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Greek Quotes

Bell Picture Hathor Chapel, Dynasty XVIII, Deir el-Bahri

The quotes here are taken from those posted on the athena-discuss list.

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    	"The Sidonians, according to tradition, are skilled
    	in many beautiful arts, as the poet also points out;
    	and besides this they are philosophers in the sciences
    	of astronomy and arithmetic, having begun their studies
    	with practical calculations and with night-sailings;
    	for each of these branches of knowlege concerns the
    	merchant and ship-owner; as , for example, geometry was
    	invented, it is said, from the measurement of lands which
    	is made necessary by the Nile when it confounds the
    	bondaries at the time of its overflows.  This science,
    	then, is believed to have come to the Greeks (from the
    	Aegyptians; astronomy and arithemtic from the Phoenicians;
    	and at present the far the greatest store of knowledge
    	in every other branch of philosophy is had from these
    	cities. And if one must believe Poseidonius, the ancient
    	dogma about atoms originated with Mochus, a Sidonian
             [Phoenician], born before the Trojan times."  (Strabo,
    	_Geography_, 16, 2, trans. by H. L. Jones)
    	" inspire those kings whose minds reached
    	out to heights bordering on heavens, kings who
    	civilized savage peoples beneath the eastern
    	sky, whose lnads are severed by the Euphrates
    	or flooded by the Nile, where the stars return to
    	view and soar above the cities of dusky nations.
    	...These were the men who founded our noble science
    	and were the first by their art to discern the
    	destinies dependend on the wandering stars."
    	(Manilius, _Astronomica_, 1, 40-67, trans. by G.P. Goold)
    	"And hence it has come about that the sacred animals
    	are recognized as such by the Egyptians, and that in
    	the several cities of Egypt people worshp the souls
    	of the men to whom these animals have been consecrated
    	as living statues; so that the cities are governed by the
    	laws which those men made, and bear their names.  Thus
    	the same animals which some cities think it right to
    	worship and revere are in other cities held in small esteem;
    	and this, Asclepius, is the reson why the cities of Egypt
    	are wont to make war on one another.  Morever, in time to
    	come the rulers of the land will be made gods, and their
    	worship will be established in a city at he very border
    	of Egypt, a city which will be founded towards the
    	setting sun, and to which men of every race will speed by
    	land and sea. --Ascl.  But tell me Trismegistus, where are
    	such deified rulers to be found in our own day? --Tris.
    	Their worship is established in the great city in the
    	Libyan  mountain." (Asclepius III, trans. by W. Scott)
    	"Hence when all the discoveries of this kind (practical) 
    	were fully developed, the sciences which relate neither
    	to pleasure nor yet to the necessities of life were 
    	invented, and first in those places where men had leisure.
    	Thus the mathematical sciences originated in the 
    	neighborhood of Egypt, because there the priestly class
    	was allowed leisure."   (Aristotle, _Metaphysics_ I.
    	I. 15, 1, trans. by H. Tredennick)
    	"...Egyptians have not only been accepted by the present
    	inhabitants but have aroused no little admiration among the
    	Greeks; and for that reason those men who have won the 
    	greatest repute in intellectual things have been eager
    	to visit Egypt in order to acquaint themselves with its
    	laws and institutions, which they considered to be worthy
    	of note.  For despite the fact that for reasons mentioned
    	above strangers found it difficult in early times to 
    	enter the country, it was nevertheless eagerly visited by
    	Orpheus and the poet Homer in the earliest times and
    	in later times by many others, such as Pythagoras of Samos
    	and Solon the lawgiver."  (Diodorus Siculus, Book I. 68)
    	"It was at this time,  we are told, that Pythagoras, seeing
    	that the tyranny was growing in power, left the city and
    	went off to Egypt and Babylon, to satisfy his fondness for
    	learning..."  (Strabo, _Geography_ 14. I. 16, trans. by H.L.
