|1. Herodotus, Histories, 1.181-1.183, 2.29, 2.42, 2.54-2.57, 2.155-2.156, 4.181 (5th cent. BCE - 5th cent. BCE) Tagged with subjects: •festivals, of amun of egypt Found in books: Mikalson (2003), Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars, 180
| 1.181. These walls are the city's outer armor; within them there is another encircling wall, nearly as strong as the other, but narrower. ,In the middle of one division of the city stands the royal palace, surrounded by a high and strong wall; and in the middle of the other is still to this day the sacred enclosure of Zeus Belus, a square of four hundred and forty yards each way, with gates of bronze. ,In the center of this sacred enclosure a solid tower has been built, two hundred and twenty yards long and broad; a second tower rises from this and from it yet another, until at last there are eight. ,The way up them mounts spirally outside the height of the towers; about halfway up is a resting place, with seats for repose, where those who ascend sit down and rest. ,In the last tower there is a great shrine; and in it stands a great and well-covered couch, and a golden table nearby. But no image has been set up in the shrine, nor does any human creature lie there for the night, except one native woman, chosen from all women by the god, as the Chaldaeans say, who are priests of this god. 1.182. These same Chaldaeans say (though I do not believe them) that the god himself is accustomed to visit the shrine and rest on the couch, as in Thebes of Egypt , as the Egyptians say ,(for there too a woman sleeps in the temple of Theban Zeus, and neither the Egyptian nor the Babylonian woman, it is said, has intercourse with men), and as does the prophetess of the god at Patara in Lycia , whenever she is appointed; for there is not always a place of divination there; but when she is appointed she is shut up in the temple during the night. 1.183. In the Babylonian temple there is another shrine below, where there is a great golden image of Zeus, sitting at a great golden table, and the footstool and the chair are also gold; the gold of the whole was said by the Chaldeans to be eight hundred talents' weight. ,Outside the temple is a golden altar. There is also another great altar, on which are sacrificed the full-grown of the flocks; only nurslings may be sacrificed on the golden altar, but on the greater altar the Chaldeans even offer a thousand talents' weight of frankincense yearly, when they keep the festival of this god; and in the days of Cyrus there was still in this sacred enclosure a statue of solid gold twenty feet high. ,I myself have not seen it, but I relate what is told by the Chaldeans. Darius son of Hystaspes proposed to take this statue but dared not; Xerxes his son took it, and killed the priest who warned him not to move the statue. Such is the furniture of this temple, and there are many private offerings besides. 2.29. I was unable to learn anything from anyone else, but this much further I did learn by the most extensive investigation that I could make, going as far as the city of Elephantine to look myself, and beyond that by question and hearsay. ,Beyond Elephantine, as one travels inland, the land rises. Here one must pass with the boat roped on both sides as men harness an ox; and if the rope breaks, the boat will be carried away by the strength of the current. ,This part of the river is a four days' journey by boat, and the Nile here is twisty just as the Maeander ; a distance of twelve schoeni must be passed in the foregoing manner. After that, you come to a level plain, where there is an island in the Nile , called Takhompso. ,The country above Elephantine now begins to be inhabited by Ethiopians: half the people of the island are Ethiopians, and half Egyptians. Near the island is a great lake, on whose shores live nomadic Ethiopians. After crossing this, you come to the stream of the Nile , which empties into this lake. ,Then you disembark and journey along the river bank for forty days; for there are sharp projecting rocks in the Nile and many reefs, through which no boat can pass. ,Having traversed this part in forty days as I have said, you take boat again and so travel for twelve days until you come to a great city called Meroe , which is said to be the capital of all Ethiopia . ,The people of the place worship no other gods but Zeus and Dionysus; these they greatly honor, and they have a place of divination sacred to Zeus; they send out armies whenever and wherever this god through his oracle commands them. 2.42. All that have a temple of Zeus of Thebes or are of the Theban district sacrifice goats, but will not touch sheep. ,For no gods are worshipped by all Egyptians in common except Isis and Osiris, who they say is Dionysus; these are worshipped by all alike. Those who have a temple of Mendes or are of the Mendesian district sacrifice sheep, but will not touch goats. ,The Thebans, and those who by the Theban example will not touch sheep, give the following reason for their ordice: they say that Heracles wanted very much to see Zeus and that Zeus did not want to be seen by him, but that finally, when Heracles prayed, Zeus contrived ,to show himself displaying the head and wearing the fleece of a ram which he had flayed and beheaded. It is from this that the Egyptian images of Zeus have a ram's head; and in this, the Egyptians are imitated by the Ammonians, who are colonists from Egypt and Ethiopia and speak a language compounded of the tongues of both countries. ,It was from this, I think, that the Ammonians got their name, too; for the Egyptians call Zeus “Amon”. The Thebans, then, consider rams sacred for this reason, and do not sacrifice them. ,But one day a year, at the festival of Zeus, they cut in pieces and flay a single ram and put the fleece on the image of Zeus, as in the story; then they bring an image of Heracles near it. Having done this, all that are at the temple mourn for the ram, and then bury it in a sacred coffin. 