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In Egypt an ox is even worshipped as a deity; they call it Apis. It is distinguished by a conspicuous white spot on the right side, in the form of a crescent. There is a knot also under the tongue, which is called "cantharus."2 This ox is not allowed to live beyond a certain number of years; it is then destroyed by being drowned in the fountain of the priests. They then go, amid general mourning, and seek another ox to replace it; and the mourning is continued, with their heads shaved, until such time as they have found one; it is not long, however, at any time, before they meet with a successor. When one has been found, it is brought by the priests to Memphis. There are two temples appropriated to it, which are called thalami,3 and to these the people resort to learn the auguries. According as the ox enters the one or the other of these places, the augury is deemed favourable or unfavourable. It gives answers to individuals, by taking food from the hand of those who consult it. It turned away from the hand of Germanicus Cæsar, and not long after he died.4 In general it lives in secret; but, when it comes forth in public, the multitudes make way for it, and it is attended by a crowd of boys, singing hymns in honour of it; it appears to be sensible of the adoration thus paid to it, and to court it. These crowds, too, suddenly become inspired, and predict future events. Once in the year a female is presented to the ox, which likewise has her appro- priate marks, although different from those on the male; and it is said that she is always killed the very same day that they find her. There is a spot in the Nile, near Memphis, which, from its figure, they call Phiala;5 here they throw into the water a dish of gold, and another of silver, every year upon the days on which they celebrate the birth of Apis.6 These days are seven in number, and it is a remarkable thing, that during this time, no one is ever attacked by the crocodile; on the eighth day, however, after the sixth hour, these beasts resume all their former ferocity.

1 We have an account of Apis in Herodotus, B. iii. c. 28; also in Pomponius Mela, B. i. c. 9; and in, Ælian, Anim. Nat. B. xi. c. 10.—B.

2 "Quem cantharum appellant." According to Dalechamps, "So called from the blackness of the colour, and its resemblance to a beetle." Lemaire, vol. iii. p. 516. He refers the reader to a further account in B. xxx. c. 30.—B.

3 From the Greek,θαλαμὸι, "bed-chambers."

4 Tacitus, Ann. B. ii. c. 69, gives an account of the sickness of Germanicus after his return from Egypt, but does not refer to the circumstance here mentioned.—B.

5 The "goblet." See B. v. c. 10.

6 Seneca, Quæst. Nat. B. iv. c. 2, gives an account of this ceremony, but does not refer to the birth of Apis.—B.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, 3.28
  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), AEGYPTUS
    • Smith's Bio, Apis
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