    	"They (the Ethiopians) say also that the Egyptians
    	are colonists sent out by the Ethiopians, Osiris
    	having been the leader of the colony...And the larger
    	part of the customs of the Egyptians are, they hold,
    	Ethiopian..."  (Diodorus Siculus, Book III. 2. 4-3. 3)
    	"The other myths about Hades, current among the Greeks,
    	also agree with the customs which are practised even now in
    	Egypt.  For the boat which receives the bodies is called baris,
    	and the passenger's fee is given to the boatman, who in the
    	Egyptian tongue is called charon.  And near these regions,
    	they say, are also the "Shades," which is at temple of Hecate,
    	and "portals" of Cocytus and Lethe, which are covered at 
    	intervals with bands of bronze.  There are, moreover, other
    	portals, namely, those of Truth, and near them stands a
    	headless statue of Justice.
    	Many other things as well, of which mythology tells, are
    	still to be found among the Egyptians, the name being still
    	preserved and the customs actually being practised.  In the city
    	of Acanthi, for instance, across the Nile in the direction
    	of Libya one hundred and twenty stades from Memphis, there
    	is a perforated jar to which three hundred and sixty priests,
    	one each day, bring water from the Nile ; and not far fromthere the actual performance of Oneus 
    	is to be seen in one of their festivals, where a single man is 
    	weaving at one end of a long rope and many others beyond him are 
    	unravelling it." (Diodorus Siculus, Book I. 96, 97)
    	And the people observed these initiatory rites,
    	partly through their ignorance, partly because
    	they were deceived through their ignorance, partly
    	because they were attracted to them by the 
    	trustworthiness of Orpheus and his reputation is such 
    	matters, and most of all because they were glad to receive 
    	the god as a Greek, which, as has been said, is what he 
    	was considered to be.  Later, after the writers of myths and 
    	poets had taken over this account of his ancestry, the theatres 
    	became filled with it and among following generations faith in 
    	the story grew stubborn and immutable.
    	   In general, they say, the Greeks appropriate to themselves
    	the most renowed of both Egyptian heroes and gods, and also
    	the colonies sent out by them. (Diodorus, Book I. 23)
    	   "They wear linen tunics with fringes hanging about the legs,
    	called "calasiris" and loose white woollen mantles over these.
    	But nothing of wool is brought into temples, or buried with 
    	them; that is forbidden.  In this they follow the same rule as 
    	the ritual in Orphic and Bacchic; but which is in truth Egyptian
    	and Pythagorean; for neither may those initiated into these rites
    	be buried in woolen wrappings.  There is a sacred legend about 
    	this."  (Herodotus, Book II, 81)
    	"On this lake [in Sais] it is that the Egyptians
    	represent by night his [Osiris] sufferings whose name
    	I refrain from mentioning, and this representation
    	they call their Mysteries.  I know well the whole course
    	of the proceedings in these ceremonies, but they shall
    	not pass my lips.  So too, with regard the mysteries of
    	Ceres, which the Greeks term "the Thesmophoria," I
    	know them, but I shall not mention them, except so far
    	as may be done without impiety.  The daughters of Danaus
    	brought these rites from Egypt, and taught them to the 
    	Pelasgic women of the Peloponnese."  (Herodotus, Book II,
    	"He [Pythagoras] had three silver flagons made and took them 
    	as presents to each of the priests of Egypt...While still
    	young, so eager was he for knowledge, he left his own country
    	and had himself initiated into all the mysteries and rites
    	not only of Greece but also of foreign countries. Now he was in
    	Egypt when Polycrates sent him a letter of introduction to 
    	Amasis; he learnt the Egyptian language, so we learn from 
    	Antiphon in his book _On Men of Oustanding Merit_, and he also
    	journeyed among the Chaldaens and Magi."  (Diogenes Laertius,
    	VIII. 2-4)
    	"...Thales increased the reputation Pythagoras had already
    	acquired, by communicating to him such disciplines as he was 
    	able to impart: and, apologizing for his old age, and the
    	imbecility of his body, he exhorted him to sail into Egypt,
    	and associate with the Memphian and Diosolitan priests. For
    	he confessed that his own reputation for wisdom, was derived 
