Much need there is to spit and cleanse the mouth,as Aeschylus2 has it. But the fact is that you yourself detest those persons who hold such abnormal and outlandish opinions about the gods. That these accounts do not, in the least, resemble the sort of loose fictions and frivolous fabrications which poets and writers of prose evolve from themselves, after [p. 51] the manner of spiders, interweaving and extending their unestablished first thoughts, but that these contain narrations of certain puzzling events and experiences, you will of yourself understand. Just as the rainbow, according to the account of the mathematicians, is a reflection of the sun, and owes its many hues to the withdrawal of our gaze from the sun and our fixing it on the cloud, so the somewhat fanciful accounts here set down are but reflections of some true tale which turns back our thoughts to other matters ; their sacrifices plainly suggest this, in that they have mourning and melancholy reflected in them ; and so also does the structure of their temples,3 which in one portion are expanded into wrings and into uncovered and unobstructed corridors, and in another portion have secret vesting-rooms in the darkness under ground, like cells or chapels ; and not the least important suggestion is the opinion held regarding the shrines of Osiris, whose body is said to have been laid in many different places.4 For they say that Diochites5 is the name given to a small town, on the ground that it alone contains the true tomb ; and that the prosperous and influential men among the Egyptians are mostly buried in Abydos, since it is the object of their ambition to be buried in the same ground with the body of Osiris. In Memphis, however, they say, the Apis is kept, being the image of the soul of Osiris,6 whose body also lies there. The name of this city some interpret as ‘the haven of the good’ and others as meaning properly the ‘tomb [p. 53] of Osiris.’ They also say that the sacred island by Philae7 at all other times is untrodden by man and quite unapproachable, and even birds do not alight on it nor fishes approach it; yet, at one special time, the priests cross over to it, and perform the sacrificial rites for the dead, and lay wreaths upon the tomb, which lies in the encompassing shade of a persea-8 tree, which surpasses in height any olive.
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1 Cf. Moralia, 1026 c, and De Anima, i. 6 (in Bernardakis's ed. vol. vii. p. 7).
2 Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Aeschylus, no. 354.
3 Cf. Strabo, xvii. 1. 28 (p. 804).
4 Cf. 358 a, supra, and 365 a, infra.
5 The introduction of Diochites here is based upon an emendation of a reading found in one ms. only. The emendation is drawn from Stephanus Byzantinus, a late writer on a geographical topics.
6 Cf. 362 c and 368 c, infra.
7 Cf. Diodorus, i. 22, and Strabo, xvii. p. 803, which seem to support the emendation ‘Philae.’ Others think that the gates (the ms. reading) of Memphis are meant.
8 The persea-tree was sacred to Osiris.