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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Fragments


(Loeb Classical Library edition, 1940)

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 p189  The Sacred Book

Fr. 76 (from Eusebius).

Now the whole history of Egyptian and especially the details of Egyptian religion are expounded at length in Greek by Manetho the Egyptian, both in his Sacred Book and in other writings of his.

(From Theodoretus)

Manetho rehearsed the stories of Isis, Osiris, Apis, Serapis, and the other gods of Egypt.

Fr. 77 (from Plutarch, Is. and Osir., ch. 9).

Further, the general belief is that the name Amûn,1 which we transform into Ammôn, is an Egyptian proper noun, the title of Zeus;2 but Manetho of Sebennytus is of opinion that this name has a meaning — "that which is concealed" and "concealment."

Fr. 78 (from Plutarch, Is. and Osir., ch. 49).

Some say that Bebôn3 was one of the comrades of Typhôn; but Manetho states that Typhôn himself  p191 was also called Bebôn. The name means "checking" or "prevention," and implies that, when actions are proceeding in due course and tending to their required end, the power of Typhôn obstructs them.

Fr. 79 (from Plutarch, Is. and Osir., ch. 62).

The usage of the Egyptians is also similar. They often call Isis by the name of Athena, which expresses some such meaning as "I came from Myself,"4 and is indicative of self-originated movement. But Typhôn, as I have already mentioned, is called Sêth, Bebôn, and Smy,5 these names implying a certain violent and obstructive force, or a certain opposition or overthrow. Further, as Manetho records, they call the loadstone "the bone of Hôrus," but iron "the bone of Typhôn."6 Just as iron is often like to be attracted and led after the stone, but often again turns away and is repelled in the opposite direction, so the  p193 salutary, good, and rational movement of the world at one time attracts, conciliates, and by persuasion mollifies that harsh Typhonian power; then again, when at all has recovered itself, it overthrows the other and reduces it to helplessness.

Fr. 80 (from Plutarch, Is. and Osir., ch. 28).

Ptolemy Sôtêr dreamed that he saw the colossal statue7 of Pluto at Sinôpê,8 although he did not know what manner of shape it had, having never previously seen it; and that it bade him convey it with all possible speed to Alexandria. The king was at a loss and did not know where the statue stood; but as he was describing the vision to his friends,  p195 there came forward a far‑travelled man, by name Sôsibius, who declared that at Sinôpê he had seen just such a colossus as the king had dreamt he saw. He therefore despatched Sôtelês and Dionysius, who after a long time and with difficulty, though not unaided by divine providence, stole away the statue. When it was brought to Egypt and exhibited there, Timotheus9 the exêgêtês (expounder or interpreter), Manetho10 of Sebennytus, and their colleagues, judging by the Cerberus and the serpent, came to the conclusion that it was a statue of Pluto; and they convinced Ptolemy that it represented no other god than Serapis. For it had not come bearing this name from its distant home, but after being conveyed to Alexandria, it acquired the Egyptian name for Pluto, namely Serapis.

Fr. 81 (from Aelian).a

I am told also that Manetho the Egyptian, who attained the acme of wisdom, declared that one who tastes sow's milk is infected with leprosy or scall. All Asiatics, indeed, loathe these diseases. The Egyptians hold that the sow is abhorred by both Sun and Moon; so, when they celebrate the annual festival in honour of the Moon, they sacrifice swine11 to the goddess, whereas at any other time they refuse to sacrifice this animal to the Moon or to any other deity.

 p197  An Epitome of Physical Doctrines

Fr. 82 (from Diogenes Laertius).

The Egyptians hold the Sun and the Moon to be gods, the former being named Osiris, the latter Isis. They refer darkly to them under the symbols of beetle, serpent, hawk, and other creatures, as Manetho says in his Epitome of Physical Doctrines.

Fr. 83 (from Eusebius).

The Egyptians say that Isis and Osiris are the Moon and the Sun; that Zeus is the name which they gave to the all‑pervading spirit, Hephaestus to fire, and Demeter to earth. Among the Egyptians the moist element is named Ocean and their own River Nile; and to him they ascribed the origin of the Gods.12 To Air, again, they give, it is said, the name of Athena. Now these five deities, — I mean Air, Water, Fire, Earth, and Spirit, — traverse the whole world, transforming themselves at different times into different shapes and semblances of men and creatures of all kinds. In Egypt itself there have also been born mortal men of the same names as these deities:  p199 they were called Hêlios, Cronos, Rhea, as well as Zeus, Hêra, Hêphaestus, and Hestia. Manetho writes on this subject at considerable length, while Diodorus gives a concise account. . . .

On Festivals

Fr. 84 (from Joannes Lydus).

It must be understood that Manetho in his book On Festivals13 states that a solar eclipse exercises a baneful influence upon men in their head and stomach.

On Ancient Ritual and Religion

Fr. 85 (from Porphyrius).

The rite of human sacrifice14 at Hêliopolis (Eileithyiaspolis)15 in Egypt was suppressed by Amôsis,16  p201 as Manetho testifies in his book On Ancient Ritual and Religion.17 Men were sacrificed to Hêra: they were examined, like the pure calves which are sought out and marked with a seal. Three men used to be sacrificed each day; but in their stead Amôsis ordered that the same number of waxen images should be offered.

Fr. 86 (from Plutarch, Is. and Osir., ch. 73).

Now many say that the soul of Typhôn himself is diffused among these animals; and this fable would seem to hint that every irrational and bestial nature is partaker of the evil spirit, and that, while seeking to conciliate and appraise him, men tend and worship these animals. Should a long and severe drought18 occur, bringing with it an excess of deadly diseases or other strange and unaccountable calamities, the priests lead off some of the sacred animals quietly and in silence under cover of darkness, threatening them at first and trying to frighten19 them; but, should  p203 the visitation continue, they consecrate the animals and slaughter them, intending thus to inflict a kind of chastisement upon the spirit, or at least to offer a great atonement for heinous offences. Moreover, in Eileithyiaspolis,20 as Manetho has related, they used to burn men alive, calling them "Typhôn's followers"; and their ashes they would winnow and scatter broadcast until they were seen no more. But this was done openly and at a set time, namely in the dog‑days; whereas the consecrations of sacred animals are secret ceremonies, taking place at irregular intervals as occasion demands, unknown to the common people except when the priests celebrate a funeral of Apis, and, displaying some of the animals, cast them together into the tomb in the presence of all, deeming that thus they are vexing Typhôn in return and curtailing his delight.

On the Making of Kyphi

Fr. 87 (from Plutarch, Is. and Osir., ch. 80).

Kyphi21 is a mixture of sixteen ingredients — honey, wine, raisins, cyperus [? galingale], resin, myrrh,  p205 aspalathus,22 seselis [hartwort]; mastic, bitumen, thryon [a kind of reed or rush], dock [monk's rhubarb], as well as of both junipers (arceuthids — one called the greater, the other the less), cardamom,23 and reed [orris-root, or root of sweet flag].

[Criticisms of Herodotus]

Fr. 8824 (from the Etymologicum Magnum).

The word λέων ("lion") comes from λάω, "I see": the animal has indeed the keenest of sight, as Manetho says in his Criticism of Herodotus that the lion never sleeps.25 But this is hard to believe.

 p207  (from Eustathius)

(Some say) that from λάω, "I see," comes not only λέων, but also λίς (a lion), according to Ôrus the grammarian,26 because of its keen sight; and they add, as Manetho states in his Criticisms of Herodotus, that the lion never sleeps. This is hard to believe.

The Editor's Notes:

1 Manetho's interpretation is from ı͗mn, "hidden, secret": see Sethe, Abhandl. Berl. Akad., 1929, p78, § 153. Herodotus, II.42.3, tells a story which is probably related to this meaning of Amûn.

2 The title Zeus Ammôn was already known to Pindar in the first half of the fifth century B.C. (Pythians, IV.16, Fr. 36; see Pausanias, IX.16.1).

3 The name "Bebôn," given to Typhôn, does not mean "prevention," but is the Egyptian bꜣby, an epithet of Sêth. In Greek, besides the form Βέβων, Βάβυς was used (Hellanicus in Athenaeus, XV.25, p. 680A). Typhôn, an unpopular deity, came into favour in Dynasty XIX, two kings of which were Sethôs I and II.

4 Explanation is difficult. The name of the goddess Neith with whom Athena is often identified has been interpreted "that which is, or exists" (Mallet, Le Culte de Neit à Saïs, p189). As a genuine etymology of the name, this is impossible; but it may be that in the late period a connexion was imagined between Nt, "Neith," and nt(t), "that which is" (B. G.). It is suggestive that the Coptic word meaning "come" is na (A. Rusch, Pauly-Wissowa-Kroll, R.‑E. XVI.2 (1935), col. 2190).

5 Smy is not a name of Typhôn, but may mean "confederate" in Egyptian (from smꜣ, to unite). In religious texts the phrase Sêth and his smꜣyt, i.e."Sêth and his confederates," often occurs. See Kees on Sêth in Pauly-Wissowa-Kroll, R.‑E. II A. 2 (1923), cols. 1896 ff.