    	from the instructions of these priests; but that he was
    	neither naturally, nor by exercise, endued with those 
    	excellend prerogatives, which were so visibly displayed in
    	the person of Pythagoras.   Thales, therefore, gladly 
    	announced to him, from all these circumstances, that he
    	would become the wisest and most divine of all men, if he
    	associated with these Egyptian priests."  (Iamblichus,
    	_Life of Pythagoras_, Chapter II)
    	"He (Thales) had no instructor, except he when to Egypt
    	and spent some time with the priests there...," (Diogenes
    	Laertius, I. 2-29)
    	"This is also confirmed by the most learned of Greeks
    	such as Solon, Thales, Plato, Eudoxus, Pythagoras, and
    	as some say, even Lycurgus going to Egypt and conversing
    	with the priests; of whom they say Euxodus was a hearer
    	of Chonuphis of Memphis, Solon of Sonchis of Sais, and
    	Pythagoras of Oenuphis of Heliopolis.  Wherefore the last
    	named, being, as is probable, more than ordinarily admired 
    	by the men, and they also be him imitated their symbolic
    	and mysterious way of talking; obscuring his sentiments
    	with dark riddles.  For the greatest part of Pythagoric
    	precepts fall nothing short of those sacred writings they
    	call hieroglyphical..."  (Plutarch, _Morals_, 10)
    	"If one were not determined to make haste, one might cite 
    	many admirable instances of the piety of the Egyptians, that
    	piety which I am neither the first nor the only  one to
    	have observed; on the contrary, many contemporaries and 
    	predecessors have remarked it, of whom Pythagoras of Samos
    	is one.  On a visit to Egypt he became a student of the 
    	religion of the people, and was first to bring to the Greeks
    	all philosophy, and more conspicously than others he seriously 
    	interested himself in sacrifices and in ceremonial purity,
    	since he believed that even if should gain thereby no greater
    	reward from the gods, among men, at any rate, his reputation
    	would be greatly enhanced.  (Isocrates, _Busiris_ 27-30)
    "...several Egyptians told me that in their opinion the Colchidians
    were descended from soldiers of Sesotris.  I had conjectured as much
    myself from two pointers, firstly because they have black skins and
    kinky hair...and more reliably for the reason that alone among mankind
    the Egyptians and the Ethiopian have practiced circumcision since
    time immemorial."  (Herodotus, Book II, 104)
    "Those who are too black are cowards, like for instance, the Egyptians and
    Ethiopians. But those who are excessively white are also cowards as we can
    see from the example of women, the complexion of courage is between the
    two." (?) (Aristotle, _Physiognomy_, 6)
    "Why are the Ethiopians and Egyptians bandy-legged?  Is it because 
    of that the body of itself creates, because of disturbance by heat, like
    loss of wood when they become dry?  The condition of their hair supports
    this theory; for it is curlier than that of other nations..." (Aristotle,
    _Problemata_ 909, 7)
    Lycinus (describing an Egyptian):  'this boy is not merely black; he
    	has thick lips and his legs are too thin...his hair worn in a 
    	plait shows that he is not a freeman.'
    Timolaus: 'but that is a sign of really distinguished birth in Egypt,
    	   Lycinus.  All freeborn children plait their hair until they
    	   reach manhood...'  (Lucian, _Navigations_, paras 2-3)
    "Aegyptos conquered the country of the black-footed ones and called it
    Egypt after himself"  (Apollodorus, Book II,  paras 3 and 4)
    Danaos (describing the Aegyptiads):  'I can see the crew with their black limbs
           and white tunics.'  (Aeschylus, _The Suppliants_, vv. 719-20, 745)
    30. "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! "
    31. "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 Mendes. "
    32. "To Bacchus, on the eve of his feast, every Egyptian sacrifices a hog
    before the door of his house, which is then given back to the swineherd by
    whom it was furnished, and by him carried away. In other respects the
    festival is celebrated almost exactly as Bacchic festivals are in Greece,
    excepting that the Egyptians have no choral dances. They also use instead of
    phalli another invention, consisting of images a cubit high, pulled by
    strings, which the women carry round to the villages. A piper goes in front,
    and the women follow, singing hymns in honour of Bacchus. They give a
    religious reason for the peculiarities of the image."
