aristotle [also predicates] the former as Form and the latter as Privation.

7. While Plato, though in many passages disguising himself and hiding his face, calls the former of the opposite principles Same and the latter Other.

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8. But in his Laws, being now older, no longer in riddles and in symbols, but with authentic names, he says [*1] cosmos is moved not by one soul, but probably by several, in any case not less than two,--whereof the one is good-doing, the other the opposite to this and maker of things opposite.

9. He leaves out, however, a certain third intermediate nature, neither soul-less nor reason-less nor motion-less of itself, as some think, [*2] but depending on both of them, and for ever longing for and desiring and following after the better, as the following [passages] of the argument (logos), [*3] combining as it does for the most part the theology of the Egyptians with their philosophy, show.

XLIX. 1. For though the genesis and composition of this cosmos has been blended from opposing, though not equal-strengthed, powers, the lordship is nevertheless that of the Better [one].

2. Still it is impossible the Worse should be entirely destroyed, as it is largely innate in the body and largely in the soul of the universe, and ever in desperate conflict with the Better.

3. In the Soul [of cosmos], then, Mind and Reason (Logos), the guide and lord of all the best in it, is Osiris; and so in earth and air and water and heaven and stars, that which is ordered and appointed and in health, is the efflux of Osiris, reflected in seasons and temperatures and periods.

4. But Typhon is the passionate and titanic and reasonless and impulsive [aspect] of the Soul, while of

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its corporeal [side he is] the death-dealing and pestilent and disturbing, with unseasonable times and intemperate atmospheres and concealments of sun and moon,--as though they were the charges and obliterations of Typhon.

5. And the name is a predicate of Seth, as they call Typhon; for [Seth] means "that which oppresses and constrains by force;" [*1] it means also, frequently, "turning upside down," and, again, "overleaping."

6. Some, moreover, say that one of the companions of Typhon was Bebon; [*2] while Manethos [says] that Typhon himself was also called Bebon, and that the name signifies "holding back" or "hindering," since the power of Typhon stands in the way of things going on their way and moving towards what they have to.

L. 1. Wherefore also of domestic animals they apportion to him the least tractable--the ass; while of wild ones, the most savage--the crocodile and hippopotamus.

2. As to the ass, we have already given some explanation. At Hermes-city, however, as image of Typhon, they show us a hippopotamus on which stands a hawk [*3] fighting a snake,--indicating by the hippopotamus Typhon, and by the hawk power and rule, of which Typhon frequently possessing himself by force, ceases not from being himself in and throwing [others] into a state of disorder by means of evil.

3. Wherefore also when they make offerings on the seventh of the month Tybi, [*4]--which [day] they call

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[paragraph continues] "Arrival of Isis from Phoenicia," they mould on the cakes a bound hippopotamus. [*1]

4. And at Apollo-city it is the custom for absolutely everyone to eat a piece of crocodile. And on one [particular] day they hunt down and kill as many [of them] as they possibly can, and throw them down right in front of the temple, saying that Typhon escaped Horus by turning himself into a crocodile,--considering as they do that all animals and plants and experiences that are evil and harmful are Typhon's works and parts and movements.

LI. 1. Osiris, again, on the other hand, they write with "eye" and "sceptre," [*2] the former of which [they say] shows his providence, and the latter his power; just as Homer, when calling him who is ruler and king of all "Zeus supreme counsellor," [*3] seems by "supreme" to signify his supremacy, and by "counsellor" his good counsel and providence.

2. They frequently write this god with "hawk" [*4] as well; for it excels in tension of sight and swiftness of flight, and can naturally support itself on the smallest quantity of food.

3. It is said, moreover, to hover over the bodies of the unburied dead and to cast earth upon them. [*5] And when it drops down on the river to drink, it sets its wings upright, and after drinking it lowers them again,--by which it is evident it saves itself and escapes from the crocodile, for if it is caught its wings remain fixed as they were set. [*6]

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4. And everywhere they exhibit a man-shaped image of Osiris,--ithyphallic, because of his generative and luxuriant [nature].

And they dress his statue in a flame-coloured robe,--since they consider the sun as body of the power of the Good, as it were a visible [sign] of an essence that mind only can conceive.

5. Wherefore also we should pay no attention to those who assign the sphere of the sun to Typhon, [*1]--to whom nothing light or salutary, neither order nor genesis, nor any motion that has measure and reason, belongs, but [rather] their contraries.

6. And we should not set down drought which destroys many of the animals and plants, as the sun's work, but [rather as that] of the breaths and waters in earth and air not being seasonably blended when the principle of disorderly and unbounded power makes discord and quenches the exhalations.

LII. 1. And in the sacred hymns to Osiris, they invoke him who is hidden in the Arms of the Sun; [*2] and on the thirteenth of the month of Epiphi [*3] they keep with feast the Birthday of the Eye of Horus, when moon and sun are in the same straight line; as they think that not only the moon but also the sun is eye and light of Horus.

2. And on the eighth of the waning [half] of Paophi [*4] they keep the Birthday of the Sun's Staff, after the autumnal equinox,--signifying that he needs an under-prop, as it were, and strengthening, deficient as he is

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in heat and light, declining and moving obliquely from us.

3. Moreover, just after the winter solstice they carry the Cow round the shrine [seven times], and the circuit is called the Seeking for Osiris, as in winter the Goddess longs for the "water" of the Sun.

4. And she goes round this number of times, because he completes his passing from the winter to the summer solstice in the seventh month.

5. Moreover, Horus, son of Osiris, is said to have been the first of all to make offerings to the Sun on the fourth of the waxing moon, as is written in the [books] entitled Birthdays of Horus.

6. Though indeed every day they offer incense to the Sun in three kinds--resin at his rising, myrrh at mid-heaven, and what is called "kuphi" at his setting; the reason for each of which I will explain later on. [*1] And with all these they think to make the Sun propitious to them and to do him service.

7. But what need is there to collect many such indications? For there are those who say point-blank that Osiris is Sun and is called Sirius by Greeks--though with Egyptians the addition of the article has caused the name to be mistaken [*2]--and who declare Isis to be no other than Moon; whence also [they say] that the horned ones of her statues are representations of her crescent, while by the black-robed ones are signified the occultations and overshadowings in which she follows Sun longing after him.

8. Accordingly they invoke Moon for affairs of love; and Eudoxus [*3] says that Isis decides love-affairs.

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9. And these [explanations] have in a modified way some share of plausibility; whereas it is not worth while even listening to those who make the Sun Typhon.

10. But let us ourselves again take up the proper reason (logos).


^323:1 Mullach, i. 319; Fairbanks (45), p. 37. The whole logos of Heracleitus runs: "They know not how differing agrees with itself,--back-flying (palintonos) harmony as though of lyre or bow." That is, as a stretched string flies back again to its original position.

^323:2 Nauck, p. 294.

^323:3 That is, presumably, "in logoi and voices from heaven."

^324:1 For a criticism and notes on this chapter and the following, see Cumont (F.), Textes et Monuments Figures relatifs aux Mysteres de Mithra (Bruxelles, 1896), ii. 33-35.

^325:1 Thought by some to be the Cappadocian equivalent of the haoma or soma plant.

^325:2 That is "cocks."

^326:1 A lacuna occurs here in the text.

^326:2 This may refer to the consciousness of the spiritual life.

