Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Herodotus
Pages of Euterpe

Previous | Next


Neptune and the Dioscuri, and do not include them in the number of
their gods; but had they adopted the name of any god from the
Greeks, these would have been the likeliest to obtain notice, since
the Egyptians, as I am well convinced, practised navigation at that
time, and the Greeks also were some of them mariners, so that they
would have been more likely to know the names of these gods than
that of Hercules. But the Egyptian Hercules is one of their ancient
gods. Seventeen thousand years before the reign of Amasis, the
twelve gods were, they affirm, produced from the eight: and of these
twelve, Hercules is one.
In the wish to get the best information that I could on these
matters, I made a voyage to Tyre in Phoenicia, hearing there was a
temple of Hercules at that place, very highly venerated. I visited the
temple, and found it richly adorned with a number of offerings,
among which were two pillars, one of pure gold, the other of
emerald, shining with great brilliancy at night. In a conversation
which I held with the priests, I inquired how long their temple had
been built, and found by their answer that they, too, differed from
the Greeks. They said that the temple was built at the same time
that the city was founded, and that the foundation of the city took
place two thousand three hundred years ago. In Tyre I remarked another
temple where the same god was worshipped as the Thasian Hercules. So I
went on to Thasos, where I found a temple of Hercules which had been
built by the Phoenicians who colonised that island when they sailed in
search of Europa. Even this was five generations earlier than the time
when Hercules, son of Amphitryon, was born in Greece. These researches
show plainly that there is an ancient god Hercules; and my own opinion
is that those Greeks act most wisely who build and maintain two
temples of Hercules, in the one of which the Hercules worshipped is
known by the name of Olympian, and has sacrifice offered to him as
an immortal, while in the other the honours paid are such as are due
to a hero.
The Greeks tell many tales without due investigation, and among
them the following silly fable respecting Hercules:- "Hercules,"
they say, "went once to Egypt, and there the inhabitants took him, and
putting a chaplet on his head, led him out in solemn procession,
intending to offer him a sacrifice to Jupiter. For a while he
submitted quietly; but when they led him up to the altar and began the
ceremonies, he put forth his strength and slew them all." Now to me it
seems that such a story proves the Greeks to be utterly ignorant of
the character and customs of the people. The Egyptians do not think it
allowable even to sacrifice cattle, excepting sheep, and the male kine
and calves, provided they be pure, and also geese. How, then, can it
be believed that they would sacrifice men? And again, how would it
have been possible for Hercules alone, and, as they confess, a mere
mortal, to destroy so many thousands? In saying thus much concerning
these matters, may I incur no displeasure either of god or hero!
I mentioned above that some of the Egyptians abstain from
sacrificing goats, either male or female. The reason is the
following:- These Egyptians, who are the Mendesians, consider Pan to
be one of the eight gods who existed before the twelve, and Pan is
represented in Egypt by the painters and the sculptors, just as he
is in Greece, with the face and legs of a goat. They do not,
however, believe this to be his shape, or consider him in any
respect unlike the other gods; but they represent him thus for a
reason which I prefer not to relate. The Mendesians hold all goats
in veneration, but the male more than the female, giving the goatherds
of the males especial honour. One is venerated more highly than all
the rest, and when he dies there is a great mourning throughout all
the Mendesian canton. In Egyptian, the goat and Pan are both called
The pig is regarded among them as an unclean animal, so much so
that if a man in passing accidentally touch a pig, he instantly
hurries to the river, and plunges in with all his clothes on. Hence,

Previous | Next
Site Search