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This webpage reproduces a portion of
Isis and Osiris

by
Plutarch

published in Vol. V
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1936

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. V) Plutarch, Moralia

p7 Isis and Osiris

(Part 1 of 5 on this website)

1 351 All good things, my dear Clea,1 sensible men must ask from the gods; and especially do we pray that from those mighty gods we may, in our quest, gain a knowledge of themselves, so far as such a thing is attainable by men.2 For we believe that there is nothing more important for man to receive, or more ennobling for God of His grace to grant, than the truth. dGod gives to men the other things for which they express a desire, but of sense and intelligence He grants them only a share, inasmuch as these are His especial possessions and His sphere of activity. For the Deity is not blessed by reason of his possession of gold and silver,3 nor strong because of thunder and lightning, but through knowledge and intelligence. Of all the things that Homer said about the gods, he has expressed most beautifully this thought:4

Both, indeed, were in lineage one, and of the same country,

Yet was Zeus the earlier born and his knowledge was greater.

Thereby the poet plainly declares that the primacy of Zeus is nobler since it is elder in knowledge and in p9wisdom. eI think also that a source of happiness in the eternal life, which is the lot of God, is that events which come to pass do not escape His prescience. But if His knowledge and meditation on the nature of Existence should be taken away, then, to my mind, His immortality is not living, but a mere lapse of time.5

2 1 Therefore the effort to arrive at the Truth, and especially the truth about the gods, is a longing for the divine. For the search for truth requires for its study and investigation the consideration of sacred subjects, and it is a work more hallowed than any form of holy living or temple service; and, not least of all, it is well-pleasing to that goddess whom you worship, a goddess exceptionally wise and a lover of wisdom, to whom, fas her name at least seems to indicate, knowledge and understanding are in the highest degree appropriate. For Isis is a Greek word,6 and so also is Typhon, her enemy, who is conceited, as his name implies,6 because of his ignorance and self-deception. He tears to pieces and scatters to the winds the sacred writings, which the goddess collects and puts together and gives into the keeping of those that are initiated into the holy rites, since this consecration, by a strict regimen and by abstinence from many kinds of food and from the lusts of the flesh, 352curtails licentiousness and the love of pleasure, and induces a habit of patient submission to the stern and rigorous services in shrines, the end and aim of which is the knowledge of Him who is the First, the Lord of All, the Ideal One.7 Him does the god urge us to seek, since He is near her and with her and in close communion. The name of her shrine also clearly promises knowledge and p11comprehension of reality; for it is named Iseion,8 to indicate that we shall comprehend reality if in a reasonable and devout frame of mind we pass within the portals of her shrines.

3 1 Moreover, many writers have held her to be the daughter of Hermes,9 and many others the daughter of Prometheus,10 because of the belief that Prometheus is the discoverer of wisdom and forethought, and Hermes the inventor of grammar and music. bFor this reason they call the first of the Muses at Hermopolis Isis as well as Justice: for she is wise, as I have said,11 and discloses the divine mysteries to those who truly and justly have the name of "bearers of the sacred vessels" and "wearers of the sacred robes." These are they who within their own soul, as though within a casket, bear the sacred writings about the gods clear of all superstition and pedantry; and they cloak them with secrecy, thus giving intimation, some dark and shadowy, some clear and bright, of their concepts about the gods, intimations of the same sort as are clearly evidenced in the wearing of the sacred garb.12 For this reason, too, the fact that the deceased votaries of Isis are decked with these garments is a sign that these sacred writings accompany them, cand that they pass to the other world possessed of these and of naught else. It is a fact, Clea, that having a beard and wearing a coarse cloak does not make philosophers, nor does dressing in linen and shaving the hair make votaries of Isis; but the true votary of Isis p13is he who, when he has legitimately received what is set forth in the ceremonies connected with these gods, uses reason in investigating and in studying the truth contained therein.