^326:3 There are thus three thousand years in which Ahura Mazda has the upper hand, three thousand in which Ahriman is victorious, three thousand in which the forces are balanced, and in the tenth thousand years comes the Day of Light. Cf. Pistis Sophia, 243: "Jesus answered and said unto Mary: 'A Day of Light is a thousand years in the world, so that thirty-six myriads of years and a half myriad of years of the world make a single Year of Light.'" The not casting of a shadow was supposed to he a characteristic of souls not attached to body; but it refers here rather to those who are "straight" with the Spiritual Sun.

^327:1 Fairbanks, (44) pp. 34, 35.

^327:2 Cf. Il., xviii. 107; Fairbanks, (43) pp. 34, 35.

^327:3 Fairbanks, (29) pp. 32, 33.

^328:1 This is a very brief summary of the argument in Legg., x. 896 ff. (Jowett, v. 282 ff.).

^328:2 Cf. xlv. 6.

^328:3 This "argument" is Plutarch's own treatise and not Plato's dialogue, as King supposes.

^329:1 Cf. xli. 2.

^329:2 bebuna, but perhaps rather bebuna--and so bebus, a play on bebun, "steadying" or "straining." In Eg. Bebi or Baba; cf. Budge, op. cit., ii. 92.

^329:3 Cf. li. 2.

^329:4 Copt. Tobi--corr. roughly to January.

^330:1 Cf. "bound ass" above, xxx. 3.

^330:2 Cf. x. 6.

^330:3 Il., viii. 22; xvii. 339.

^330:4 Cf. 1. 2. Compare the Eagle of Zeus.

^330:5 More of the "Physiologus."

^330:6 "In the crocodile's gullet," comments King, "and so prevents him gulping down the bird." We are, however, inclined to think that Plutarch is a bit of a humourist, and that there is no necessity for commenting seriously on his on dits.

^331:1 Cf. xli. 1; also  section 9 below.

^331:2 That is the Sun's Rays.

^331:3 Copt. Epep--corr. roughly with July.

^331:4 Copt. Paopi--corr. roughly with October.

^332:1 Cf. lxxix., lxxx.

^332:2 That is o seirios = osiris--an absurd contention, of course, though flattering to Greek vanity.

^332:3 Cf. vi., x., xxx., lxii., lxiv.


LIII. 1. For Isis is the feminine [principle] of Nature and that which is capable of receiving the whole of genesis; in virtue of which she has been called "Nurse" and "All-receiving" by Plato, [*1] and, by the multitude, "She of ten-thousand names," through her being transformed by Reason (Logos) and receiving all forms and ideas [or shapes].

2. And she hath an innate love of the First and Most Holy of all things (which is identical with the Good), and longs after and pursues it. But she flees from and repels the domain of the Bad, and though she is the field and matter of them both, yet doth she ever incline to the Better of herself, and offers [herself] for him to beget and sow into herself emanations and likenesses, with which she joys and delights that she is pregnant and big with their generations.

3. For Generation is image of Essence in Matter and Becoming copy of Being.

LIV. 1. Hence not unreasonably do they say in the myth that [while] the Soul of Osiris is eternal and indestructible, Typhon often tears his Body in pieces and makes it disappear, and that Isis seeks it wandering and puts it together again.

2. For the Real and Conceivable-by-the-mind-alone and Good is superior to destruction and change; but the images which the sensible and corporeal imitates

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from it, and the reasons (logoi) and forms and likenesses which it receives, just as seal-impressions in wax, do not last for ever, but are seized upon by the disorderly and turbulent [elements], expelled hither from the field above, and fighting against the Horus whom Isis brings forth as the sensible image of that cosmos which mind alone can conceive.

3. Wherefore also [Horus] is said to have a charge of bastardy brought against him by Typhon--of not being pure and unalloyed like his sire, Reason (Logos), itself by itself, unmixed and impassible, but bastardized with matter on account of the corporeal [element]. [*1]

4. Nevertheless, Horus gets the best of it and wins, through Hermes--that is, the Reason (Logos) [*2]--bearing witness and showing that Nature reflects the [true] Cosmos by changing her forms according to That-which-mind-alone-can-conceive. [*3]

5. For the genesis of Apollo [*4] from Isis and Osiris [*5] that took place while the Gods were still in the womb of Rhea, is an enigmatical way of stating that before this [sensible] cosmos became manifest, and Matter was perfected by Reason (Logos), Nature, proving herself imperfect, of herself brought forth her first birth.

6. Wherefore also they say that that God was lame [*6] in the dark, and call him Elder Horus; for he was not cosmos, but a sort of image and phantasm of the world which was to be. [*7]

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LV. 1. But this Horus [of ours] is their Son, [*1] horizoned [*2] and perfect, who has not destroyed Typhon utterly, but has brought over to his side his efficacy and strength; hence they say it is that the statue of Horus at Coptos grasps in one hand Typhon's virilia.

2. Moreover, they have a myth that Hermes cut out the sinews of Typhon and used them for lyre strings,--[thus] teaching [us] how Reason (Logos) brought the universe into harmony, and made it concordant out of discordant elements. He did not destroy the destructive power but lamed it.

3. Hence while weak and ineffective up there, down here, by being blinded and interwoven with the passible and changeable elements, it is cause of shakings and tremors in earth, of droughts and tempests in air, and again of lightnings and thunderings.

4. Moreover, it infects waters and winds with pestilences, and shoots up and rears itself as far as the moon, frequently blurring and blackening its light, as Egyptians think.

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5. And they say that Typhon at one time strikes the Eye of Horus, and at another takes it out and swallows it. By "striking" they refer enigmatically to the monthly diminution of the moon, and by "blinding" to its eclipse, which the sun remedies by immediately shining on it after it has passed out of the shadow of the earth. [*1]

LVI. 1. Now the better and diviner Nature is from these:--[to wit] the Intelligible and Matter, and that from them which Greeks call Cosmos.

2. Plato, [*2] indeed, was wont to call the Intelligible Idea and Model and Father; and Matter Mother and Nurse--both place and ground of Genesis; and the offspring of both Genesis.

3. And one might conjecture that Egyptians [also revered [*3]] the fairest of the triangles, likening the nature of the universe especially to this; for Plato also, in his Republic, [*4] seems to have made additional use of this in drawing up his marriage scheme. [*5]

4. And this triangle has its perpendicular [side] of "three," its base of "four," and its hypotenuse of "five"; its square being equal to the [sum of the] squares on the containing sides. [*6]

5. We must, accordingly, compare its perpendicular to male, its base to female, and its hypotenuse to the offspring of both; and [conjecture] Osiris as source, Isis as receptacle, and Horus as result.

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6. For the "three" is the first "odd" [*1] and perfect; [*2] while the "four" [is] square from side "even" two; [*3] and the "five" resembles partly its father and partly its mother, being composed of "three" and "two."

7. And panta [all] is only a slight variant of pente [five]; and they call counting pempasasthai [reckoning by fives].

8. And five makes a square equal to the number of letters among Egyptians, [*4] and a period of as many years as the Apis lives.

