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Plutarch: Isis and Osiris

Posted: Fri Sep 30, 2016 8:25 pm
by MrMacSon

Plutarch's 'Isis and Osiris' on LacusCurtius

Translator's Introduction ... /home.html
  • This site is a transcription of the English translation of Plutarch's work by Frank Cole Babbitt as printed in pp1‑191 of Vol. V of the Loeb Classical Library edition of the Moralia, published in 1936.

    The work comprises a single Book, with no particular divisions. It's too long for a single webpage: I present it in five pages, breaking wherever continuity is least affected.

    The work is now in the public domain pursuant to the 1978 revision of the U. S. Copyright Code, since the copyright expired in 1964 and was not renewed at the appropriate time, which would have been that year or the year before. (Details here on the copyright law involved.)

Re: Plutarch: Isis and Osiris

Posted: Fri Sep 30, 2016 8:32 pm
by MrMacSon
Selected excerpts from the first web-page -
  • the priests remove their hair and wear linen garments ...

    the priests ...revere the sheep ...

    it would be ridiculous that these persons in their holy living should remove their own hair by shaving and making their bodies smooth all over, and then should put on and wear the hair of domestic animals

    ...they not only eschew most legumes, as well as mutton and pork,20 which leave a large residuum, but they also use no salt21 with their food during their periods of holy living.

    ...they water the Apis from a well of his own, and keep him away from the Nile altogether ... the drinking of the Nile water is reputed to be fattening and to cause obesity.

    6 1 As for wine, those who serve the god in Heliopolis bring none at all into the shrine, since they feel that it is not seemly to drink in the day-time while their Lord and King is looking upon them.23 The others use wine, but in great moderation. They have many periods of holy living when wine is prohibited, and in these they spend their time exclusively in studying, learning, and teaching religious matters. Their kings also were wont to drink a limited quantity 24 prescribed by the sacred writings, as Hecataeus 25 has recorded; and the kings are priests. The beginning of their drinking dates from the reign of Psammetichus; before that they did not drink wine nor use it in libation as something dear to the gods, thinking it to be the blood of those who had once battled against the gods, and from whom, when they had fallen and had become commingled with the earth, they believed vines to have sprung ...

    9 1 The kings were appointed from the priests or from the military class, since the military class had eminence and honour because of valour, and the priests because of wisdom. But he who was appointed from the military class was at once made one of the priests and a participant in their philosophy, which, for the most part, is veiled in myths and in words containing dim reflexions and adumbrations of the truth ...

    ... Pythagoras, it seems, was greatly admired, and he also greatly admired the Egyptian priests, and, copying their symbolism and occult teachings, incorporated his doctrines in enigmas. As a matter of fact most of the Pythagorean precepts44 do not at all fall short of the writings that are called hieroglyphs; such, for example, as these: "Do not eat upon a stool"; "Do not sit upon a peck measure"; "Do not lop off the shoots of a palm-tree";45 "Do not poke a fire with a sword within the house."

    13 1 One of the first acts related of Osiris in his reign was to deliver the Egyptians from their destitute and brutish manner of living.68 This he did by showing them the fruits of cultivation, by giving them laws, and by teaching them to honour the gods. BLater he travelled over the whole earth civilizing it69 without the slightest need of arms, but most of the peoples he won over to his way by the charm of his persuasive discourse combined with song and all manner of music. Hence the Greeks came to identify him with Dionysus.

    During his absence the tradition is that Typhon attempted nothing revolutionary because Isis, who was in control, was vigilant and alert; but when he returned home Typhon contrived a treacherous plot against him and formed a group of conspirators seventy-two in number. He had also the co-operation of a queen from Ethiopia71 who was there at the time and whose name they report as Aso. Typhon, having secretly measured Osiris's body and having made ready a beautiful chest of corresponding size artistically ornamented, caused it to be brought into the room where the festivity was in progress. The company was much pleased at the sight of it and admired it greatly, whereupon Typhon jestingly promised to present it to the man who should find the chest to be exactly his length when he lay down in it. They all tried it in turn, but no one fitted it; then Osiris got into it and lay down, and those who were in the plot ran to it and slammed down the lid, which they fastened by nails from the outside and also by using molten lead. Then they carried the chest to the river and sent it on its way to the sea through the Tanitic Mouth. Wherefore the Egyptians even to this day name this mouth the hateful and execrable. Such is the tradition. They say also that the date on which this deed was done was the seventeenth day of Athyr,72 when the sun passes through Scorpion, and in the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Osiris; but some say that these are the years of his life and not of his reign. ... is*/A.html

Re: Plutarch: Isis and Osiris

Posted: Fri Sep 30, 2016 9:04 pm
by MrMacSon
Kapyong has previously posted the section from Carrier's OHJ that discusses this (only put here for posterity, not for favoritism)

- ... 920#p14920


Re: Plutarch: Isis and Osiris

Posted: Sat Oct 01, 2016 1:50 pm
by MrMacSon
Some excerpts from the 2nd page -
  • For they say that Diochites is the name given to a small town, on the ground that it alone contains the true tomb; and that the prosperous and influential men among the Egyptians are mostly buried in Abydos, since it is the object of their ambition to be buried in the same ground with the body of Osiris. In Memphis, however, they say, the Apis is kept, being the image of the soul of Osiris, whose body also lies there. The name of this city some interpret as "the haven of the good" and others as meaning properly the "tomb of Osiris." They also say that the sacred island by Philae at all other times is untrodden by man and quite unapproachable, and even birds do not alight on it nor fishes approach it; yet, at one special time, the priests cross over to it, and perform the sacrificial rites for the dead, and lay wreaths upon the tomb, which lies in the encompassing shade of a persea-tree, which surpasses in height any olive.

