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Herodotus.

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been brought up away from her, when he grew up came
thither desiring to visit his mother, and the attendants of
his mother's temple, not having seen him before, did not
permit him to pass in, but kept him away; and he brought
men to help him from another city and handled roughly the
attendants of the temple, and entered to visit his mother.
Hence, they say, this exchange of blows has become the
custom in honour of Ares upon his festival.

The Egyptians were the first who made it a point of reli-
gion not to lie with women in temples, nor to enter into
temples after going away from women without first bathing :
for almost all other men except the Egyptians and the Hel-
lenes lie with women in temples and enter into a temple after
going away from women without bathing, since they hold
that there is no difference in this respect between men and
beasts : for they say that they see beasts and the various
kinds of birds coupling together both in the temples and in
the sacred enclosures of the gods; if then this were not
pleasing to the god, the beasts would not do so.

Thus do these defend that which they do, which by me
is disallowed: but the Egyptians are excessively careful in
their observances, both in other matters which concern the
sacred rites and also in those which follow: Egypt, though
it borders upon Libya, does not very much abound in wild
animals, but such as they have are one and all accounted by
them sacred, some of them living with men and others not.



36 HERODOTUS

But if I should say for what reasons the sacred animals have
been thus dedicated, I should fall into discourse of matters
pertaining to the gods, of which I most desire not to speak ;
and what I have actually said touching slightly upon them,
I said because I was constrained by necessity. About these
animals there is a custom of this kind: persons have been
appointed of the Egyptians, both men and women, to pro-
vide the food for each kind of beast separately, and their
office goes down from father to son ; and those who dwell in
the various cities perform vows to them thus, that is, when
they make a vow to the god to whom the animal belongs,
they shave the head of their children either the whole or
the half or the third part of it, and then set the hair in the
balance against silver, and whatever it weighs, this the man
gives to the person who provides for the animals, and she
cuts up fish of equal value and gives it for food to the
animals. Thus food for their support has been appointed:
and if any one kill any of these animals, the penalty, if he do
it with his own will, is death, and if against his will, such
penalty as the priests may appoint: but whosoever shall kill
an ibis or a hawk, whether it be with his will or against his
will, must die. Of the animals that live with men there are
great numbers, and would be many more but for the acci-
dents which befall the cats. For when the females have
produced young they are no longer in the habit of going to
the males, and these seeking to be united with them are not
able. To this end then they contrive as follows, they either
take away by force or remove secretly the young from the
females and kill them (but after killing they do not eat them),
and the females being deprived of their young and desiring
more, therefore come to the males, for it is a creature that
is fond of its young. Moreover when a fire occurs, the cats
seem to be divinely possessed; for while the Egyptians stand
at intervals and look after the cats, not taking any care to
extinguish the fire, the cats slipping through or leaping over
the men, jump into the fire; and when this happens, great
mourning comes upon the Egyptians. And in whatever
houses a cat has died by a natural death, all those who dwell
in this house shave their eyebrows only, but those in whose
houses a dog has died shave their whole body and also their



EGYPT 87

head. The cats when they are dead are carried away to
sacred buildings in the city of Bubastis, where after being
embalmed they are buried; but the dogs they bury each
people in their own city in sacred tombs ; and the ichneumons
are buried just in the same way as the dogs. The shrew-
mice however and the hawks they carry away to the city
of Buto, and the ibises to Hermopolis; the bears (which are
not commonly seen) and the wolves, not much larger in size
than foxes, they bury on the spot where they are found
lying.

Of the crocodile the nature is as follows: during the four
most wintry months this creature eats nothing: she has four
feet and is an animal belonging to the land and the water
both; for she produces and hatches eggs on the land, and
the most part of the day she remains upon dry land, but the
whole of the night in the river, for the water in truth is
warmer than the unclouded open air and the dew. Of all
the mortal creatures of which we have knowledge this grows
to the greatest bulk from the smallest beginning; for the
eggs which she produces are not much larger than those
of geese and the newly-hatched young one is in proportion
to the tgg, but as he grows he becomes as much as seventeen
cubits long and sometimes yet larger. He has eyes like those
of a pig and teeth large and tusky, in proportion to the size
of his body ; but unlike all other beasts he grows no tongue,
neither does he move his lower jaw, but brings the upper
jaw towards the lower, being in this too unlike all other
beasts. He has moreover strong claws and a scaly hide upon
his back which cannot be pierced ; and he is blind in the
water, but in the air he is of a very keen sight. Since he has
his living in the water he keeps his mouth all full within of
leeches; and whereas all other birds and beasts fly from him,
the trochilus is a creature which is at peace with him, seeing
that from her he receives benefit; for the crocodile having
come out of the water to the land and then having opened his
mouth (this he is wont to do generally towards the West
Wind), the trochilus upon that enters into his mouth and
swallows down the leeches, and he being benefited is pleased
and does no harm to the trochilus. Now for some of the
Egyptians the crocodiles are sacred animals, and for others



38 HERODOTUS

not so, but they treat them on the contrary as enemies:
those however who dwell about Thebes and about the lake
of Moiris hold them to be most sacred, and each of these two
peoples keeps one crocodile selected from the whole number,
which has been trained to tameness, and they put hanging
ornaments of molten stone and of gold into the ears of these
and anklets round the front feet, and they give them food
appointed and victims of sacrifices and treat them as well
as possible while they live, and after they are dead they bury
them in sacred tombs, embalming them : but those who dwell
about the city of Elephantine even eat them, not holding
them to be sacred. They are called not crocodiles but
champsai, and the Ionians gave them the name of crocodile,
comparing their form to that of the crocodiles (lizards)
which appear in their country in the stone walls. There are
many ways in use of catching them and of various kinds:
I shall describe that which to me seems the most worthy of
being told. A man puts the back of a pig upon a hook as
bait, and lets it go into the middle of the river, while he him-
self upon the bank of the river has a young live pig, which
he beats; and the crocodile hearing its cries makes for the
direction of the sound, and when he finds the pig's back he
swallows it down : then they pull, and when he is drawn
out to land, first of all the hunter forthwith plasters up his
eyes with mud, and having so done he very easily gets the
mastery of him, but if he does not do so he has much trouble.

The river-horse is sacred in the district of Papremis, but
for the other Egyptians he is not sacred; and this is the ap-
pearance which he presents: he is four-footed, cloven-
hoofed like an ox, flat-nosed, with a mane like a horse and
showing teeth like tusks, with a tail and voice like a horse,
and in size as large as the largest ox; and his hide is so ex-
ceedingly thick that when it has been dried shafts of javelins
are made of it. There are moreover otters in the river, which
they consider to be sacred; and of fish also they esteem
that which is called the lepidotos to be sacred, and also the
eel ; and these they say are sacred to the Nile : and of birds
the fox-goose.

There is also another sacred bird called the phoenix which
I did not myself see except in painting, for in truth he comes



EGYPT 39

to them very rarely, at intervals, as the people of Heliopolis
say, of five hundred years ; and these say that he comes
regularly when his father dies ; and if he be like the painting,
he is of this size and nature, that is to say, some of his
feathers are of gold colour and others red, and in outline
and size he is as nearly as possible like an eagle. This bird
they say (but I cannot believe the story) contrives as fol-
lows : setting forth from Arabia he conveys his father, they
say, to the temple of the Sun (Helios) plastered up in myrrh,
and buries him in the temple of the Sun; and he conveys
him thus : he forms first an egg of myrrh as large as he is
able to carry, and then he makes trial of carrying it, and
when he has made trial sufficiently, then he hollows out the
egg and places his father within it and plasters over with
other myrrh that part of the egg where he hollowed it out
to put his father in, and when his father is laid in it, it
proves (they say) to be of the same weight as it was;
and after he has plastered it up, he conveys the whole to
Egypt to the temple of the Sun. Thus they say that this
bird does.

