VII

VII. As to sea-fish, the Egyptians in general do not abstain from all kinds of them, but some from one sort and some from another. Thus, for example, the inhabitants of Oxyrhynchus 1 will not touch any that have been taken with an angle; for as they pay especial reverence to the Oxyrhynchus Fish, 2 from whence they derive their name, they are afraid lest perhaps the hook may be defiled by having been at

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some time or other employed in catching their favourite fish. The people of Syene 1 in like manner abstain from the Phagrus Fish 2; for as this fish is observed by them to make his first appearance upon their coasts just as the Nile begins to overflow, they pay special regard to these voluntary messengers as it were of that most joyful news. The priests, indeed, entirely abstain from all sorts in general. 3 Therefore, upon the ninth day of the first month, when all the rest of the Egyptians are obliged by their religion to eat a fried fish before the door of their houses, they only burn them, not tasting them at all. For this custom they give two reasons: the first and most curious, as falling in with the sacred philosophy of Osiris and Typhon, will be more properly explained in another place. The second, that which is most obvious and manifest, is that fish is neither a dainty nor even a necessary kind of food, a fact which seems to be abundantly confirmed by the writings of Homer, who never makes either the delicate Pheacians or the Ithacans (though both peoples were islanders) to feed upon fish, nor even the companions of Ulysses during their long and most

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tedious voyage, till they were reduced thereto by extreme necessity. In short, they consider the sea to have been forced out of the earth by the power of fire, and therefore to lie out of nature's confines; and they regard it not as a part of the world, or one of the elements, but as a preternatural and corrupt and morbid excrement.


Footnotes

206:1 The Per-Matchet.

206:2 Probably the pike, or "fighting fish."

207:1 In Egyptian, SUNU, the Seweneh of the Bible, and the modern Aswan.

207:2 A kind of bream, the an of the Egyptian texts.

207:3 Compare Chap. CXXXVIIA of the Book of the Dead. "And behold, these things shall be performed by a man who is clean, and is ceremonially pure, one who hath eaten neither meat nor fish, and who hath not had intercourse with women" (ll. 52, 53).






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