    21 1 Eudoxus says that, while many tombs of Osiris are spoken of in Egypt, his body lies in Busiris; for this was the place of his birth; moreover, Taphosiris requires no comment, for the name itself means "the tomb of Osiris" ...

    22 1 Many things like these are narrated and pointed out, and if there be some who think that in these are commemorated the dire and momentous acts and experiences of kings and despots who, by reason of their pre-eminent virtue or might, laid claim to the glory of being styled gods, and later had to submit to the vagaries of fortune,107 then these persons employ the easiest means of escape from the narrative, and not ineptly do they transfer the disrepute from the gods to men; and in this they have the support of the common traditions. The Egyptians, in fact, have a tradition that Hermes had thin arms and big elbows, that Typhon was red in complexion, Horus white, and Osiris dark, as if they had been in their nature but mortal men. Moreover, they give to Osiris the title of general, and the title of pilot to Canopus, from whom they say that the star derives its name; Falso that the vessel which the Greeks call Argo, in form like the ship of Osiris, has been set among the constellations in his honour, and its course lies not far from that of Orion and the Dog-star; of these the Egyptians believe that one is sacred to Horus and the other to Isis.

    23 1 I hesitate, lest this be the moving of things immovable and not only "warring against the long years of time," as Simonides has it, but warring, too, against "many a nation and race of men" who are possessed by a feeling of piety towards these gods, and thus we should not stop short of transplanting such names from the heavens to the earth, and eliminating and dissipating the reverence and faith implanted in nearly all mankind at birth, opening wide the great doors to the godless throng, degrading things divine to the human level, and giving a splendid licence to the deceitful utterances of Euhemerus of Messenê, who of himself drew up copies of an incredible and non-existent mythology, and spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods of our belief and converting them all alike into names of generals, admirals, and kings, who, forsooth, lived in very ancient times and are recorded Bin inscriptions written in golden letters at Panchon, which no foreigner and no Greek had ever happened to meet with, save only Euhemerus. He, it seems, made a voyage to the Panchoans and Triphyllians, who never existed anywhere on earth and do not exist!

    26 1 As we read Homer, we notice that in many different places he distinctively calls the good "god-like"and "peers of the gods" and "having prudence gained from the gods," but that the epithet derived from the demigods (or daemons) he uses of the worthy and worthless alike ...

    28 1 Ptolemy Soter saw in a dream the colossal statue of Pluto in Sinopê, not knowing nor having ever seen how it looked, and in his dream the statue bade him convey it with all speed to Alexandria. He had no information and no means of knowing where the statue was situated, but as he related the vision to his friends there was discovered for him a much travelled man by the name of Sosibius, who said that he had seen in Sinopê just such a great statue as the king thought he saw. Ptolemy, therefore, sent Soteles and Dionysius, who, after a considerable time and with great difficulty, and not without the help of divine providence, succeeded in stealing the statue and bringing it away. When it had been conveyed to Egypt and exposed to view, Timotheus, the expositor of sacred law, and Manetho of Sebennytus, and their associates, conjectured that it was the statue of Pluto, basing their conjecture on the Cerberus and the serpent with it, and they convinced Ptolemy that it was the statue of none other of the gods but Serapis. It certainly did not bear this name when it came for Sinope, but, after it had been conveyed to Alexandria, it took to itself the name which Pluto bears among the Egyptians, that of Serapis. Moreover, since Heracleitus the physical philosopher says, "The same are Hades and Dionysus, to honour whom they rage and rave," people are inclined to come to this opinion. In fact, those who insist that the body is called Hades, since the soul is, as it were, deranged and inebriate when it is in the body, are too frivolous in their use of allegory. It is better to identify Osiris with Dionysus and Serapis with Osiris, who received this appellation at the time when he changed his nature. For this reason Serapis is a god of all peoples in common, even as Osiris is; and this they who have participated in the holy rites well know.

    29 1 It is not worth while to pay any attention to the Phrygian writings, in which it is said that Serapis was the son of Heracles, and Isis was his daughter, and Typhon was the son of Alcaeus, who also was a son of Heracles; nor must we fail to contemn Phylarchus, who writes that Dionysus was the first to bring from India into Egypt two bulls, and that the name of one was Apis and of the other Osiris. But Serapis is the name of him who sets the universe in order, and it is derived from "sweep" (sairein), which some say means "to beautify" and "to put in order." As a matter of fact, these statements of Phylarchus are absurd, but even more absurd are those put forth by those who say that Serapis is no god at all, but the name of the coffin of Apis; and that there are in Memphis certain bronze gates called the Gates of Oblivion and Lamentation, which are opened when the burial of Apis takes place, and they give out a deep and harsh sound; and it is because of this that we lay hand upon anything of bronze that gives out a sound. More moderate is the statement of those who say that the derivation is from "shoot" (seuesthai) or "scoot" (sousthai), meaning the general movement of the universe. Most of the priests say that Osiris and Apis are conjoined into one, thus explaining to us and informing us that we must regard Apis as the bodily image of the soul of Osiris. But it is my opinion that, if the name Serapis is Egyptian, it denotes cheerfulness and rejoicing, and I base this opinion on the fact that Egyptians call their festival of rejoicing 'sairei'. In fact, Plato says that Hades is so named because he is a beneficent and gentle god towards those who have come to abide with him. Moreover, among the Egyptians many others of the proper names are real words; for example, that place beneath the earth, to which they believe that souls depart after the end of this life, they call Amenthes, the name signifying "the one who receives and gives." Whether this is one of those words which came from Greece in very ancient times and were brought back again we will consider later, but for the present let us go on to discuss the remainder of the views now before us. ... is*/B.html
cut-off there -i.e. did not attempt to select text past that point (yet)