4 1 It is true that most people are unaware of this very ordinary and minor matter: the reason why the priests remove their hair and wear linen garments.13 Some persons do not care at all to have any knowledge about such things, while others say that the priests, dbecause they revere the sheep,14 abstain from using its wool, as well as its flesh; and that they shave their heads as a sign of mourning, and that they wear their linen garments because of the colour which the flax displays when in bloom, and which is like to the heavenly azure which enfolds the universe. But for all this there is only one true reason, which is to be found in the words of Plato:15 "for the Impure to touch the Pure is contrary to divine ordinance." No surplus left over from food and no excrementitious matter is pure and clean; and it is from forms of surplus that wool, fur, hair, and nails originate and grow.16 So it would be ridiculous ethat these persons in their holy living should remove their own hair by shaving and making their bodies smooth all over,17 and then should put on and wear the hair of domestic animals. We should believe that when Hesiod18 said,

p15 Cut not the sere from the green when you honour the gods with full feasting,

Paring with glittering steel the member that hath the five branches,

he was teaching that men should be clean of such things when they keep high festival, and they should not amid the actual ceremonies engage in clearing away and removing any sort of surplus matter. But the flax springs from the earth which is immortal; fit yields edible seeds, and supplies a plain and cleanly clothing, which does not oppress by the weight required for warmth. It is suitable for every season and, as they say, is least apt to breed lice; but this topic is treated elsewhere.19

5 1 The priests feel such repugnance for things that are of a superfluous nature that they not only eschew most legumes, as well as mutton and pork,20 which leave a large residuum, but they also use no salt21 with their food during their periods of holy living. For this they have various other reasons, but in particular the fact that salt, by sharpening the appetite, makes them more inclined to drinking and eating. To consider salt impure, because, as Aristagoras has said, when it is crystallizing many minute creatures are caught in it and die, is certainly silly.

353It is said also that they water the Apis from a well of his own, and keep him away from the Nile altogether, not that they think the water unclean because of the crocodile, as some believe; for there is nothing which the Egyptians hold in such honour as the Nile. But the drinking of the Nile water is p17reputed to be fattening and to cause obesity.22 They do not want Apis to be in this condition, nor themselves either; but rather they desire that their bodies, the encasement of their souls, shall be well adjusted and light, and shall not oppress and straiten the divine element by the predominance and preponderance of the mortal.

6 1 As for wine, those who serve the god in Heliopolis bring none at all into the shrine, bsince they feel that it is not seemly to drink in the day-time while their Lord and King is looking upon them.23 The others use wine, but in great moderation. They have many periods of holy living when wine is prohibited, and in these they spend their time exclusively in studying, learning, and teaching religious matters. Their kings also were wont to drink a limited quantity24 prescribed by the sacred writings, as Hecataeus25 has recorded; and the kings are priests. The beginning of their drinking dates from the reign of Psammetichus; before that they did not drink wine nor use it in libation as something dear to the gods, thinking it to be the blood of those who had once battled against the gods, and from whom, when they had fallen and had become commingled with the earth, they believed vines to have sprung. cThis is the reason why drunkenness drives men out of their senses and crazes them, inasmuch as they are then filled with the blood of their forbears. These tales Eudoxus says in the second book of his World Travels are thus related by the priests.

p19 7 1 As for sea-fish, all Egyptians do not abstain from all of them,26 but from some kinds only; as, for example, the inhabitants of Oxyrhynchus abstain from those that are caught with a hook;27 for, inasmuch as they revere the fish called oxyrhynchus (the pike), they are afraid that the hook may be unclean, since an oxyrhynchus may have been caught with it. The people of Syenê abstain from the phagrus28 (the sea-bream); for this fish is reputed to appear with the oncoming of the Nile, and to be a self-sent messenger, dwhich, when it is seen, declares to a glad people the rise of the river. The priests, however, abstain from all fish; and on the ninth day of the first month, when every one of the other Egyptians eats a broiled fish in front of the outer door of his house, the priests do not even taste the fish, but burn them up in front of their doors.29 For this practice they have two reasons, one of which is religious and curious, and I shall discuss it at another time,30 since it harmonizes with the sacred studies touching Osiris and Typhon; the other is obvious and commonplace, in that it declares that fish is an unnecessary and superfluous food, and confirms the words of Homer, who, in his poetry, represents neither the Phaeacians, who lived amid a refined luxury, nor the Ithacans, ewho dwelt on an island, as making any use of fish, nor did even the companions of Odysseus, while on such a long voyage and in the midst of the sea, until they had come to the extremity of want.31 In fine, these people hold the sea to be derived from purulent p21matter, and to lie outside the confines of the world and not to be a part of it or an element, but a corrupt and pestilential residuum of a foreign nature.32

8 1 Nothing that is irrational or fabulous or prompted by superstition, as some believe, has ever been given a place in their rites, but in them are some things that have moral and practical values, and others that are not without their share in the refinements of history or natural science, as, for example, that which has to do with the onion. fFor the tale that Dictys, the nurseling of Isis, in reaching for a clump of onions, fell into the river and was drowned is extremely incredible. But the priests keep themselves clear of the onion33 and detest it and are careful to avoid it, because it is the only plant that naturally thrives and flourishes in the waning of the moon. It is suitable for neither fasting nor festival, because in the one case it causes thirst and in the other tears for those who partake of it.

