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day shave every part of their bodies, to prevent vermin 68 or any species of impurity from adhering
polluted the stream of Egypt. But he thought proper to change it to blood. Now the Ægyptians, and especially their priests, were particularly nice and delicate in their outward habit and rites, and there was nothing which they abhorred more than blood. They seldom admitted any bloody sacrifices, and with the least stain of gore they would have thought themselves deeply polluted. Their affectation of purity was so great, that they could not bear to come in contact with a foreigner, or even to handle his clothes, but to touch a dead body was an abomination, and required to be instantly expiated. Martianus Capella mentions that the priests wore sandals made of papyrus, to prevent as they walked any such accidental pollution. On these accounts the priests were continually making ablutions. There were four stated times, twice in the day, and as often in the night, at which they were all obliged to bathe themselves. Many accidents caused them to repeat it much oftener; hence this evil brought upon them, must have been severely felt, as there was blood throughout all the land of Ægypt.—Bryant on Plagues of Ægypt.
Spenser thus describes Britomartis entering the Temple of Isis :
There she received was in goodly wise,
They wore rich mitres. Spenser, however, is wrong in part of his description, as the priests wore their hair short. See c. 36. See also Jortin on Spenser, p. 206.
68 To prevent vermin.]—In this respect the Jews were in like manner scrupulous: if a Jewish priest found any dirt or dead verniin betwixt his inner garments and his skin, he might not perform the duties of his office. See Maimonides.-T.
to those who are engaged in the service of the gods: the priesthood is also confined to one particular mode of dress; they have one vest of linen, and their shoes are made of the byblus; they wash themselves in cold water* twice in the course of the day, and as often in the night; it would indeed be difficult to enumerate their religious ceremonies, all of which they practise with superstitious exactness. The sacred ministers possess in return many and great advantages 69 : they are not obliged to consume any part of their domestic property; each has a portion of the sacred viands ready dressed, assigned him, besides a large and daily allowance of beef and of geese; they have also wine 70, but are not permitted to feed on fish?'.
* Porphyry says they bathed three times a day, and they who were most rigorous, used for this purpose water from which the Ibis had drank.-T.
69 Possess many and great advantages.]—They enjoyed one great advantage, of which Herodotus takes no notice: Ælian positively affirms, that they were the judges of the nation; Larcher, from whom the above remark is taken, proceeds to a minute comparison betwixt the customs of the priests of Ægypt and those of the Jews.
See also Genesis, chap. xlvii. ver 22; from which it appears that the priests of Ægypt had no share in the miseries of the famine. “Only the land of the priests bought he not, for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, &c.”
70 They have also wine.]—This assertion of Herodotus is contradicted by other writers ; but, as Montfaucon observes, the customs of the priests might vary according to times and places.-T. ? Not permitted to feed on fish.] –The reason of this
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Beans are sown in no part of Ægypt, neither will the inhabitants eat them, either boiled or
according to Plutarch, was their excessive enmity to the sea, which they considered as an element inimical to man: the same reasoning they extended to the produce of the Nile, which they thought corrupted by its connection with the sea.- T.
Almost all the natives of the river were deemed sacred. They were sometimes looked upon as sacred emblems, at other times worshipped as real deities. One species of fish was named oxurunchus, and there was a city of the name built in honour of it, and a temple where this fish was publicly worshipped. A fish called Phagrus was worshipped at Syene, as the Mæotis was at Elephantis. The Lepidotus had the like reverence paid to it, as had also the eel, being each sacred to the god Nilus.-Bryant.
Mention is made in Isaiah of the fishes of Ægypt. The fishers also sball mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters, shall languish; 19, v. 8.
The children of Israel also mention with regret the fish of Ægypt. Numbers xi. v. 5.
We remember the fish which we did eat in Ægypt freely, &c.
From this it should appear that fish was not only plentiful in Ægypt, but a delicacy. Yet some authors say that the Nile does not abound in fish, partly from its mud, and partly from the crocodiles. But as Harman observes, fish might be plentiful in Ægypt, though not in the Nile. There are certainly lakes and great reservoirs of water in which fish appear in great quantities.
Various motives are assigned, why the Pythagoreans, in imitation of the Ægyptians, abstained from beans, by Plutarch, Cicero, and others. “ The Pythagoreans,” observes Cicero, “ abstained from beans, as if that kind of food inflated the mind rather than the belly; but there is nothing so absurd which has not been affirmed by some one of the philosophers.”—T.
raw; the priests will not even look at this pulse, esteeming it exceedingly unclean. Every god has several attendant priests, and one of superior dignity, who presides over the rest; when any one dies, he is succeeded by his son72.
XXXVIII. They esteem bulls as sacred to Epaphus 73, which previously to sacrifice, are thus carefully examined : if they can but discover a single black hair in his body, he is deemed im
72 Succeeded by his son.)-Amongst the Ægyptians the priests composed a distinct class, as the Levites amongst the Jews, and the Brachmans with the Indians.-Larcher.
73 Bulls as sacred to Epaphus.]—It was doubtless from the circumstance of this idolatry that Aaron erected the golden calf in the wilderness, and Jeroboam in Dan and Bethel.-T.
From the circumstance of the Ægyptians worshipping the ox, the cow, and the heifer, Bryant takes occasion to remark that the plague which affected the kine was peculiarly significant and apposite.
“ This judgment displayed upon the kine of Ægypt was very significant in its execution and purport. For when the distemper spread irresistibly over the country, the Ægyptians not only suffered a severe loss, but what was of far greater consequence, they saw the representatives of their deities, and their deities themselves, sink before the God of the Hebrews." p. 102.
Ægyptiâ superstitione inquinatos Israelitas vitulum aureum coluisse certum est.-Selden de Diis Syris.
It is in this place not unworthy of remark, that Herodotus uses the word por Xos, which may be interpreted vitulus. See also Virgil:
Ego hanc vitulam, ne forte recuses,
pure; for this purpose a priest is particularly appointed, who examines the animal as it stands, and as reclined on its back : its tongue is also drawn out, and he observes whether it be free from those blemishes 74 which are specified in their sacred books, and of which I shall speak hereafter. The tail also undergoes examination, every hair of which must grow in its natural and proper form: if in all these instances the bull appears to be unblemished, the priest fastens the byblus round his horns; he then applies a preparation of earth, which receives the impression of his seal, and the animal is led away; this seal is of so great importance, that to sacrifice a beast which has it not, is deemed a capital offence.
XXXIX. I proceed to describe their mode of sacrifice ;-Having led the animal destined and marked for the purpose to the altar, they kindle a fire; a libation of wine is poured upon the altar; the god is solemnly invoked, and the victim then is killed; they afterwards cut off his head, and take the skin from the carcase; upon the head they heap many imprecations : such as have a market-place at hand carry it there, and sell it to the Grecian traders; if they have not this op
74 Free from those blemishes.]—See Numbers, chap. xix. ' ver. 2. “ Speak.unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke.”