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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Library of History

Diodorus Siculus

published in Vol. I
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1933

The text is in the public domain.

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(Vol. I) Diodorus Siculus
Library of History

Book I, 69‑98 (end)

p239 69 1 Now that we have discussed sufficiently the deeds of the kings of Egypt from the very earliest times down to the death of Amasis, we shall record the other events in their proper chronological setting; 2 but at this point we shall give a summary account of the customs of Egypt, both those which are especially strange and those which can be of most value to our readers. For many of the customs obtained in ancient days among the Egyptians have not only been accepted by the present inhabitants but have aroused no little admiration among the Greeks; 3 and for that reason those men who have won the greatest repute in intellectual things have been eager to visit Egypt in order to acquaint themselves with its laws and institutions, which they considered to be worthy of note. 4 For despite the fact that for the reasons mentioned above strangers found it difficult in early times to enter the country, it was nevertheless eagerly visited by Orpheus and the poet Homer in the earliest times and in later times by many others, such as Pythagoras of Samos and Solon the lawgiver.1 5 Now it is maintained by the Egyptians that it was they who first discovered writing and the observation of the stars, who also discovered the basic principles of geometry and most of the arts, and established the best laws. 6 And the best proof of all this, they say, lies in the fact that Egypt for more than four p241thousand seven hundred years was ruled over by kings of whom the majority were native Egyptians, and that the land was the most prosperous of the whole inhabited world; for these things could never have been true of any people which did not enjoy most excellent customs and laws and the institutions which promote culture of every kind. 7 Now as for the stories invented by Herodotus and certain writers on Egyptian affairs, who deliberately preferred to the truth the telling of marvellous tales and the invention of myths for the delectation of their readers, these we shall omit, and we shall set forth only what appears in the written records of the priests of Egypt and has passed our careful scrutiny.

70 1 In the first place, then, the life which the kings of the Egyptians lived was not like that of other men who enjoy autocratic power and do in all matters exactly as they please without being held to account, but all their acts were regulated by prescriptions set forth in laws, not only their administrative acts, but also those that had to do with the way in which they spent their time from day to day, and with the food which they ate. 2 In the matter of their servants, for instance, not one was a slave, such as had been acquired by purchase or born in the home, but all were sons of the most distinguished priests, over twenty years old and the best educated of their fellow-countrymen, in order that the king, by virtue of his having the noblest men to care for his person and to attend him throughout both day and night, might follow no low practices; for no ruler advances far along the road of evil until he has those about him who will minister to his passions. 3 And the hours of both the day and night were laid out according to a p243plan, and at the specified hours it was absolutely required of the king that he should do what the laws stipulated and not what he thought best. 4 For instance, in the morning, as soon as he was awake, he first of all had to receive the letters which had been sent from all sides, the purpose being that he might be able to despatch all administrative business and perform every act properly, being thus accurately informed about everything that was being done throughout his kingdom. Then, after he had bathed and bedecked his body with rich garments and the insignia of his office, he had to sacrifice to the gods.

5 When the victims had been brought to the altar it was the custom for the high priest to stand near the king, with the common people of Egypt gathered around, and pray in a loud voice that health and all the other good things of life be given the king if he maintains justice towards his subjects. 6 And an open confession had also to be made of each and every virtue of the king, the priest saying that towards the gods he was piously disposed and towards men most kindly; for he was self-controlled and just and magnanimous, truthful, and generous with his possessions, and, in a word, superior to every desire, and that he punished crimes less severely than they deserved and rendered to his benefactors a gratitude exceeding the benefaction. 7 And after reciting much more in a similar vein he concluded his prayer with a curse concerning things done in error, exempting the king from all blame therefor and asking that both the evil consequences and the punishment should fall upon those who served him and had taught him evil things. 8 All this he would do, partly to lead the king to fear p245the gods and live a life pleasing to them, and partly to accustom him to a proper manner of conduct, not by sharp admonitions, but through praises that were agreeable and most conductive to virtue. 9 After this, when the king had performed the divination from the entrails of a calf and had found the omens good, the sacred scribe read before the assemblage from out of the sacred books some of the edifying counsels and deeds of their most distinguished men, in order that he who held the supreme leadership should first contemplate in his mind the most excellent general principles and then turn to the prescribed administration of the several functions. 10 For there was a set time not only for his holding audiences or rendering judgments, but even for his taking a walk, bathing, and sleeping with his wife, and, in a word, for every act of his life. 11 And it was the custom for the kings to partake of delicate food, eating no other meat than veal and duck, and drinking only a prescribed amount of wine, which was not enough to make them unreasonably surfeited or drunken. 12 And, speaking generally, their whole diet was ordered with such continence that it had the appearance of having been drawn up, not by a lawgiver, but by the most skilled of their physicians, with only their health in view.

71 1 Strange as it may appear that the king did not have the entire control of his daily fare, far more remarkable still was the fact that kings were not allowed to render any legal decision or transact any business at random or to punish anyone through malice or in anger or for any other unjust reason, p247but only in accordance with the established laws relative to each offence. 2 And in following the dictates of custom in these matters, so far were they from being indignant or taking offence in their souls, that, on the contrary, they actually held that they led a most happy life; 3 for they believed that all other men, in thoughtlessly following their natural passions, commit many acts which bring them injuries and perils, and that oftentimes some who realize that they are about to commit a sin nevertheless do base acts when overpowered by love or hatred or some other passion, while they, on the other hand, by virtue of their having cultivated a manner of life which had been chosen before all others by the most prudent of all men, fell into the fewest mistakes. 4 And since the kings followed so righteous a course in dealing with their subjects, the people manifested a goodwill towards their rulers which surpassed even the affection they had for their own kinsmen; for not only the order of the priests but, in short, all the inhabitants of Egypt were less concerned for their wives and children and their other cherished possessions than for the safety of their kings. 5 Consequently, during most of the time covered by the reigns of the kings of whom we have a record, they maintained an orderly civil government and continued to enjoy a most felicitous life, so long as the system of laws described was in force; and, more than that, they conquered more nations and achieved greater wealth than any other people, and adorned their lands with monuments and buildings never to be surpassed, and their cities with costly dedications of every description.

72 1 Again, the Egyptian ceremonies which followed p249upon the death of a king afforded no small proof of the goodwill of the people towards their rulers; for the fact that the honour which they paid was to one who was insensible of it constituted an authentic testimony to its sincerity. 2 For when any king died all the inhabitants of Egypt united in mourning for him, rending their garments, closing the temples, stopping the sacrifices, and celebrating no festivals for seventy-two days; and plastering their heads with mud and wrapping strips of linen cloth below their breasts, women as well as men went about in groups of two or three hundred, and twice each day, reciting the dirge in a rhythmic chant, they sang the praises of the deceased, recalling his virtues; nor would they eat the flesh of any living thing or food prepared from wheat, and they abstained from wine and luxury of any sort. 3 And no one would ever have seen fit to make use of baths or unguents or soft bedding, nay more, would not even have dared to indulge in sexual pleasures, but every Egyptian grieved and mourned during those seventy-two days as if it were his own beloved child that had died. 4 But during this interval they had made splendid preparations for the burial, and on the last day, placing the coffin containing the body before the entrance to the tomb, they set up, as custom prescribed, a tribunal to sit in judgment upon the deeds done by the deceased during his life. 5 And when permission had been given to anyone who so wished to lay complaint against him, the priests praised all his noble deeds one after another, and p251the common people who had gathered in myriads to the funeral, listening to them, shouted their approval if the king had led a worthy life, 6 but if he had not, they raised a clamour of protest. And in fact many kings have been deprived of the public burial customarily accorded them because of the opposition of the people;2 the result was, consequently, that the successive kings practised justice, not merely for the reasons just mentioned, but also because of their fear of the despite which would be shown their body after death and of eternal obloquy.

Of the customs, then, touching the early kings these are the most important.

73 1 And since Egypt as a whole is divided into several parts which in Greek are called nomes, over each of these a nomarch is appointed who is charged with both the oversight and care of all its affairs. 2 Furthermore, the entire country is divided into three parts, the first of which is held by the order of the priests, which is accorded the greatest veneration by the inhabitants both because these men have charge of the worship of the gods and because by virtue of their education they bring to bear a higher intelligence than others. 3 With the income from these holdings3 of land they perform all the sacrifices throughout Egypt, maintain their assistants, and minister to their own needs; for it has always been held that the honours paid to the gods should never be changed, but should ever be performed by the same men and in the same manner, p253and that those who deliberate on behalf of all should not lack the necessities of life. 4 For, speaking generally, the priests are the first to deliberate upon the most important matters and are always at the king's side, sometimes as his assistants, sometimes to propose measures and give instructions, and they also, by their knowledge of astrology and of divination, forecast future events, and read to the king, out of the record of acts preserved in their sacred books, those which can be of assistance. 5 For it is not the case with the Egyptians as it is with the Greeks, that a single man or a single woman takes over the priesthood, but many are engaged in the sacrifices and honours paid the gods and pass on to their descendants the same rule of life. They also pay no taxes of any kind, and in repute and in power are second after the king.