There are also about Thebes sacred serpents, not at all
harmful to men, which are small in size and have two horns
growing from the top of the head : these they bury when
they die in the temple of Zeus, for to this god they say that
they are sacred. There is a region moreover in Arabia,
situated nearly over against the city of Buto, to which place
I came to inquire about the winged serpents : and when I
came thither I saw bones of serpents and spines in quantity
so great that it is impossible to make report of the number,
and there were heaps of spines, some heaps large and others
less large and others smaller still than these, and these heaps
were many in number. This region in which the spines are
scattered upon the ground is of the nature of an entrance
from a narrow mountain pass to a great plain, which plain
adjoins the plain of Egypt; and the story goes that at the
beginning of spring winged serpents from Arabia fly towards
Egypt, and the birds called ibises meet them at the entrance
to this country and do not suffer the serpents to go by but
kill them. On account of this deed it is (say the Arabians)
that the ibis has come to be greatly honoured by the



40 HERODOTUS

Egyptians, and the Egyptians also agree that n is for this
reason that they honour these birds. The outward form of
the ibis is this : it is a deep black all over, and has legs like
those of a crane and a very curved beak, and in size it is
about equal to a rail: this is the appearance of the black
kind which fight with the serpents, but of those which most
crowd round men's feet (for there are two several kinds of
ibises) the head is bare and also the whole of the throat, and
it is white in feathering except the head and neck and the
extremities of the wings and the rump (in all these parts of
which I have spoken it is a deep black), while in legs and in
the form of the head it resembles the other. As for the
serpent its form is like that of the watersnake; and it has
wings not feathered but most nearly resembling the wings
of the bat. Let so much suffice as has been said now con-
cerning sacred animals.

Of the Egyptians themselves, those who dwell in the part of
Egypt which is sown for crops practise memory more than
any other men and are the most learned in history by far of all
those of whom I have had experience: and their manner of
life is as follows : For three successive days in each month
they purge, hunting after health with emetics and clysters,
and they think that all the diseases which exist are produced
in men by the food on which they live : for the Egyptians
are from other causes also the most healthy of all men next
after the Libyans (in my opinion on account of the seasons,
because the seasons do not change, for by the changes of
things generally, and especially of the seasons, diseases are
most apt to be produced in men), and as to their diet, it is
as follows : they eat bread, making loaves of maize, which
they call kyllestis, and they use habitually a wine made out
of barley, for vines they have not in their land. Of their
fish some they dry in the sun and then eat them without
cooking, others they eat cured in brine. Of birds they eat
quails and ducks and small birds without cooking, after first
curing them ; and everything else which they have belonging
to the class of birds or fishes, except such as have been set
apart by them as sacred, they eat roasted or boiled. In the
entertainments of the rich among them, when they have



EGYPT 41

finished eating, a man bears round a wooden figure of a dead
body in a coffin, made as like the reality as may be both by
painting and carving, and measuring about a cubit or two
cubits each way; and this he shows to each of those who are
drinking together, saying: "When thou lookest upon this,
drink and be merry, for thou shalt be such as this when thou
art dead." Thus they do at their carousals. The customs
which they practise are derived from their fathers and they
do not acquire others in addition ; but besides other customary
things among them which are worthy of mention, they have
one song, that of Linos, the same who is sung of both in
Phenicia and in Cyprus and elsewhere, having however a
name different according to the various nations. This song
agrees exactly with that which the Hellenes sing calling on
the name of Linos, so that besides many other things about
which I wonder among those matters which concern Egypt,
I wonder especially about this, namely whence they got the
song of Linos. It is evident however that they have sung
this song from immemorial time, and in the Egyptian tongue
Linos is called ManerSs. The Egyptians told me that he
was the only son of him who first became king of Egypt, and
that he died before his time and was honoured with these
lamentations by the Egyptians, and that this was their first
and only song. In another respect the Egyptians are in
agreement with some of the Hellenes, namely with the
Lacedemonians, but not with the rest, that is to say, the
younger of them when they meet the elder give way and
move out of the path, and when their elders approach, they
rise out of their seat. In this which follows however they
are not in agreement with any of the Hellenes, instead of
addressing one another in the roads they do reverence, lower-
ing their hand down to their knee. They wear tunics of
linen about their legs with fringes, which they call calasiris;
above these they have garments of white wool thrown over:
woolen garments however are not taken into the temples,
nor are they buried with them, for this is not permitted by
religion. In these points they are in agreement with the
observances called Orphic and Bacchic (which are really
Egyptian), and also with those of the Pythagoreans, for one
who takes part in these mysteries is also forbidden by re-



