The Library of History

Page 43

Page 43 They teach but a very few to write and read; but Tradesmen especially learn both. It's not the Custom there to learn the Art of Wrestling or Musick; for they think that by the Exercise of daily Wrestling, the Youth improve in their Strength but for a little time, and that with a great deal of Hazard, but gain no Advantage at all as to the Health of their Bodies. And as for Musick, they look upon it not only unprofitable, but that it also makes Men soft and effeminate.

To prevent Diseases they make use of Clysters and purging Potions, Abstinence and Vomits, and this they repeat sometimes for several days together, and other times every third or fourth day. For in all manner of Food (they say) the greatest Part of it is superfluous, which breeds Diseases, and therefore the aforesaid Method whereby the Root of the Disease is pluckt up (they say) is a mighty Help both to the Preservation and Recovery of Health. For the Physicians have a publick Stipend, and make 〈◊〉 of Receipts prescrib'd by the Law, made up by the Ancient Physicians; and if they cannot cure the Patient by them, they are never blam'd; but if they use other Medicines, they are to suffer Death, in as much as the Law-maker appointed such Receipts for Cure, as were approved by the most learned Doctors, such as by long Experience had been found effectual.

The Adoration and Worshipping of Beasts among the Egyptians seems justly to many a most strange and unaccountable thing, and worthy Enquiry; for they worship some Creatures even above measure, when they are dead as well as when they are living; as Cats, Ichneumons, Dogs, Kites, the Bird Ibis, Wolves and Crocodiles, and many other such like. The Cause of which I shall endeavour to give, having first premis'd something briefly concerning them. And first of all, they dedicate a piece of Land to every kind of Creature they adore, assigning the Profits for feeding and taking care of them. To some of these Deities the Egyptians give Thanks for recovering their Children from Sickness, as by shaving their Heads, and weighing the Hair, with the like Weight of Gold or Silver, and then giving that Mony to them that have the Care of the Beasts. To the Kites, while they are flying they cry out with a loud Voice, and throw pieces of Flesh for them upon the Ground till such time as they take it. To the Cats and Ichneumons they give Bread soakt in Milk, stroaking and making much of them, or feed them with pieces of Fish taken in the River Nile. In the same manner they provide for the other Beasts Food according to their several kinds. They are so far from not paying this. Homage to their Creatures, or being asham'd of them, that on the contrary they glory in them, as in the highest Adoration of the Gods, and carry about special Marks and Ensigns of Honour for them through City and Country; upon which Account those that have the Care of the Beasts (being seen after off) are honour'd and worshipp'd by all by falling down upon their Knees. When any one of them dye they wrap it in fine Linnen, and with Howling beat upon their Breasts, and so carry it forth to be salted, and then after they have anointed it with the Oyl of Cedar and other things, which both give the Body a fragrant Smell and preserve it a long time from Putrefaction, they bury it in a secret place. He that wilfully kills any of these Beasts, is to suffer Death; but if any kill a Cat or the Bird Ibis, whether wilfully or otherwise, he's certainly drag'd away to Death by the Multitude, and sometimes most cruelly without any formal Tryal or Judgment of Law. For fear of this, if any by chance find any of these Creatures dead, they stand aloof, and with lamentable Cries and Protestations tell every body that they found it dead. And such is the religious Veneration imprest upon the Hearts of Men towards these Creatures, and so obstinately is every one bent to adore and worship them, that even at the time when the Romans were about making a League with Ptolomy, and all the People made it their great Business to caress and shew all Civility and Kindness imaginable to them that came out of Italy, and through Fear strove all they could that no Occasion might in the least be given to disoblige them or be the Cause of a War, yet it so happ'ned that upon a Cat being kill'd by a Roman, the People in a Tumult ran to his Lodging, and neither the Princes sent by the King to dissuade them, nor the Fear of the Romans could deliver the Person from the Rage of the People, tho' he did it against his Will; and this I relate not by Hear-say, but was my self an Eye-witness of it at the time of my Travels into Egypt. If these things seem incredible and like to Fables, those that we shall hereafter relate will look more strange. For it's reported, that at a time when

Bibliotheca Historica

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