), an Egyptian divinity, whom the Greeks identified with their Leto, and who was worshipped principally in the town of Buto, which derived its name from her. Festivals were celebrated there in her honour, and there she had also an oracle which was in high esteem among the Egyptians. (Hdt. 2.59
; Aelian, Ael. VH 2.41
; Strab. xvii. p.802
According to Herodotus, she belonged to the eight great divinities; and in the mythus of Osiris and Isis she acts the part of a nurse to their children, Horus and Bubastis. Isis entrusted the two children to her, and she saved them from the persecutions of Typhon by concealing them in the floating island of Chemnis, in a lake near the sanctuary at Buto, where afterwards Bubastis and Horus were worshipped, together with Buto. (Hdt. 2.156
; Plut. de Is. et Os.
18, 38.) Stephanas of Byzantium appears (s. v. Λητον̂ς πόλις
) to speak of an earlier worship of Buto (Leto) at Letopolis near Memphis; but Letopolis was in later times known only by its name, and was destroyed long before the time of Cambyses. (J. AJ 2.15.1
As regards the nature and character of Buto, the ancients, in identifying her with Leto, transferred their notions of the latter to the former, and Buto was accordingly considered by Greeks as the goddess of night. (Phurnut. de Nat. Dcor.
2; Plut. apud Euseb. Praep. Ev.
This opinion seemed to be confirmed by the peculiar animal which was sacred to Buto, viz. the shrew-mouse (μυγαλή
) and the hawk. Herodotus (2.67
) states, that both these animals were, after their death, carried to Buto; and, according to Antoninus Liberalis (28), Leto (Buto) changed herself into a shrew-mouse in order to escape the persecution of Typhon. About this mouse Plutarch (Sympos.
4.5) relates, that it was believed to have received divine honours in Egypt because it was blind, and because darkness preceded light.
This opinion of the ancients respecting the nature of Buto has been worked out with some modifications by modern writers on Egyptian mythology. (Jablonsky, Panth. Aeg.
3.4.7; Champollion, Panth. Egyptien,
text to plate 23.)