BOOK I - The Library of History

Bibliotheca historica
The first five books

Page 50 But in After-times (they say) many of their excellent Laws were abrogated by the Macedonians, who came to be Lords and Kings of EGYPT.

Having now given an Account of these Things, it remains we should declare how many wise and learned Men among the Grecians journey'd into Egypt in Ancient Times, to understand the Laws and Sciences of the Country. For the Egyptian Priests out of their Sacred Records relate, that Orpheus, Musaeus, Melampodes, Daedalus, Homer the Poet, Lycurgus the Spartan, Solon the Athenian, Plato the Philosopher, Pythagoras the Samian, Eudoxus the Mathematician, Democritus the Abderite, and Oenopides the Chian, all came to them in Egypt, and they shew certain Marks and Signs of all these being there. Of some by their Pictures, and of others by the Names of Places, or Pieces of Work that have been call'd after their Names. And they bring Arguments from every Trade that is us'd, to prove that every thing wherein the Grecians excel, and for which they are admir'd, was brought over from Egypt into Greece. For they say, that Orpheus brought over most of the Religious Rites and Ceremonies, both as to what concerns the Celebration of the Orgia, and relating to his wandring up and down, and the whole intire Fable of Hell; for that the Ceremonies and Rites of Osiris agree in every thing with those of Bacchus, and that those of Isis and Ceres are one and the same, differing in nothing but the Name. And whereas he introduces the wicked tormented in Hell, the Elysian Fields for the pious and just, and the fictitious Appearances of Ghosts (commonly nois'd abroad) they say he has done nothing but imitated the Egyptian Funerals. And that the feigning of Mercury to be the Conductor of Souls, was deriv'd from the old Egyptian Custom, that he who brought back the dead Body of Apis (when he came to the Place) deliver'd it to him who represented Cerberus, which being communicated by Orpheus to the Greeks, Homer in Imitation of him inserted it in his Poem,

Cyllenius leads to the infernal Strand,
The Hero's Ghost arm'd with his golden Wand.

And then he adds,

They reach th' Effluxes of the swelling Seas,
Then Leuca's rock; thence on their Course they keep
To the Sun's Portals and the Land of Sleep,
When streight they come into a flowry Mead,
Where after Death departed Souls reside.

The Name (they say) of Oceanus here mention'd is attributed to the River Nile, for so the Egyptians in their own Language call it; by the Sun's Portals is meant Heliopolis; the Meadow feign'd to be the Habitation of the dead (they say) is the Place bordering upon the Lake call'd Acherusia, near to Memphis, surrounded with pleasant Ponds and Meadows, with Woods and Groves of Lotus and sweet Canes; and that therefore he feign'd those Places to be inhabited by the dead, because that many of the Egyptian Funerals, and such as were the most considerable were there; the dead Bodies being carry'd over the River and the Lake Acherusia, and there interr'd. And that other Fictions among the Grecians concerning Hell agree with those things that are done in Egypt even at this day. For the Ship which transports the dead Bodies is call'd Baris, and that for the Fare an Half-penny is paid to the Ferryman, who is call'd in their own Country Language, Charon. They say likewise, that near to these Places is the Temple of black Hecates, and the Gates of Cocytus and Lethe, made up with brazen Bars; and besides these, that there is another Gate of Truth, next to which stands the headless Image of Justice. There are many others of these Grecian Fictions remaining still in Egypt, which both in Name and Practice continue there to this day. For in the City of Acanthus, beyond Nile towards Lybia, about an hundred and twenty Furlongs from Memphis stands an Hogshead full of Holes, into which (they say) three hundred Priests every day pour in Water carried out of the River Nile. The Fable likewise of the Ass is acted at a solemn Festival not far from thence, where a Man is twisting a long Rope, and many that follow him are as fast undoing what he had before wrought.

Preface         Index
Credits         Tables