aleator classicus

Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 71

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Plutarch, priest of Apollo at Delphi, doesn’t really approve of Egyptian religion.

τοῦτο δ’ οὐχ ἥκιστα πεπόνθασιν Αἰγύπτιοι περὶ τὰ τιμώμενα τῶν ζῴων. Ἕλληνες μὲν γὰρ ἔν γε τούτοις λέγουσιν ὀρθῶς καὶ νομίζουσιν ἱερὸν Ἀφροδίτης ζῷον εἶναι τὴν περιστερὰν καὶ τὸν δράκοντα τῆς Ἀθηνᾶς καὶ τὸν κόρακα τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος καὶ τὸν κύνα τῆς Ἀρτέμιδος, ὡς Εὐριπίδης· “Ἑκάτης ἄγαλμα φωσφόρου κύων ἔσῃ”· Αἰγυπτίων δ’ οἱ πολλοὶ θεραπεύοντες αὐτὰ τὰ ζῷα καὶ περιέποντες ὡς θεοὺς οὐ γέλωτος μόνον οὐδὲ χλευασμοῦ καταπεπλήκασι τὰς ἱερουργίας, ἀλλὰ τοῦτο τῆς ἀβελτερίας ἐλάχιστόν ἐστι κακόν· δόξα δ’ ἐμφύεται δεινὴ τοὺς μὲν ἀσθενεῖς καὶ ἀκάκους εἰς ἄκρατον ὑπερείπουσα τὴν δεισιδαιμονίαν, τοῖς δὲ δριμυτέροις καὶ θρασυτέροις εἰς ἀθέους ἐμπίπτουσα καὶ θηριώδεις λογισμούς.

The Egyptians have fallen into no less an error in their worship of animals. For the Greeks speak of these matters in the correct way, and consider the dove to be the sacred animal of Aphrodite, the snake that of Athena, the raven that of Apollo, and the dog that of Artemis – as Euripides says: ‘You shall be a dog, the image of Hecate the torch-bearer.’ But most of the Egyptians do honour to the animals themselves and treat them with respect as though they were gods; not only have they filled the sacred rites with laughter and mockery – this is the smallest evil to come out of their silliness – but a terrible belief is implanted, which casts the weak and guileless into superstition and which brings down the more shrewd and bold into atheism and savage theorising.

Written by aleatorclassicus

September 9, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Euripides, Plutarch

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