6 The second part of the country has been taken over by the kings for their revenues, out of which they pay the cost of their wars, support the splendour of their court, and reward with fitting gifts any who have distinguished themselves; and they do not swamp the private citizens by taxation, since their income from these revenues gives them a great plenty.

7 The last part is held by the warriors, as they are called, who are subject to call for all military duties, the purpose being that those who hazard their lives may be most loyal to the country because of such allotment of land and thus may eagerly face the perils of war. 8 For it would be absurd to entrust the safety of the entire nation to these men and yet have them possess in the country no property to fight for valuable enough to arouse their ardour. p255But the most important consideration is the fact that, if they are well-to‑do, they will readily beget children and thus so increase the population that the country will not need to call in any mercenary troops. 9 And since their calling, like that of the priests, is hereditary, the warriors are incited to bravery by the distinguished records of their fathers and, inasmuch as they become zealous students of warfare from their boyhood up, they turn out to be invincible by reason of their daring and skill.4

74 1 There are three other classes of free citizens, namely, the herdsmen, the husbandmen, and the artisans. Now the husbandmen rent on moderate terms the arable land held by the king and the priests and the warriors, and spend their entire time in tilling the soil; and since from very infancy they are brought up in connection with the various tasks of farming, they are far more experienced in such matters than the husbandmen of any other nation; 2 for of all mankind they acquire the most exact knowledge of the nature of the soil, the use of water in irrigation, the times of sowing and reaping, and the harvesting of crops in general, some details of which they have learned from the observations of their ancestors and others in the school of their own experience. 3 And what has been said applies equally well to the herdsmen, who receive the care of animals from their fathers as if by a law of inheritance, and follow a pastoral life all the days of their existence. 4 They have received, it is true, much from their ancestors relative to the best care and feeding of grazing animals, but to this they add not a little p257by reason of their own interest in such matters; and the most astonishing fact is that, by reason of their unusual application to such matters, the men who have charge of poultry and geese, in addition to producing them in the natural way known to all mankind, raise them by their own hands, by virtue of a skill peculiar to them, in numbers beyond telling; 5 for they do not use the birds for hatching the eggs, but, in effecting this themselves artificially by their own wit and skill in an astounding manner, they are not surpassed by the operations of nature.5

6 Furthermore, one may see that the crafts also among the Egyptians are very diligently cultivated and brought to their proper development; for they are the only people where all the craftsmen are forbidden to follow any other occupation or belong to any other class of citizens than those stipulated by the laws and handed down to them from their parents, the result being that neither ill-will towards a teacher nor political distractions nor any other thing interferes with their interest in their work. 7 For whereas among all other peoples it can be observed that the artisans are distracted in mind by many things, and through the desire to advance themselves do not stick exclusively to their own occupation; for some try their hands at agriculture, some dabble in trade, and some cling to two or three crafts, and in states having a democratic form of government vast numbers of them, trooping to the meetings of the Assembly, ruin the work of the government, while they make a profit for themselves at the expense of p259others who pay them their wage,6 yet among the Egyptians if any artisan should take part in public affairs or pursue several crafts he is severely punished.

8 Such, then, were the divisions of the citizens, maintained by the early inhabitants of Egypt, and their devotion to their own class which they inherited from their ancestors.

75 1 In their administration of justice the Egyptians also showed no merely casual interest, holding that the decisions of the courts exercise the greatest influence upon community life, and this in each of their two aspects. 2 For it was evident to them that if the offenders against the law should be punished and the injured parties should be afforded succour there would be an ideal correction of wrongdoing; but if, on the other hand, the fear which wrongdoers have of the judgments of the courts should be brought to naught by bribery or favour, they saw that the break-up of community life would follow. 3 Consequently, by appointing the best men from the most important cities as judges over the whole land they did not fall short of the end which they had in mind. For from Heliopolis and Thebes and Memphis they used to choose ten judges from each, and this court was regarded as in no way inferior to that composed of the Areopagites at Athens or of the Elders7 at Sparta. 4 And when the thirty assembled they chose the best one of their number and made him chief justice, and in his stead the city sent p261another judge. Allowances to provide for their needs were supplied by the king, to the judges sufficient for their maintenance, and many times as much to the chief justice. 5 The latter regularly wore suspended from his neck by a golden chain a small image made of precious stones, which they called Truth; the hearings of the pleas commenced whenever the chief justice put on the image of Truth. 6 The entire body of the laws was written down in eight volumes which lay before the judges, and the custom was that the accuser should present in writing the particulars of his complaint, namely, the charge, how the thing happened, and the amount of injury or damage done, whereupon the defendant would take the document submitted by his opponents in the suit and reply in writing to each charge, to the effect either that he did not commit the deed, or, if he did, that he was not guilty of wrongdoing, or, if he was guilty of wrongdoing, that he should receive a lighter penalty. 7 After that, the law required that the accuser should reply to this in writing and that the defendant should offer a rebuttal. And after both parties had twice presented their statements in writing to the judges, it was the duty of the thirty at once to declare their opinions among themselves and of the chief justice to place the image of Truth upon one or the other of the two pleas which had been presented.

76 1 This was the manner, as their account goes, in which the Egyptians conducted all court proceedings, since they believed that if the advocates were allowed to speak they would greatly becloud the justice of a case; for they knew that the clever devices of orators, the cunning witchery of their p263delivery, and the tears of the accused would influence many to overlook the severity of the laws and the strictness of truth; 2 at any rate they were aware that men who are highly respected as judges are often carried away by the eloquence of the advocates, either because they are deceived, or because they are won over by the speaker's charm, or because the emotion of pity has been aroused in them;8 but by having the parties to a suit present their pleas in writing, it was their opinion that the judgments would be strict, only the bare facts being taken into account. 3 For in that case there would be the least chance that gifted speakers would have an advantage over the slower, or the well-practised over the inexperienced, or the audacious liars over those who were truth-loving and restrained in character, but all would get their just dues on an equal footing, since by the provision of the laws ample time is taken, on the one hand by the disputants for the examination of the arguments of the other side, and, on the other hand, by the judges for the comparison of the allegations of both parties.

77 1 Since we have spoken of their legislation, we feel that it will not be foreign to the plan of our history to present such laws of the Egyptians as were especially old or took on an extraordinary form, or, in general, can be of help to lovers of reading. 2 Now in the first place, their penalty for perjurers was death, on the ground that such men are guilty of the two greatest transgressions — being impious towards the gods and overthrowing the p265mightiest pledge known among men.9 3 Again, if a man, walking on a road in Egypt, saw a person being killed or, in a word, suffering any kind of violence and did not come to his aid if able to do so, he had to die; and if he was truly prevented from aiding the person because of inability, he was in any case required to lodge information against the bandits and to bring an act against their lawless act; and in case he failed to do this as the law required, it was required that he be scourged with a fixed number of stripes and be deprived of every kind of food for three days. 4 Those who brought false accusations against others had to suffer the penalty that would have been meted out to the accused persons had they been adjudged guilty. 5 All Egyptians were also severally required to submit to the magistrates a written declaration of the sources of their livelihood, and any man making a false declaration or gaining an unlawful means of livelihood10 had to pay the death penalty. And it is said that Solon, after his visit to Egypt, brought this law to Athens.11 6 If anyone intentionally killed a free man or a slave the laws enjoined that he be put to death; for they, in the first place, wished that it should not be through the accidental differences in men's condition in life but through the principles governing their actions that all men should be restrained from evil deeds, and, on the other hand, they sought to accustom mankind, through such consideration for slaves, to refrain all the more from committing any offence whatever against freemen.

p267 7 In the case of parents who had slain their children, though the laws did not prescribe death, yet the offenders had to hold the dead body in their arms for three successive days and nights, under the surveillance of a state guard; for it was not considered just to deprive of life those who had given life to their children, but rather by a warning which brought with it pain and repentance to turn them from such deeds. 8 But for children who had killed their parents they reserved an extraordinary punishment; for it was required that those found guilty of this crime should have pieces of flesh about the size of a finger cut out of their bodies with sharp reeds and then be put on a bed of thorns and burned alive; for they held that to take by violence the life of those who had given them life was the greatest crime possible to man. 9 Pregnant women who had been condemned to death were not executed until they had been delivered. The same law has also been enacted by many Greek states, since they held it entirely unjust that the innocent should suffer the same punishment as the guilty, that a penalty should be exacted of two for only one transgression, and, further, that, since the crime had been actuated by an evil intention, a being as yet without intelligence should receive the same correction, and, what is the most important consideration, that in view of the fact that the guilty had been laid at the door of the pregnant mother it was by no means proper that the child, who belongs to the father as well as to the mother, should be despatched; 10 for a man may properly consider judges who spare the life of a murderer to be no worse than other judges who destroy that which is guilty of no crime whatsoever.

p269 11 Now of the laws dealing with murder these are those which are thought to have been the most successful.

78 1 Among their other laws one, which concerned military affairs, made the punishment of deserters or of any who disobeyed the command of their leaders, not death, but the uttermost disgrace; 2 but if later on such men wiped out their disgrace by a display of manly courage, they were restored to their former freedom of speech.12 Thus the lawgiver at the same time made disgrace a more terrible punishment than death, in order to accustom all the people to consider dishonour the greatest of evils, and he also believed that, while dead men would never be of value to society, men who had been disgraced would do many a good deed through their desire to regain freedom of speech.3 In the case of those who had disclosed military secrets to the enemy the law prescribed that their tongues should be cut out, while in the case of counterfeiters or falsifiers of measures and weights or imitators of seals, and of official scribes who made false entries or erased items, and of any who adduced false documents, it ordered that both their hands should be cut off, to the end that the offender, being punished in respect of those members of his body that were the instruments of his wrongdoing, should himself keep until death his irreparable misfortune, and at the same time, by serving as a warning example to others, should turn them from the commission of similar offences.

p271 4 Severe also were their laws touching women. For if a man had violated a free married woman, they stipulated that he be emasculated, considering that such a person by a single unlawful act had been guilty of the three greatest crimes, assault, abduction, and confusion of offspring; 5 but if a man committed adultery with the woman's consent, the laws ordered that the man should receive a thousand blows with the rod, and that the woman should have her nose cut off, on the ground that a woman who tricks herself out with an eye to forbidden licence should be deprived of that which contributes most to a woman's comeliness.

79 1 Their laws governing contracts they attribute to Bocchoris.13 These prescribe that men who had borrowed money without signing a bond, if they denied the indebtedness, might take an oath to that effect and be cleared of the obligation. The purpose, was, in the first place, that men might stand in awe of the gods by attributing great importance to oaths, 2 for, since it is manifest that the man who has repeatedly taken such an oath will in the end lose the confidence which others had in him, everyone will consider it a matter of the utmost concern not to have recourse to the oath lest he forfeit his credit. In the second place, the lawgiver assumed that by basing confidence entirely upon a man's sense of honour he would incite all men to be virtuous in character, in order that they might not be talked about as being unworthy of confidence; and, furthermore, he held it to be unjust that men who had been trusted with a loan without an oath should not be trusted when they gave their oath regarding the same transaction. And whoever lent money along p273with a written bond was forbidden to do more than double the principal from interest.

3 In the case of debtors the lawgiver ruled that the repayment of loans could be exacted only from a man's estate, and under no condition did he allow the debtor's person to be subject to seizure, holding that whereas property should belong to those who had amassed it or had received it from some earlier holder by way of a gift, the bodies of citizens should belong to the state, to the end that the state might avail itself of the services which its citizens owed it, in times of both war and peace. For it would be absurd, he felt, that a soldier, at the moment perhaps when he was setting forth to fight for his fatherland, should be haled to prison by his creditor for an unpaid loan, and that the greed of private citizens should in this way endanger the safety of all. 4 And it appears that Solon took this law also to Athens, calling it a "disburdenment,"14 when he absolved all the citizens of the loans, secured by their persons, which they owed. 5 But certain individuals find fault, and not without reason, with the majority of the Greek lawgivers, who forbade the taking of weapons and ploughs and other quite indispensable things as security for loans, but nevertheless allowed the men who would use these implements to be subject to imprisonments.

80 1 The Egyptian law dealing with thieves was also a very peculiar one. For it bade any who chose to follow this occupation to enter their names with p275the Chief of the Thieves and by agreement to bring to him immediately the stolen articles, while any who had been robbed filed with him in like manner a list of all the missing articles, stating the place, the day, and the hour of the loss. 2 And since by this method all lost articles were readily found, the owner who had lost anything had only to pay one-fourth of its value in order to recover just what belonged to him. For as it was impossible to keep all mankind from stealing, the lawgiver devised a scheme whereby every article lost would be recovered upon payment of a small ransom.

3 In accordance with the marriage-customs of the Egyptians the priests have but one wife, but any other man takes as many as he may determine;15 and the Egyptians are required to raise all their children in order to increase the population,16 on the ground that large numbers are the greatest factor in increasing the prosperity of both country and cities. Nor do they hold any child a bastard, even though he was born of a slave mother; 4 for they have taken the general position that the father is the sole author of procreation and that the mother only supplies the fetus with nourishment and a place to live, and they call the trees which bear fruit "male" and those which do not "female," exactly opposite to the Greek usage. 5 They feed their children in a sort of happy-go‑lucky fashion that in its inexpensiveness quite surpasses belief; for they serve them with stews p277made of any stuff that is ready to hand and cheap, and give them such stalks of the byblos plant as can be roasted in the coals, and the roots and stems of marsh plants, either raw or boiled or baked. 6 And since most of the children are reared without shoes or clothing because of the mildness of the climate of the country, the entire expense incurred by the parents of a child until it comes to maturity is not more than twenty drachmas. These are the leading reasons why Egypt has such an extraordinarily large population, and it is because of this fact that she possesses a vast number of great monuments.

81 1 In the education of their sons the priests teach them two kinds of writing, that which is called "sacred" and that which is used in the more general instruction.17 Geometry18 and arithmetic are given special attention. 2 For the river, by changing the face of the country each year in manifold ways, gives rise to many and varied disputes between neighbours over their boundary lines, and these disputes cannot be easily tested out with any exactness unless a geometer works out the truth scientifically by the application of his experience. 3 And arithmetic is serviceable with reference to the business affairs connected with making a living and also in applying the principles of geometry, and likewise is of no small assistance to students of astrology as well. 4 For the positions and arrangements of the stars as p279well as their motions have always been the subject of careful observation among the Egyptians, if anywhere in the world; they have preserved to this day the records concerning each of these stars over an incredible number of years, this subject of study having been zealously preserved among them from ancient times, and they have also observed with the utmost avidity the motions and orbits and stoppings of the planets, as well as the influences of each one on the generation of all living things — the good or the evil effects, namely, of which they are the cause. 5 And while they are often successful in predicting to men the events which are going to befall them in the course of their lives, not infrequently they foretell destructions of the crops or, on the other hand, abundant yields, and pestilences that are to attack men or beasts, and as a result of their long observations they have prior knowledge of earthquakes and floods, of the risings of the comets, and of all things which the ordinary man looks upon as beyond all finding out. 6 And according to them the Chaldaeans of Babylon, being colonists from Egypt, enjoy the fame which they have for their astrology because they learned that science from the priests of Egypt.

7 As to the general mass of the Egyptians, they are instructed from their childhood by their fathers or kinsmen in the practices proper to each manner of life as previously described by us;19 but as for reading and writing, the Egyptians at large give their children only a superficial instruction in them, and not all do this, but for the most part only those who are engaged in the crafts. In wrestling and music, p281however, it is not customary among them to receive any instruction at all;20 for they hold that from the daily exercises in wrestling their young men will gain, not health, but a vigour that is only temporary and in fact quite dangerous, while they consider music to be not only useless but even harmful, since it makes the spirits of the listeners effeminate.

82 1 In order to prevent sicknesses they look after the health of their bodies by means of drenches, fastings, and emetics,21 sometimes every day and sometimes at intervals of three or four days. 2 For they say that the larger part of the food taken into the body is superfluous and that it is from this superfluous part that diseases are engendered; consequently the treatment just mentioned, by removing the beginnings of disease, would be most likely to produce health. 3 On their military campaigns and their journeys in the country they all receive treatment without the payment of any private fee; for the physicians draw their support from public funds and administer their treatments in accordance with a written law which was composed in ancient times by many famous physicians. If they follow the rules of this law as they read them in the sacred book and yet are unable to save their patient, they are absolved from any charge and go unpunished; but if they go contrary to the law's prescriptions in any respect, they must submit to a trial with death as the penalty, the lawgiver holding that but few physicians would ever show themselves wiser than the mode of treatment which had been closely followed for a long p283period and had been originally prescribed by the ablest practitioners.

83 1 As regards the consecration of animals in Egypt, the practice naturally appears to many to be extraordinary and worthy of investigation. For the Egyptian venerate certain animals exceedingly, not only during their lifetime but even after their death, such as cats,22 ichneumons and dogs, and, again, hawks and the birds which they call "ibis," as well as wolves and crocodiles and a number of other animals of that kind, and the reasons for such worship we shall undertake to set forth, after we have first spoken briefly about the animals themselves.

2 In the first place, for each kind of animal that is accorded this worship there has been consecrated a portion of land which returns a revenue sufficient for their care and sustenance; moreover, the Egyptians make vows to certain gods on behalf of their children who have been delivered from an illness, in which case they shave off their hair and weigh it against silver or gold, and then give the money to the attendants of the animals mentioned. 3 These cut up flesh for the hawks and calling them with a loud cry toss it up to them, as they swoop by, until they catch it, while for the cats and ichneumons they break up bread into milk and calling them with a clucking sound set it before them, or else they cut up fish caught in the Nile and feed the flesh to them raw; and in like manner each of the other kinds of animals is provided with the appropriate food. 4 And as for the various services which these animals require, the Egyptians not only do not try to avoid them or feel p285ashamed to be seen by the crowds as they perform them, but on the contrary, in the belief that they are engaged in the most serious rites of divine worship, they assume airs of importance, and wearing special insignia make the rounds of the cities and the countryside. And since it can be seen from afar in the service of what animals they engaged, all who meet them fall down before them and render them honour.

