The Library of History

Page 44

Page 44 there was a Famine in Egypt, many were driven to that strait, that by turns they fed one upon another; but not a Man was accused to have in the least tasted of any of these sacred Creatures. Nay, if a Dog be found dead in a House, the whole Family shave their Bodies all over, and make great Lamentation; and that which is most wonderful, is, That if any Wine, Bread or any other Victuals be in the House where any of these Creatures die, it's a part of their Superstition, not to make use of any of them for any purpose whatsoever. And when they have been abroad in the Wars in foreign Countries, they have with great Lamentation brought with them dead Cats and Kites into Egypt, when in the mean time they have been ready to starve for want of Provision. Moreover what Acts of Religious Worship they perform'd towards Apis in Memphis,Mnevis in Heliopolis, the Goat in Mendes, the Crocodile in the Lake of Myris, and the Lyon kept in Leontopolis, and many other such like, is easie to describe, but very difficult to believe, except a Man saw it. For these Creatures are kept and fed in consecrated Ground inclos'd, and many great Men provide Food for them at great Cost and Charge; for they constantly give them fine Wheat-Flower, Frumenty, Sweet-meats of all sorts made up with Honey, and Geese sometimes rosted, and sometimes boyl'd; and for such as fed upon raw Flesh, they provide Birds. To say no more, they are excessive in their Costs and Charges in feeding of these Creatures; and forbear not to wash them in hot Baths, to anoint them with the most precious Unguents, and perfume them with the sweetest Odours. They provide likewise for them most rich Beds to lye upon, with decent Furniture, and are extraordinary careful about their generating and coition one with another, according to the Law of Nature. They breed up for every one of the Males (according to their Kinds) the most beautiful She-mate, and call them their Concubines or Sweet-hearts, and are at great Costs and Charges in looking to them.

When any of them dye, they are as much concern'd as at the Deaths of their own Children, and lay out in Burying of them as much as all their Goods are worth, and far more. For when Apis through Old Age dy'd at Memphis after the Death of Alexander, and in the Reign of Ptolomy Lagus, his Keeper not only spent all that vast Provision he had made, in burying of him, but borrow'd of Ptolomy Fifty Talents of Silver for the same purpose. And in our time some of the Keepers of these Creatures have lavisht away no less than a Hundred Talents in the maintaining of them. To this may be further added, what is in use among them concerning the sacred Ox, which they call Apis. After the splendid Funeral of Apis is over, those Priests that have the Charge of the Business, seek out another Calf, as like the former as possibly they can find; and when they have found one, an end is put to all further Mourning and Lamentation; and such Priests as are appointed for that purpose, lead the young * Ox through the City of Nile, and feed him Forty Days. Then they put him into a Barge, wherein is a Colden Cabbin, and so transport him as a God to Memphis, and place him in Vulcan's Grove. During the Forty Days before mention'd, none but Women are admitted to see him, who being plac'd full in his view, pluck up their Coats, and shew their Privy Parts: After they are forbad to come into the Sight of this New God. For the Adoration of this Ox, they give this Reason. They say that the Soul of Osiris pass'd into an Ox; and therefore whenever the Ox is Dedicated, to this very Day the Spirit of Osiris is infus'd into one Ox after another to Posterity. But some say, that the Members of Osiris (who was kill'd by Typhon) were thrown by Isis into an Ox made of Wood, cover'd with Ox-Hides, and from thence the City Busiris was so call'd. Many other things they fabulously report of Apis, which would be too tedious particularly to relate. But in as much as all that relate to this Adoration of Beasts are wonderful and indeed incredible, its very difficult to find out the true Causes and Grounds of this Superstition. We have before related, that the Priests have a private and secret account of these things in the History of the Gods; but the Common People give these Three Reasons for what they do. The First of which is altogether Fabulous, and agrees with the old Dotage: For they say, that the First Gods were so very few, and Men so many above them in number, and so wicked and impious, that they were too weak for them, and therefore transform'd themselves into Beasts, and by that means avoided their Assaults and Cruelty. But afterwards they say that the Kings and Princes of the Earth (in gratitude to them that were the first Authors of their well-being) directed how carefully those Creatures

Bibliotheca Historica

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