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Such, then, are the possible interpretations which these facts suggest. But now let us begin over again, and consider first the most perspicuous of those who have a reputation for expounding matters more philosophically. These men are like the Greeks who say that Cronus is but a figurative name for Chronus1 (Time), Hera for Air, and that the birth of Hephaestus symbolizes the change of Air into Fire.2 And thus among the Egyptians such men say that Osiris is the [p. 79] Nile consorting with the Earth, which is Isis, and that the sea is Typhon into which the Nile discharges its waters and is lost to view and dissipated, save for that part which the earth takes up and absorbs and thereby becomes fertilized.3

There is also a religious lament sung over Cronus.4 The lament is for him that is born in the regions on the left, and suffers dissolution in the regions on the right; for the Egyptians believe that the eastern regions are the face of the world, the northern the right, and the southern the left.5 The Nile, therefore, which runs from the south and is swallowed up by the sea in the north, is naturally said to have its birth on the left and its dissolution on the right. For this reason the priests religiously keep themselves aloof from the sea, and call salt the ‘spume of Typhon’ ; and one of the things forbidden them is to set salt upon a table6; also they do not speak to pilots,7 because these men make use of the sea, and gain their livelihood from the sea. This is also not the least of the reasons why they eschew fish,8 and they portray hatred by drawing the picture of a fish. At Saïs in the vestibule of the temple of Athena was carved a babe and an aged man, and after this a hawk, and next a fish, and finally an hippopotamus. The symbolic meaning of this was9: ‘O ye that are coming into the world [p. 81] and departing from it, God hateth shamelessness.’ The babe is the symbol of coming into the world and the aged man the symbol of departing from it, and by a hawk they indicate God,10 by the fish hatred, as has already been said,11 because of the sea, and by the hippopotamus shamelessness ; for it is said that he kills his sire12 and forces his mother to mate with him. That saying of the adherents of Pythagoras, that the sea is a tear of Cronus,13 may seem to hint at its impure and extraneous nature.

Let this, then, be stated incidentally, as a matter of record that is common knowledge.

1 Cf. Cicero, De Natura Deorum, ii. 25 (64).

2 Cf. 392 c, infra.

3 Cf. 366 a, infra.

4 For Cronus as representing rivers and water see Pauly-Wissowa, xi. 1987-1988.

5 Cf. Moralia, 282 d-e and 729 b.

6 Ibid. 685 a and 729 a.

7 Ibid. 729 c.

8 Cf. 353 c, supra.

9 There is a lacuna in one ms. (E) at this point (God hateth . . . of departing from it). The supplement is from Clement of Alexandria; see the critical note.

10 Cf. 371 e, infra.

11 Cf. 353 c, supra.

12 Cf. Porphyry, De Abstinentia, iii. 23.

13 Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, v. 50. 1 (p. 676 Potter), and Aristotle, Frag. 196 (ed. Rose).

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