Page images
PDF
EPUB

ations are made among the Egyptians. In whatever house a cat dies of a natural death, all the family shave their eyebrows only ; but if a dog die, they shave the whole body and the head. 67. All cats that die are carried to certain sacred houses, where being first embalmed, they are buried in the city of Bubastis. All persons bury their dogs in sacred vaults within their own city ; and ichneumons are buried in the same manner as the dogs : but field-mice and hawks they carry to the city of Buto; the ibis to Hermopolis ; the bears, which are few in number, and the wolves, which are not much larger than foxes, they bury wherever they are found lying

68. The following is the nature of the crocodile. During the four coldest months it eats nothing, and though it has four feet, it is amphibious. It lays its eggs on land, and there hatches them. It spends the greater part of the day on the dry ground, but the whole night in the river ; for the water is then warmer than the air and dew. Of all living things with which we are acquainted, this, from the least beginning, grows to be the largest. For it lays eggs little larger than those of a goose, and the young is at first in proportion to the egg ; but when grown up it reaches to the length of seventeen cubits, and even more. It has the eyes of a pig, large teeth, and projecting tusks, in proportion to the body : it is the only animal that has no tongue : it does not move the lower jaw, but is the only animal that brings down its upper jaw to the under one. It has strong claws, and a skin covered with scales, that cannot be broken on the back. It is blind in the water, but very quick-sighted on land ; and because it lives for the most part in the water, its mouth is filled with leeches. All other birds and beasts avoid him, but he is at peace with the trochilus, because he receives benefit from that bird. For when the crocodile gets out of the water on land, and then opens its jaws, which it does most commonly towards the west, the trochilus enters its mouth and swallows the leeches : the crocodile is so well pleased with this service that it never hurts the trochilus. 69. With some of the Egyptians crocodiles are sacred ; with others not, but they treat them as enemies. Those who dwell about Thebes, and Lake Moris, consider them to be very sacred ; and they each of them train up a crocodile, which is taught to be quite

4

tame ; and they put crystal and gold ear-rings into their ears, and bracelets on their fore paws ; and they give them appointed and sacred food, and treat them as well as possible while alive, and when dead they embalm them, and bury them in sacred vaults. But the people who dwell about the city of Elephantine eat them, not considering them sacred. They are not called crocodiles by the Egyptians, but "champsæ;" the Ionians gave them the name of crocodiles, because they thought they resembled lizards, which are also so called, and which are found in the hedges in their country. 70. The modes of taking the crocodile are many and various, but I shall only describe that which seems to me most worthy of relation. When the fisherman has baited a hook with the chine of a pig, he lets it down into the middle of the river, and holding a young live pig on the brink of the river, beats it; the crocodile, hearing the noise, goes in its direction, and meeting with the chine, swallows it; but the men draw it to land : when it is drawn out on shore, the sportsman first of all plasters its eyes with mud; and having done this, afterwards manages it very easily ; but until he has done this, he has a great deal of trouble. 71. The hippopotamus is esteemed sacred in the district of Papremis, but not so by the rest of the Egyptians. This is the nature of its shape. It is a quadruped, cloven-footed, with the hoofs of an ox, snub-nosed, has the mane of a horse, projecting tusks, and the tail and neigh of a horse. In size he is equal to a very large ox: his hide is so thick that spear-handles are made of it when dry. 72. Otters are also met with in the river, which are deemed sacred : and amongst fish, they consider that which is called the lepidotus, and the eel, sacred ; these they say are sacred to the Nile ; and among birds, the vulpanser.

73. There is also another sacred bird, called the phenix, which I have never seen except in a picture ; for it seldom makes its appearance amongst them, only once in five hundred years, as the Heliopolitans affirm : they say that it comes on the death of its sire. If he is like the picture, he is of the following size and description : the plumage of his wings is partly golden-coloured, and partly red ; in outline and size he is very like an eagle. They say that he has the following contrivance, which in my opinion is not credible. They say that he comes from Arabia, and brings the body of his father to

the temple of the sun, having enclosed him in myrrh, and there buries him in the temple. He brings him in this manner : first he moulds an egg of myrrh as large as he is able to carry ; then he tries to carry it, and when he has made the experiment, he hollows out the egg, and puts his parent into it, and stops up with some more myrrh the hole through which he had introduced the body, so when his father is put inside, the weight is the same as before : then, having covered it over, he carries him to the temple of the sun in Egypt. This they say is done by this bird.