In like manner they hold the pig to be an unclean animal,34 because it is reputed to be most inclined to mate in the waning of the moon, and because the bodies of those who drink its milk break out with leprosy and scabrous itching.35 354The story which they relate at their only sacrifice and eating of a pig at the time of the full moon, how Typhon, while he was pursuing a boar by the light of the full moon, found the wooden coffin in which lay the body of Osiris, which he rent to pieces and scattered,36 they do not p23all accept, believing it to be a misrepresentation, even as many other things are.

Moreover, they relate that the ancient Egyptians put from them luxury, and self-indulgence, to such a degree that they used to say that there was a pillar standing in the temple at Thebes which had inscribed upon it curses against Meinis,37 their king, bwho was the first to lead the Egyptians to quit their frugal, thrifty, and simple manner of living. It is said also that Technactis,38 the father of Bocchoris,39 when he was leading his army against the Arabians, because his baggage was slow in arriving, found pleasure in eating such common food as was available, and afterwards slept soundly on a bedding of straw, and thus became fond of frugal living; as the result, he invoked a curse on Meinis, and, with the approval of the priests, had a pillar set up with the curse inscribed upon it.

9 1 The kings were appointed from the priests or from the military class, since the military class had eminence and honour because of valour, and the priests because of wisdom. But he who was appointed from the military class was at once made one of the priests and a participant in their philosophy, cwhich, for the most part, is veiled in myths and in words containing dim reflexions and adumbrations of the truth, as they themselves intimate beyond question by appropriately placing sphinxes40 before their p25shrines to indicate that their religious teaching has in it an enigmatical sort of wisdom. In Saïs the statue of Athena, whom they believe to be Isis, bore the inscription: "I am all that has been, and is, and shall be, and my robe no mortal has yet uncovered."

Moreover, most people believe that Amoun is the name given to Zeus in the land of the Egyptians,41 a name which we, with a slight alteration, pronounce Ammon. But Manetho of Sebennytus dthinks that the meaning "concealed" or "concealment" lies in this word.a Hecataeus42 of Abdera, however, says that the Egyptians use this expression one to another whenever they call to anyone, for the word is a form of address. When they, therefore, address the supreme god, whom they believe to be the same as the Universe, as if he were invisible and concealed, and implore him to make himself visible and manifest to them, they use the word "Amoun"; so great, then, was the circumspection of the Egyptians in their wisdom touching all that had to do with the gods.

10 1 Witness to this also are the wisest of the Greeks: eSolon, Thales, Plato, Eudoxus, Pythagoras, who came to Egypt and consorted with the priests;43 and in this number some would include Lycurgus also. Eudoxus, they say, received instruction from Chonuphis of Memphis, Solon from Sonchis of Saïs, and Pythagoras from Oenuphis of Heliopolis. Pythagoras, it seems, fwas greatly admired, and he also greatly admired the Egyptian priests, and, copying p27their symbolism and occult teachings, incorporated his doctrines in enigmas. As a matter of fact most of the Pythagorean precepts44 do not at all fall short of the writings that are called hieroglyphs; such, for example, as these: "Do not eat upon a stool"; "Do not sit upon a peck measure"; "Do not lop off the shoots of a palm-tree";45 "Do not poke a fire with a sword within the house."

For my part, I think also that their naming unity Apollo, duality Artemis, the hebdomad Athena, and the first cube Poseidon,46 bears a resemblance to the statues and even to the sculptures and paintings with which their shrines are embellished. For their King and Lord Osiris they portray by means of an eye and a sceptre;47 355there are even some who explain the meaning of the name as "many-eyed"48 on the theory that os in the Egyptian language means "many" and iri "eye"; and the heavens, since they are ageless because of their eternity, they portray by a heart with a censer beneath.49 In Thebes there were set up statues of judges without hands, and the statue of the chief justice had its eyes closed, to indicate that justice is not influenced by gifts or by intercession.50

The military class had their seals engraved with the form of a beetle;51 for there is no such thing as a p29female beetle, but all beetles are male.52 They eject their sperm into a round mass which they construct, since they are no less occupied in arranging for a supply of food53 than in preparing a place to rear their young.

