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Therefore, Clea, whenever you hear the traditional tales which the Egyptians tell about the gods, their wanderings, dismemberments, and many experiences of this sort, you must remember what has been already said, and you must not think that any of these tales actually happened in the manner in which they are related. The facts are that they do not call the dog by the name Hermes as his proper name, but they bring into association with the most astute of their gods that animal's watchfulness and wakefulness and wisdom, since he distinguishes between what is friendly and what is hostile by his knowledge of the one and his ignorance of the other, as Plato1 remarks. Nor, again, do they believe that the sun rises as a new-born babe from the lotus, but they portray the rising of the sun in this manner to indicate allegorically the enkindling of the sun from the waters.2 So also Ochus, the most cruel and terrible of the Persian kings, who put many to death and finally slaughtered the Apis3 and ate him for dinner in the company of his friends, the Egyptians called the ‘Sword’ ; and they call him by that name even to this day in their list of kings.4 But manifestly they [p. 31] do not mean to apply this name to his actual being ; they but liken the stubbornness and wickedness in his character to an instrument of murder. If, then, you listen to the stories about the gods in this way, accepting them from those who interpret the story reverently and philosophically, and if you always perform and observe the established rites of worship, and believe that no sacrifice that you can offer, no deed that you may do will be more likely to find favour with the gods than your belief in their true nature, you may avoid superstition which is no less an evil than atheism.5

1 Cf. Plato's Republic, 375 e, and the note in Adam's edition (Cambridge, 1902).

2 Cf. 368 f and 400 a, infra.

3 The sacred bull.

4 Both Cambyses and Ochus are said to have killed the sacred bull Apis; cf. 368 f, infra, and Aelian, Varia Historia, iv. 8. In De Natura Animalium, x. 28, Aelian says that both Cambyses and Ochus were guilty of this offence.

5 Cf. Moralia, 164 f, 165 c, 378 a, 379 e.

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