9. Thus they usually call Horus also Min [*5]--that is, "being seen"; for cosmos is a sensible and see-able thing.

10. And Isis is sometimes called Muth, [*6] and again Athyri [*7] and Methyer. And by the first of the names they mean "Mother"; by the second, "Cosmic House" of Horus,--as also Plato [calls her] "Ground of Genesis" and "She who receives"; and the third is compounded from "Full" and "Cause,"--for Matter is full of

[p. 338]

[paragraph continues] Cosmos, and consorts with the Good and Pure and Ordered.

LVII. 1. And Hesiod [*1] also, when he makes all the first [elements to be] Chaos and Earth and Tartarus and Love, might be thought to assume no other principles than these,--if at anyrate in substituting the names we assign to Isis that of Earth, to Osiris that of Love, and to Typhon that of Tartarus; for his Chaos seems to be subsumed as ground and place of the universe.

2. Our data also in a way invite as witness Plato's myth which Socrates details in the Symposium [*2] about the Birth of Love,--telling [us how] that Poverty wanting children lay down by the side of sleeping Means, and conceiving by him brought forth Love of a mixed nature and capable of assuming every shape, in as much, indeed, as he is the offspring of a good and wise father and one sufficient for all, but of an incapable mother and one without means, [*3] who on account of her need is ever clinging to some one else and importuning some one else. [*4]

3. For his Means is no other than the First Beloved and Desirable and Perfect and Sufficient; and he calls Matter Poverty,--who is herself of herself deficient of the Good, but is ever being filled by Him and longing for and sharing in [Him].

4. And the Cosmos, that is Horus, is born from these; and Horus, though neither eternal nor impassible nor indestructible, but ever-generable, continues by means of the changes and periods of his passions to remain ever young and ever to escape destruction.

LVIII. 1. Now, we should make use of the myths not

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as though they were altogether sacred sermons (logoi), but taking the serviceable [element] of each according to its similitude [to reason].

2. When, then, we say Matter, we should not be swept into the opinions of some philosophers, and suppose some body or other of itself soul-less and quality-less, and inert and inefficient; for we call oil the "matter" of a perfume, [and] gold that of a statue, though they are not destitute of every quality.

3. [Nay,] we submit the soul itself and [even] the thought of man as the "matter" of knowledge and virtue to the reason (logos) to order and bring into rhythm.

4. Moreover, some have declared the mind [to be] "region of ideas," and, as it were, the "impressionable substance [*1] of the intelligibles."

5. And some think that the substance of the woman [*2] is neither power nor source, but matter and nutriment of birth.

6. If, then, we attach ourselves to these, we ought thus also to think of this Goddess as having eternally her share in the First God, and consorting [with Him] for love of the goodness and beauty that surround Him, never opposed to Him, but, just as we say that a lawful and righteous husband loves [his wife] righteously, and a good wife though she has her husband and consorts with him, still desires [him], so [should we] think of Her as clinging to Him, and importuning Him, [*3] though [ever] filled full with His supremest and purest parts.

LIX. 1. But where Typhon steals in, laying hold of the last [parts, we should think of Her as] then seeming to wear a melancholy countenance, and being said to

[p. 340]

mourn, and to be seeking after certain relics and fragments of Osiris, and enfolding them in her robes, receiving them when destroyed into herself, and hiding them away, just as She also produces them again when they are born, and sends them forth from herself.

2. For while the reasons (logoi) and ideas and emanations of the God in heaven and stars remain [for ever], those that are disseminated into things passible--in earth and sea and plants and animals--being dissolved and destroyed and buried, come to light over and over again and reappear in their births.

3. For which cause the myth says that Typhon lived with Nephthys, but that Osiris had knowledge of her secretly.

4. For the last parts of Matter, which they call Nephthys and End, are mainly in possession of the destructive power; nevertheless the Generative and Saving One distributes into them weak and faint seed which is destroyed by Typhon, except so much as Isis by adoption saves and nourishes and compacts together.

LX. 1. But He is on the whole the Better one, as both Plato and Aristotle suppose; and the generative and moving [power] of Nature moves to Him and towards being, while the annihilating and destructive [moves] from Him and towards non-being.

2. Wherefore they derive the name Isis from hastening (iesthai) and coursing with knowledge, since she is ensouled and prudent motion.

3. For her name is not foreign; [*1] but just as all the Gods have a common name from two elements--"that which can be seen" and "that which runs" [*2]--so we

[p. 341]

call this Goddess "Isis" from "knowledge," [*1] and Egyptians [also] call her Isis. [*2]

4. And thus Plato also says the ancients signified the "Holy [*3] [Lady]" by calling her "Isia,"--and so also "Mental Perception" and "Prudence," in as much as she is [the very] course and motion of Mind hastening [*4] and coursing, and that they placed Understanding--in short, the Good and Virtue--in things that flow [*5] and run.

5. Just as [he says] again, the Bad is railed at with corresponding names, when they call that which hinders nature and binds it up and holds it and prevents it from hastening and going, "badness," [*6] "difficulty," [*7] "cowardice" [*8] [and] "distress."

LXI. 1. And Osiris has had his name from a combination of osios (holy) and ieros (sacred); for there is a common Reason (Logos) of things in Heaven and of things in Hades,--the former of which the ancients were accustomed to call sacred, and the latter holy.

2. And the Reason that [both] brings [down] to light the heavenly things and is [also] of things that are

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mounting upwards, [*1] is called Anubis, and sometimes also Hermanubis, [*2] belonging in his former capacity to things above and in his latter to things below [them].

3. Wherefore also they offer him in his former capacity a white cock, [*3] and in his latter a saffron-coloured one,--thinking that the former things are pure and the latter mixed and manifold.

4. Nor ought we to be surprised at the manipulation of the names back into Greek. [*4] For tens of thousands of others that disappeared with those who emigrated from Greece, continue unto this day and sojourn with foreigners; for recalling some of which they blame the poets' art as "barbarising,"--I mean those who call such words "glosses." [*5]

5. Further, they relate that in what are called the "Books of Hermes," it is written that they call the Power that rules the ordained revolution of the Sun, Horus, while the Greeks [call it] Apollo; and the Power that rules the Breath [or Spirit], some [call] Osiris, others Sarapis, and others Sothis in Egyptian.

6. The last means "conception" (kuesin) or "conceiving" (to kuein). [*6] Wherefore also, by inversion of the name, the star [Sothis] which they consider the special one of Isis, is called Dog (kuun) in Greek.

7. We should, however, least of all be jealous about the names; still if we were, I would sooner give up

[p. 343]

[paragraph continues] "Sarapis" than "Osiris"; for though I think the former is a foreign one and the latter Greek, yet are they both [names] of One God and One Power.

LXIL 1. The Egyptian [names] also resemble these [Greek ones]. For they often call Isis by the name of Athena, which expresses some such meaning as "I have come from myself"--which is [again] indicative of self-motive course.

2. While "Typhon," as has been said, [*1] is called Seth and Bebon and Smu,--the names being intended to signify a certain forcible and preventative checking, opposition or reversing.

3. Moreover, they call the loadstone "Bone of Horus," [*2] and iron "[Bone] of Typhon," as Manethos relates; for just as iron often resembles that which is attracted to and follows after the loadstone, and often is turned away from it, and repelled to an opposite direction, so the saving and good and reason-possessing motion of the Cosmos both turns towards itself and makes more gentle by persuasion that harsh and typhonean [motion]; and then again after raising it into itself, it reverses it and plunges it into the infinitude.