6 Interesting confirmation of the correctness of Plutarch and Manetho is given by G. A. Wainwright in his article "Iron in Egypt" (J. Eg. Arch. XVIII 1932, p14). He compares Pyramid Texts, § 14, "the biꜣ which came forth out of Setesh," and refers to Petrie's discover at Ḳâw (an important centre of Sêth worship) of great quantities of gigantic bones, collected in piles: they were chiefly of hippopotami, — mineralized, heavy, black bones, of metallic lustre and appearance. It is clear that they were considered sacred to Sêth, as they were wrapped in linen and were found here and there in tombs at Ḳâw.

7 The story of the transport of the colossus of Serapis to Alexandria is told with variants by Tacitus, Hist. IV.83, 84, Clement of Alexandria, Protrep. IV p37, Stahlin, and Cyrillus in Jul. p13, Spanh.: cf. also Plutarch, De sollert. anim. 36, Eustathius on Dionys. Perieg. 254 (Müller, Geogr. gr. min. II p262). Both Tacitus and Plutarch agree in assigning the introduction of the statue to Ptolemy I: Clement and Cyril attribute it to Ptolemy II. See Parthey, Über Is. und Osir. pp213 ff. Tacitus gives (from Lysimachus) the more circumstantial account, adding the name of the King of Pontus, Scydrothemis; but Plutarch mentions other names (e.g. Manetho) which Tacitus omits. The new cult of Serapis was intended to unite the Greek ruling class and their Egyptian subjects. (See Intro. p. xii.)º Georg Lippold (Festschrift Paul Arndt, 1925, p126) holds the sculptor of the statue to be the famous Bryaxis of Athens, c. 350 B.C.; and thus the image was worshipped at Sinôpe for about 70 years before it was taken to Alexandria. The most trustworthy copy of the statue is that in the Museum at Alexandria: see Athen. Mitt. XXXI (1906), Plates VIVII (A. W. Lawrence in J. Eg. Arch. XI (1925), p182). Only the Greek statue by Bryaxis was brought from Sinôpe: the cult was organized in Egypt itself, and Serapis became the paramount deity of Alexandria with a magnificent temple in Rhakôtis. If there were forty‑two temples of Serapis in Egypt (Aristides, VIII.56.1, p96 Dind.) — this number being one for each nome, the majority have left no trace: Parthey (op. cit. pp216 f.) identifies eleven.

See Wilamowitz, Hell. Dichtung, I p154, Wilcken, Urkunden der Ptolemäerzeit, Intro. pp77 ff. (a full discussion of the origin of the cult of Serapis). Cf. also Rostovtzeff in C. A. H. VII pp145 f.

For the dream as a vehicle of religious propaganda, cf. P. Cairo Zenon 34 (258‑257 B.C.: see Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, pp152 ff.), and Inscr. Gr. XI.4, 1299 (c. 200 B.C.).

8 In the districts by the Black Sea, a great god of the underworld was worshipped; and this deity, as Rostovtzeff holds, must be in close connexion with the Alexandrine Serapis. See Julius Karst, Geschichte des Hellenismus2, II (1926), pp246 f., and cf. the late Roman coins of Sinôpe with the Serapis-type (Plate IV, No. 3).

9 Timotheus (of Eleusis), the Eumolpid, is believed to have introduced the Eleusinian Mysteries into Eleusis, the suburb of Alexandria.

10 Manetho's connexion with the Serapis cult is vouched for by a bust in the Serapeum at Carthage, Corpus Inscr. Lat. VIII.1007: see Intro. p. xiii.º

11 Cf.  Herodotus, II.47, and see Newberry in J. Eg. Arch. XIV p213.

12 The Ancient Egyptian name HaꜢpi is applied both to the River Nile and to the god of the Nile. Cf. Diod. Sic. I.12.6 (the same phrase, with πρὸς ᾧ for , and ὑπάρξαι for ἀναθεῖναι: τὰς γενέσεις = the same plural in Diod. Sic. I.9.6, θεῶν γενέσεις ὑπάρξαι). See also Plutarch, Is. et Osiris. 66, p. 377C. The name Νεῖλος appears first in Hesiod, Theogony 338, which may be dated to the eighth century B.C.

In a Hymn to the Nile, engraved upon the rocks at Gebel Silsileh in Upper Egypt by command of Ramessês II, the river is described as "the living and beautiful Nile, . . . father of all at gods" (Wiedemann, Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, pp146 f.).

13 If the reference is not to a separate treatise, but to a passage in the Sacred Book, translate: "in his account of festivals".

14 On human sacrifice in Egypt, see Meyer, Geschichte5, I.ii pp98 f. Herodotus, II.45, denies that men were sacrificed in Egypt in his time; but Seleucus, under Tiberius, wrote an account of human sacrifice in Egypt (Athen. IV p172D), and there is evidence for the sacrifice of captives in Dynasties XVIII and XIX. See Diod. Sic. I.88.5, and cf. Frazer, Golden Bough, II pp254 ff.