11 1  bTherefore, Clea, whenever you hear the traditional tales which the Egyptians tell about the gods, their wanderings, dismemberments, and many experiences of this sort, you must remember what has been already said, and you must not think that any of these tales actually happened in the manner in which they are related. The facts are that they do not call the dog by the name Hermes as his proper name, but they bring into association with the most astute of their gods that animal's watchfulness and wakefulness and wisdom,b since he distinguishes between what is friendly and what is hostile by his knowledge of the one and his ignorance of the other, as Plato54 remarks. Nor, again, do they believe that the sun rises as a new-born babe from the lotus, cbut they portray the rising of the sun in this manner to indicate allegorically the enkindling of the sun from the waters.55 So also Ochus, the most cruel and terrible of the Persian kings, who put many to death and finally slaughtered the Apis56 and ate him for dinner in the company of his friends, the Egyptians called the "Sword"; and they call him by that name even to this day in their list of kings.57 But manifestly they p31do not mean to apply this name to his actual being; they but liken the stubbornness and wickedness in his character to an instrument of murder. If, then, you listen to the stories about the gods in this way, accepting them from those who interpret the story reverently and philosophically, dand if you always perform and observe the established rites of worship, and believe that no sacrifice that you can offer, no deed that you may do will be more likely to find favour with the gods than your belief in their true nature, you may avoid superstition which is no less an evil than atheism.58

12 1 Here follows the story related in the briefest possible words with the omission of everything that is merely unprofitable or superfluous:

They say that the Sun, when he became aware of Rhea's intercourse with Cronus,59 invoked a curse upon her that she should not give birth to a child in any month or year; but Hermes, being enamoured of the goddess, consorted with her. Later, playing at draughts with the moon, he won from her the seventieth part of each of her periods of illumination,60 and from all the winnings he composed five days, and intercalated them as an addition to the three hundred and sixty days. eThe Egyptians even now call these five days intercalated61 and celebrate them as the birthdays of the gods. They relate that on the first p33of these days Osiris was born, and at the hour of his birth a voice issued forth saying, "The Lord of All advances to the light." But some relate that a certain Pamyles,62 while he was drawing water in Thebes, heard a voice issuing from the shrine of Zeus, which bade him proclaim with a loud voice that a mighty and beneficent king, Osiris, had been born; and for this Cronus entrusted to him the child Osiris, which he brought up. It is in his honour that the festival of Pamylia is celebrated, a festival which resembles the phallic processions. fOn the second of these days Arueris was born whom they call Apollo, and some call him also the elder Horus. On the third day Typhon was born, but not in due season or manner, but with a blow he broke through his mother's side and leapt forth. On the fourth day Isis was born in the regions that are ever moist;63 and on the fifth Nephthys, to whom they give the name of Finality64 and the name of Aphroditê, and some also the name of Victory. There is also a tradition that Osiris and Arueris were sprung from the Sun, Isis from Hermes,65 356and Typhon and Nephthys from Cronus. For this reason the kings considered the third of the intercalated days as inauspicious, and transacted no business on that day, nor did they give any attention to their bodies until nightfall. They relate, moreover, that Nephthys became the wife of Typhon;66 but Isis and Osiris were enamoured of each other67 and consorted together in p35the darkness of the womb before their birth. Some say that Arueris came from this union and was called the elder Horus by the Egyptians, but Apollo by the Greeks.

13 1 One of the first acts related of Osiris in his reign was to deliver the Egyptians from their destitute and brutish manner of living.68 This he did by showing them the fruits of cultivation, by giving them laws, and by teaching them to honour the gods. bLater he travelled over the whole earth civilizing it69 without the slightest need of arms, but most of the peoples he won over to his way by the charm of his persuasive discourse combined with song and all manner of music. Hence the Greeks came to identify him with Dionysus.70

