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As for sea-fish, all Egyptians do not abstain from all of them,1 but from some kinds only ; as, for example, the inhabitants of Oxyrhynchus abstain from those that are caught with a hook2; for, inasmuch as they revere the fish called oxyrhynchus (the pike), they are afraid that the hook may be unclean, since an oxyrhynchus may have been caught with it. The people of SyenĂȘ abstain from the phagrus3 (the sea-bream) ; for this fish is reputed to appear with the oncoming of the Nile, and to be a self-sent messenger, which, when it is seen, declares to a glad people the rise of the river. The priests, however, abstain from all fish ; and on the ninth day of the first month, when every one of the other Egyptians eats a broiled fish in front of the outer door of his house, the priests do not even taste the fish, but burn them up in front of their doors.4 For this practice they have two reasons, one of which is religious and curious, and I shall discuss it at another time,5 since it harmonizes with the sacred studies touching Osiris and Typhon ; the other is obvious and commonplace, in that it declares that fish is an unnecessary and superfluous food, and confirms the words of Homer, who, in his poetry, represents neither the Phaeacians, who lived amid a refined luxury, nor the Ithacans, who dwelt on an island, as making any use of fish, nor did even the companions of Odysseus, while on such a long voyage and in the midst of the sea, until they had come to the extremity of want.6 In fine, these people hold the sea to be derived from purulent [p. 21] matter, and to lie outside the confines of the world and not to be a part of it or an element, but a corrupt and pestilential residuum of a foreign nature.7

1 Cf. Herodotus, ii. 37.

2 Cf. Strabo, xvii. 1. 40 (p. 812); Aelian, De Natura Animalium, x. 46; Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus, ii. 39. 5 (p. 34 Potter); also 358 b and 380 b, infra.

3 Cf. Aelian, De Natura Animalium, x. 19.

4 Cf. Moralia, 729 a.

5 Plutarch does not explain this elsewhere (cf. 363 e, infra), but the reason may be that given by Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, vii. 6. 34. 1 (p. 850 Potter), that fish do not breathe the same air as other living creatures.

6 Homer, Od. iv. 369 and xii. 332. Cf. also Moralia, 730 c, d. The facts are as stated, but the deduction that fishing was despised in Homeric times is not warranted.

7 Cf. Moralia, 729 b.

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