5 When one of these animals dies they wrap it in fine linen and then, wailing and beating their breasts, carry it off to be embalmed; and after it has been treated with cedar oil and such spices as have the quality of imparting a pleasant odour and of preserving the body for a long time,23 they lay it away in a consecrated tomb. 6 And whoever intentionally kills one of these animals is put to death, unless it be a cat or an ibis that he kills; but if he kills one of these, whether intentionally or unintentionally, he is certainly put to death, for the common people gather in crowds and deal with the perpetrator most cruelly, sometimes doing this without waiting for a trial. 7 And because of their fear of such a punishment any who have caught sight of one of these animals lying dead withdraw to a great distance and shout with lamentations and protestations that they found the animal already dead. 8 So deeply implanted also in the hearts of the common people is their superstitious regard for these animals and so unalterable are the emotions cherished by every man regarding the honour due to them that once, at the time when Ptolemy their king had not as yet been given by the p287Romans the appellation of "friend"24 and the people were exercising all zeal in courting the favour of the embassy from Italy which was then visiting Egypt and, in their fear, were intent upon giving no cause for complaint or war, when one of the Romans killed a cat and the multitude rushed in a crowd to his house, neither the officials sent by the king to beg the man off nor the fear of Rome which all the people felt were enough to save the man from punishment, even though his act had been an accident. 9 And this incident we relate, not from hearsay, but we saw it with our own eyes on the occasion of the visit we made to Egypt.

84 1 But if what has been said seems to many incredible and like a fanciful tale, what is to follow will appear far more extraordinary. Once, they say, when the inhabitants of Egypt were being hard pressed by a famine, many in their need laid hands upon their fellows, yet not a single man was even accused of having partaken of the sacred animals. 2 Furthermore, whenever a dog is found dead in any house, every inmate of it shaves his entire body and goes into mourning, and what is more astonishing than this, if any wine or grain or any other thing necessary to life happens to be stored in the building where one of these animals has expired, they would never think of using it thereafter for any purpose. 3 And if they happen to be making a military expedition in another country, they ransom the captive cats and hawks and bring them back to Egypt, and this they do sometimes even when their supply of money p289for the journey is running short. 4 As for ceremonies connected with the Apis of Memphis, the Mnevis of Heliopolis25 and the goat of Mendes, as well as with the crocodile of the Lake of Moeris, the lion kept in the City of Lions (Leontopolis), as it is called, and many other ceremonies like them, they could easily be described, but the writer would scarcely be believed by any who had not actually witnessed them. 5 For these animals are kept in sacred enclosures and cared for by many men of distinction who offer them the most expensive fare; for they provide, with unfailing regularity, the finest wheaten flour or wheat-groats seethed in milk, every kind of sweetmeat made with honey, and the meat of ducks, either boiled or baked, while for the carnivorous animals birds are caught and thrown to them in abundance, and, in general, great care is given that they have an expensive fare. 6 They are continually bathing the animals in warm water, anointing them with the most precious ointments, and burning before them every kind of fragrant incense; they furnish them with the most expensive coverlets and with splendid jewellery, and exercise the greatest care that they shall enjoy sexual intercourse according to the demands of nature; furthermore, with every animal they keep the most beautiful females of the same genus, which they call his concubines and attend to at the cost of heavy expense and assiduous service. 7 When any animal dies they mourn for it as deeply as do those who have lost a beloved child, and bury it in a manner not in keeping with their ability but p291going far beyond the value of their estates. 8 For instance, after the death of Alexander and just subsequently to the taking over of Egypt by Ptolemy the son of Lagus, it happened that the Apis in Memphis died of old age; and the man who was charged with the care of him spent on his burial not only the whole of the very large sum which had been provided for the animal's maintenance, but also borrowed in addition fifty talents26 of silver from Ptolemy. And even in our own day some of the keepers of these animals have spent on their burial not less than one hundred talents.

85 1 There should be added to what has been said what still remains to be told concerning the ceremonies connected with the sacred bull called Apis. After he has died and has received a magnificent burial, the priests who are charged with this duty seek out a young bull which has on its body markings similar to those of its predecessor; 2 and when it has been found the people cease their mourning and the priests who have the care of it first take the young bull to Nilopolis, where it is kept forty days, and then, putting it on a state barge fitted out with a gilded cabin, conduct it as a god to the sanctuary of Hephaestus at Memphis. 3 During these forty days only women may look at it; these stand facing it and pulling up their garments show their genitals, but henceforth they are forever prevented from coming into the presence of this god. 4 Some explain the origin of the honour accorded this bull in this way, saying that at the death of Osiris his soul passed into this p293animal, and therefore up to this day has always passed into its successors at the times of the manifestation of Osiris;27 5 but some say that when Osiris died at the hands of Typhon Isis collected the members of his body and put them in an ox (bous), made of wood covered over with fine linen, and because of this the city was called Bousiris. Many other stories are told about the Apis, but we feel that it would be a long task to recount all the details regarding them.

86 1 Since all the practices of the Egyptians in their worship of animals are astonishing and beyond belief, they occasion much difficulty for those who would seek out their origins and causes. 2 Now their priests have on this subject a teaching which may not be divulged, as we have already stated in connection with their accounts of the gods,28 but the majority of the Egyptians give the following three causes, the first of which belongs entirely to the realm of fable and is in keeping with the simplicity of primitive times. 3 They say, namely, that the gods who came into existence in the beginning, being few in number and overpowered by the multitude and the lawlessness of earth-born men,29 took on the forms of certain animals, and in this way saved themselves from the savagery and violence of mankind; but afterwards, when they had established their power over all things in the universe, out of gratitude to the animals which had been responsible for their salvation at the outset, p295they made sacred those kinds whose form they had assumed, and instructed mankind to maintain them in a costly fashion while living and to bury them at death.

4 The second cause which they give is this — that the early Egyptians, after having been defeated by their neighbours in many battles because of the lack of order in their army, conceived the idea of carrying standards before the several divisions. 5 Consequently, they say, the commanders fashioned figures of the animals which they now worship and carried them fixed on lances, and by this device every man knew where his place was in the array. And since the good order resulting therefrom greatly contributed to victory, they thought that the animals had been responsible for their deliverance; and so the people, wishing to show their gratitude to them, established the custom of not killing any one of the animals whose likeness had been fashioned at that time, but of rendering to them, as objects of worship, the care and honour which we have previously described.

87 1 The third cause which they adduce in connection with the dispute in question is the service which each one of these animals renders for the benefit of community life and of mankind. 2 The cow, for example, bears workers30 and ploughs the lighter soil; the sheep lamb twice in the year and provide by their wool both protection for the body and its decorous covering, while by their milk and cheese they furnish food that is both appetizing and abundant. Again, the dog is useful both for the hunt and for man's protection, and this is why they represent the god whom they call Anubis with a dog's head, showing p297in this way that he was the bodyguard of Osiris and Isis. 3 There are some, however, who explain that dogs guided Isis during her search for Osiris and protected her from wild beasts and wayfarers, and that they helped her in her search, because of the affection they bore for her, by baying; and this is the reason why at the Festival of Isis the procession is led by dogs, those who introduced the rite showing forth in this way the kindly service rendered by this animal of old. 4 The cat is likewise useful against asps with their deadly bite and the other reptiles that sting, while the ichneumon keeps a look-out for the newly-laid seed of the crocodile and crushes the eggs left by the female, doing this carefully and zealously even though it receives no benefit from the act. 5 Were this not done, the river would have become impassable because of the multitude of beasts that would be born. And the crocodiles themselves are also killed by this animal in an astonishing and quite incredible manner; for the ichneumons roll themselves over and over in the mud, and when the crocodiles go to sleep on the land with their mouths open they jump down their mouths into the centre of their body; then, rapidly gnawing through the bowels, they get out unscathed themselves and at the same time kill their victims instantly.31 6 And of the sacred birds the ibis is useful as a protector against the snakes, the locusts, and the caterpillars, and the hawk against the scorpions, horned serpents, and the small animals of noxious bite which cause the greatest destruction of men. 7 But some maintain that the hawk is honoured because it is used as a bird of omen by the soothsayers in predicting to the p299Egyptians events which are to come. 8 Others, however, say that in primitive times a hawk brought to the priests in Thebes a book wrapped about with a purple band, which contained written directions concerning the worship of gods and the honours due to them; and it is for this reason, they add, that the sacred scribes wear on their heads a purple band and the wing of a hawk. 9 The eagle also is honoured by the Thebans because it is believed to be a royal animal and worthy of Zeus.

