Plutarch, Moralia. Isis and Osiris

LCL 306: 76-77

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Plutarch’s Moralia

(363)ποταμὸν ἐρρίπτουν πάλαι, νῦν δὲ τοῖς ξένοις ἀποδίδονται. τὸν δὲ μέλλοντα θύεσθαι βοῦν οἱ Cσφραγισταὶ λεγόμενοι τῶν ἱερέων κατεσημαίνοντο, τῆς σφραγῖδος, ὡς ἱστορεῖ Κάστωρ, γλυφὴν μὲν ἐχούσης ἄνθρωπον εἰς γόνυ καθεικότα ταῖς χερσὶν ὀπίσω περιηγμέναις, ἔχοντα κατὰ τῆς σφαγῆς ξίφος ἐγκείμενον· ἀπολαύειν δὲ καὶ τὸν ὄνον, ὥσπερ εἴρηται, τῆς ὁμοιότητος διὰ τὴν ἀμαθίαν καὶ τὴν ὕβριν οὐχ ἧττον ἢ διὰ τὴν χρόαν οἴονται. διὸ καὶ τῶν Περσικῶν βασιλέων ἐχθραίνοντες μάλιστα τὸν Ὦχον ὡς ἐναγῆ καὶ μιαρόν, ὄνον ἐπωνόμασαν. κἀκεῖνος εἰπών, “ὁ μέντοι ὄνος οὗτος ὑμῶν κατευωχήσεται τὸν βοῦν,” ἔθυσε τὸν Ἆπιν, ὡς Δείνων ἱστόρηκεν. οἱ δὲ λέγοντες ἐκ Dτῆς μάχης ἐπ᾿ ὄνου τῷ Τυφῶνι τὴν φυγὴν ἑπτὰ ἡμέρας1 γενέσθαι, καὶ σωθέντα γεννῆσαι παῖδας Ἱεροσόλυμον καὶ Ἰουδαῖον, αὐτόθεν εἰσὶ κατάδηλοι τὰ Ἰουδαϊκὰ παρέλκοντες εἰς τὸν μῦθον.

32. Ταῦτα μὲν οὖν τοιαύτας ὑπονοίας δίδωσιν· ἀπ᾿ ἄλλης δ᾿ ἀρχῆς τῶν φιλοσοφώτερόν τι λέγειν δοκούντων2 τοὺς ἁπλουστάτους σκεψώμεθα πρῶτον. οὗτοι δ᾿ εἰσὶν οἱ λέγοντες, ὥσπερ Ἕλληνες Κρόνον ἀλληγοροῦσι τὸν χρόνον, Ἥραν δὲ τὸν ἀέρα, γένεσιν δὲ Ἡφαίστου τὴν εἰς πῦρ ἀέρος μεταβολήν, οὕτω παρ᾿ Αἰγυπτίοις Νεῖλον εἶναι τὸν Ὄσιριν


Isis And Osiris

throw it into the river, but now they sell it to aliens.a Upon the neat animal intended for sacrifice those of the priests who were called “Sealers”b used to put a mark; and their seal, as Castor records, bore an engraving of a man with his knee on the ground and his hands tied behind his back, and with a sword at his throat.c They think, as has been said,d that the ass reaps the consequences of his resemblance because of his stupidity and his lascivious behaviour no less than because of his colour. This is also the reason why, since they hated Ochuse most of all the Persian kings because he was a detested and abominable ruler, they nicknamed him “the Ass”; and he remarked, “But this Ass will feast upon your Bull,” and slaughtered Apis, as Deinon has recorded. But those who relate that Typhon’s flight from the battle was made on the back of an ass and lasted for seven days, and that after he had made his escape, he became the father of sons, Hierosolymus and Judaeus, are manifestly, as the very names show, attempting to drag Jewish traditionsf into the legend.

32. Such, then, are the possible interpretations which these facts suggest. But now let us begin over again, and consider first the most perspicuous of those who have a reputation for expounding matters more philosophically. These men are like the Greeks who say that Cronus is but a figurative name for Chronusg (Time), Hera for Air, and that the birth of Hephaestus symbolizes the change of Air into Fire.h And thus among the Egyptians such men say that Osiris is the

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.plutarch-moralia_isis_osiris.1936