4. Moreover, Eudoxus [*3] says that the Egyptians tell a myth about Zeus that, as in consequence of his having his legs grown together, [*4] he could not walk, for shame he lived in solitude; and so Isis, by cutting in two and separating these limbs of his body, made his going even-footed. [*5]

5. By those things, moreover, the myth enigmatically

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hints that the Mind and Reason (Logos) of God after it had progressed [*1] in itself in the invisible and unmanifest, came forth into genesis by means of motion.


^333:1 Timaeus, 51 A.

^334:1 Cf. C. H., x. (xi.) 10; Lact., iv. 6 (Frag. v.).

^334:2 This shows that in one tradition Hermes and Osiris were identified.

^334:3 Cf. xix. 4.

^334:4 Sc. Horus.

^334:5 The sequel I think shows that "and Osiris" is a gloss; but see xii. 8.

^334:6 Cf. lxii.

^334:7 These two paragraphs are, in my opinion, of the utmost value for the critical investigation of the sources of the famous Sophia mythus of Gnosticism. The imperfect birth (Abortion) of the Sophia (Wisdom, Nature, Isis), as the result of her effort to bring forth of herself, without her consort, or syzygy, while still in the Pleroma (Womb of Rhea), paves the way for the whole scheme of one of the main forms of Gnostic cosmology and subsequent soteriology, the Creator Logos and Saviour having to perfect the imperfect product of Nature. This is, I believe, the first time that the above passage of Plutarch has been brought into connection with the Sophia-mythus, and all previous translations with which I am acquainted accordingly make havoc of the meaning. See F. F. F., pp. 339 ff.; and for the Pauline use of the technical term "Abortion," D. J. L., pp. 355 ff.; for "Balaam the Lame Man" (? a by-name for Jeschu-Horus), see ibid., p. 201. Reitzenstein (pp. 39, 40) quotes these two chapters, and adds some parallels from the Trismegistic literature.

^335:1 Adopting the suggestion of Bernardakis--o yios for aytos.

^335:2 Or "defined," urismenos--a play on uros.

^336:1 All this according to the Mathematici, presumably; the "eye" of Horus would rather signify "mentality."

^336:2 Timaeus, 50 C.

^336:3 There is a lacuna in the text.

^336:4 Rep., 545 D ff. See also Adam (J.), The Nuptial Number of Plato: its Solution and Significance (London, 1891).

^336:5 That is to say, that in Plutarch's opinion Plato derived the idea originally from Egypt.

^336:6 That is, 9 + 16 = 25.

^337:1 "One" being reckoned neither odd nor even.

^337:2 That is, divisible by itself and "one" only.

^337:3 tetragunos ano pleyras artioy teis dyados.

^337:4 That is, the Egyptian alphabet consisted of 25 letters.

^337:5 In the Ritual (chap. xvii. 30), the deceased is made to say: "I am the God Amsu (or Min) in his coming forth; may his two plumes be set upon my head for me." And in answer to the question: "Who, then, is this?"--the text goes on to say: "Amsu is Horus, the avenger of his father, and his coming forth is his birth. The plumes upon his head are Isis and Nephthys when they go forth to set themselves there, even as his protectors, and they provide that which his head lacketh; or (as others say), they are the two exceeding great uraei which are upon the head of their father Tem, or (as others say), his two eyes are the two plumes which are upon his head." (Budge, op. cit., ii. 258.)

^337:6 Eg. Mut, the syzygy of Amen. Mut means "Mother"; she was the World-mother. See Budge, op. cit., ii. 28 ff.

^337:7 Cf. lxix. 4, "Athyr" probably meaning Hathor.

^338:1 Theog., 116-122.

^338:2 Symp., 203 B; Jowett, i. 573 ff.

^338:3 aporon--a play on poros.

^338:4 Cf. lviii. 6, last clause.

^339:1 ekmageion. Cf. Plat., Tim., 50 C; Thaeet., 191 C, 196 A.

^339:2 to sperma teis gynaikos--lit., "the seed of the woman."

^339:3 Cf. lvii. 2.

^340:1 That is, non-Greek--barbarikon. Cf. ii. 2.

^340:2 The word-play being theos--theatos--theon.

^341:1 Cf. ii. 3 for the word-play, and also for osia in the next paragraph.

^341:2 They, however, probably called her something resembling Ast.

^341:3 ten osian--but Plutarch is mistaken, for in Cratylus, 401 C it is a question of oysian and esian and not of osian and isian.

^341:4 iemenoy, picking up the iesthai above in paragraph 2.

^341:5 Cf. Crat., 415 D, where the word-play is arete and aei-reite (ever-flowing).

^341:6 Cf. Crat., 415 C--where the play is kak-ia = kakus ion (ienai)--badly going.

^341:7 apor-ia--the word-play being a (not) and por-euesthai (going)--ibid., C, D.

^341:8 "deilia signifies that the soul is bound with a strong chain (desmos), for lian means strength, and therefore deilia expresses the greatest and strongest bond of the soul" (ibid.). See Jowett, i. 359 f.

^342:1 That is, things in Hades (the Invisible)--not Tartarus.

^342:2 Horus was endowed with many characteristics of other gods. Thus with Anpu or Anubis he becomes Heru-em-Anpu, i.e. Horus as Anubis, and is said to dwell in the "divine hall." This is the Hermanubis of Plutarch. Cf. Budge, op. cit., i. 493.

^342:3 "A cock to Aesculapius."

^342:4 Cf. xxix. 8.

^342:5 glw'ttas--a technical term for obsolete or foreign words that need explanation.

^342:6 Cf. xxi. 2.

^343:1 Cf. xli., xlix. (end).

^343:2 Cf. the "bone of the sea-hawk" in Hipp., Philo., v. 9 and 17; and note to J., in "Myth of Man in the Mysteries," p. 189.

^343:3 Cf. xxx., lxix., et al.

^343:4 The invisible serpent-form of the God.

^343:5 Cf. Plat., Tim., 44 D and 45 A; and liv. 5 above concerning the birth of the Elder Horus.

^344:1 Or "walked," suggesting some idea of single motion in itself--the motion of "sameness," symbolised by a serpent with its tail in its mouth. The serpent was one of the most favourite symbols of the Logos, and this perhaps accounts for the "legs grown together."


LXIII. 1. The sistrum (seistron) also shows that existent things must be shaken up (seiesthai) and never have cessation from impulse, but as it were be wakened up and agitated when they fall asleep and die away.

2. For they say they turn aside and beat off Typhon with sistra,--signifying that when corruption binds nature fast and brings her to a stand, [then] generation frees her and raises her from death by means of motion.

3. Now the sistrum has a curved top, and its arch contains the four [things] that are shaken. For the part of the cosmos which is subject to generation and corruption, is circumscribed by the sphere of the moon, and all [things] in it are moved and changed by the four elements--fire and earth and water and air.

4. And on the arch of the sistrum, at the top, they put the metal figure of a cat with a human face, and at the bottom, below the shaken things, the face sometimes of Isis and sometimes of Nephthys,--symbolising by the faces generation and consummation (for these are the changes and motions of the elements), and by the cat the moon, on account of the variable nature, [*2] night habits, and fecundity of the beast.

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5. For it is fabled to bring forth one, then two, and [then] three, and four, and five [at a birth], and then adds one by one until seven; [*1] so that in all she brings forth eight-and-twenty, the number of lights of the moon.

6. This, however, is probably somewhat too mythical; anyway, the pupils of its eyes seem to become full and dilate at the full-moon, and to contract and shut out the light during the wanings of that luminary.

7. And by the human face of the cat is signified the intellectual and reasonable nature of the changes that take place in connection with the moon.


^344:2 to poikilon. King translates this "pied colour," and deduces that "the original colour of the cat was tabby"; but, as the school-boy says, I don't see it.

^345:1 More "Physiologus"; or rather, there was a mystical theory about other things which was adapted to a popular natural history of the cat, and then the fable was cited as "proof" of the original theory.


LXIV. 1. But, to speak concisely, it is not correct to consider either water or sun or earth or heaven as Osiris or Isis, or, again, fire or drought or sea as Typhon; but if we were to assign simply that [nature] to the latter which is not subject to measure or rule owing to excesses or insufficiencies, and should reverence and honour that which has been subjected to order and is good and beneficent, as the work of Isis, and the image and copy and reason of Osiris, we should not miss the mark.

2. Moreover, we shall make Eudoxus [*2] cease to disbelieve and be perplexed, how it is neither Demeter who has charge of love-affairs but Isis, nor Dionysus who has the power either to make the Nile increase or to rule over the dead [but Osiris].

[p. 346]

3. For we think that by one Common Reason (Logos) [*1] these Gods have been ordained over every domain of good; and every fair and good thing possible for nature owes its origin to their means,--[Osiris] giving [them] their origins and [Isis] receiving and distributing [them].


^345:2 Cf. lxii. et al.

^346:1 Parallel to "Common Sense."


LXV. 1. And we shall also get our hands on the dull crowd who take pleasure in associating the [mystic recitals] about these Gods either with changes of the atmosphere according to the seasons, or with the generation of the corn and sowings and ploughings, and in saying that Osiris is buried when the sown corn is hidden by the earth, and comes to life and shows himself again when it begins to sprout.

2. For which cause also [they declare] that Isis, on feeling she is pregnant, ties an amulet round her [neck] on the sixth day of the first half of the month Phaophi; [*2] and that Harpocrates is brought forth about the winter solstice imperfect and infant in the things that sprout too early. [*3]

3. For which cause they offer him first-fruits of growing lentils, and they keep the days of thanks for safe delivery after the spring equinox.

4. For they love to hear these things and believe them, drawing conviction from things immediately at hand and customary.

LXVI. 1. Still there is nothing to complain of if

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[only], in the first place, they cherish the Gods in common with ourselves, and do not make them peculiar to Egyptians, either by characterising Nile and only the land that Nile waters by these names, or, by saying that marshes and lotuses and god-making [are their monopoly], deprive the rest of mankind who have no Nile or Buto or Memphis, of [the] Great Gods.

2. Indeed, all [men] have Isis and know her and the Gods of her company; for though they learned not long ago to call some of them by names known among the Egyptians, still they knew and honoured the power of each [of them] from the beginning.

3. In the second place, and what is more important--they should take very good heed and be apprehensive lest unwittingly they write-off the sacred mysteries and dissolve them into winds and streams, and sowing and ploughings, and passions of earth and changes of seasons.

4. As those who [say] that Dionysus is wine and Hephaestus flame, and Persephone, as Cleanthes says somewhere, the wind that drives through the crops and is killed; and [as] some poet says of the reapers:

Then when they, lusty, cut Demeter's limbs. [*1]

5. For these in nothing differ from those who regard a pilot as sails and ropes and anchor, and a weaver as yarns and threads, and a physician as potions and honey-brew and barley-water; nay, they put into men's minds dangerous and atheistic notions, by transferring names of Gods to natures and to things that have no sense or soul, and which are necessarily destroyed by men according to their need and use. For it is not possible to consider such things in themselves as Gods.

LXVII. 1. For a God is not a thing without a mind or soul, or one made subject to the hand of man; but it

[p. 348]

is from these things that we deduce that those who bestow them on us for our use and offer them [to us] in perpetual abundance, are Gods.

2. Not different [Gods] for different peoples, not non-Greek and Greek, not southern and northern [Gods]; but just as sun and moon and earth and sea [are] common to all [men], though they are called by different names by different peoples, so of the Reason (Logos) that orders all things, and of one Providence that also directs powers ordained to serve under her for all [purposes], have different honours and titles been made according to their laws by different [nations].

3. And there are consecrated symbols, some obscure ones and others more plain, guiding the intelligence towards the mysteries of the Gods, [though] not without risk.

4. For some going entirely astray have stepped into superstitions, while others, shunning superstition as a quagmire, have unwittingly fallen into atheism [*1] as down a precipice.

LXVIII. 1. Wherefore especially with regard to such things, should we, taking with us Reason (Logos) as our mystic guide out of philosophy, reverently meditate upon each of the things said and done; in order that, [we may avoid what] Theodorus said, [namely] that when he offered his words with his right hand some of his hearers took them with their left,--and so not miss the mark by taking in another sense what laws on offerings and feasts have well ordained.

2. For that all [these things] must be referred to the Reason (Logos), we may learn from themselves also.

For on the nineteenth of the first month, [*2] when they

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keep a feast to Hermes, they eat honey and figs, saying when so doing, "Truth is sweet." And the amulet of Isis which the myth says she put round her [neck] [*1] is, when interpreted, "True Voice."

3. And we should not consider Harpocrates either as an imperfect or infant god, or a [god] of pulse, [*2] but as protector and chastener of the babyish and imperfect and inarticulate reason that men have about Gods. For which cause he has his finger laid upon his lips as a symbol of reticence and silence.

4. And in the month of Mesore [*3] when they make offerings of pulse, they say: "Tongue [is] fortune; tongue is daimon."

5. And they say that of the trees in Egypt the persea especially has been made sacred to the Goddess, because its fruit resembles a heart and its leaf a tongue.

6. For of all man's natural possessions nothing is more godlike than logos [word or reason], and especially that concerning the Gods, nor is there anything that decides more weightily for happiness.

7. Wherefore we commend him who goes down to consult the Oracle here [*4] to think religiously and speak reverently. But the many act ridiculously when, after they have in the processions and feasts made proclamation to speak reverently, they subsequently speak and think the most irreverent things about the Gods themselves.

LXIX. 1. What use, then, must one make of those melancholy and laughterless and mournful sacrifices, if it is not right either to omit the rites of custom, or to confound our views about Gods and throw them into confusion with absurd suspicions?

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2. Yea, among Greeks, too, many things are done, just about the same time also, similar to those which Egyptians perform in the sacred [rites].

3. For instance, at Athens, the women fast at the Thesmophoria, sitting on the ground. While Boeotians move the palace of Achaea, [*1] giving that festival the name of Epachthe [the Grief-bringing], as though Demeter were in grief (axthei) on account of the Descent [*2] of Kore.

4. And this month is the one for sowing when the Pleiades rise, which Egyptians call Athyr, [*3] Greeks Pyanepsion, and Boeotians Damatrios. [*4]

5. Moreover, Theopompus [*5] tells us that the Western peoples [*6] consider and name the winter Kronos, the summer Aphrodite, and the spring Persephone; and [say] that all things are born from Kronos and Aphrodite.

