« PrécédentContinuer »
whom an idle fable represented with one arm shorter than the other. *
Plato, in his Phædrust, makes Socrates relate the following fable of this Deity::-"I have heard that about Naucratis, in Egypt, there was one of their ancient Gods, to whom a bird was sacred, which they call Ibis; but the name of the Dæmon‡ himself was Theuth. According to tradition, this God first discovered numbers and the art of reckoning, geometry and astronomy, the games of chess and hazard, and likewise letters. Thamus was at the time King of all the country, and resided in that great city of Upper Egypt which the Greeks call Egyptian Thebes: the God himself being denominated Ammon. Thoth, therefore, going to Thamus, showed him his arts, and told him that he ought to distribute them amongst the other Egyptians. Thamus asked him concerning the utility of each; and when they had been explained to him, he approved what appeared reasonable, and blamed that which had a contrary aspect. After Theuth had fully unfolded to Thamus many particulars respecting each art, he proceeded to discourse upon letters. These, O King,' said he, will render the Egyptians wiser, and increase their powers of memory. For this invention may be regarded as the medicine of memory and wisdom.'
"O most learned Theuth,' replied Thamus, 'one person is more adapted to artificial operations, and another to judge of the detriment or advantage + Phædr., Tayl. transl., p. 364.
* Plut. de Is. s. 22. Aayor, in a good sense.
arising from their use. Thus it happens that you, who are the father of letters, through the benevolence of your disposition, have affirmed just the contrary of what letters are able to effect. For these, causing the memory to be neglected, will produce oblivion to the mind of the learner; because men, trusting to the external marks of writing, will not exercise the internal powers of recollection. So that you have not discovered the medicine of memory, but of admonition. You will likewise deliver to your disciples an opinion of wisdom, and not truth.'"
Psellus confounds Thoth with Hermes Trismegistus, whom he makes posterior to Moses, and imagines to be the Argeiphontes of the Greeks. But he applies to Trismegistus the characteristics of Mercury, instead of to Thoth. This Argeiphontes Macrobius supposes to be the Sun, at whose rising the hundred eyes of Argus, or the light of the fixed stars, were put out.
The first month of the Egyptian year, says the former writer, was called after Thoth, as also the city of Hermopolis; where, as we learn from the sculptures of the Portico, the Cynocephalus shared with this Deity, of whom he was the type, the honours of the temple. The few columns which remained of the Portico at Oshmoonein, or Hermopolis Magna, were thrown down in 1822 by the Turks, and burnt for lime; suffering the same fate as the ruins at Antinopolis, and other limestone relics: and though strictly forbidden by Mohammed Ali, many sandstone monuments have been since used as con
venient quarries for the construction of modern buildings.
To return to Thoth. The Cynocephalus is synonymous with the hieroglyphic of letters; and we even find it holding the tablet, and fulfilling the office of Thoth; which shows that it was not only the emblem, but also the representative of that Deity. Iamblichus says that certain physical properties were common to it and to the Moon; and, according to Horapollo, the latter was represented in hieroglyphic writing by a Cynocephalus. This statement is perfectly borne out by the sculptures, Thoth and the Ape, his emblem, being both introduced in the character of the Moon. Indeed, the crescent is found followed by the figure of Thoth in several hieroglyphic legends, with the phonetic name Aah or Ioh, signifying the "Moon."* This last word occurs in the Plate before ust, accompanied by the Ibis, the sacred bird of Thoth; and Plutarch states that "Mercury was supposed to accompany the Moon round the world, as Hercules did the Sun." Thoth, therefore, in one of his characters, answers to the Moon, and in another to Mercury.
The Egyptians, represented their Moon as a male Deity, like the German Mond and Monat, or the Lunus of the Latins; and it is worthy of remark, that the same custom of calling it male is retained in the East to the present day, while the Sun is considered female, as in the language of the Germans.
* Vide infrà, p. 68. note †.
Plut. de Is. s. 41.
+ Plate 45. fig. 5.
Thoth is usually represented as a human figure with the head of an Ibis, holding a tablet, and a pen, or a palm branch, in his hands; and in his character of Lunus he has sometimes a man's face with the crescent of the Moon upon his head, supporting a disk, occasionally with the addition of an ostrich feather; which last appears to connect him with Ao, or with Thmei.
Plutarch says the Egyptians "call the Moon the Mother of the World,' and hold it to be of both sexes; - female, as it receives the influence of the Sun; male, as it scatters and disperses through the air the principles of fecundity." He also supposes "Osiris to be the power and influence of the Moon, and Isis the generative faculty which resides in it." But this is evidently at variance with the authority of the sculptures, which fully establish the claims of Thoth, and disprove any connection between Isis and the Moon. Nor is there any authority for the opinion of Spartianus‡, who says, although the (Greeks or) Egyptians call the Moon a Goddess, they really consider it in a mystical sense a God, both male and female.
"The Sun and Moon," observes Plutarch, "were described by the Egyptians as sailing round the world in boats, intimating that these bodies owe their power of moving, as well as their support and nourishment, to the principle of humidity§;" which statement is confirmed by the sculptures: and † Plut. de Is. s. 43. 52. Spartian. Vit. Antonini Caracall. cap. vii., quoted by Jablonski, 1. cap. iii. 6.
Plut. de Is. s. 43.
Plut. de Is. s. 34.
some have thought that a species of Scarabæus was sacred to Thoth or the Moon. *
The Ibis-headed Deity was called "Lord of the eight regions of the land of Not," which may imply the South, or the Thebaïd‡, and be a part of the word No-Amun, or Diospolis; or be related to the name of the city where he was particularly worshipped, which is now called Oshmoonein, the
on В of the Copts. There is, indeed, an evident connection between his title "Lord of the eight regions," and Oshmoonein, the modern name of Hermopolis, which, derived from Shmen or Shmon, signifying eight, implies the "two eights;" and if some have been disposed to think it refers to the eight books of law, which Menes § pretended to have received from the Egyptian Mercury, the demonstrative sign of "land," following this group, sufficiently refutes this opinion. His title "twice great frequently occurs on the monuments, as in the inscription of the Rosetta Stone, where the Greek styles him "the great and great," or twice great.
The Ibis was particularly sacred to him, and standing on a perch, followed by a half circle and two lines, indicated the name of the God. It was thought to bear some relation to the Moon, "from its feathers being so mixed and blended together,
* Vide Horapollo, i. 10.; and infrà, on the Scarabæus.
Unless this word "No" be a sign, which, as Champollion thinks, was merely put after words ending in "n," and which, forming no part of it, was not pronounced. Vide Gram. Champoll. vol. i. ch. iv. p. 107. Vide infrà, on Savak.
Diodor. i. 94. He calls the King Mnevis.
The half circle had the force of T, which was doubled by these lines, reading Tot or Taut.