88 1 They have deified the goat, just as the Greeks are said to have honoured Priapus,32 because of the generative member; for this animal has a very great propensity for copulation, and it is fitting that honour be shown to that member of the body which is the cause of generation, being, as it were, the primal author of all animal life. 2 And, in general, not only the Egyptians but not a few other peoples as well have in the rites they observe treated the male member as sacred, on the ground that it is the cause of the generation of all creatures; and the priests in Egypt who have inherited their priestly offices from their fathers are initiated first into the mysteries of this god. 3 And both the Pans and the Satyrs, they say, are worshipped by men for the same reason; and this is why most peoples set up in their sacred places statues of them showing the phallus erect and resembling a goat's in nature, since according to tradition this animal is most efficient in copulation; consequently, by representing these creatures in such fashion, the dedicants are returning thanks to them for their own numerous offspring.

p301 4 The sacred bulls — I refer to the Apis and the Mnevis — are honoured like the gods, as Osiris commanded, both because of their use in farming and also because the fame of those who discovered the fruits of the earth is handed down by the labours of these animals to succeeding generations for all time. Red oxen, however, may be sacrificed, because it is thought that this was the colour of Typhon, who plotted against Osiris and was then punished by Isis for the death of her husband. 5 Men also, if they were of the same colour as Typhon, were sacrificed, they say, in ancient times by the kings at the tomb of Osiris; however, only a few Egyptians are now found red in colour,a and but the majority of such are non-Egyptians, and this is why the story spread among the Greeks of the slaying of foreigners by Busiris, although Busiris was not the name of the king but of the tomb of Osiris, which is called that in the language of the land.33

6 The wolves are honoured, they say, because their nature is so much like that of dogs, for the natures of these two animals are little different from each other and hence offspring is produced by their interbreeding. But the Egyptians offer another explanation for the honour accorded this animal, although it pertains more to the realm of myth; for they say that in early times when Isis, aided by her son p303Horus, was about to commence her struggle with Typhon, Osiris came from Hades to help his son and his wife, having taken on the guise of wolf; and so, upon the death of Typhon, his conquerors commanded men to honour the animal upon whose appearance victory followed. 7 But some say that once, when the Ethiopians had marched against Egypt, a great number of bands of wolves (lykoi) gathered together and drove the invaders out of the country, pursuing them beyond the city named Elephantine; and therefore that nome was given the name Lycopolite34 and these animals were granted the honour in question.

89 1 It remains for us to speak of the deification of crocodiles, a subject regarding which most men are entirely at a loss to explain how, when these beasts eat the flesh of men, it ever became the law to honour like the gods creatures of the most revolting habits.b 2 Their reply is, that the security of the country is ensured, not only by the river, but to a much greater degree by the crocodiles in it; that for this reason the robbers that infest both Arabia and Libya do not dare to swim across the Nile, because they fear the beasts, whose number is very great; and that this would never have been the case if war were continually being waged against the animals and they had been utterly destroyed by hunters dragging the river with nets. 3 But still another account is given of these beasts. For some say that once one of the early kings whose name was Menas, being pursued by his own dogs, came in his flight to the Lake of Moeris, as it is called, where, strange as it may seem, a crocodile took him on his p305back and carried him to the other side. Wishing to show his gratitude to the beast for saving him, he founded a city near the place and named it City of the Crocodiles; and he commanded the natives of the region to worship these animals as gods and dedicated the lake to them for their sustenance; and in that place he also constructed his own tomb, erecting a pyramid with four sides, and built the Labyrinth which is admired by many.35

4 A similar diversity of customs exists, according to their accounts, with regard to everything else, but it would be a long task to set forth the details concerning them.36 That they have adopted these customs for themselves because of the advantage accruing therefrom to their life is clear to all from the fact that there are those among them who will not touch many particular kinds of food. Some, for instance, abstain entirely from lentils, others from beans, and some from cheese or onions or certain other foods, there being many kinds of food in Egypt, showing in this way that men must be taught to deny themselves things that are useful, and that if all ate of everything the supply of no article of consumption would hold out. 5 But some adduce other causes and say that, since under the early kings the multitude were often revolting and conspiring against their rulers, one of the kings who was especially wise divided the land into a number of parts and commanded the inhabitants of each to revere a certain animal or else not to eat a certain food, his thought being that, with each group of p307people revering what was honoured among themselves but despising what was sacred to all the rest, all the inhabitants of Egypt would never be able to be of one mind. 6 And this purpose, they declare, is clear from the results; for every group of people is at odds with its neighbours, being offended at their violations of the customs mentioned above.

90 1 Some advance some such reason as the following for their deification of the animals. When men, they say, first ceased living like the beasts and gathered into groups, at the outset they kept devouring each other and warring among themselves, the more powerful ever prevailing over the weaker; but later those who were deficient in strength, taught by expediency, grouped together and took for the device upon their standard one of the animals which was later made sacred; then, when those who were from time to time in fear flocked to this symbol, an organized body was formed which was not to be despised by any who attacked it. 2 And when everybody else did the same thing, the whole people came to be divided into organized bodies, and in the case of each the animal which had been responsible for its safety was accorded honours like those belonging to the gods, as having rendered to them the greatest service possible; and this is why to this day the several groups of the Egyptians differ from each other in that each group honours the animals which it originally made sacred.

In general, they say, the Egyptians surpass all other peoples in showing gratitude for every benefaction, since they hold that the return of gratitude to benefactors is a very great resource in life; for it is clear that all men will want to bestow their p309benefactions preferably upon those who they see will most honourably treasure up the favours they bestow. 3 And it is apparently on these grounds that the Egyptians prostrate themselves before their kings and honour them as being in truth very gods, holding, on the one hand, that it was not without the influence of some divine providence that these men have attained to the supreme power, and feeling, also, that such as have the will and the strength to confer the greatest benefactions share in the divine nature.

4 Now if we have dwelt over-long on the topic of the sacred animals, we have at least thoroughly considered those customs of the Egyptians that men most marvel at.

91 1 But not least will a man marvel at the peculiarity of the customs of the Egyptians when he learns of their usages with respect to the dead. For whenever anyone dies among them, all his relatives and friends, plastering their heads with mud, roam about the city lamenting, until the body receives burial. Nay more, during that time they indulge in neither baths, nor wine, nor in any other food worth mentioning, nor do they put on bright clothing. 2 There are three classes of burial, the most expensive, the medium, and the most humble. And if the first is used the cost, they say, is a talent of silver, if the second, twenty minae, and if the last, the expense is, they say, very little indeed. 3 Now the men who treat the bodies are skilled artisans who have received this professional knowledge as a family tradition; and these lay before the relatives of the deceased a price-list of every item connected with p311the burial, and ask them in what manner they wish the body to be treated. 4 When an agreement has been reached on every detail and they have taken the body, they turn it over to men who have been assigned to the service and have become inured to it. The first is the scribe, as he is called, who, when the body has been laid on the ground, circumscribes on the left flank the extent of the incision; then the one called the slitter37 cuts the flesh, as the law commands, with an Ethiopian stone38 and at once takes to flight on the run, while those present set out after him, pelting him with stones, heaping curses on him, and trying, as it were, to turn the profanation on his head; for in their eyes everyone is an object of general hatred who applies violence to the body of a man of the same tribe or wounds him or, in general, does him any harm.

5 The men called embalmers, however, are considered worthy of every honour and consideration, associating with the priests and even coming and going in the temples without hindrance, as being undefiled. When they have gathered to treat the body after it has been slit open, one of them thrusts his hand through the opening in the corpse into the trunk and extracts everything but the kidneys and heart, and another one cleanses each of the viscera, washing them in palm wine and spices. 6 And in general, they carefully dress the whole body for over p313thirty days, first with cedar oil and certain other preparations, and then with myrrh, cinnamon, and such spices as have the faculty not only of preserving it for a long time but also of giving it a fragrant odour. And after treating the body they return it to the relatives of the deceased, every member of it having been so preserved intact that even the hair on the eyelids and brows remains, the entire appearance of the body is unchanged, and the cast of its shape is recognizable. 7 This explains why many Egyptians keep the bodies of their ancestors in costly chambers and gaze face to face upon those who died many generations before their own birth, so that, as they look upon the stature and proportions and the features of the countenance of each, they experience a strange enjoyment, as though they had lived with those on whom they gaze.

92 When the body is ready to be buried the family announces the day of interment to the judges and to the relatives and friends of the deceased, and solemnly affirms that he who has just passed away — giving his name — "is about to cross the lake." 2 Then, when the judges, forty-two in number,39 have assembled and have taken seats in a hemicycle which has been built across the lake, the baris40 is launched, which has been prepared in advance by men especially p315engaged in that service, and which is in the charge of the boatman whom the Egyptians in their language charon.41 3 For this reason they insist that Orpheus, having visited Egypt in ancient times and witnessed this custom, merely invented his account of Hades, in part reproducing this practice and in part inventing on his own account; but this point we shall discuss more fully a little later.42 4 At any rate, after the baris has been launched into the lake but before the coffin containing the body is set in it, the law gives permission to anyone who wishes to arraign the dead person. Now if anyone presents himself and makes a charge, and shows that the dead man had led an evil life, the judges announce the decision to all and the body is denied the customary burial; but if it shall appear that the accuser has made an unjust charge he is severely punished. 5 When no accuser appears or the one who presents himself is discovered to be a slanderer, the relatives put their mourning aside and laud the deceased. And of his ancestry, indeed, they say nothing, as the Greeks do, since they hold that all Egyptians are equally well born, but after recounting his training and education from childhood, they describe his righteousness and justice after he attained to manhood, also his self-control and his other virtues, and call upon the gods of the lower world to receive him into the company of the righteous; and the multitude shouts its assent and extorts the glory of the deceased, as of p317one who is about to spend eternity in Hades among the righteous. 6 Those who have private sepulchres lay the body in a vault reserved for it, but those who possess none construct a new chamber in their own home, and stand the coffin upright against the firmest wall. Any also who are forbidden burial because of the accusations brought against them or because their bodies have been made security for a loan they lay away in their own homes; and it sometimes happens that their sons's sons, when they have become prosperous and paid off the debt or cleared them of the charges, give them later a magnificent funeral.