During his absence the tradition is that Typhon attempted nothing revolutionary because Isis, who was in control, was vigilant and alert; but when he returned home Typhon contrived a treacherous plot against him and formed a group of conspirators seventy-two in number. He had also the co-operation of a queen from Ethiopia71 who was there at the time and whose name they report as Aso. Typhon, having secretly measured Osiris's body cand having made ready a beautiful chest of corresponding size artistically ornamented, caused it to be brought into the room where the festivity was in progress. The company was much pleased at the sight of it and admired it greatly, whereupon Typhon jestingly promised to present it to the man who should find the chest to be exactly his length when he lay down in it. They all tried it in turn, but no one fitted it; then Osiris got into it and p37lay down, and those who were in the plot ran to it and slammed down the lid, which they fastened by nails from the outside and also by using molten lead. Then they carried the chest to the river and sent it on its way to the sea through the Tanitic Mouth. Wherefore the Egyptians even to this day name this mouth the hateful and execrable. Such is the tradition. They say also that the date on which this deed was done was the seventeenth day of Athyr,72 when the sun passes through Scorpion, dand in the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Osiris; but some say that these are the years of his life and not of his reign.73

14 1 The first to learn of the deed and to bring to men's knowledge an account of what had been done were the Pans and Satyrs who lived in the region around Chemmis,74 and so, even to this day, the sudden confusion and consternation of a crowd is called a panic.75 Isis, when the tidings reached her, at once cut off one of her tresses and put on a garment of mourning in a place where the city still bears the name of Kopto.76 Others think that the name means deprivation, efor they also express "deprive" by means of "koptein."77 But Isis wandered everywhere at her wits' end; no one whom she approached did she fail to address, and even when she met some little children she asked them about the chest. As it p39happened, they had seen it, and they told her the mouth of the river through which the friends of Typhon had launched the coffin into the sea. Wherefore the Egyptians think that little children possess the power of prophecy,78 and they try to divine the future from the portents which they find in children's words, especially when children are playing about in holy places and crying out whatever chances to come into their minds.

They relate also that Isis, learning that Osiris in his love had consorted with her sister79 through ignorance, in the belief that she was Isis, fand seeing the proof of this in the garland of melilote which he had left with Nephthys, sought to find the child; for the mother, immediately after its birth, had exposed it because of her fear of Typhon. And when the child had been found, after great toil and trouble, with the help of dogs which led Isis to it, it was brought up and became her guardian and attendant, receiving the name of Anubis, and it is said to protect the gods just as dogs protect men.80

15 1 Thereafter Isis, as they relate, learned 357that the chest had been cast up by the sea near the land of Byblus81 and that the waves had gently set it down in the midst of a clump of heather. The heather in a short time ran up into a very beautiful and massive stock, and enfolded and embraced the chest with its growth and concealed it within its trunk. The king of the country admired the great size of the plant, and cut off the portion that enfolded the chest (which was now hidden from sight), and used it as a pillar to p41support the roof of his house. These facts, they say, Isis ascertained by the divine inspiration of Rumour, and came to Byblus and sat down by a spring, all dejection and tears;82 she exchanged no word with anybody, save only that she welcomed the queen's maidservants and treated them with great amiability, plaiting their hair for them band imparting to their persons a wondrous fragrance from her own body. But when the queen observed her maidservants, a longing came upon her for the unknown woman and for such hairdressing and for a body fragrant with ambrosia. Thus it happened that Isis was sent for and became so intimate with the queen that the queen made her the nurse of her baby. They say that the king's name was Malcander; the queen's name some say was Astartê, others Saosis, and still others Nemanûs, which the Greeks would call Athenaïs.

16 1 They relate that Isis nursed the child by giving it her finger to suck instead of her breast, cand in the night she would burn away the mortal portions of its body. She herself would turn into a swallow and flit about the pillar with a wailing lament, until the queen who had been watching, when she saw her babe on fire, gave forth a loud cry and thus deprived it of immortality. Then the goddess disclosed herself and asked for the pillar which served to support the roof. She removed it with the greatest ease and cut away the wood of the heather which surrounded the chest; then, when she had wrapped up the wood in a linen cloth and had poured perfume upon it, she p43entrusted it to the care of the kings; and even to this day the people of Byblus venerate this wood which is preserved in the shrine of Isis. dThen the goddess threw herself down upon the coffin with such a dreadful wailing that the younger of the king's sons expired on the spot. The elder son she kept with her, and, having placed the coffin on board a boat, she put out from land. Since the Phaedrus river toward the early morning fostered a rather boisterous wind, the goddess grew angry and dried up its stream.