Some writers have suggested that the contracted human figure (the tekenu), wrapped in a skin and drawn on a sledge, who is a regular feature of funeral processions in the New Kingdom, may have been a remnant of human sacrifice. This, however, is very doubtful: cf. N. de G. Davies, Five Theban Tombs, pp9, 14. See further G. A. Wainwright, Sky‑Religion, pp33 f.

15 See Fr. 86. The mention of Hêra (see infra) makes it very probable that "Eileithyiaspolis" is the correct reading here.

16 Amôsis, c. 1570 B.C.

17 or ". . . . in discussing ancient ritual and religion.

18 Drought is said to be a particular manifestation of Typhôn; see Plutarch, Is. et Osir.45, 51 fin. In reference to Egypt, drought naturally means, not absence of rain, but insufficient inundation.

19 For this striking trait in Egyptian religion see Erman-Ranke, Ägypten, 1923, p184 n. 2, with the reference to Lacau, Recueil de travaux, 26 (1904), p72 (sarcophagi of Dynasty XII); and cf. Alan H. Gardiner, Hieratic Papyri in the British Museum, III (1935), No. VC (a spell of c. 1200 B.C. in which the reciter threatens the gods that he will cutoff the head of a cow taken from the forecourt of the temple of Hathor, and will cause the sky to split in the middle), No. VIIIB (the Book of Banishing an Enemy, also dated c. 1200 B.C., containing threats to tear out the soul and annihilate the corpse of Osiris, and set fire to every tomb of his), and The Attitude of the Ancient Egyptians to Death and the Dead, 1935, pp12, 16 f., 39, note 17.

Threats to the gods also appear later in the Greek papyri: see L. C. L., Select Papyri, I (Hunt and Edgar), pp309, 345, Th. Hopfner, Griechisch-Ägyptischer Offenbarungszauber (= Stud. zur Pal. und Pap., Wessely, XXIII 1924), §§ 187, 210 et al., and cf. Porphyrius, Epistula ad Anebonem, 27, who remarks that this is peculiarly Egyptian. See Wilcken, Chrestomathie, I.1, pp124 f. ("perhaps a remnant of ancient fetishism").

20 El Kab on the right bank of the Nile, 53 miles S. of Luxor (Baedeker8, p365 ff.), the seat of Nekhebyt, the goddess of childbirth, and in prehistoric times the capital of the southern kingdom.

21 Kyphi (Anc. Egyptian kꜢpt, from kꜢp, to burn) is mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus (Wreszinski, 98, 12 f.), where ten ingredients (without honey and wine) are given. Recipes of a similar nature have been found at Edfu (two) and at Philae (one): they were inscribed in hieroglyphs on temple-walls. Kyphi had a double use — as incense and as medicine. See further Ganszyniec in Pauly-Wissowa-Kroll, R.‑E. (1924). Parthey (Isis und Osiris, pp277 ff.) describes the results of experiments with the recipes of Plutarch, of Galen (also sixteen ingredients), and of Dioscorides (ten ingredients): he gives first place to the kyphi prepared according to the prescription of Dioscorides.

22 Aspalathus = Calycotome villosa.

23 Cardamom = Elettaria cardamomum. See L. C. L., Theophrastus, IX.7.3 (Hort).

24 Manetho's note may refer to such passages in Herodotus as II.65 ff. and III.108.

Choeroboscus, in his work On Orthography (4c/5c A.D.) gives the derivation of λέων according to Ôrus or Hôrus in almost the same words as those quoted above from the Etymologicum Magnum; but he omits the clause "as Manetho says in his Criticism of Herodotus" (Cramer, Anecdota Graeca e codd. manuscriptis bibliothecarum Oxoniensium, II p235, ll. 32 ff. = Etymologicum Genuinum).

Cf. Aelian, On the Nature of Animals, V.39: "the Egyptians, they say, boast about this, adding that the lion is superior to sleep, being always awake." Aelian quotes from Apion (see p19 n. 3), who may well have taken his statement from Manetho.

25 By a curious coincidence, in Egyptian also the words for "lion" (mꜣı͗) and "to see" (mꜣı͗) are very similar, and the word for "lion" is sometimes written as though it came from the verb "to see". Manetho possibly had this fact in mind when he stated that the lion never sleeps (Battiscombe Gunn).

26 Ôrus or Hôrus (5c A.D.) was, according to Suidas, an Alexandrian grammarian who taught at Constantinople: none of his numerous works is extant.

Thayer's Note:

a De Natura Animalium X.16.

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