42 HERODOTUS

ligious rule to be buried in woolen garments; and about
this there is a sacred story told.

Besides these things the Egyptians have found out also to
what god each month and each day belongs, and what
fortunes a man will meet with who is born on any particular
day, and how he will die, and what kind of a man he will be :
and these inventions were taken up by those of the Hellenes
who occupied themselves about poesy. Portents too have been
found out by them more than by all other men besides ; for
when a portent has happened, they observe and write down
the event which comes of it, and if ever afterwards anything
resembling this happens, they believe that the event which
comes of it will be similar. Their divination is ordered
thus : the art is assigned not to any man but to certain of
the gods, for there are in their land Oracles of Heracles, of
Apollo, of Athene, of Artemis, of Ares, and of Zeus, and
moreover that which they hold most in honour of all, namely
the Oracle of Leto which is in the city of Buto. The manner
of divination however is not established among them ac-
cording to the same fashion everywhere, but is different in
different places. The art of medicine among them is dis-
tributed thus: each physician is a physician of one disease
and of no more; and the whole country is full of physicians,
for some profess themselves to be physicians of the eyes,
others of the head, others of the teeth, others of the affec-
tions of the stomach, and others of the more obscure ail-
ments.

Their fashions of mourning and of burial are these:
Whenever any household has lost a man who is of any regard
amongst them, the whole number of women of that house
forthwith plaster over their heads or even their faces with
mud. Then leaving the corpse within the house they go
themselves to and fro about the city and beat themselves,
with their garments bound up by a girdle and their breasts
exposed, and with them go all the women who are related to
the dead man, and on the other side the men beat themselves,
they too having their garments bound up by a girdle ; and
when they have done this, they then convey the body to the
embalming. In this occupation certain persons employ them-
selves regularly and inherit this as a craft. These, whenever



EGYPT 43

a corpse is conveyed to them, show to those who brought it
wooden models of corpses made like reality by painting, and
the best of the ways of embalming they say is that of him
whose name I think it impiety to mention when speaking
of a matter of such a kind; the second which they show is
less good than this and also less expensive; and the third is
the least expensive of all. Having told them about this, they
inquire of them in which way they desire the corpse of their
friend to be prepared. Then they after they have agreed
for a certain price depart out of the way, and the others
being left behind in the buildings embalm according to the
best of these ways thus : First with a crooked iron tool
they draw out the brain through the nostrils, extracting it
partly thus and partly by pouring in drugs; and after this
with a sharp stone of Ethiopia they make a cut along the
side and take out the whole contents of the belly, and when
they have cleared out the cavity and cleansed it with palm-
wine they cleanse it again with spices pounded up : then they
fill the belly with pure myrrh pounded up and with cassia and
other spices except frankincense, and sew it together again.
Having so done they keep it for embalming covered up in
natron for seventy days, but for a longer time than this
it is not permitted to embalm it; and when the seventy days
are past, they wash the corpse and roll its whole body up in
fine linen cut into bands, smearing these beneath with gum,
which the Egyptians use generally instead of glue. Then
the kinsfolk receive it from them and have a w r ooden figure
made in the shape of a man, and when they have had this
made they enclose the corpse, and having shut it up within,
they store it then in a sepulchral chamber, setting it to stand
upright against the wall. Thus they deal with the corpses
which are prepared in the most costly way ; but for those who
desire the middle way and wish to avoid great cost they
prepare the corpse as follows: having filled their syringes
with the oil which is got from cedar-wood, with this they
forthwith fill the belly of the corpse, and this they do without
having either cut it open or taken out the bowels, but they
inject the oil by the breech, and having stopped the drench
from returning back they keep it then the appointed number
of days for embalming, and on the last of the days they let