6. While the Phrygians, thinking that the God sleeps in winter, and wakes in summer, celebrate in his honour the Orgies of his "Going to sleep" at one time, and at another of his "Waking up"; while the Paphlagonians pretend that he is bound hand and foot and imprisoned in winter, and in spring is set in motion and freed from his bonds.

LXX. 1. And the season of the year suggests that the appearance of mourning is assumed at the hiding away of grains [in the earth],--which the ancients did not

[p. 351]

consider gods, but gifts of the Gods, indispensable [indeed] if we are to live otherwise then savagely and like the brutes.

2. And at the season when, you know, these [ancients] saw the [fruits] entirely disappearing from the trees and ceasing, and those they had sown themselves still scanty and poor,--in scraping away the earth with their hands, and pressing it together again, and depositing [the seed] in uncertainty as to whether it would come up again and have its proper consummation, they used to do many things similar to those who bury and mourn.

3. Then, just as we say that one who buys Plato's books "buys Plato," and that one who presents the creations of Menander "acts Menander," so did they not hesitate to call the gifts and creations of the Gods by the names of the Gods--honouring them and reverencing them by use.

4. But those [who came] after, receiving [these names] like boors and ignorantly misapplying what happens [*1] to the fruits to the Gods [themselves], and not merely calling but believing the advent and hiding away of the necessaries [of life] generations and destructions of gods, filled their heads with absurd, indecent, and confused opinions, although they had the absurdity of their unreason before their eyes.

5. Excellent, however, was the view of Xenophanes [*2] of Colophon that Egyptians don't mourn if they believe in Gods and don't believe in Gods if they mourn; nay, that it would be ridiculous for them in the same breath to mourn and pray for the seed to appear again, in order that it might again be consumed and mourned for.

[p. 352]

LXXI. 1. But such is not really the case; but, while mourning for the grain, they pray the Gods, the authors and givers [of it], to renew it again and make other grow up in the place of that which is consumed.

2. Whence there is an excellent saying among the philosophers, that those who do not learn how to hear names rightly, use things wrongly. Just as those of the Greeks who have not learned or accustomed themselves to call bronzes and pictures and marbles images in honour of the Gods, but [call them] Gods, [and] then make bold to say that Lachares stripped Athena, and Dionysius cut off Apollo's golden curls, and that Capitoline Zeus was burnt and perished in the Civil Wars,--these without knowing it find themselves drawn into adopting mischievous opinions following [directly] on the [abuse of] names.

3. And this is especially the case of Egyptians with regard to the honours they pay to animals. For in this respect, at any rate, Greeks speak rightly when they consider the dove as the sacred creature of Aphrodite, and the dragon of Athena, and the raven of Apollo, and the dog of Artemis, as Euripides [sings]:

Thou shalt be dog, pet of torch-bearing Hecate. [*1]

4. Whereas most of the Egyptians, by the service and cult they pay to the animals themselves as though they were Gods, have not only covered their sacred rites entirely with laughter and ridicule--which is the least evil of their fatuity; but a dangerous way of thinking grows up which perverts the weak and simple to pure superstition, and, in the case of the shrewder and bolder, degenerates into an atheistic and brutal rationalism.

[p. 353]

5. Wherefore, also, it is not unfitting to run through the conjectures about these things. [*1]


^346:2 Copt. Paopi--corr. roughly with October.

^346:3 Cf. lxviii. 2, 3. Heru-p-Khart, Horus the Younger, or the "Child,'' so called to distinguish him from Heru-ur, or Horus the Elder. Cf. Budge, op. cit., i. 468 f.

^347:1 Cf. Ps. Plut., De Vita Homeri,  section 23.

^348:1 King again, erroneously in my opinion, refers this to the Christians.

^348:2 Copt. Thoth--corr. roughly with September.

^349:1 Cf. lxv. 2.

^349:2 Cf. ibid., 3.

^349:3 Copt. Mesore--corr. roughly with August.

^349:4 Sc. at Delphi.

^350:1 A surname of Demeter, by which she was worshipped at Athens by the Gephyraeans who had emigrated thither from Boeotia (Herod., v. 61).

^350:2 Sc. into Hades.

^350:3 Copt. Hathor--corr. roughly to November, or rather last half of October and first of November. Cf. also lvi. 10.

^350:4 That is, the month of Demeter.

^350:5 Muller, i. 328. T. flourished 2nd half of 4th century B.C.

^350:6 That is, presumably, the Celts.

^351:1 ta pathe--lit., "the passions."

^351:2 X. flourished about end of 6th and beginning of 5th century B.C.

^352:1 Nauck, p. 525.

^353:1 Dr Budge (op. cit., i. 29) writes: "Such monuments and texts as we have . . . seem to show that the Egyptians first worshipped animals as animals, and nothing more, and later as the habitations of divine spirits and gods; but there is no reason for thinking that the animal worship of the Egyptians was descended from a system of totems and fetishes as Mr J. F. M'Lennan (Fortnightly Review, 1869-1870) believed." I believe myself that the Egyptian animal-cult depended chiefly on the fact that life flowed differently in different animal forms, corresponding with the life-currents in the invisible forms or aspects of the Animal-Soul of the Cosmos.


LXXII. 1. As for the [theory] that the Gods out of fear of Typhon changed themselves into these animals--as it were hiding themselves in the bodies of ibises and dogs and hawks--it beats any juggling or story-telling.

2. Also the [theory] that all the souls of the dead that persist, have their rebirth [*2] into these [animals] only, is equally incredible.

3. And of those who would assign some reason connected with the art of government, some say that Osiris upon his great campaign, [*3] divided his force into many divisions--(they call them companies and squadrons in Greek)--and gave them all ensigns of animal figures, and that each of these became sacred and venerated by the clan of those banded together under it.

4. Others [say] that the kings after [Osiris], in order

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to strike terror into their foes, used to appear dressed in wild beasts' heads of gold and silver.

5. While others tell us that one of the clever and crafty kings, on learning that, though the Egyptians were fickle by nature and quick for change and innovation, they nevertheless possessed an invincible and unrestrainable might owing to their numbers when in agreement and co-operation, showed them and implanted into their minds an enduring superstition,--an occasion of unceasing disagreement.

6. For in as much as the beasts--some of which he enacted some [clans] should honour and venerate and others others--are hostile and inimical to one another, and as each one of them by nature likes different food from the others, each [clan] in protecting its own special [beasts] and growing angry at their being injured, was for ever unconsciously being drawn into the enmities of the beasts, and [so] brought into a state of warfare with the others.

7. For even unto this day the people of Wolf-town are the only Egyptians who eat sheep, because the wolf, whom they regard as god, [does so].

8. And the people of Oxyrhynchus-town, in our own day, when the folk of Dog-town ate the oxyrhynchus [*1] fish, caught a dog and sacrificing it as a sacred victim, ate it; and going to war because of this, they handled one another roughly, and subsequently were roughly handled by the Romans in punishment. [*2]

LXXIII. 1. Again, as many say that the soul of Typhon himself was parted among these animals, the myths would seem enigmatically to hint that every irrational and brutal nature is born from a part of the

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[paragraph continues] Evil Daimon, and that to appease and soothe him they pay cult and service to them.

2. But if he fall upon them mighty and dire, bringing on them excessive droughts, or pestilent diseases, or other unlooked-for strange mischances, then the priests lead away at dark in silence quietly some of the venerated [beasts], and threaten and try to scare away the first [one] of them; if, however, it stops, they consecrate and sacrifice it, as though, I suppose, this were some kind of chastisement of the Daimon, or some specially great means of purification in the greater [emergencies].