2.54. But about the oracles in Hellas , and that one which is in Libya , the Egyptians give the following account. The priests of Zeus of Thebes told me that two priestesses had been carried away from Thebes by Phoenicians; one, they said they had heard was taken away and sold in Libya , the other in Hellas ; these women, they said, were the first founders of places of divination in the aforesaid countries. ,When I asked them how it was that they could speak with such certain knowledge, they said in reply that their people had sought diligently for these women, and had never been able to find them, but had learned later the story which they were telling me. 2.55. That, then, I heard from the Theban priests; and what follows, the prophetesses of Dodona say: that two black doves had come flying from Thebes in Egypt , one to Libya and one to Dodona ; ,the latter settled on an oak tree, and there uttered human speech, declaring that a place of divination from Zeus must be made there; the people of Dodona understood that the message was divine, and therefore established the oracular shrine. ,The dove which came to Libya told the Libyans (they say) to make an oracle of Ammon; this also is sacred to Zeus. Such was the story told by the Dodonaean priestesses, the eldest of whom was Promeneia and the next Timarete and the youngest Nicandra; and the rest of the servants of the temple at Dodona similarly held it true. 2.56. But my own belief about it is this. If the Phoenicians did in fact carry away the sacred women and sell one in Libya and one in Hellas , then, in my opinion, the place where this woman was sold in what is now Hellas , but was formerly called Pelasgia, was Thesprotia ; ,and then, being a slave there, she established a shrine of Zeus under an oak that was growing there; for it was reasonable that, as she had been a handmaid of the temple of Zeus at Thebes , she would remember that temple in the land to which she had come. ,After this, as soon as she understood the Greek language, she taught divination; and she said that her sister had been sold in Libya by the same Phoenicians who sold her. 2.57. I expect that these women were called “doves” by the people of Dodona because they spoke a strange language, and the people thought it like the cries of birds; ,then the woman spoke what they could understand, and that is why they say that the dove uttered human speech; as long as she spoke in a foreign tongue, they thought her voice was like the voice of a bird. For how could a dove utter the speech of men? The tale that the dove was black signifies that the woman was Egyptian . ,The fashions of divination at Thebes of Egypt and at Dodona are like one another; moreover, the practice of divining from the sacrificed victim has also come from Egypt . 2.155. I have often mentioned the Egyptian oracle, and shall give an account of this, as it deserves. This oracle is sacred to Leto, and is situated in a great city by the Sebennytic arm of the Nile , on the way up from the sea. ,Buto is the name of the city where this oracle is; I have already mentioned it. In Buto there is a temple of Apollo and Artemis. The shrine of Leto where the oracle is, is itself very great, and its outer court is sixty feet high. ,But what caused me the most wonder among the things apparent there I shall mention. In this precinct is the shrine of Leto, the height and length of whose walls is all made of a single stone slab; each wall has an equal length and height; namely, seventy feet. Another slab makes the surface of the roof, the cornice of which is seven feet broad. 2.156. Thus, then, the shrine is the most marvellous of all the things that I saw in this temple; but of things of second rank, the most wondrous is the island called Khemmis . ,This lies in a deep and wide lake near the temple at Buto , and the Egyptians say that it floats. I never saw it float, or move at all, and I thought it a marvellous tale, that an island should truly float. ,However that may be, there is a great shrine of Apollo on it, and three altars stand there; many palm trees grow on the island, and other trees too, some yielding fruit and some not. ,This is the story that the Egyptians tell to explain why the island moves: that on this island that did not move before, Leto, one of the eight gods who first came to be, who was living at Buto where this oracle of hers is, taking charge of Apollo from Isis, hid him for safety in this island which is now said to float, when Typhon came hunting through the world, keen to find the son of Osiris. ,Apollo and Artemis were (they say) children of Dionysus and Isis, and Leto was made their nurse and preserver; in Egyptian, Apollo is Horus, Demeter Isis, Artemis Bubastis. ,It was from this legend and no other that Aeschylus son of Euphorion took a notion which is in no poet before him: that Artemis was the daughter of Demeter. For this reason the island was made to float. So they say. 4.181. I have now described all the nomadic Libyans who live on the coast. Farther inland than these is that Libyan country which is haunted by wild beasts, and beyond this wild beasts' haunt runs a ridge of sand that stretches from Thebes of Egypt to the Pillars of Heracles. ,At intervals of about ten days' journey along this ridge there are masses of great lumps of salt in hills; on the top of every hill, a fountain of cold sweet water shoots up from the midst of the salt; men live around it who are farthest away toward the desert and inland from the wild beasts' country. The first on the journey from Thebes , ten days distant from there, are the Ammonians, who follow the worship of the Zeus of Thebes ; for, as I have said before, the image of Zeus at Thebes has the head of a ram. ,They have another spring of water besides, which is warm at dawn, and colder at market-time, and very cold at noon; ,and it is then that they water their gardens; as the day declines, the coldness abates, until at sunset the water grows warm. It becomes ever hotter and hotter until midnight, and then it boils and bubbles; after midnight it becomes ever cooler until dawn. This spring is called the Spring of the Sun.