17 1 In the first place where she found seclusion, when she was quite by herself, they relate that she opened the chest and laid her face upon the face within and caressed it and wept. The child came quietly up behind her and saw what was there, and when the goddess became aware of his presence, she turned about and gave him one awful look of anger. eThe child could not endure the fright, and died. Others will not have it so, but assert that he fell overboard into the sea from the boat that was mentioned above.83 He also is the recipient of honours because of the goddess; for they say that the Maneros of whom the Egyptians sing at their convivial gatherings is this very child.84 Some say, however, that his name was Palaestinus or Pelusius, and that the city founded by the goddess was named in his honour. They also recount that this Maneros who is the theme of their songs was the first to invent music. But some say that the word is not the name of any person, but an expression belonging to the vocabulary of drinking and feasting: "Good luck be ours in things like this!", fand that this is really the idea expressed p45by the exclamation "maneros" whenever the Egyptians use it. In the same way we may be sure that the likeness of a corpse which, as it is exhibited to them, is carried around in a chest, is not a reminder of what happened to Osiris, as some assume; but it is to urge them, as they contemplate it, to use and to enjoy the present, since all very soon must be what it is now and this is their purpose in introducing it into the midst of merry-making.85

18 1 As they relate, Isis proceeded to her son Horus, who was being reared in Buto,86 and bestowed the chest in a place well out of the way; but Typhon, who was hunting by night in the light of the moon, happened upon it. 358Recognizing the body he divided it into fourteen parts87 and scattered them, each in a different place. Isis learned of this and sought for them again, sailing through the swamps in a boat of papyrus.88 This is the reason why people sailing in such boats are not harmed by the crocodiles, since these creatures in their own way show either their fear or their reverence for the goddess.

The traditional result of Osiris's dismemberment is that there are many so‑called tombs of Osiris in Egypt;89 for Isis held a funeral for each part when she had found it. Others deny this and assert that she caused effigies of him to be made and these she distributed among the several cities, pretending that she was giving them his body, in order that he might receive divine honours in a greater number of cities, band also that, if Typhon should succeed in overpowering Horus, he might despair of ever finding p47the true tomb when so many were pointed out to him, all of them called the tomb of Osiris.90

Of the parts of Osiris's body the only one which Isis did not find was the male member,91 for the reason that this had been at once tossed into the river, and the lepidotus, the sea-bream, and the pike had fed upon it;92 and it is from these very fishes the Egyptians are most scrupulous in abstaining. But Isis made a replica of the member to take its place, and consecrated the phallus,93 in honour of which the Egyptians even at the present day celebrate a festival.

19 1 Later, as they relate, Osiris came to Horus from the other world and exercised and trained him for the battle. After a time Osiris asked Horus what he held to be the most noble of all things. When Horus replied, "To avenge one's father and mother for evil done to them," cOsiris then asked him what animal he considered the most useful for them who go forth to battle; and when Horus said, "A horse," Osiris was surprised and raised the question why it was that he had not rather said a lion than a horse. Horus answered that a lion was a useful thing for a man in need of assistance, but that a horse served best for cutting off the flight of an enemy and annihilating him. When Osiris heard this he was much pleased, since he felt that Horus had now an adequate preparation. It is said that, as many were continually transferring their allegiance to Horus, Typhon's concubine, Thueris, also came over to him; and a serpent which pursued her dwas cut to pieces by Horus's men, and now, in memory of this, the people throw down a rope in their midst and chop it up.

p49 Now the battle, as they relate, lasted many days and Horus prevailed. Isis, however, to whom Typhon was delivered in chains, did not cause him to be put to death, but released him and let him go. Horus could not endure this with equanimity, be laid hands upon his mother and wrested the royal diadem from her head; but Hermes put upon her a helmet like unto the head of a cow.

Typhon formally accused Horus of being an illegitimate child, but with the help of Hermes to plead his cause it was decided by the gods that he also was legitimate. Typhon was then overcome in two other battles. eOsiris consorted with Isis after his death, and she became the mother of Harpocrates, untimely born and weak in his lower limbs.94


The Editor's Notes:

1 The priestess for whom Plutarch composed his collection of stories about the Bravery of Women (Moralia, 242E ff.).

2 Cf. Plutarch, Moralia, 780F-781A and 355C, infra.

3 Cf. Themistus, Oration xxxiii. p365 B-D.

4 IliadXIII.354; quoted also in Moralia, 32A, and Life and Writings of Homer, II.114.

5 Cf. Moralia, 781A.

6 Plutarch is attempting to connect "Isis" with οἶδα, know, and "Typhon" with Τυφῶ, puff up. See, however, 375C, infra.

7 Cf. 355E, infra.

8 As if derived from οἶδα, know, and ὄν, being.

9 Cf. 355F, infra.

10 Cf. 365F, infra, and Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, I.106.1, 21 (p382, Potter).

11 Supra, 351F.

12 Cf. Dittenberger, Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum, No. 754 (not included in the third edition), or Altertümer von Pergamon, VIII.2, p248, no. 326; also Moralia, 382C.

