Page images
PDF
EPUB

Hercules is a god of great antiquity, and therefore those Grecians appear to me to have acted most correctly, who have built two kinds of temples sacred to Hercules, and who sacrificed to one as an immortal, under the name of Olympian, and paid honor to the other as a hero. 45. But the Grecians

say many other things on this subject inconsiderately; for instance, this is a silly story of theirs which they tell of Hercules: that, “ when he arrived in Egypt, the Egyptians, having crowned him with a garland, led him in procession, as designing to sacrifice him to Jupiter, and that for some time he remained quiet, but when they began the preparatory ceremonies upon him at the altar, he set about defending himself, and slew every one of them.Now the Greeks who tell this story appear to me to be utterly ignorant of the character and customs of the Egyptians; for how can they who are forbidden to sacrifice any kind of animal, except swine, and such bulls and calves as are without blemish, and geese, sacrifice human beings? Moreover, since Hercules was but one, and, besides, a mere man, as they confess, how is it probable that he should slay many thousands ? And in thus speaking of them may I meet with indulgence both from gods and heroes.

46. The reason why the Egyptians above mentioned do not sacrifice the goat, either male or female, is as follows: the Mendesians consider Pan one of the eight gods, and they say that these eight existed prior to the twelve gods. And, indeed, their painters and sculptors represent Pan with the face and legs of a goat, as the Grecians do; not that they imagine this to be his real form, for they think him like other gods; but why they represent him in this way I had rather not mention. However, the Mendesians pay reverence to all goats, and more to the males than to the females (and the goatherds who tend them receive greater honor), and particularly one he-goat, on whose death public mourning is observed throughout the whole Mendesian district. In the language of Egypt, both a goat and Pan are called Mendes; and in my time the following prodigy occurred in this district: a goat had connection with a woman in open day. This came to the knowledge of

47. The Egyptians consider the pig to be an impure beast, and therefore, if a man, in passing by a pig, should touch him only with his garments, he forthwith goes to the river and plunges in; and, in the next place, swineherds, although

all men.

native Egyptians, are the only men who are not allowed to enter any of their temples; neither will any man give his daughter in marriage to one of them, nor take a wife from among them ; but the swineherds intermarry among themselves. The Egyptians, therefore, do not think it right to sacrifice swine to any other deities; but to the moon and Bacchus they do sacrifice them, at the same time, that is, at the same full moon, and then they eat of the flesh. A tradition is related by the Egyptians in relation to this matter, giving an account why they abhor swine on all other festivals, and sacrifice them in that; but it is more becoming for me, though I know it, not to mention it. This sacrifice of pigs to the moon is performed in the following manner: when the sacrificer has slain the victim, he puts together the tip of the tail, with the spleen and the caul, and then covers them with the fat found about the belly of the animal ; and next he consumes them with fire. The rest of the flesh they eat during the full moon in which they offer the sacrifices, but in no other day would any one even taste it. The poor among them, through want of means, form pigs of dough, and, having baked them, offer them in sacrifice. 48. On the eve of the festival of Bacchus, every one slays a pig before his door, and then restores it to the swineherd that sold it, that he may carry it away.

The rest of this festival to Bacchus, except as regards the pigs, the Egyptians celebrate much in the same manner as the Greeks do, but only, instead of phalli, they have invented certain images, as much as a cubit in height, moved by strings, which women carry about the villages, and which have the member nodding, in size not much less than the rest of the body; a pipe leads the way, and the women follow, singing the praises of Bacchus. But why it has the member so large, and moves no other part of the body, is accounted for by a sacred story. 49. Now Melampus, son of Amytheon, appears to me not to have been ignorant of this sacrifice, but perfectly well acquainted with it; for Melampus is the person who first introduced among the Greeks the names and sacrifices of Bacchus, and the procession of the phallus; he did not, however, fully explain every particular, but other learned persons who lived after him revealed them more accurately. Melampus, then, is the person who introduced the procession of the phallus in honor of Bacchus, and from him the Greeks

having learned it, do as they do. For my part, I think that Melampus, being a wise man, both acquired the art of divination, and having learned many other things in Egypt, introduced them among the Greeks, and particularly the worship of Bacchus, changing only some few particulars; for I can not admit that the ceremonies adopted in Egypt in honor of this god, and those among the Greeks, coincide by chance; in that case they would be conformable to Grecian customs, and not have been lately introduced; neither can I admit that the Egyptians borrowed either this or any other usage from the Greeks. But I am of opinion that Melampus obtained his information respecting the ceremonies of Bacchus chiefly from Cadmus the Tyrian, and those who accompanied him from Phænicia to the country now called Bæotia.