74. In the neighbourhood of Thebes there are sacred serpents not at all hurtful to men : they are diminutive in size, and carry two horns that grow on the top of the head. When these serpents die they bury them in the temple of Jupiter, for they say they are sacred to that god. 75. There is a place in Arabia, situated very near the city of Buto, to which I went, on hearing of some winged serpents; and when I arrived there, I saw bones and spines of serpents, in such quantities as it would be impossible to describe: there were heaps of these spinal bones, some large, some smaller, and others still less; and there were great numbers of them. The place in which these spinal bones lie scattered, is of the following description : it is a narrow pass between two mountains into a spacious plain; this plain is contiguous to the plain of Egypt : it is reported, that at the beginning of spring, winged serpents fly from Arabia towards Egypt; but that ibises, a sort of bird, meet them at the pass, and do not allow the serpents to go by, but kill them: for this service the Arabians say that the ibis is highly reverenced by the Egyptians; and the Egyptians acknowledge that they reverence these birds for this reason. 76. The ibis is of the following description: it is all over a deep black, it has the legs of a crane, its beak is much curved, and it is about the size of the crex. Such is the form of the black ones, that fight with the serpents. But those that are commonly conversant among men, (for there are two species,) are bare on the head and the whole neck; have white plumage, except on the head, the throat, and the tips of the wings and extremity of the tail ; in all these parts that I have mentioned, they are of a deep black; in their legs and beak they are like the other kind. The form of the serpent is like that

of the water-snake; but he has wings without feathers, and as like as possible to the wings of a batThis must suffice for the description of sacred animals.

77. Of the Egyptians, those who inhabit that part of Egypt which is sown with corn, in that they cultivate the memory of past events more than any other men, are the best informed of all with whom I have had intercourse. Their manner of life is this. They purge themselves every month, three days successively, seeking to preserve health by emetics and clysters, for they suppose that all diseases to which men are subject proceed from the food they use. And indeed in other respects the Egyptians, next to the Libyans, are the most healthy people in the world, as I think, on account of the seasons, because they are not liable to change; for men are most subject to disease at periods of change, and above all others at the change of the seasons. They feed on bread made into loaves of spelt, which they call cyllestis ; and they use wine made of barley, for they have no vines in that country. Some fish they dry in the sun, and eat raw,

others salted with brine; and of birds they eat quails, ducks, and smaller birds raw, having first salted them : all other things, whether birds or fishes, that they have, except such as are accounted sacred, they eat either roasted or boiled. 78. At their convivial banquets, among the wealthy classes, when they have finished supper, a man carries round in a coffin the image of a dead body carved in wood, made as like as possible in colour and workmanship, and in size generally about one or two cubits in length; and showing this to each of the company,

he
says,

Look

upon this, then drink and enjoy yourself ; for when dead you

will be like this.” This practice they have at their drinking parties.

79. They observe their ancient customs, but acquire no new ones. Among other memorable customs, they have one song, Linus, which is sung in Phoenicia, Cyprus, and elsewhere; in different nations it bears a different name, but it agrees so exactly as to be the same which the Greeks sing, under the name of Linus. So that among

wonderful things seen in Egypt, this is especially wonderful, whence they got this Linus ; for they seem to have sung it from time immemorial. The Linus in the Egyptian language is called Maneros ; and the Egyptians say that he was the only son of

the many

the first king of Egypt, and that happening to die prematurely, he was honoured by the Egyptians in this mourning dirge: and this is the first and only song they have. 80. In this other particular the Egyptians resemble the Lacedæmonians only among all the Grecians : the young men when they meet their elders give way and turn aside ; and when they approach, rise

up from their seats. In the following custom, however, they do not resemble any nation of the Greeks ; instead of addressing one another in the streets, they salute by letting the hand fall down as far as the knee. 81. They wear linen tunics fringed round the legs, which they call calasiris, and over these they throw white woollen mantles ; woollen clothes however are not carried into the temples, nor are they buried with them, for that is accounted profane. In this respect they agree with the worshippers of Orpheus and Bacchus, who are Egyptians and Pythagoreans. For it is considered profane for one who is initiated in these mysteries to be buried in woollen garments, and a religious reason is given for this custom.

82. These other things were also invented by the Egyptians. Each month and day is assigned to some particular god ; and according to the day on which each person is born, they determine what will befal him, how he will die, and what kind of person he will be. And these things the Grecian poets have made use of. They have also discovered more prodigies than all the rest of the world ; for when any prodigy occurs, they carefully observe and write down the result; and if a similar occurrence should happen afterwards they think the result will be the same. 83. The art of divination is in this condition : it is attributed to no human being, but only to some of the gods. For they have amongst them an oracle of Hercules, Apollo, Minerva, Diana, Mars, and Jupiter ; and that which they honour above all others, is the oracle of Latona in the city of Buto. Their modes of delivering oracles however are not all alike, but differ from each other. 84. The art of medicine is thus divided amongst them: each physician applies himself to one disease only, and not more. All places abound in physicians; some physicians are for the eyes, others for the head, others for the teeth, others for

arts about the belly, and others for internal disorders. 85. Their manner of mourning and burying is as follows. When in a family a man of any consideration dies, all the

the

« PreviousContinue »