13 Cf. Herodotus, II.37 and 81.

14 In Saïs and Thebaïs according to Strabo, XVII.40 (p812).

15 Phaedo, 67B; Cf. Moralia, 108D.

16 Cf. Apuleius, Apology, chap. 26.

17 Cf. Herodotus, II.37.

18 Works and Days, 742‑743. The meaning of these somewhat cryptic lines is, of course, that one should not pare one's nails at table; cf. also Moralia, ed. Bernardakis, vol. VII. p90.

19 Plutarch touches briefly on this subject in Moralia, 642C.

20 Cf. Herodotus, II.37, and Moralia, 286E.

21 Cf. infra, 363E; Moralia, 684F, 729A; and Arrian, Anabasis, III.4.4.

22 Cf.  Aelian, De Natura Animalium, XI.10.

23 Cf. Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras, 97 and 98, who says that Pythagoreans would have nothing to do with (p17)wine in the day-time. See also the critical note on the opposite page.

The critical note to the Greek text reads:

ἡμέρας] ἱερέας Moser; ὑπηρέτας Michael, but cf. Diogenes Laertius, VIII.19 οἴνου δὲ μεθ᾽ ἡμέραν μὴ γεύεσθαι.

24 Cf. Diodorus, I.70.11.

25 Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, II. p153, Hecataeus no. B 11.

26 Cf. Herodotus, II.37.

27 Cf. Strabo, XVII.1.40 (p812); Aelian, De Natura Animalium, X.46; Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus, II.39.5 (p34 Potter); also 358B and 380B, infra.

28 Cf.  Aelian, De Natura Animalium, X.19.

29 Cf. Moralia, 729A.

30 Plutarch does not explain this elsewhere (cf. 363E, infra), but the reason may be that given by Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, VII.6.34.1 (p850 Potter), that fish do not breathe the same air as other living creatures.

31 Homer, Od. IV.369 and XII.332. Cf. also Moralia, 730CD. The facts are as stated, but the deduction that fishing was despised in Homeric times is not warranted.

32 Cf. Moralia, 729B.

33 Cf. Aulus Gellius, XX.8.

34 Cf. Herodotus, II.47.

35 Cf. Moralia, 670F; Aelian, De Natura Animalium, X.16; Tacitus, Histories, V.4.

36 Cf. 358A, infra.

37 Usually known as Menes. The name is variously written by Greek authors as Min, Minaeus, Menues, Menas. According to tradition he was the first king of Egypt. His reign is put circa 3500 or 3400 B.C. Cf. Herodotus, II.4. In Diodorus, I.45, is found this same story.

38 Tefnakthe (also spelled Tnephachthos or Tnephachtho by Greek writers), after much fighting, made himself king of Lower Egypt circa 725 B.C.

39 Bekneranef, king of Egypt circa 718‑712 B.C., was according to Greek tradition, a wise and just ruler. An apocryphal story about him may be found in Aelian, De Natura Animalium, XII.3.

40 Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, V.5.31, chap. 5 (p664 Potter).

41 Cf. Herodotus, II.42.

42 Cf. Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Hecataeus (60), No. B, 8.

43 Cf. Diodorus, I.96 and 98; Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, I.69.1, chap. 15 (p356 Potter); Moralia, 578F, and Life of Solon, chap. xxvi. (92E).

44 For these precepts cf. Moralia, 12E-F, and Life of Numa, chap. xiv. (69C); Athenaeus, X.77 (452D); Iamblichus, Protrepticus, chap. xxi. (pp131‑160); Diogenes Laertius, VIII.17‑18.

45 Cf. 365B, infra, and Xenophon, Anabasis, II.3.16.

46 Cf., for example, 381F and 393B, infra, and Iamblichus, Comment. in Nichomachiº Arithmetica, 14.

47 Occasionally found on the monuments; cf. 371E, infra.

48 Cf. Diodorus, I.11.

49 Cf. Horapollo, Hieroglyphics, 1.22.

50 Cf. Diodorus, I.48.6.

51 The Egyptian scarab, or sacred beetle. Cf. Pliny, Nat. Hist. XXX.13 (30).

52 Cf. 381A, infra. The idea that all beetles are male was very common in antiquity; cf., for example, Aelian, De Natura Animalium, X.15; Porphyry, De Abstinentia, IV.9.

