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 Above Momemphis are two nitre mines, which furnish nitre in large quantities, and the Nitriote Nome. Here Sarapis is worshipped, and they are the only people in Egypt who sacrifice a sheep. In this nome and near this place is a city called Menelaus. On the left hand in the Delta, upon the river, is Naucratis. At the distance of two schœni from the river is Saïs,1 and a little above it the asylum of Osiris, in which it is said Osiris is buried. This, however, is questioned by many persons, and particularly by the inhabitants of Philæ, which is situated above Syene and Elephantina. These people tell this tale, that Isis placed coffins of Osiris in various places, but that one only contained the body of Osiris, so that no one knew which of them it was; and that she did this with the intention of concealing it from Typhon,2 who might come and cast the body out of its place of deposit.
1 Saïs stood in lat. 30° 4′ N., on the right bank of the Canopic arm of the Nile. The site of the ancient city is determined not only by the appellation of the modern town Sa-el-Hadjar, which occupies a portion of its area, but also by mounds of ruin corresponding in extent to the importance of Sais, at least, under the later Pharaohs. The city was artificially raised high above the level of the Delta to be out of the reach of the inundations of the Nile, and served as a landmark to all who ascended the arms of the river, from the Mediterranean to Memphis. Its ruins have been very imperfectly explored, yet traces have been found of the lake on which the mysteries of Isis were performed, as well as of the temple of Neith (Athene) and the necropolis of the Saïte kings. The wall of unburnt brick which surrounded the principal buildings of the city was 70 feet thick, and probably, therefore, at least 100 feet high. It enclosed an area 2325 feet in length by 1960 in breadth. Beyond this enclosure were also two large cemeteries, one for the citizens generally, and the other reserved for the nobles and priests of the higher orders. Saïs was one of the sacred cities of Egypt: its principal deities were Neith, who gave oracles there, and Isis. The mysteries of the latter were celebrated with unusual pomp on the evening of the Feast of Lamps. Herodotus (ii. 59) terms this festival the third of the great feasts in the Egyptian calendar. It was held by night; and every one intending to be present at the sacrifices was required to light a number of lamps in the open air around his house. At what season of the year the feast of burning lamps was celebrated, Herodotus knew, but deemed it wrong to tell (ii. 62); it was, however, probably at either the vernal or autumnal equinox, since it apparently had reference to one of the capital revolutions in the solar course. An inscription, in the temple of Neith, declared her to be the Mother of the Sun. It ran thus, ‘I am the things that have been, and that are, and that will be; no one has uncovered my skirts; the fruit which I brought forth became the Sun.’ It is probable. accordingly, that the kindling of the lamps referred to Neith, as the author of light. On the same night, apparently, were performed what the Egyptians designated as the ‘Mysteries of Isis.’ Sais was one of the supposed places of interment of Osiris, for that is evidently the deity whom Herodotus will not name (ii. 171), when he says that there is a burial- place of him at Saïs in the temple of Athene. The mysteries were symbolical representations of the sufferings of Osiris, especially his dismemberment by Typhon. They were exhibited on the lake behind the temple of Neith. Portions of the lake may be still discerned near the hamlet Sa-el-Hadjar. Smith. Diet. of Greek and Roman Geography, Art. Saïs.
2 The evil or destroying genius.
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