93 1 It is a most sacred duty, in the eyes of the Egyptians, that they should be seen to honour their parents or ancestors all the more after they have passed to their eternal home. Another custom of theirs is to put up the bodies of their deceased parents as security for a loan; and failure to repay such debts is attended with the deepest disgrace as well as with deprivation of burial at death. 2 And a person may well admire the men who established these customs, because they strove to inculcate in the inhabitants, as far as was possible, virtuousness and excellence of character, by means not only of their converse with the living but also of their burial and affectionate care of the dead. 3 For the Greeks have handed down their beliefs in such matters — in the honour paid to the righteous and the punishment of the wicked — by means of fanciful tales and discredited legends; consequently these accounts not only cannot avail to spur their people on to the best p319life, but, on the contrary, being scoffed at by worthless men, are received with contempt. 4 But among the Egyptians, since these matters do not belong to the realm of myth but men see with their own eyes that punishment is meted out to the wicked and honour to the good, every day of their lives both the wicked and the good are reminded of their obligations and in this way the greatest and most profitable amendment of men's characters is effected. And the best laws, in my opinion, must be held to be, not those by which men become most prosperous, but those by which they become most virtuous in character and best fitted for citizenship.

94 1 We must speak also of the lawgivers who have arisen in Egypt and who instituted customs unusual and strange. After the establishment of settled life in Egypt in early times, which took place, according to the mythical account, in the period of the gods and heroes, the first, they say, to persuade the multitudes to use written laws was Mneves,43 a man not only great of soul but also in his life the most public-spirited of all lawgivers whose names are recorded. According to the tradition he claimed that Hermes had given the laws to him, with the assurance that they would be the cause of great blessings, just as among the Greeks, they say, Minos did in Crete and Lycurgus among the Lacedaemonians, the former saying that he received his laws from Zeus and the latter his from Apollo. 2 Also among several other peoples tradition says that this kind of a device was used and was the cause of much good to such as p321believed it. Thus it is recorded that among the Arians Zathraustes44 claimed that the Good Spirit gave him his laws, among the people known as the Getae who represent themselves to be immortal Zalmoxis45 asserted the same of their common goddess Hestia, and among the Jews Moyses referred his laws to the god who is invoked as Iao.46 They all did this either because they believed that a conception which would help humanity was marvellous and wholly divine, or because they held that the common crowd would be more likely to obey the laws if their gaze were directed towards the majesty and power of those to whom their laws were ascribed.c

3 A second lawgiver, according to the Egyptians, was Sasychis,47 a man of unusual understanding. He made sundry additions to the existing laws and, in particular, laid down with the greatest precision the rites to be used in honouring the gods, and he was the inventor of geometry and taught his countrymen both to speculate about the stars and to observe them. 4 A third one, they tell us, was the king Sesoösis,48 who not only performed the most renowned deeds in war of any king of Egypt but also organized the rules governing the warrior class49 and, in conformity with these, set in order all the regulations that have to do with military campaigns. 5 A fourth lawgiver, they say, was the king Bocchoris,50 a wise p323sort of a man and conspicuous for his craftiness. He drew up all the regulations which governed the kings and gave precision to the laws on contracts; and so wise was he in his judicial decisions as well, that many of his judgments are remembered for their excellence even to our day. And they add that he was very weak in body, and that by disposition he was the most avaricious of all their kings.

95 1 After Bocchoris, they say, their king Amasis51 gave attention to the laws, who, according to their accounts, drew up the rules governing the nomarchs and the entire administration of Egypt. And tradition describes him as exceedingly wise and in disposition virtuous and just, for which reasons the Egyptians invested him with the kingship, although he was not of the royal line. 2 They say also that the citizens of Elis, when they were giving their attention to the Olympic Games, sent an embassy to him to ask how they could be conducted with the greatest fairness, and that he replied, "Provided no man of Elis participates." 3 And though Polycrates, the ruler of the Samians, had been on terms of friendship with him, when he began oppressing both citizens and such foreigners as put in at Samos, it is said that Amasis at first sent an embassy to him and urged him to moderation; and when no attention was paid to this, he wrote a letter in which he broke up the relations of friendship and hospitality that had existed between them; for he did not wish, as he said, to be plunged into grief in a short while, knowing right p325well as he did that misfortune is near at hand for the ruler who maintains a tyranny in such fashion. And he was admired, they say, among the Greeks both because of his virtuous character and because his words to Polycrates were speedily fulfilled.

4 A sixth man to concern himself with the laws of the Egyptians, it is said, was Darius the father of Xerxes; for he was incensed at the lawlessness which his predecessor, Cambyses, had shown in the treatment of the sanctuaries of Egypt, and aspired to live a life of virtue and of piety towards the gods. 5 Indeed he associated with the priests of Egypt themselves, and took part with them in the study of theology and of the events recorded in their sacred books; and when he learned from these books about the greatness of soul of the ancient kings and about their goodwill towards their subjects he imitated their manner of life. For this reason he was the object of such great honour that he alone of all the kings was addressed as a god by the Egyptians in his lifetime, while at his death he was accorded equal honours with the ancient kings of Egypt who had ruled in strictest accord with the laws.

6 The system, then, of law used throughout the land was the work, they say, of the men just named, and gained a renown that spread among other peoples everywhere; but in later times, they say, many institutions which were regarded as good were changed, after the Macedonians had conquered and destroyed once and for all the kingship of the native line.

p327 96 1 But now that we have examined these matters, we must enumerate what Greeks, who have won fame for their wisdom and learning, visited Egypt in ancient times, in order to become acquainted with its customs and learning. 2 For the priests of Egypt recount from the records of their sacred books that they were visited in early times by Orpheus, Musaeus, Melampus, and Daedalus, also by the poet Homer and Lycurgus of Sparta, later by Solon of Athens and the philosopher Plato, and that there also came Pythagoras of Samos and the mathematician Eudoxus,52 as well as Democritus of Abdera and Oenopides53 of Chios. 3 As evidence for the visits of all these men they point in some cases to their statues and in others to places or buildings54 which bear their names, and they offer proofs from the branch of learning which each one of these men pursued, arguing that all the things for which they were admired among the Greeks were transferred from Egypt.

4 Orpheus, for instance, brought from Egypt most of his mystic ceremonies, the orgiastic rites that accompanied his wanderings, and his fabulous account of his experiences in Hades. 5 For the rite of Osiris is the same as that of Dionysus and that of Isis very similar to that of Demeter, the names alone having been interchanged; and the punishments in Hades of the unrighteous, the Fields of the Righteous, and the fantastic conceptions, current among the p329many, which are figments of the imagination — all these were introduced by Orpheus in imitation of the Egyptian funeral customs. 6 Hermes, for instance, the Conductor of Souls, according to the ancient Egyptian custom, brings up the body of the Apis to a certain point and then gives it over to one who wears the mask of Cerberus. And after Orpheus had introduced this notion among the Greeks, Homer55 followed it when he wrote:

Cyllenian Hermes then did summon forth

The suitors's souls, holding his wand in hand.

And again a little further56 on he says:

They passed Oceanus' streams, the Gleaming Rock,

The Portals of the Sun, the Land of Dreams;

And now they reached the Meadow of Asphodel,

Where dwell the Souls, the shades of men outworn.

7 Now he calls the river "Oceanus"57 because in their language the Egyptians speak of the Nile as Oceanus; the "Portals of the Sun" (Heliopulai) is his name for the city of Heliopolis; and "Meadows," the mythical dwelling of the dead, is his term for the place near the lake which is called Acherousia, which is near Memphis, and around it are fairest meadows, of a marsh-land and lotus and reeds. The same explanation also serves for the statement that the dwelling of the dead is in these regions, since the most and the largest tombs of the Egyptians are situated there, the p331dead being ferried across both the river and Lake Acherousia and their bodies laid in the vaults situated there.

8 The other myths about Hades, current among the Greeks, also agree with the customs which are practised even now in Egypt. For the boat which receives the bodies is called baris,58 and the passenger's fee is given to the boatman, who in the Egyptian tongue is called charon. 9 And near these regions, they say, are also the "Shades," which is a temple of Hecate, and "portals" of Cocytus and Lethe, which are covered at intervals with bands of bronze.59 There are, moreover, other portals, namely, those of Truth, and near them stands a headless statue60 of Justice.

97 1 Many other things as well, of which mythology tells, are still to be found among the Egyptians, the name being still preserved and the customs actually being practised. 2 In the city of Acanthi, for instance, across the Nile in the direction of Libya one hundred and twenty stades from Memphis, there is a perforated jar to which three hundred and sixty priests, one each day, bring water from the Nile;61 3 and not far from there the actual performance of the myth of Ocnus62 is to be seen in one of their festivals, where a single man is weaving at one end of a long p333rope and many others beyond him are unravelling it. 4 Melampus also, they say, brought from Egypt the rites which the Greeks celebrate in the name of Dionysus, the myths about Cronus and the War with the Titans, and, in a word, the account of the things which happened to the gods. 5 Daedalus, they relate, copied the maze of the Labyrinth which stands to our day and was built, according to some, by Mendes,63 but according to others, by king Marrus, many years before the reign of Minos. 6 And the proportions of the ancient statues of Egypt are the same as in those made by Daedalus among the Greeks. The very beautiful propylon of the temple of Hephaestus in Memphis was also built by Daedalus, who became an object of admiration and was granted a statue of himself in wood, which was made by his own hands and set up in this temple; furthermore, he was accorded great fame because of his genius and, after making many discoveries, was granted divine honours; for on one of the islands off Memphis there stands even to this day a temple of Daedalus, which is honoured by the people of that region.

7 And as proof of the presence of Homer in Egypt they adduce various pieces of evidence, and especially the healing drink which brings forgetfulness of all past evils, which was given by Helen to Telemachus in the home of Menelaüs. For it is manifest that the poet had acquired exact knowledge of the "nepenthic"64 drug which he says Helen brought from Egyptian Thebes, given her by Polydamna the p335wife of Thon; for, they allege, even to this day the women of this city use this powerful remedy, and in ancient times, they say, a drug to cure anger and sorrow was discovered exclusively among the women of Diospolis; but Thebes and Diospolis, they add, are the same city. 8 Again, Aphroditê is called "golden"65 by the natives in accordance with an old tradition, and near the city which is called Momemphis there is a plain "of golden Aphroditê." 9 Likewise, the myths which are related about the dalliance of Zeus and Hera and of their journey to Ethiopia he also got from Egypt; for each year among the Egyptians the shrine of Zeus is carried across the river into Libya and then brought back some days later, as if the god were arriving from Ethiopia; and as for the dalliance of these deities, in their festal gatherings the priests carry the shrines of both to an elevation that has been strewn with flowers of every description.66

98 1 Lycurgus also and Plato and Solon, they say, incorporated many Egyptian customs into their own legislation. 2 And Pythagoras learned from Egyptians his teachings about the gods, his geometrical propositions and theory of numbers, as well as the transmigration of the soul into every living thing. 3 Democritus67 also, as they assert, spent five years among them and was instructed in many matters relating to astrology. Oenopides likewise passed some time p337with the priests and astrologers and learned among other things about the orbit of the sun, that it has an oblique course and moves in a direction opposite to that of the other stars.68 4 Like the others, Eudoxus studied astrology with them and acquired a notable fame for the great amount of useful knowledge which he disseminated among the Greeks.

5 Also of the ancient sculptors the most renowned sojourned among them, namely, Telecles and Theodorus, the sons of Rhoecus, who executed for the people of Samos the wooden69 statue of the Pythian Apollo. 6 For one half of the statue, as the account is given, was worked by Telecles in Samos, and the other half was finished by his brother Theodorus at Ephesus; and when the two parts were brought together they fitted so perfectly that the whole work had the appearance of having been done by one man. This70 p339method of working is practised nowhere among the Greeks, but is followed generally among the Egyptians. 7 For with them the symmetrical proportions of the statues are not fixed in accordance with the appearance they present to the artist's eye, as is done among the Greeks, but as soon as they lay out the stones and, after apportioning them, are ready to work on them, at that stage they take the proportions, from the smallest parts to the largest; 8 for, dividing the structure of the entire body into twenty-one parts and one-fourth71 in addition, they express in this way the complete figure in its symmetrical proportions. Consequently, so soon as the artisans agree as to the size of the statue, they separate and proceed to turn out the various sizes assigned to them, in the same way that they correspond, and they do it so accurately that the peculiarity of their system excites amazement.72 9 And the wooden statue in Samos, in conformity with the ingenious method of the Egyptians, was cut into two parts from the top of the head down to the private parts p341and the statue was divided in the middle, each part exactly matching the other at every point. And they say that this statue is for the most part rather similar to those of Egypt, as having the arms stretched stiffly down the sides and the legs separated in a stride.

10 Now regarding Egypt, the events which history records and the things that deserve to be mentioned, this account is sufficient; and we shall present in the next Book, in keeping with our profession at the beginning of this Book, the events and legendary accounts next in order, beginning with the part played by the Assyrians in Asia.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cp. for Orpheus, chap. 23, for Homer, chap. 12, for Pythagoras and Solon, chap. 98.

2 Two instances of this are given in chap. 64.

3 The Harris Papyrus of the twelfth century B.C. gives the only definite figures of the vast holdings of the temples. They owned at that time about two per cent of the population and some fifteen per cent of the land, not to mention property of other nature, and their power materially increased in the succeeding centuries.

4 The fullest account of this warrior caste is in Herodotus 2.164 ff.

5 According to Aristotle (Historia Animalium, 6.2) this artificial hatching was effected by burying the eggs in dung.

6 Speaking as an aristocrat, Diodorus is criticising the democracies of Greece, Athens in all probability being especially in his mind, where the citizens, according to him, leave their tasks to participate in the affairs of the state, apparently being paid by their employers while thus engaged and receiving an additional compensation from the state.

7 The bodies were known as the Council of the Areopagus and the Gerousia respectively; the latter is described in Book 17.104.

8 It is interesting to observe that the Egyptians are supposed to be familiar with the weaknesses of the Attic courts.

9 Cp. Euripides, Medea, 412‑13: θεῶν δ᾽ οὐκέτι πίστις ἄραρε ("a pledge given in the name of the gods no longer stands firm").

10 Cp. Herodotus, 2.177: μηδὲ ἀποφαίνοντα δικαίην ζόην ("unless he proved that he had a just way of life").

11 Herodotus (2.177) makes the same statement, but Plutarch (Solon, 31), on the authority of Theophrastus, attributes a similar law, not to Solon, but to Peisistratus.

12 The significance of this word, which summed up as well as any the ideal of Greek freedom and of the Athenian democracy, cannot be included in a single phrase. It implied that a man was as good as any other, that he could hold up his head among his fellows. "Position of self-respect and equality" is approximately what it means in this sentence and the following.

13 Cp. chap. 65.

14 The famous Seisachtheia ("shaking off of burdens") of Solon in 594 B.C. declared void existing pledges in land, granted freedom to all men enslaved for debt, and probably cancelled all debts which involved any form of personal servitude, by these measures effecting the complete freedom of all debt slaves or debt serfs in Attica (cp. Adcock in The Cambridge Ancient History, 4 p37 f.).

15 According to Herodotus (2.92) monogamy was the prevailing custom, but he was certainly in error so far as the wealthier classes were concerned.

16 i.e. the exposure of children, which was still practised among some Greeks in Diodorus' day, was forbidden.

17 There were, in fact, three kinds of Egyptian writing, (1) the hieroglyphic, (2) the hieratic, and (3) the demotic, the last being that in general use in the time of Diodorus. In common with Herodotus (2.36), Diodorus fails to distinguish between the first and second.

18 Here "geometry" is used in its original meaning, "measurement of the earth," and "geometer" below means "surveyor."

19 Cp. chaps. 43, 7074.

20 Diodorus is contrasting the Egyptian attitude toward these subjects with the emphasis laid upon them in Greek education.

21 Cp. Herodotus 2.77.

22 The famous discussion of the cats of Egypt is in Herodotus, 2.66‑7.

23 According to Herodotus (2.87) this was a less expensive method of embalming.

24 On the date of this incident, cp. the Introduction, p. viii.

25 The bulls Apis and Mnevis are described in the following chapter.

26 The intrinsic value of a talent was about one thousand dollars or two hundred and fifty pounds sterling.

27 The Apis Bull was considered the "living soul of Osiris" and, according to Plutarch (On Isis and Osiris, 43), was begotten, not by a bull, but by a "generative ray of light, which streamed from the moon and rested upon a cow when she was in heat." Apis was a black bull with a white blaze upon his forehead; the appearance of a new Apis Bull was regarded as a new manifestation of Osiris upon earth (cp. E. A. W. Budge, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, 1 pp60, 397 ff.).

28 In chap. 21.

29 i.e. the Giants.

30 i.e. oxen.

31 Strabo (17.1.39) gives much the same account.

Thayer's Note: As does Pliny, who adds an interesting tactical detail (VIII.87‑91, esp. 88: Latin/English).

32 Priapus is discussed in Book 4.6.

33 Herodotus (2.45) denies the existence of human sacrifices and there was probably none in his day. But the sacrifice of captives is attested by the monuments of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties, and J. G. Frazer (The Golden Bough, 2 pp254 ff.) finds in this account of Diodorus and a similar story given by Plutarch (On Isis and Osiris, 73), on the authority of Manetho, evidence for the annual sacrifice of a red-haired man to prevent the failure of the crops.

34 i.e. "of the City of the Wolves."

35 In chap. 61 the builder of the Labyrinth is Mendes.

36 Herodotus (2.35) sums up this matter by saying this the Egyptians "have made themselves customs and laws contrary to those of all other men."