50. And indeed the names of almost all the gods came from Egypt into Greece; for that they came from barbarians I find on inquiry to be the case; and I think they chiefly proceeded from Egypt; for, with the exception of Neptune and the Dioscuri, as I before mentioned, and Juno, Vesta, Themis, the Graces, and the Nereids, the names of all the others hare always existed among the Egyptians: in this I repeat what the Egyptians themselves affirm ; but the gods whose names they say they are not acquainted with, I think, derived their names from the Pelasgians, with the exception of Neptune; this god they learned from the Libyans, for no people except the Libyans originally possessed the name of Neptune, and they have always worshiped him. Moreover, the Egyptians pay no religious honor to heroes. 51. These, and other customs besides, which I shall hereafter mention, the Grecians received from the Egyptians. The practice of making the images of Mercury with the member erect, they did not learn from the Egyptians, but from the Pelasgians: the Athenians were the first of all the Greeks who adopted this practice, and others from them ; for the Pelasgians dwelt in the same country as the Athenians, who were already ranked among Greeks, whence they also began to be reckoned as Grecians. Whoever is initiated in the mysteries of the Cabiri, which the Samothracians have adopted from the Pelasgians, knows what I mean; for these Pelasgians dwelt in the same country as the Athenians formerly inhabited, Samothrace, and from them the Samothracians learned the mysteries:

the Athenians, therefore, were the first of the Grecians who, having learned the practice from the Pelasgians, made the images of Mercury with the member erect; but the Pelasgians assign a certain sacred reason for this, which is explained in the mysteries of Samothrace. 52. Formerly the Pelasgians sacrificed all sorts of victims to the gods with prayer, as I was informed at Dodona, but they gave no surname or name to any of them, for they had not yet heard of them ; but they called them gods, because they had set in order and ruled over all things. Then, in course of time, they learned the names of the other gods that were brought from Egypt, and after some time, that of Bacchus. Concerning the names, they consulted the oracle of Dodona, for this oracle is accounted the most ancient of those that are in Greece, and was then the only one. When, therefore, the Pelasgians inquired at Dodona “ whether they should receive the names that came from barbarians,” the oracle answered “that they should.” From that time, therefore, they adopted the names of the gods in their sacrifices, and the Grecians afterward received them from the Pelasgians. 53. Whence each of the gods sprung, whether they existed always, and of what form they were, was, so to speak, unknown till yesterday. For I am of opinion that Hesiod and Homer lived four hundred

years

before my time, and not more, and these were they who framed a theogony for the Greeks, and gave names to the gods, and assigned to them honors and arts, and declared their several forms. But the poets, said to have been before them, in my opinion, were after them. The first part of the above statement is derived from the Dodonæan priestesses ; but the latter, that relates to Hesiod and Homer, I say on my own authority.

54. Concerning the two oracles, one in Greece, the other in Libya, the Egyptians give the following account. The priests of the Theban Jupiter say “that two women, employed in the temple, were carried away from Thebes by certain Phænicians, and that one of them was discovered to have been sold into Libya, the other to the Greeks, and that these two women were the first who established oracles in the nations above mentioned.” When I inquired how they knew this for a certainty, they answered "that they made diligent search for these women, and were never able to find them, but had afterward heard the account they gave of them.” 55. This,

then is the account I heard from the priests at Thebes ; but the prophetesses at Dodona say “ that two black pigeons flew away from Thebes in Egypt; that one of them went to Libya, and the other to them ; that this last, sitting perched on an oak-tree, proclaimed in a human voice that it was fitting an oracle should be erected there to Jupiter; and that the people believed this to be a divine message to them, and did accordingly. They add, that the other pigeon, which flew into Libya, commanded the Libyans to found the oracle of Ammon :” this also belongs to Jupiter. The priestesses of Dodona, of whom the eldest is named Promenia, the second Timarete, and the youngest Nicandra, gave this account; and the rest of the Dodonæans engaged in the service of the temple agreed with them. 56. My opinion of these things is this: if the Phoenicians did really carry off the women employed in the temple, and sold the one of them into Libya and the other into Greece, this last woman, as I think, was sold to some Thesprotians, in that part which is now called Hellas, but was formerly called Pelasgia ; then, being reduced to slavery, she erected a temple to Jupiter, under an oak that grew there; nothing being more natural than that she, who had been an attendant in the temple of Jupiter at Thebes, should retain the memory of it wherever she came. And after this, when she had learned the Greek language, she instituted an oracle; and she said that her sister in Libya had been sold by the same Phænicians by whom she herself was sold. 57. The women, I conjecture, were called doves by the Dodonæans because they were barbarians, and they seemed to them to chatter like birds; but after a time, when the woman spoke intelligibly to them, they presently reported that the dove had spoken with a human voice; for as long as she used a barbarous language, she appeared to them to chatter like a bird; for how could a dove speak with a human voice? But in saying that the dove was black, they show that the woman was an Egyptian. The manner in which oracles are delivered at Thebes in Egypt, and at Dodona, is very similar; and the art of divination from victims came likewise from Egypt.

58. The Egyptians were also the first who introduced public festivals, processions, and solemn supplications, and the Greeks learned them from them; for these rites appear to have been established for a very long time, but those in Greece have

« PreviousContinue »