53 They are σκατοφάγοι. [Thayer Note: a piece of Loeb edition prudery, unhelpful to those with no Greek. Σκατοφάγοι = eaters of excreta.]

54 Cf. Plato's Republic, 375E, and the note in Adam's edition (Cambridge, 1902).

55 Cf. 368F and 400A, infra.

56 The sacred bull.

57 Both Cambyses and Ochus are said to have killed the sacred bull Apis; cf. 368F, infra, and Herodotus, III.29, for Cambyses; for Ochus, 363C, infra, and Aelian, Varia Historia, IV.8. In De Natura Animalium, X.28, Aelian says that both Cambyses and Ochus were guilty of this offence.

58 Cf. Moralia, 164E, 165C, 378A, 379E.

59 Cf. Moralia, 429F; Diodorus, I.13.4; Eusebius, Praeparatio Evang. II.1.1‑32.

60 Plutarch evidently does not reckon the ἕνη καὶ νέα (the (p31)day when the old moon changed to the new) as a period of illumination, since the light given by the moon at that time is practically negligible. An intimation of this is given in his Life of Solon, chap. xxv (92C). Cf. also Plato, Cratylus, 409B, and the scholium on Aristophanes' Clouds, 1186. One seventieth of 12 lunar months of 29 days each (348 days) is very nearly five days.

61 Cf. Herodotus, II.4.

62 What is known about Pamyles (or Paamyles or Pammyles), a Priapean god of the Egyptians, may be found in Kock, Com. Att. Frag. II. p289. Cf. also 365B, infra.

63 The meaning is doubtful, but Isis as the goddess of vegetation, of the Nile, and of the sea, might very naturally be associated with moisture.

64 Cf. 366B and 375B, infra.

65 Cf. 352A, supra.

66 Cf. 375B, infra.

67 Cf. 373B, infra.

68 Cf. Diodorus, I.13‑16.

69 Cf. Diodorus, I.17.1‑3; 18.5‑6; 20.3‑4.

70 Cf. 362B, 364D-F, infra, and Herodotus, II.42 and 144.

71 Cf. 366C, infra.

72 November 13. Cf. also 366D and 367E, infra.

73 Cf. 367F, infra.

74 Cf. Herodotus, II.91 and 156, and Diodorus, I.18.2.

75 Cf. E. Harrison, Classical Review, vol. XL pp6 ff.

76 Cf.  Aelian, De Natura Animalium, X.23.

77 The word kopto, "strike," "cut," is used in the middle voice in the derived meaning "mourn" (i.e. to beat oneself as a sign of mourning). Occasionally the active voice also means "cut off," and from this use Plutarch derives the meaning "deprive."

78 Cf. Dio Chrysostom, Oratio XXXII p364 D (660 Reiske), and Aelian, De Natura Animalium, XI.10, ad fin.

79 Nephthys; cf. 366B, 368E, and 375B, infra.

80 Cf. Diodorus, I.87.2.

81 Cf. Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, II.1.3.

82 Cf. the similar account of Demeter in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (ii.), 98 ff.

83 At the end of the preceding chapter.

84 Cf. Herodotus, II.79; Pausanias, IX.29.3; Athenaeus, 620A.

85 Cf. Moralia, 148A; Herodotus, II.78; Lucian, De Luctu, 21.

86 Cf. 366A, infra.

87 Cf. 368A, infra. Diodorus, I.21, says sixteen parts.

88 Cf. Eusebius, Praepar. Evang. V. p198 B.

89 Cf. 359A, 365A, infra, and Diodorus, I.21.

90 Cf. Diodorus, I.21.

91 Cf. 365C, infra.

92 Cf. Strabo, XVII.1.40 (p812).

93 Cf. Diodorus, I.22.6.

94 Cf. 377B, infra.


Thayer's Notes:

a Fragment 77.

b As I type this, my own dog Pliny is sound asleep two feet away from me: this despite the constant senseless barking of another dog next doors, a horrible fiend who regularly runs out of her house growling and gnashing her teeth at nothing at all — yet once when a burglar was loose in the neighborhood and ran thru her yard vaulting the fences and chased by police, she was seen to have stood gazing on the scene in an absent-minded sort of way. (I'm not too sure that Plutarch himself believes in the watchfulness and wakefulness of dogs, either: see 324B.)


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