3. For in the Goddess-of-child-bed-town [*1] they used to burn living men to ashes, as Manethos has told us, calling them Typhoneian; and the ashes they winnowed away and scattered. [*2]

4. This, however, was done publicly, and at one special time, in the Dog-days; whereas the consecratings of the venerated beasts, which are never spoken of and take place at irregular times, according to the emergencies, are unknown to the multitude, except when they have burials, and [the priests] bringing out some of the others, cast them in [to the grave with them] in the presence of all,--in the belief that they annoy Typhon in return and curtail what gives him pleasure. For only the Apis and a few other [animals] seem to be sacred to Osiris; while they assign the majority to him [Typhon].

5. And if he [Osiris] is really Reason (Logos), I think that the object of our enquiry is found in the case of these [animals] that are admitted to have common honours with him,--as, for instance, the ibis, and hawk, and dog-headed ape; [while] Apis himself [is his

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soul . . .], [*1] for thus, you know, they call the goat at Mendes.

LXXIV. 1. There remain of course the utilitarian and symbolical [reasons], of which some have to do with one of the two [Gods], but most [of them] with both.

2. As for the ox and sheep and ichneumon, [*2] it is clear they paid them honours on account of their usefulness and utility,--just as Lemnians crested larks which seek out and break the eggs of locusts, and Thessalians storks, because when their land produced multitudes of snakes, they came and destroyed them all--(wherefore they made a law that whoever killed a stork should be banished [*3])--so with the asp and weasel and scarab, because they discerned in them certain faint likenesses of the power of the Gods, as it were [that] of the sun in water-drops.

3. For as to the weasel, many still think and say that as it is impregnated through the ear and brings forth by the mouth, it is a likeness of the birth of reason (logos). [*4]

4. Again [they say] the species of scarab has no female, but all, as males, discharge their seed into the stuff they have made into balls, [*5] which they roll along by pushing, moving [themselves] in the opposite direction, just as the sun seems to turn the heaven round in the opposite direction, while it is [the heaven] itself that moves from west to east. [*6]

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5. And the asp, because it does not age, and moves without limbs with ease and pliancy, they likened to a star.

LXXV. 1. Nay, not even has the crocodile had honour paid it without some show of credible cause, for it alone is tongue-less. [*1]

For the Divine Reason (Logos) stands not in need of voice, and:

"Moving on a soundless path with justice guides [all] mortal things." [*2]

2. And they say that it alone, when it is in the water, has its eyes covered by a smooth and transparent membrane that comes down from the upper lid, [*3] so that they see without being seen,--an attribute of the First God. [*4]

3. And whenever the female lays her eggs on the land, it is known that this will be the limit of the Nile's

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increase. For as they cannot lay in the water, and fear to do so far from it, they so accurately fore-feel what will be, that they make use of the rise of the river for laying their eggs and hatching them, and yet keep them dry and beyond the danger of being wetted.

4. And they lay sixty [eggs] and hatch them out in as many days, and the longest-lived of them live as many years,--which is the first of the measures for those who treat systematically of celestial [phenomena]. [*1]

5. Moreover, of those that have honours paid them for both [reasons] [*2]--of the dog, we have already treated above. [*3]

6. As for the ibis, while killing the death-dealing of the reptiles, [*4] it was the first to teach them the use of medicinal evacuation, when they observed it being thus rinsed out and purged by itself. [*5]

7. While those of the priests who are most punctilious in their observances, in purifying themselves, take the water for cleansing from a place where the ibis has drunk; for it neither drinks unwholesome or poisoned [*6] water, nor [even] goes near it.

8. Again, by the relative position of its legs to one another, and [of these] to its beak, it forms an equilateral triangle; and yet again, the variegation and admixture of its black with its white feathers suggest the gibbous moon. [*7]

9. Nor ought we to be surprised at Egyptians being so fond of meagre likenesses; for Greeks too in both their

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pictured and plastic resemblances of Gods use many such [vague indications].

10. For instance, in Crete there was a statue of Zeus which had no ears,--for it behoves the Ruler and Lord of all to listen to no one.

11. And Pheidias used the serpent in the [statue] of Athena, and the tortoise in that of Aphrodite at Elis,--because on the one hand virgins need protecting, and on the other because keeping-at-home and silence are becoming to married women.

12. Again, the trident of Poseidon is a symbol of the third region, which the sea occupies, assigned [to him] after the heaven and air. For which cause also they invented the names Amphi-trite and Trit-ons. [*1]

13. And the Pythagoreans have embellished both numbers and figures with appellations of Gods.

For they used to call the equilateral triangle Athena--Head-born and Third-born [*2]--because it is divided by three plumb-lines [*3] drawn from the three angles.

14. And [they called] "one" Apollo, from privation of multitude, [*4] and owing to the singleness [*5] of the monad; and "two" Strife and Daring, and "three" Justice [or Rightness],--for as wronging and being wronged were according to deficiency and excess, rightness [or justice] was born to equality between them. [*6]

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15. And what is called the Tetraktys, the six-and-thirty, was [their] greatest oath (as has been said over and over again), and is called Cosmos,--which is produced by adding together the first four even and [the first] four odd [numbers]. [*1]

LXXVI. 1. If, then, the most approved of the philosophers, when they perceived in soulless and bodiless things a riddle of the Divine, did not think it right to neglect anything or treat it with disrespect, still more liking, I think, we should then have for the peculiarities in natures that are endowed with sense and possess soul and passion and character,--not paying honour to these, but through them to the Divine; so that since they are made by Nature into mirrors clearer [than any man can make], we should consider this as the instrument and art of God who ever orders all things.

2. And, generally, we should deem that nothing soulless is superior to a thing with soul, nor one without sense to one possessing it; not even if one should bring together into one spot all the gold and emeralds in the world.

3. For that which is Divine does not reside in colours or shapes or smoothnesses; nay, all things that either have no share or are not of a nature to share in life, have a lot of less value than that of dead bodies. [*2]

4. Whereas the Nature that lives and sees, and has its source of motion from itself, and knowledge of things that are its and those that are not, has

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appropriated both an "efflux of the Good," [*1] and a share of the Thinker "by whom the universe is steered," as Heracleitus says. [*2]

5. For which cause the Divine is not less well pourtrayed in these [sc. animals] than by means of works of art in bronze and stone, which while equally susceptible of decay and mutilations, [*3] are in their nature destitute of all feeling and understanding.

6. With regard to the honours paid to animals, then, I approve this view more highly than any other that has been mentioned.


^353:2 paliggenesian.

^353:3 Sc. for civilising the world.

^354:1 Lit., "sharp-snout."

^354:2 And such things occur "even to this day" in India under the British Raj.

^355:1 en eileithyias polei.

^355:2 Over the fields?

^356:1 A lacuna occurs here which I have partially filled up, conjecturally, as above.

^356:2 An Egyptian animal of the weasel kind which was said to hunt out crocodiles' eggs; also called "Pharaoh's rat."

^356:3 Cf. Arist., Mirab., xxiii.

^356:4 Cf. xxii. 1--"Physiologus" again. For a criticism of this legend, see R. 43.

^356:5 Cf. x. 9.

^356:6 Budge (op. cit., ii. 379 f.) writes: "The beetle or scarabaeus . . . belongs to the family called Scarabacidae (Coprophagi), of which the Scarabaeus sacer is the type. . . . A remarkable peculiarity exists in the structure and situation of the hind legs, which are placed so near the extremity of the body, and so far from each other as to give the insect a most extraordinary appearance when walking. This peculiar formation is, nevertheless, particularly serviceable to its possessors in rolling the balls of excrementitious matter in which they enclose their eggs. . . . These balls are at first irregular and soft, but, by degrees, and during the process of rolling along, become rounder and harder; they are propelled by means of the hind legs. Sometimes these balls are an inch and a half, or two inches in diameter, and in rolling this along the beetles stand almost upon their heads, with the heads turned from the balls." The scarabaeus was called kheprera in Egyptian, and was the symbol of Khepera the Great God of creation and resurrection; he was the "father of the gods," and the creator of all things in heaven and earth, self-begotten and self-born; he was usually identified with the rising sun and new-birth generally.

^357:1 "Physiologus" again, doubtless; it might, however, be said that its tongue is rudimentary.

^357:2 Euripides, Tro., 887.

^357:3 Lit., "brow."

^357:4 That is, the First-born Reason.

^358:1 That is, presumably, either the 60 of the Chaldaeans, or the 3 * 4 * 5 of the "most perfect" triangle of the Mathematici.

^358:2 Namely, the utilitarian and symbolical; cf. lxxiv. 1.

^358:3 Cf. xiv. 6.

^358:4 Cf. Rawlinson's Herodotus, ii. 124, 125.

^358:5 There is a similar legend in India, I am told.

^358:6 May also mean "bewitched."

^358:7 That is, the moon in its third quarter.

^359:1 From tritos, "third."

^359:2 koryfagennei kai tritogeneian,--that is, Koryphagennes and Tritogeneia.

^359:3 trisi kathetois,--a kathetos (sc. gramme') is generally a perpendicular; but here the reference must be to this appended figure:

^359:4 That is, presumably, a-pollun, from a (priv.) and polloi (many).

^359:5 di' aploteta,--the play being apparently a-pol (plo)-tes.

^359:6 Lit., in the midst.

^360:1 The Tetraktys was ordinarily considered to be the sum of the first four numbers simply, that is 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10; but here we have it given as 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 = 16, and 2 + 4 + 6 + 8 = 20, and 16 + 20 = 36. The oath is said to have been: "Yea, by Him who did bestow upon our soul Tetraktys, Ever-flowing Nature, Source possessing roots"--the "roots" being the four elements.

^360:2 Sc. which have at least been the vehicle of life.

^361:1 Plat., Phaedr., 251 B.

^361:2 Mullach, i. 328.

^361:3 Reading perw'seis.


LXXVII. 1. Now as to robes: those of Isis [are] variegated in their dyes, for her power [is] connected with matters producing all things and receiving [all]--light darkness, day night, fire water, life death, beginning end; while the [robe] of Osiris has neither shade nor variegation, but one single [property]--the light-like, [*4] for the Source is pure and the First and Intelligible unmixed.

2. Wherefore when they have once and once only received this [robe], [*5] they treasure it away and keep it from all eyes and hands; whereas they use those of Isis on many occasions.

3. For it is by use that the things which are sensible and ready to hand, present many unfoldings and views of themselves as they change now one way now another;

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whereas the intelligence of the Intelligible and Pure and Single, shining through the soul, like lightning-flash, once and once only perchance allows [us] to contact and behold [It].

4. For which cause both Plato [*1] and Aristotle call this part of philosophy "epoptic," [*2] from the fact that they who transcend by the reason (logos) these mixed and multiform things of opinion, are raised unto that Primal [One], Simple and Matter-less, and [so] contacting in its singleness the pure truth concerning It, they think philosophy has as it were [its] perfect end.

LXXVIII. 1. The fact, moreover, which the present priests cautiously hint at by expiatory sacrifices and covering their faces--[namely] that this God is ruler and king of the dead, being no other than him who is called Hades and Pluto among Greeks--in that they do not know how it is true, confuses the multitude, who suppose that the truly sacred and holy Osiris lives on earth and under earth, where the bodies of those who seem to have [reached their] end are hidden [away].

2. But He Himself is far, far from the earth, unspotted and unstained, and pure of every essence that is susceptible of death and of decay. Nor can the souls of men here [on the earth], swathed as they are with bodies and enwrapped in passions, commune with God, except so far as they can reach some dim sort of a dream [of Him], with the perception of a mind trained in philosophy.

3. But when [their souls] freed [from these bonds] pass to the Formless and Invisible and Passionless and Pure, this God becomes their guide and king, as though they hung on Him, and gazed insatiate upon His Beauty,

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and longed after it--[Beauty] that no man can declare or speak about.

4. It is with this the ancient tale (logos) makes Isis e'er in love, and, by pursuit [of it], and consort [with it], makes [her] full-fill all things down here with all things fair and good, whatever things have part in genesis.

5. Thus, then, these things contain the reason (logos) that's more suitable to God.


^361:4 to futoeides Cf. the better-known term to aygoeides, "the ray-like".

^361:5 Presumably in the initiation symbolising the investiture with the Robe of Glory.

^362:1 Symp., 210 A.

^362:2 In its highest sense--that is, intelligible or spiritual "seership," not the symbolic "sight" in the formal Greater Mysteries.


LXXIX. 1. And must I also speak of the daily incense-offerings, as I promised, [*1] the reader should first of all have in mind the fact, that not only have men [in general] always paid most serious attention to things that conduce to health, but that especially in sacred ceremonies and purifications and prescribed modes of life "healthy" is not less important than "holy"; for they did not think it right to render service to the Pure and perfectly Harmless and Unpolluted with either bodies or with souls festering and diseased.

2. Since, then, the air--of which we make most use, and with which we have most to do--does not always keep the same disposition and blend, but at night is condensed, and weighs down the body, and brings the soul into a desponding and anxious state, as though it had become mist-like and heavy; [therefore] as soon as they get up they incense with pine resin, sanifying and purifying the air by its [*2] disintegration, and fanning up again the [fire of the] spirit connate with body [*3]

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which had died down,--since its perfume possesses a vehement and penetrating [force].

3. And, again, at mid-day, perceiving that the sun draws from the earth by force an exceedingly large and heavy exhalation, and commingles it with the air, they incense with myrrh. [*1] For its heat dissolves and disperses the turbid and mud-like combination in the atmosphere.

4. And, indeed, physicians seem to relieve sufferers from plague by making a great blaze, as though it cleared the air. But it clears it better if they burn fragrant woods, such as [those] of cypress, juniper, and pine.

5. At any rate, they say that at Athens, at the time of the Great Plague, Akron the physician became famous through ordering them to keep fires burning by the side of the sick, for he [thus] benefitted not a few.

6. And Aristotle says that the sweet-smelling odours, given off by perfumes and flowers and meadows, conduce no less to health than to enjoyment; because by their warmth and softness they diffuse themselves gently through the brain, which is naturally cold and as though congested.

7. And if, moreover, they call myrrh bal among Egyptians--and in translation this comes pretty near to meaning the dispersion of silly talk--this also affords some evidence for the reason why [they use it].

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