previous next
The notion that the gods, in fear of Typhon, changed themselves into these animals,1 concealing themselves, as it were, in the bodies of ibises, dogs, and hawks, is a play of fancy surpassing all the wealth of monstrous fable. The further notion that as many of the souls of the dead as continue to exist are reborn into these animals only is likewise incredible. Of those who desire to assign to this some political reason some relate that Osiris, on his great expedition, divided his forces into many parts, which the Greeks call squads and companies, and to them all he gave standards in the form of animals, each of which came to be regarded as sacred and precious by the descendants of them who had shared in the assignment. Others relate that the later kings, to strike their enemies with terror, appeared in battle after putting on gold and silver masks of wild beasts' heads. Others record that one of these crafty and unscrupulous kings,2 having observed that the Egyptians were by nature light-minded and readily inclined to change and novelty, but that, because of their numbers, they had a strength that was invincible and very difficult to check when they were in their sober senses and acted in concert, communicated to them and planted among them an everlasting superstition, a ground for unceasing quarrelling. For he enjoined [p. 169] on different peoples to honour and revere different animals ; and inasmuch as these animals conducted themselves with enmity and hostility toward one another, one by its nature desiring one kind of food and another another, the several peoples were ever defending their own animals, and were much offended if these animals suffered injury, and thus they were drawn on unwittingly by the enmities of the animals until they were brought into open hostility with one another. Even to-day the inhabitants of Lycopolis are the only people among the Egyptians that eat a sheep ; for the wolf, whom they hold to be a god, also eats it. And in my day the people of Oxyrhynchus caught a dog and sacrificed it and ate it up as if it had been sacrificial meat,3 because the people of Cynopolis were eating the fish known as the oxyrhynchus or pike. As a result of this they became involved in war and inflicted much harm upon each other ; and later they were both brought to order through chastisement by the Romans.

1 Cf. Diodorus, i. 86. 3.

2 Ibid. i. 89. 5 and 90.

3 Cf. 353 c and 358 b, supra; Aelian, De Natura Animalium, xi. 27, and Juvenal, xv. 35.

load focus English (Goodwin, 1874)
load focus Greek (Gregorius N. Bernardakis, 1889)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: