polytheist extractions

Tag Archives: egypt

The First Vatican Mythographer 78

“Solinus relates that among all the things that Egypt holds worthy of mention, the people especially marvel at a bull called Apis. This bill is notable for a spot, a white mark engendered by nature on its right flank, which bears the appearance of the horned Moon. Egypt worships this bull like a god because it gives certain clear signs about the future. The bull is seen also in Memphis. There its length of life is decided, for it is drowned in the depth of a sacred spring. It is killed so that it might not live longer than allowed. Soon, without public mourning, another bull is sought. A hundred priests accompany this bull to Memphis, and suddenly, as if panic-stricken, they utter predictions. The bull reveals everything clearly about future events, especially if it takes food from the hand of the one consulting it. The Jews made an image of its head for themselves in the wilderness.” – The First Vatican Mythographer 78

O OIM 13512

“Year 9, fourth month of the inundation, day 13. Day that the eight women came outside to the place of women, when they were menstruating. They got as far as the back of the house which … the three walls.” – O OIM 13512

Lucian, On Sacrifices 15

“Sacrifices are the same in Egypt as with us, except that they mourn over the victim, standing about it and beating their breasts after it has been slain. In some cases they even bury it after simply cutting its throat.” – Lucian, On Sacrifices 15

Prokopios, The Wars of Justinian 1.19.34-37

“Diocletian went so far as to select a certain island in the River Nile close to the city of Elephantine and there construct a very strong fortress in which he established certain temples and altars for the Romans and the barbarians in common, and he settled priests of both nations in this fortress, thinking that the friendship between them would be secure by reason of their sharing the things sacred to them. And for this reason he named the place Philae. Now both these nations, the Blemyes and the Nobatae, believe in all the gods in which the Hellenes believe, and they also reverence Isis and Osiris, and not least of all Priapus. But the Blemyes are accustomed also to sacrifice human beings to the sun. These sanctuaries in Philae were kept by these barbarians even up to my time, but the Emperor Justinian decided to tear them down. Accordingly Narses, a Persarmenian by birth, whom I have mentioned before as having deserted to the Romans, being commander of the troops there, tore down the sanctuaries at the emperor’s order, and put the priests under guard and sent the statues to Byzantium.” – Prokopios, The Wars of Justinian 1.19.34-37

Besa, Life of Shenoute 83-84

“Another time our holy Apa Shenoute arose to go to the village of Pleuit in order to throw down the idols which were there. So when the Pagans came to know of this, they went and dug in the place which led to their village and buried some magical potions which they had made according to their books because they wanted to hinder him on the road. Our father Apa Shenoute mounted his donkey, but when he began to ride down the road, as soon as the donkey came to a place where the potions had been buried, it would stand still and dig with its hoof. Straightaway the potions would be exposed and my father would say to the servant, ‘Pick them up so that you can hang them around their necks!’ When he entered the village, the Pagans saw him with the magical vessels which the servant had gathered up. They immediately fled away and disappeared, and my father entered the temple and destroyed the idols, smashing them one on top of the other.” – Besa, Life of Shenoute 83-84

IGLT 1265

“I, the torchbearer of the most sacred mysteries at Eleusis, Nicagoras, son of Minucianus, an Athenian, investigated the tombs [in the Valley of the Kings] many lifetimes after the divine Plato from Athens, and I marveled and gave thanks to the gods and the most devout Emperor Constantine who made this possible for me.” – IGLT 1265

Harris Stela 8-10

“I went to the residence of the Greek kings, which is located on the shores of the Great Green [the Mediterranean], on the west side of the Canopic branch, and whose name is Rhakotis. The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, the god Philopator Philadelphos, the young Osiris, left his palace in life and vigor and went to the temple of Isis … He presented the goddess with with numerous and profuse offerings. As he left the temple of Isis in his chariot, the king himself stopped his chariot and placed on my head a diadem of gold and all sorts of genuine precious stones, bearing the effigy of the king. I thus became his priest, and he promulgated a royal decree for all the cities and nomes, saying ‘I have promoted Psenptais, the high priest of Ptah, to be priest of my cult, and I have accorded him revenues in the temples of Upper and Lower Egypt.'” – Harris Stela 8-10

I.Faiyum 2.112

“Place of asylum by royal ordinance. Access forbidden to undesirables. To King Ptolemy Alexander, god Philometor, greetings on behalf of the priests of Isis Sachypsis, the very great goddess who was the first to appear, of the temple in Theadelphia … Oh very great king, given that the sanctuary in question has been sacred since the time of your ancestors, and that it has been venerated and placed in the highest rank in all times past, but that now, certain impious people, who are behaving contrary to convention, are not only driving out by force the suppliants who come to take refuge there, but also, by treating them roughly and using the most terrible violence, are committing sacrilegious acts, offending the piety you display toward the divine and especially toward the goddess Isis, oh most holy king, we therefore pray you, victory bearing god, if it pleases you, to ordain that the said sanctuary be a place of asylum, and that stelai of stone be erected towards the four winds, at a distance of fifty cubits around the temple, bearing the inscription ‘access denied to undesirables.’ That, most great king, in your interest … so that the sacrifices, libations, and all the other ceremonies instituted by you, your children, and your ancestors in honor of Isis and Serapis, might be better celebrated, and so that we might be blessed by your beneficent deeds. Good fortune. Reply of the King: To Lysanias, the strategos of the nome; execute the request of the priests. Year 21, Mekhir 7.” – I.Faiyum 2.112

Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 172-74

“It was found in some of the holy books of the Egyptian priests that king Budshir bin Qfitwim exhausted himself in the worship of the luminous heavenly bodies to the point where their spirits entered into him. He became infatuated with these spirits and starved himself; his body gave up food and drink. When he became ecstatic the spirits desired him as he desired them, so they raised him up to their place and purified him of all painful evils of earth and made him a heavenly spirit, floating within their luminosity and able to do as they did.” – Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 172-74

Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 172-74

“King Menaus, who was the first king of the Egyptians, is also responsible for founding the cult of the holy bull. The reason for this is because he became seriously ill and despaired. But then in his sleep he saw a great spirit speaking to him and it said, ‘Nothing will cure you but your worship of cows,’ because the zodiac at that time was in the sign of Taurus, which is in the image of a bull with two horns. When the king awoke he gave orders and they got a handsome piebald bull and made for it in his palace a shrine with a gilded dome and he worshiped him in secret, afraid that others might find out, and he was cured. Later on a bull appeared in a dream and talked to the king and directed him to worship and look after the bull and in return the bull would look after the king’s interests and strengthen and cure him. So the king established a shrine for the bull and arranged servants to care for it and hold the service of its cult. According to some of their books that bull, after they worshiped him for some time, ordered them to make an image of him in gold, a hollow one, and to take some hair from his head and tail and a scraping from his horn and hooves, and put it all in the statue. And he informed them that he would join his heavenly world and that they were to place his body in a stone sarcophagus and establish it in the shrine with his statue on top, when the planet Saturn was in his sign and the Sun was looking upon him in trine. And the statues was to be inscribed with the signs of the images of the seven planets, and they did that. Later on after the holy bull was buried people from all over Egypt and neighboring areas flocked to his shrine with offerings to his statue and he would tell them whatever they wanted to know.” – Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 172-74

Al-Idrisi, Anwar 151

“On a certain day of the year those who aspire to senior jobs with the Sultan visit and offer incense to the Sphinx.” – Al-Idrisi, Anwar 151

Al-Ya’qubi, Tarikh 1.87-88

“The Sage of the Copts is Hermes the Copt. He was the first builder of temples and the inventor of the script of the temples. And in our time nobody knows how to read it, because only the elite among them were writing in it; they would not allow the common people to do so. The ones in charge of it were their sages and priests. This script held the secrets of their religion and the origins of sciences which nobody was allowed to see but their priests, who did not teach it to anyone unless ordered to do so by the king. Their religion was the worship of the planets and stars. From their sayings: The souls are old and were in the upper paradise and every thirty six thousand years all this is in the world will perish, either from dust meaning the earth, its earthquakes and eclipses, or from fire and burning, destructive poisons, or from great and noxious wind in which animals, plants and humans will perish. Then nature will bring back to life from every kind and the world will return after its demise. They honored spirits and gods who descend into the idols, causing the idols to speak, but that was deception for they did not let the common people see how the idols were made to speak, which was a craft of the priests and the result of certain drugs. Through tricks such as whistles or screams they made people think that the idol was indeed a bird or some other animal. Then the priests would translate the sound of the idol according to whatever they like to judge, using astronomical signs and physiognomy. They say that when the souls depart they go to these deities who are the planets who wash and purify them of whatever sins they had. The souls then go up to paradise where they belong. They say that their prophets were spoken to by the planets, which informed them that the spirits descend into the idols and take up residence there, foretelling events before they happen. They had such precise and wondrous astuteness which which they instilled in the common people the illusion that they were conversing with the planets and gaining knowledge of the future. This was possible only because of the perfection of their knowledge of the secrets and signs of the zodiac and their exact physiognomy. They were seldom wrong.” – Al-Ya’qubi, Tarikh 1.87-88

Al-Baghdadi, Al-Ifadah 109-10

“And as for the idols, they were very common in the ancient world even with the Christians, most of whom, Copts and Sabaeans, were inclined towards their construction in the old tradition of their ancestors and set up idols in the places of their worship. They can even go so far as depicting their god surrounded by angels. All these are the remains of the traditions of their predecessors, although the predecessors were much wiser and elevated god beyond any logical or physical reach of comprehension, let alone depiction.” – Al-Baghdadi, Al-Ifadah 109-10

Al-Qalqashandi, Subh 3.357

“In Alexandria there are two fallen pillars which are used to treat illnesses. They are known as the Pillars of Illness, and patients visit them, bringing seven pebbles along with them. The sick person lies down on one of the pillars, throws the seven pebbles behind himself and then leaves the site without looking backwards, cured of his ailment.” – Al-Qalqashandi, Subh 3.357

Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 171

“There was a man from the east who visited a particular temple every day, bringing incense and perfumes to an image on the door frame. In return for this he collected a dinar from beneath its feet. This happened every day, for a long time, until it was discovered what he was doing and he was arrested.” – Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 171

Al-Qwazwini, Athar 138

“In the village of Absoug on the west bank of the Nile, there is a temple whose door has a picture of a mouse on a stone which keeps the mice away. People take a clay imprint of this to their homes to keep mice out.” – Al-Qwazwini, Athar 138

Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 169

“King Menqaus built a temple with statues that cure all illnesses and wrote on top of the shrine of every statue what it would cure, so people benefited from this temple for a time until some kings spoiled. Another king, Shasta, cared so much for the health of his people that in every city he erected a statue of a woman which people suffering from depression could visit. As soon as a depressed person sees it, he smiles and forgets all his care. People hold it circumambulate it. At a later date they worshiped her.” – Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 169

Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 167

“King Shadat erected another idol as well, a cow with two large udders; if a woman whose milk has decreased or dried up touches it, her milk will flow again.” – Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 167

Al-Maqrizi, Khitat 1.651

“The idol stands on one leg and has only one arm which is raised high. There are inscriptions on his forehead and around the body. He has a prominent phallus. Many people use this idol when they are unable to attain an erection, but it is only successful if the person is able to remove the phallus without damaging the idol. Afterwards they wear the phallus around their waist and they get the desired result.” – Al-Maqrizi, Khitat 1.651

Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 166

“There is a standing statue with an erect penis; if one who is impotent and cannot have an erection for any reason comes to this statue and holds it with both hands, he will recover and obtain the desired erection and the strength to copulate.” – Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 166

Al-Mas’udi, Muruj 1.359

“There was a queen of the Egyptians who built temples and equipped them with magic tools and pictures of whoever may come from any direction and their animals, camels or horses, and the ships that may come from the sea of Morocco or Al-Sham, and she assembled in these great, glorious monumental temples the secrets of nature, the properties of stones, plants and animals. All was done at certain times of astronomical movements and contacts with higher influences. If any army invaded she damaged their picture on the temple wall so those who are in that army are wounded. This is why the kings and nations feared and respected Egypt.” – Al-Mas’udi, Muruj 1.359

Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 176

“There was a king of the Egyptians named Ashmoun who built a temple to the east of his town which had four gates decorated with faces talking to each other. Whoever enters that temple impure, these faces blow at him afflicting him with an illness that stays with him until death. It is said that in the middle of this there is a constant column of light and whoever embraces it never fails to see and hear the spirits.” – Anonymous, Akhbar Al-Zaman 176

Lucian, De Dea Syria 6

“I saw too at Byblos a large temple, sacred to the Byblian Aphrodite: this is the scene of the secret rites of Adonis: I mastered these. They assert that the legend about Adonis and the wild boar is true, and that the facts occurred in their country, and in memory of this calamity they beat their breasts and wail every year, and perform their secret ritual amid signs of mourning through the whole countryside. When they have finished their mourning and wailing, they sacrifice in the first place to Adonis, as to one who has departed this life: after this they allege that he is alive again, and exhibit his effigy to the sky. They proceed to shave their heads, too, like the Egyptians on the loss of their Apis. The women who refuse to be shaved have to submit to the following penalty: to stand for the space of an entire day in readiness to expose their persons for hire. The place of hire is open to none but foreigners, and out of the proceeds of the traffic of these women a sacrifice to Aphrodite is paid.” – Lucian, De Dea Syria 6

Petrus Comestor, Historia Scholastica Liber Exodi, chap. 4. col. 1143

“According to Pliny, who saw him himself, the Apis is a bull who used to rise suddenly out of a river. Upon his right shoulder is the shape of the crescent moon. When the Egyptians gathered around him with music and chanting he rose in the air and moved above their heads, as if he were playing the cithara. When he moved, people beneath followed his movements, and when he stood still, they stood still as well … Some related that he appeared every year at the feast of Serapis, and this is believed to be the reason why he himself is called Serapis, which means sacred to the Apis.” – Petrus Comestor, Historia Scholastica Liber Exodi, chap. 4. col. 1143

Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 364e-365e

“That Osiris is identical with Dionysos who could more fittingly know than yourself, Klea? For you are at the head of the inspired maidens of Delphi, and have been consecrated by your father and mother in the holy rites of Osiris. If, however, for the benefit of others it is needful to adduce proofs of this identity, let us leave undisturbed what may not be told, but the public ceremonies which the priests perform in the burial of the Apis, when they convey his body on an improvised bier, do not in any way come short of a Bacchic procession; for they fasten skins of fawns about themselves, and carry Bacchic wands and indulge in shoutings and movements exactly as do those who are under the spell of the Dionysiac ecstasies. For the same reason many of the Greeks make statues of Dionysos in the form of a bull; and the women of Elis invoke him, praying that the god may come with the hoof of a bull; and the epithet applied to Dionysos among the Argives is ‘Son of the Bull.’ They call him up out of the water by the sound of trumpets, at the same time casting into the depths a lamb as an offering to the Keeper of the Gate. The trumpets they conceal in Bacchic wands, as Socrates has stated in his treatise On The Holy Ones. Furthermore, the tales regarding the Titans and the rites celebrated by night agree with the accounts of the dismemberment of Osiris and his revivification and regenesis. Similar agreement is found too in the tales about their sepulchres. The Egyptians, as has already been stated, point out tombs of Osiris in many places, and the people of Delphi believe that the remains of Dionysos rest with them close beside the oracle; and the Holy Ones offer a secret sacrifice in the shrine of Apollo whenever the devotees of Dionysos wake the God of the Mystic Basket. To show that the Greeks regard Dionysos as the lord and master not only of wine, but of the nature of every sort of moisture, it is enough that Pindar be our witness, when he says ‘May gladsome Dionysos swell the fruit upon the trees, the hallowed splendour of harvest time.’ For this reason all who reverence Osiris are prohibited from destroying a cultivated tree or blocking up a spring of water.” – Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 364e-365e

Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 353e-c

“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. 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 prescribed by the sacred writings, as Hecataeus 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. This is the reason why drunkenness drives men out of their senses and crazes them, inasmuch as they are then filled with the blood of their forbears. These tales Eudoxus says in the second book of his World Travels are thus related by the priests.” – Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 353e-c

Ammianus Marcellinus, The History 12.1-19

“Yet in the midst of these anxieties, as if it were prescribed by some ancient custom, in place of civil wars the trumpets sounded for alleged cases of high treason; and to investigate and punish these there was sent that notorious state-secretary Paulus, often called Tartareus. He was skilled in the work of bloodshed, and just as a trainer of gladiators seeks profit and emolument from the traffic in funerals and festivals, so did he from the rack or the executioner. Therefore, as his determination to do harm was fixed and obstinate, he did not refrain from secret fraud, devising fatal charges against innocent persons, provided only he might continue his pernicious traffic. Moreover, a slight and trivial occasion gave opportunity to extend his inquisitions indefinitely. There is a town called Abydos, situated in the remotest part of the Thebaid; here the oracle of a god called in that place Besa in days of old revealed the future and was wont to be honoured in the ancient ceremonials of the adjacent regions. And since some in person, a part through others, by sending a written list of their desires, inquired the will of the deities after definitely stating their requests, the papers or parchments containing their petitions sometimes remained in the shrine even after the replies had been given. Some of these were with malicious intent sent to the emperor who (being very narrow-minded), although deaf to other serious matters, on this point was softer than an earlobe, as the proverb has it; and being suspicious and petty, he grew furiously angry. At once he admonished Paulus to proceed quickly to the Orient, conferring on him, as a leader renowned for his experience, the power of conducting trials according to his good pleasure. A commission was also given to Modestus (at that very time count in the Orient) a man fitted for these and similar affairs. For Hermogenes of Pontus, at that time praetorian prefect, was rejected as being of too mild a temper. Off went Paulus (as he was ordered) in panting haste and teeming with deadly fury, and since free rein was given to general calumny, men were brought in from almost the whole world, noble and obscure alike; and some of them were bowed down with the weight of chains, others wasted away from the agony of imprisonment. As the theatre of torture and death Scythopolis was chosen, a city of Palestine which for two reasons seemed more suitable than any other: because it is more secluded, and because it is midway between Antioch and Alexandria, from which cities the greater number were brought to meet charges. Among the first, then, to be summoned was Simplicius, son of Philippus, a former prefect and consul, who was indicted for the reason that he had (as was said) inquired about gaining imperial power; and by a note of the emperor, who in such cases never condoned a fault or an error because of loyal service, he was ordered to be tortured but, protected by some fate, he was banished to a stated place, but with a whole skin. Then Parnasius (ex-prefect of Egypt), a man of simple character, was brought into such peril that he was tried for his life, but he likewise was sent into exile; he had often been heard to say long before this, that when, for the purpose of gaining a certain office, he left Patrae, a town of Achaia where he was born and had his home, he had dreamt that many shadowy figures in tragic garb escorted him. Later Andronicus, known for his liberal studies and the fame of his poems, was haled into court; but since he had a clear conscience, was under no suspicion, and most confidently asserted his innocence, he was acquitted. Also Demetrius, surnamed Cythras, a philosopher of advanced years, it is true, but hardy of body and mind, being charged with offering sacrifice several times, could not deny it; he declared, however, that he had done so from early youth for the purpose of propitiating the deity, not of trying to reach a higher station by his investigations; for he did not know of anyone who had such aspirations. Therefore, after being long kept upon the rack, supported by his firm confidence he fearlessly made the same plea without variation; whereupon he was allowed to go without further harm to his native city of Alexandria. These and a few others a just fate in alliance with truth saved from imminent danger. But as these charges made their way further by entangling snares extended endlessly, some died from the mangling of their bodies, others were condemned to further punishment and had their goods seized, while Paulus was the prompter of these scenes of cruelty, supplying as if from a storehouse many kinds of deception and cruelty; and on his nod (I might almost say) depended the life of all who walk the earth. For if anyone wore on his neck an amulet against the quartan ague or any other complaint, or was accused by the testimony of the evil-disposed of passing by a grave in the evening, on the ground that he was a dealer in poisons, or a gatherer of the horrors of tombs and the vain illusions of the ghosts that walk there, he was condemned to capital punishment and so perished. In fact, the matter was handled exactly as if many men had importuned Claros, the oaks of Dodona, and the once famous oracles of Delphi with regard to the death of the emperor. Therefore the palace band of courtiers, ingeniously fabricating shameful devices of flattery, declared that he would be immune to ordinary ills, loudly exclaiming that his destiny had appeared at all times powerful and effective in destroying those who made attempts against him. And that into such doings strict investigation was made no man of good sense will find fault. For we do not deny that the safety of a lawful prince, the protector and defender of good men, on whom depends the safety of others, ought to be safeguarded by the united diligence of all men; and in order to uphold him the more strongly when his violated majesty is defended, the Cornelian laws exempted no one of whatever estate from examination by torture, even with the shedding of blood. But it is not seemly for a prince to rejoice beyond measure in such sorrowful events, lest his subjects should seem to be ruled by despotism rather than by lawful power. And the example of Tully ought to be followed, who, when it was in his power to spare or to harm, as he himself tells us, sought excuses for pardoning rather than opportunities for punishing; and that is the province of a mild and considerate official. At that same time in Daphne, that charming and magnificent suburb of Antioch, a portent was born, horrible to see and to report: an infant, namely, with two heads, two sets of teeth, a beard, four eyes and two very small ears; and this misshapen birth foretold that the state was turning into a deformed condition. Portents of this kind often see the light, as indications of the outcome of various affairs; but as they are not expiated by public rites, as they were in the time of our forefathers, they pass by unheard of and unknown.” – Ammianus Marcellinus, The History 12.1-19

Expositio Totius Mundi Et Gentium 35

“Alexandria is a very great city, famous for her arrangement, abounding in all advantages and rich in food; she eats three kinds of fish, something which no other province has – river fish, lake fish and sea fish. All kinds either of perfume or any other barbarian merchandise can be found in the city. All sorts of people flock her streets, including those from beyond the extreme part of Thebais and the people of India, and receiving everything Alexandria stands above all. But what makes Alexandria so exceptional is the devout way that the Alexandrians worship the gods. Here is the temple of Serapis, the most unique and wonderful spectacle to be found in the whole world. Nowhere on earth can you see another temple with such beauty and symmetry, nor the extraordinary rites of worship celebrated there. Egypt is granted first place among all the countries on account of this single temple alone.” – Expositio Totius Mundi Et Gentium 35

Porphyry, On Abstinence from Animal Foods 4.6-8

“Chaeremon the Stoic, therefore, in his narration of the Egyptian priests, who, he says, were considered by the Egyptians as philosophers, informs us, that they chose temples, as the places in which they might philosophize. For to dwell with the statues of the gods is a thing allied to the whole desire, by which the soul tends to the contemplation of their divinities. And from the divine veneration indeed, which was paid to them through dwelling in temples, they obtained security, all men honouring these philosophers, as if they were certain sacred animals. They also led a solitary life, as they only mingled with other men in solemn sacrifices and festivals. But at other times the priests were almost inaccessible to any one who wished to converse with them. For it was requisite that he who approached to them should be first purified, and abstain from many things; and this is as it were a common sacred law respecting the Egyptian priests. But these philosophic priests having relinquished every other employment, and human labours, gave up the whole of their life to the contemplation and worship of divine natures and to divine inspiration; through the latter, indeed, procuring for themselves, honour, security, and piety; but through contemplation, science; and through both, a certain occult exercise of manners, worthy of antiquity. For to be always conversant with divine knowledge and inspiration, removes those who are so from all avarice, suppresses the passions, and excites to an intellectual life. But they were studious of frugality in their diet and apparel, and also of continence and endurance, and in all things were attentive to justice and equity. They likewise were rendered venerable, through rarely mingling with other men. For during the time of what are called purifications, they scarcely mingled with their nearest kindred, and those of their own order, nor were they to be seen by anyone, unless it was requisite for the necessary purposes of purification. For the sanctuary was inaccessible to those who were not purified, and they dwelt in holy places for the purpose of performing divine works; but at all other times they associated more freely with those who lived like themselves. They did not, however, associate with any one who was not a religious character. But they were always seen near to the gods, or the statues of the gods, the latter of which they were beheld either carrying, or preceding in a sacred procession, or disposing in an orderly manner, with modesty and gravity; each of which operations was not the effect of pride, but an indication of some physical reason. Their venerable gravity also was apparent from their manners. For their walking was orderly, and their aspect sedate; and they were so studious of preserving this gravity of countenance, that they did not even wink, when at any time they were unwilling to do so; and they seldom laughed, and when they did, their laughter proceeded no farther than to a smile. But they always kept their hands within their garments. Each