44 HERODOTUS

the cedar oil come out from the belly, which they before put
in; and it has such power that it brings out with it the
bowels and interior organs of the body dissolved; and the
natron dissolves the flesh, so that there is left of the corpse
only the skin and the bones. When they have done this they
give back the corpse at once in that condition without work-
ing upon it any more. The third kind of embalming, by
which are prepared the bodies of those who have less means,
is as follows : they cleanse out the belly with a purge and
then keep the body for embalming during the seventy days,
and at once after that they give it back to the bringers to
carry away. The wives of men of rank when they die are
not given at once to be embalmed, nor such women as are
very beautiful or of greater regard than others, but on the
third or fourth day after their death (and not before) they
are delivered to the embalmers. They do so about this mat-
ter in order that the embalmers may not abuse their women,
for they say that one of them was taken once doing so to
the corpse of a woman lately dead, and his. fellow-crafts-
man gave information. Whenever any one, either of the
Egyptians themselves or of strangers, is found to have been
carried off by a crocodile or brought to his death by the
river itself, the people of any city by which he may have
been cast up on land must embalm him and lay him out in
the fairest way they can and bury him in a sacred burial-
place, nor may any of his relations or friends besides touch
him, but the priests of the Nile themselves handle the corpse
and bury it as that of one who was something more than
man.

Hellenic usages they will by no means follow, and to
speak generally they follow those of no other men whatever.
This rule is observed by most of the Egyptians; but there
is a large city named Chemmis in the Theban district near
Neapolis, and in this city there is a temple of Perseus the
son of Danae which is of a square shape, and round it grow
date-palms: the gateway of the temple is built of stone and
of very great size, and at the entrance of it stand two great
statues of stone. Within this enclosure is a temple-house
and in it stands an image of Perseus. These people of
Chemmis say that Perseus is wont often to appear in their



EGYPT 45

land and often within the temple, and that a sandal which
has been worn by him is found sometimes, being in length
two cubits, and whenever this appears all Egypt prospers.
This they say, and they do in honour of Perseus after Hel-
lenic fashion thus, they hold an athletic contest, which in-
cludes the whole list of games, and they offer in prizes cattle
and cloaks and skins: and when I inquired why to them
alone Perseus was wont to appear, and wherefore they were
separated from all the other Egyptians in that they held an
athletic contest, they said that Perseus had been born of
their city, for Danaos and Lynkeus were men of Chemmis
and had sailed to Hellas, and from them they traced a
descent and came down to Perseus : and they told me that he
had come to Egypt for the reason which the Hellenes also
say, namely to bring from Libya the Gorgon's head, and had
then visited them also and recognised all his kinsfolk, and
they said that he had well learnt the name of Chemmis
before he came to Egypt, since he had heard it from his
mother, and that they celebrated an athletic contest for him
by his own command.

All these are customs practised by the Egyptians who
dwell above the fens : and those who are settled in the fen-
land have the same customs for the most part as the other
Egyptians, both in other matters and also in that they live
each with one wife only, as do the Hellenes ; but for economy
in respect of food they have invented these things besides :
when the river has become full and the plains have been
flooded, there grow in the water great numbers of lilies,
which the Egyptians call lotos; these they cut with a sickle
and dry in the sun, and then they pound that which grows
in the middle of the lotos and which is like the head of a
poppy, and they make of it loaves baked with fire. The root
also of this lotos is edible and has a rather sweet taste : it is
round in shape and about the size of an apple. There are
other lilies too, in flower resembling roses, which also grow
in the river, and from them the fruit is produced in a sepa-



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