37 Lit. "one who rips up lengthwise," i.e. opens by slitting.

38 The same name is given this knife in Herodotus, 2.86, whose description of embalming, although not so detailed as that of Diodorus, supplements it in many respects. It was probably of obsidian or flint, such as frequently found in graves with mummies. For the use of such primitive implements in ancient religious ceremonies, cp. Joshua, 5.2: "Make thee knives of flint and circumcise again the children of Israel a second time."

Thayer's Note: The version of the Bible at New Advent (linked) merely says "of stone", rendering the Greek μαχαίρας πετρίνας ἐκ πέτρας ἀκροτόμου, literally "stone knives of a sharp stone"; some other English translations do mention flint, however: to compare them, see Joshua 5 at the Bible Gateway. A spot check at that site of a dozen translations of the passage in various foreign languages yields for the most part "sharp" or "of stone".

39 These judges correspond to the forty-two judges or assessors before each of whom the dead man must declare in the next world that he had not committed a certain sin (Book of the Dead, Chap. CXXV).

40 The name given the scows used on the Nile and described in Herodotus 2.96.

41 Professor J. A. Wilson, of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, kindly writes me: "There is no evidence to support the statement of Diodorus that the Egyptians called the underworld ferryman, or any boatman connected with death, Charon."

42 Cp. chap. 96.

43 Apparently Mneves is only a variant of the name Menas of chaps. 43 and 45 (cp. A. Wiedemann, Ägyptische Geschichte, p163, n1).

44 This form of the name is much nearer to the old Iranian form, Zarathustra, than the later corruption Zoroaster.

45 Herodotus (4.93 ff.) gives more details about Zalmoxis, or Gebeleïzis, as he also calls him, and the Getae "who pretend to be immortal." Strabo (7.3.5) calls him Zamolxis and makes him a former slave of Pythagoras, a story already known to Herodotus and rejected by him.

46 This pronunciation seems to reflect a Hebrew form Yahu; cp. Psalms 68.4: "His name is Jah."

47 Sasychis is the Asychis of Herodotus (2.136), identified with Shepseskaf of the Fourth Dynasty by H. R. Hall, Ancient History of the Near East6, p127.

48 Cp. chaps. 53 ff.

49 Cp.  chap. 73.

50 Mentioned before in chaps. 45, 65, 79.

51 Cp. chap. 68. The story of the embassy of Eleans is given more fully in Herodotus (2.160), where, however, the Egyptian consulted is called Psammis.

52 The famous astronomer, geographer, and mathematician of Cnidus, pupil of Plato. His stay in Egypt is well attested.

53 Cp. p336, n1.

54 For instance, according to Strabo (17.1.29), in Heliopolis were pointed out the houses where Plato and Eudoxus had stopped.

55 Odyssey 24.1‑2.

56 Ibid. 11‑14.

57 As a matter of fact the only name for the Nile in Homer is Aigyptos.

58 Cp. chap. 92; baris is also a Greek word for boat.

59 The bronze bands would resemble the rays of the "Portals of the Sun," in the passage from Homer cited above.

60 The Greek word may mean "statue" and "shade," the latter meaning occurring in the last line of the passage above from Homer.

61 This is a reference to the fifty daughters of Danaus, who after death were condemned to the endless labour of pouring water into vessels with holes.

62 Ocnus was another figure of the Greek underworld who was represented as continually labouring at the weaving of a rope which was devoured by an unseen ass behind him as rapidly as it was woven.

63 Cp. chap. 61.

64 i.e. "quieting pain." Cp. Odyssey 4.220‑21: αὐτικ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἐς οἶνον βάλε φάρμακον, ἔνθεν ἔπινον, νηπενθές τ᾽ ἄχολόν τε, κακῶν ἐπίληθον ἁπάντων. "Straightway she cast into the wine of which they were drinking a drug to quiet all pain and strife, and bring forgetfulness of every ill" (tr. Murray in L. C. L.).

65 A reference to the epithet constantly used by Homer to describe Aphrodite.

66 The Homeric passage which Diodorus has in mind is in the 14th Book of the Iliad (ll. 346 ff.): "The son of Kronos clasped his consort in his arms. And beneath them the divine earth sent forth fresh new grass, and dewy lotus, and crocus, and hyacinth, thick and soft . . ." (tr. Lang, Leaf, Myers).

67 Democritus of Abdera, the distinguished scientist of the fifth century B.C., author of the "atomic" theory.

68 Oenopides of Chios was a mathematician and astronomer of the fifth century B.C. According to this statement he observed the obliquity of the ecliptic, which we now know to be about 23½°. The fact that the sun's motion on the celestial sphere is slower than that of the stars causes an apparently retrograde movement of the sun relative to the stars.

69 Doubtless the cult statue.

70 The following sentences are perplexing. The translator is comforted by the knowledge that they have vexed others who are more experienced both in Egyptian art and in Greek. This passage has been discussed last by Heinrich Schäfer (Von ägyptischer Kunst3, Leipzig, 1930, pp350‑51), and the remarks and translation of so distinguished an authority on Egyptian art deserve to be cited, and in the original.

"Ich würde die Stelle aus Diodor dem Sizilier (um 50 v. Chr.), die nicht so einfach ist wie sie scheint, am liebsten nur griechisch abdrucken, aber damit wäre dem Leser nicht gedient; ich muss zeigen, wie ich sie auffasse. W. Schubart und U. v. Wilamowitz bin ich dafür dankbar, dass sie, denen der ägyptische Sachverhalt nicht so klar vor Augen steht, mich an einigen Stellen davor bewahrt haben, ihn in Diodors worte hineinzudeuten. Ein Trost in meiner Verlegenheit ist mir gewesen, dass v. Wilamowitz mir schrieb, 'Die Übersetzung der Diodorstelle ist in der Tat knifflich, da er seine Vorlage, Heraklit [a slip of the pen for "Hecataeus" — Tr.] von Abdera (um 300 v. Chr.), verschwommen wiedergibt und überhaupt ein so miserabler Skribent ist. Ich wage folge freie Übersetzung:

". . . Dieses Werkverfahren (nämlich Statuen aus einzeln gefertigen Hälften zusammenzusetzen) soll bei den Hellenen nirgends in Gebrauch sein, dagegen bei den Ägyptern meistens angewendet werden. (Nur dort sei es denkbar.) Bei ihnen nämlich bestimme man den symmetrischen Bau der Statuen nicht nach der freien Entscheidung des Auges, wie bei den Hellenen, sondern, nachdem man die Blöcke hingelegt und gesondert zugerichtet habe, hielten sich die Arbeiter dann, jeder innerhalb seiner Hälfte, aber auch in bezug auf die andere, an dieselben Verhältnisse von den kleinsten bis zu den grössten Teilen. Sie zerlegten nämlich die Höhe des ganzen Körpers in einundzwanzig und ein Viertel Teile, und erreichten so den symmetrischen Aufbau der Menschengestalt. Hätten sich also die (beiden) Bildhauer einmal über die Grösse (der Statue) geeinigt, so stimmten sie, selbst von einander getrennt, die Einzelmasse ihrer Werkteile so genau zueinander, dass man ganz verblüfft sei über dieses ihr eigentümliches Verfahren. So bestehe das Kultbild in Samos, etc."

71 No explanation of the "twenty-one and one-fourth" parts has been found in any modern writer. W. Deonna (Dédale ou la Statue de la Grèce Archaïque, 2 vols., Paris, 1930) translates this sentence, and then adds (1 p229): "Mais l'étude de l'art égyptien révèle que celui‑ci a connu, comme tout autre art, des proportions très variables, tantôt courtes, tantôt élancées, suivant les temps, et souvent à même époque, et qu'il n'est pas possible de fixer un canon précis."

72 Since the Egyptian artist had no idea of perspective, each part of a figure, or each member of a group, was portrayed as if seen from directly in front. Therefore the first training of an artist consisted in the making of the separate members of the body, which accounts for the many heads, hands, legs, feet, which come from the Egyptian schools of art. Schäfer (l.c., p316, cp. p389) suggests that this practice may have given Diodorus the idea that the Egyptians made their statues out of previously prepared blocks of stone.

Thayer's Notes:

a Not red-skinned, but red-headed. The story is no doubt aetiological, to explain why there are fewer and fewer redheads: the gene is recessive.

b A "historical" note of a different kind here. This absurd sentence having much amused me in 1995 when I first got on the Net, I used the Greek original as a signature squib when posting to lists. As of writing (2008), two of these signatures can still be found online. . . . At any rate, for them that have been missing the tag lo! these many years, as well as for any others that may want to read it in its original mellifluous Greek, here are Diodorus' immortal words:

Λείπεται δ᾽ ημῖν εἰπεῖν περὶ τῆς τῶν κροκοδείλων ἀποθεώσεως, ὑπὲρ ἧς οἱ πλεῖστοι διαποροῦσι πῶς τῶν θηρίων τούτων σαρκοφαγούντων τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἐνομοθετήθε τιμᾶν ἴσα θεοῖς τοὺς τὰ δεινότατα διατιθέντας.

c Signally missing in this catalogue is the Roman king Numa, who claimed that his laws had been dictated to him by the nymph Egeria (the classic locus is Livy, I.19.5). It's interesting to watch Diodorus omit this example, which would instantly have come to the mind of every one of his readers.

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