received these particulars were three priestesses of the Dodonaeans,
the eldest Promeneia, the next Timarete, and the youngest Nicandra-
what they said was confirmed by the other Dodonaeans who dwell
around the temple.
My own opinion of these matters is as follows:- I think that, if
it be true that the Phoenicians carried off the holy women, and sold
them for slaves, the one into Libya and the other into Greece, or
Pelasgia (as it was then called), this last must have been sold to the
Thesprotians. Afterwards, while undergoing servitude in those parts,
she built under a real oak a temple to Jupiter, her thoughts in her
new abode reverting- as it was likely they would do, if she had been
an attendant in a temple of Jupiter at Thebes- to that particular god.
Then, having acquired a knowledge of the Greek tongue, she set up an
oracle. She also mentioned that her sister had been sold for a slave
into Libya by the same persons as herself.
The Dodonaeans called the women doves because they were
foreigners, and seemed to them to make a noise like birds. After a
while the dove spoke with a human voice, because the woman, whose
foreign talk had previously sounded to them like the chattering of a
bird, acquired the power of speaking what they could understand. For
how can it be conceived possible that a dove should really speak
with the voice of a man? Lastly, by calling the dove black the
Dodonaeans indicated that the woman was an Egyptian. And certainly the
character of the oracles at Thebes and Dodona is very similar. Besides
this form of divination, the Greeks learnt also divination by means of
victims from the Egyptians.
The Egyptians were also the first to introduce solemn
assemblies, processions, and litanies to the gods; of all which the
Greeks were taught the use by them. It seems to me a sufficient
proof of this that in Egypt these practices have been established from
remote antiquity, while in Greece they are only recently known.
The Egyptians do not hold a single solemn assembly, but several in
the course of the year. Of these the chief, which is better attended
than any other, is held at the city of Bubastis in honour of Diana.
The next in importance is that which takes place at Busiris, a city
situated in the very middle of the Delta; it is in honour of Isis, who
is called in the Greek tongue Demiter (Ceres). There is a third
great festival in Sais to Minerva, a fourth in Heliopolis to the
Sun, a fifth in Buto to Latona, and a sixth in Papremis to Mars.
The following are the proceedings on occasion of the assembly at
Bubastis:- Men and women come sailing all together, vast numbers in
each boat, many of the women with castanets, which they strike,
while some of the men pipe during the whole time of the voyage; the
remainder of the voyagers, male and female, sing the while, and make a
clapping with their hands. When they arrive opposite any of the
towns upon the banks of the stream, they approach the shore, and,
while some of the women continue to play and sing, others call aloud
to the females of the place and load them with abuse, while a
certain number dance, and some standing up uncover themselves. After
proceeding in this way all along the river-course, they reach
Bubastis, where they celebrate the feast with abundant sacrifices.
More grape-wine is consumed at this festival than in all the rest of
the year besides. The number of those who attend, counting only the
men and women and omitting the children, amounts, according to the
native reports, to seven hundred thousand.
The ceremonies at the feast of Isis in the city of Busiris have
been already spoken of. It is there that the whole multitude, both
of men and women, many thousands in number, beat themselves at the
close of the sacrifice, in honour of a god, whose name a religious
scruple forbids me to mention. The Carian dwellers in Egypt proceed on
this occasion to still greater lengths, even cutting their faces
with their knives, whereby they let it been seen that they are not
Egyptians but foreigners.
At Sais, when the assembly takes place for the sacrifices, there