likewise bore about him a symbol indicative of the order which he was allotted in sacred concerns; for there were many orders of priests. Their diet also was slender and simple. For, with respect to wine, some of them did not at all drink it, but others drank very little of it, on account of its being injurious to the nerves, oppressive to the head, an impediment to invention, and an incentive to venereal desires. In many other things also they conducted themselves with caution; neither using bread at all in purifications, and at those times in which they were not employed in purifying themselves, they were accustomed to eat bread with hyssop, cut into small pieces. For it is said, that hyssop very much purifies the power of bread. But they, for the most part, abstained from oil, the greater number of them entirely; and if at any time they used it with pot-herbs, they took very little of it, and only as much as was sufficient to mitigate the taste of the herbs.

“It was not lawful for them therefore to meddle with the esculent and potable substances, which were produced out of Egypt, and this contributed much to the exclusion of luxury from these priests. But they abstained from all the fish that was caught in Egypt, and from such quadrupeds as had solid, or many-fissured hoofs, and from such as were not horned; and likewise from all such birds as were carnivorous. Many of them, however, entirely abstained from all animals; and in purifications this abstinence was adopted by all of them, for then they did not even eat an egg. Moreover, they also rejected other things, without being calumniated for so doing. Thus, for instance, of oxen, they rejected the females, and also such of the males as were twins, or were speckled, or of a different colour, or alternately varied in their form, or which were now tamed, as having been already consecrated to labours, and resembled animals that are honoured, or which were the images of any thing that is divine, or those that had but one eye, or those that verged to a similitude of the human form. There are also innumerable other observations pertaining to the art of those who are called mosxofragistai, or who stamp calves with a seal, and of which books have been composed. But these observations are still more curious respecting birds; as, for instance, that a turtle should not be eaten; for it is said that a hawk frequently dismisses this bird after he has seized it, and preserves its life, as a reward for having had connexion with it. The Egyptian priests, therefore, that they might not ignorantly meddle with a turtle of this kind, avoided the whole species of those birds. And these indeed were certain common religious ceremonies; but there were different ceremonies, which varied according to the class of the priests that used them, and were adapted to the several divinities. But chastity and purifications were common to all the priests. When also the time arrived in which they were to perform something pertaining to the sacred rites of religion, they spent some days in preparatory ceremonies, some indeed forty-two, but others a greater, and others a less number of days; yet never less than seven days; and during this time they abstained from all animals, and likewise from all pot-herbs and leguminous substances, and, above all, from a venereal connexion with women; for they never at any time had connexion with males. They likewise washed themselves with cold water thrice every day; viz. when they rose from their bed, before dinner, and when they betook themselves to sleep. But if they happened to be polluted in their sleep by the emission of the seed, they immediately purified their body in a bath. They also used cold bathing at other times, but not so frequently as on the above occasion. Their bed was woven from the branches of the palm tree, which they call bais; and their bolster was a smooth semi-cylindric piece of wood. But they exercised themselves in the endurance of hunger and thirst, and were accustomed to paucity of food through the whole of their life.

