Page images

which last circumstance the Greeks conclude him to have been the same person with their Dionysus or Bacchus. During the absence of Osiris from his kingdom, Typhon had no opportunity of making any innovations in the State, Isis being extremely vigilant in the government, and always upon her guard. After his return, however, having first persuaded seventy-two other persons to join with him in the conspiracy, together with a certain queen of Ethiopia named Aso, who chanced to be in Egypt at that time, he contrived a proper stratagem to execute his base designs. For having privily taken the measure of Osiris's body, he caused a chest to be made exactly of the same size with it, as beautiful as might be, and set off with all the ornaments of art. This chest he brought into his banqueting room ; where after it had been much admired by all who were present, Typhon, as it were in jest, promised to give it to any one of them whose body upon trial it might be found to fit. Upon this the whole company, one after another, go into it. But as it did not fit any of them, last of all Osiris lays himself down in it; upon which the conspirators immediately ran together, clapped the cover upon it, then fastened it down on the outside with nails, pouring likewise melted lead over it. After this they carried it away to the river-side, and conveyed it to the sea by the Tanaïtic mouth of the Nile ; which, for this reason, is still held in the utmost abomination by the Egyptians, and never named by them but with proper marks of detestation. These things, say they, were thus executed upon the 17th day of the month Athôr, when the sun was in Scorpio, in the 28th year of Osiris's reign; though there are others who tell us that he was no more than twenty-eight years old at this time.

“The first who knew of the accident which had befallen their king, were the Pans and Satyrs who inhabited the country round Khemmis (Panopolis or Aḥmîm), and they

immediately acquainting the people with the news, gave the first occasion to the name of Panic Terrors, which has ever since been made use of to signify any sudden affright or amazement of a multitude. As to Isis, as soon as the report reached her, she immediately cut off one of the locks of her hair, and put on mourning apparel upon the very spot where she then happened to be, which accordingly from this accident has ever since been called Coptos, or the City of Mourning, though some are of opinion that this word rather signifies Deprivation. After this she wandered everywhere about the country full of disquietude and perplexity in search of the chest, enquiring of every person she met with, even of some children whom she chanced to see, whether they knew what was become of it. Now it so happened that these children had seen what Typhon's accomplices had done with the body, and accordingly acquainted her by what mouth of the Nile it had been conveyed into the sea ..

“At length she received more particular news of the chest, that it had been carried by the waves of the sea to the coast of Byblos, and there gently lodged in the branches of a bush of Tamarisk, which in a short time had shot up into a large and beautiful tree, growing round the chest and enclosing it on every side, so that it was not to be seen ; and further, that the king of the country, amazed at its unusual size, had cut the tree down, and made that part of the trunk wherein the chest was concealed a pillar to support the roof of his house. These things, say they, being made known to Isis in an extraordinary manner, by the report of demons, she immediately went to Byblos;* where, setting herself down by the side of a fountain, she refused to speak to anybody excepting only to the queen's women who chanced to be there; these she saluted and caressed in the kindest manner possible, plaiting their hair for them, and transmitting into them part of that wonderfully grateful odour which issued from her own body ..... The queen therefore sent for her to court, and after a further acquaintance with her, made her nurse to one of her sons

* 1.c., the papyrus swamps.

The goddess, discovering herself, requested that the pillar which supported the roof of the king's house might be given to her; which she accordingly took down, and then easily cutting it open, after she had taken out what she wanted, she wrapt up the remainder of the trunk in fine linen, and pouring perfumed oil upon it, delivered it into the hands of the king and queen . . When this was done, she threw herself upon the chest, making at the same time such a loud and terrible lamentation over it as frighted the younger of the king's sons who heard her out of his life. But the elder of them she took with her, and set sail with the chest for Egypt ....

“No sooner was she arrived in a desert place, where she imagined herself to be alone, but she presently opened the chest, and laying her face upon her dead husband's, embraced his corpse, and wept bitterly.

"Isis intending a visit to her son Horus, who was brought up at Butus, deposited the chest in the meanwhile in a remote and unfrequented place; Typhon, however, as he was one night hunting by the light of the moon accidentally met with it; and knowing the body which was enclosed in it, tore it into several pieces, fourteen in all, dispersing them up and down in different parts of the country. Upon being made acquainted with this event, Isis once more sets out in search of the scattered fragments of her husband's body, making use of a boat made of the reed papyrus in order the more easily to pass through the lower and fenny parts of the country.

For which reason, say they, the crocodile never touches any persons who sail in this sort of vessel, as either fearing the anger of the goddess, or else respecting it on account of its having once carried her. To this occasion, therefore, it is to be imputed that there are so many different sepulchres of Osiris shewn in Egypt; for we are told that wherever Isis met with any of the scattered limbs of her husband, she there buried it. There are others, however, who contradict this relation, and tell us that this variety of sepulchres was owing rather to the policy of the queen, who, instead of the real body, as was pretended, presented these several cities with the image only of her husband; and that she did this not only to render the honours which would by this means be paid to his memory more extensive, but likewise that she might hereby elude the malicious search of Typhon; who, if he got the better of Horus in the war wherein they were going to be engaged, distracted by this multiplicity of sepulchres, might despair of being able to find the true one.

“After these things Osiris, returning from the other world, appeared to his son Horus, encouraged him to the battle, and at the same time instructed him in the exercise of arms. He then asked him, 'what he thought the most glorious action a man could perform ?' to which Horus replied, 'to revenge the injuries offered to his father and mother.' This reply much rejoiced Osiris ....... We are moreover told that amongst the great numbers who were continually deserting from Typhon's party was the goddess Thoueris, and that a serpent pursuing her as she was coming over to Horus, was slain by his soldiers. Afterwards it came to a battle between them, which lasted many days ; but victory at length inclined to Horus, Typhon himself being taken prisoner. Isis, however, to whose custody he was committed, was so far from putting him to death, that she even loosed his bonds and set him at liberty. This action of his mother so extremely incensed Horus, that he laid hands upon her and pulled off the ensign of royalty which she wore on her head; and instead thereof Hermes clapt on an helmet made in the shape of an ox's head. .. After this there were two other battles fought between them, in both of which Typhon had the worst.

“Such, then, are the principal circumstances of this famous story, the more harsh and shocking parts of it, such as the cutting in pieces of Horus and the beheading of Isis, being omitted.” (Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride, xii-xx. Squire's translation.)

The following is an extract from a hymn addressed to Osiris by Isis and Nephthys (Brit. Mus. Papyrus No. 10,188);

"O beloved of his father, lord of rejoicings, thou delightest the hearts of the cycle of the gods, and thou illuminatest thy house with thy beauties; the cycle of the gods fear thy power, the earth trembleth through fear of thee.

I am thy wife who maketh thy protection, the sister who protecteth her brother; come, let me see thee, O lord of my love.

O twice exalted one, mighty of attributes, come, let me see thee; O baby who advancest, child, come, let me see thee.

Countries and regions weep for thee, the zones weep for thee as if thou wert Sesheta, heaven and earth weep for thee, inasmuch as thou art greater than the gods ; may there be no cessation of the glorifying of thy Ka.

Come to thy temple, be not afraid, thy son Horus embraces the circuit of heaven.

O thou sovereign, who makest afraid, be not afraid. Thy son Horus avenges thee and overthrows for thee the fiends and the devils.

Hail, lord, follow after me with thy radiance, let me see thee daily; the smell of thy flesh is like that of Punt (i.e., the spice land of Arabia).

Thou art adored by the venerable women, in peace; the entire cycle of the gods rejoice.

Come thou to thy wife in peace, her heart flutters through her love for thee, she will embrace thee and not let thee depart from her; her heart is oppressed because of her anxiety to see thee and thy beauties. She has made an end


« PreviousContinue »