“This also is a testimony of their continence, that, though they neither exercised themselves in walking or riding, yet they lived free from disease, and were sufficiently strong for the endurance of modern labours. They bore therefore many burdens in the performance of sacred operations, and accomplished many ministrant works, which required more than common strength. But they divided the night into the observation of the celestial bodies, and sometimes devoted a part of it to offices of purification; and they distributed the day into the worship of the gods, according to which they celebrated them with hymns thrice or four times, viz. in the morning and evening, when the sun is at his meridian altitude, and when he is declining to the west. The rest of their time they devoted to arithmetical and geometrical speculations, always labouring to effect something, and to make some new discovery, and, in short, continually exercising their skill. In winter nights also they were occupied in the same employments, being vigilantly engaged in literary pursuits, as paying no attention to the acquisition of externals, and being liberated from the servitude of that bad master, excessive expense. Hence their unwearied and incessant labour testifies their endurance, but their continence is manifested by their liberation from the desire of external good. To sail from Egypt likewise, was considered by them to be one of the most unholy things, in consequence of their being careful to avoid foreign luxury and pursuits; for this appeared to them to be alone lawful to those who were compelled to do so by regal necessities. Indeed, they were very anxious to continue in the observance of the institutes of their country, and those who were found to have violated them, though but in a small degree were expelled from the college of the priests. The true method of philosophizing, likewise, was preserved by the prophets, by the hierostolistae, and the sacred scribes, and also by the horologi, or calculators of nativities. But the rest of the priests, and of the pastophori, curators of temples, and ministers of the gods, were similarly studious of purity, yet not so accurately, and with such great continence, as the priests of whom we have been speaking. And such are the particulars which are narrated of the Egyptians, by a man who was a lover of truth, and an accurate writer, and who among the Stoics strenuously and solidly philosophized.” – Porphyry, On Abstinence from Animal Foods 4.6-8

Jerome, Against Jovinianus 2.13

“Chaeremon the Stoic, a man of great eloquence, has a treatise on the life of the ancient priests of Egypt who, he says, laid aside all worldly business and cares and were ever in the temple, studying nature and the regulating causes of the heavenly bodies; they never had intercourse with women; they never from the time they began to devote themselves to the divine service set eyes on their kindred and relations, nor even saw their children; they always abstained from flesh and wine, on account of the light-headedness and dizziness which a small quantity of food caused, and especially to avoid the stimulation of the lustful appetite engendered by this meat and drink. They seldom ate bread, that they might not load the stomach. And whenever they ate it, they mixed pounded hyssop with all that they took, so that the action of its warmth might diminish the weight of the heavier food. They used no oil except with vegetables, and then only in small quantities, to mitigate the unpalatable taste. What need, he says, to speak of birds, when they avoided even eggs and milk as flesh. The one, they said, was liquid flesh, the other was blood with the colour changed? Their bed was made of palm-leaves, called by them baiae: a sloping footstool laid upon the ground served for a pillow, and they could go without food for two or three days. The humours of the body which arise from sedentary habits were dried up by reducing their diet to an extreme point.” – Jerome, Against Jovinianus 2.13