    33. "Melampus, the son of Amytheon, cannot (I think) have been ignorant of
    this ceremony- nay, he must, I should conceive, have been well acquainted
    with it. He it was who introduced into Greece the name of Bacchus, the
    ceremonial of his worship, and the procession of the phallus. He did not,
    however, so completely apprehend the whole doctrine as to be able to
    communicate it entirely, but various sages since his time have carried out
    his teaching to greater perfection. Still it is certain that Melampus
    introduced the phallus, and that the Greeks learnt from him the ceremonies
    which they now practise. I therefore maintain that Melampus, who was a wise
    man, and had acquired the art of divination, having become acquainted with
    the worship of Bacchus through knowledge derived from Egypt, introduced it
    into Greece, with a few slight changes, at the same time that he brought in
    various other practices."
    34. " For I can by no means allow that it is by mere coincidence that the
    Bacchic ceremonies in Greece are so nearly the same as the Egyptian- they
    would then have been more Greek in their character, and less recent in their
    origin. Much less can I admit that the Egyptians borrowed these customs, or
    any other, from the Greeks. My belief is that Melampus got his knowledge of
    them from Cadmus the Tyrian, and the followers whom he brought from
    Phoenicia into the country which is now called Boeotia. "
    35. "Almost all the names of the gods came into Greece from Egypt. My
    inquiries prove that they were all derived from a foreign source, and my
    opinion is that Egypt furnished the greater number. For with the exception
    of Neptune and the Dioscuri, whom I mentioned above, and Juno, Vesta,
    Themis, the Graces, and the Nereids, the other gods have been known from
    time immemorial in Egypt. This I assert on the authority of the Egyptians
    36. "The gods, with whose names they profess themselves unacquainted, the
    Greeks received, I believe, from the Pelasgi, except Neptune. Of him they
    got their knowledge from the Libyans, by whom he has been always honoured,
    and who were anciently the only people that had a god of the name. The
    Egyptians differ from the Greeks also in paying no divine honours to heroes." 
    37."Besides these which have been here mentioned, there are many other
    practices whereof I shall speak hereafter, which the Greeks have borrowed
    from Egypt. The peculiarity, however, which they observe in their statues of
    Mercury they did not derive from the Egyptians, but from the Pelasgi; from
    them the Athenians first adopted it, and afterwards it passed from the
    Athenians to the other Greeks. For just at the time when the Athenians were
    entering into the Hellenic body, the Pelasgi came to live with them in their
    country, whence it was that the latter came first to be regarded as Greeks.
    Whoever has been initiated into the mysteries of the Cabiri will understand
    what I mean. The Samothracians received these mysteries from the Pelasgi,
    who, before they went to live in Attica, were dwellers in Samothrace, and
    imparted their religious ceremonies to the inhabitants. The Athenians, then,
    who were the first of all the Greeks to make their statues of Mercury in
    this way, learnt the practice from the Pelasgians; and by this people a
    religious account of the matter is given, which is explained in the
    Samothracian mysteries."
    38. "In early times the Pelasgi, as I know by information which I got at
    Dodona, offered sacrifices of all kinds, and prayed to the gods, but had no
    distinct names or appellations for them, since they had never heard of any.
    They called them gods (Theoi, disposers), because they disposed and arranged
    all things in such a beautiful order. After a long lapse of time the names
    of the gods came to Greece from Egypt, and the Pelasgi learnt them, only as
    yet they knew nothing of Bacchus, of whom they first heard at a much later
    39. "Not long after the arrival of the names they sent to consult the oracle
    at Dodona about them. This is the most ancient oracle in Greece, and at that
    time there was no other. To their question, 'Whether they should adopt the
    names that had been imported from the foreigners?' the oracle replied by
    recommending their use. Thenceforth in their sacrifices the Pelasgi made use
    of the names of the gods, and from them the names passed afterwards to the
    40. "Whence the gods severally sprang, whether or no they had all existed
    from eternity, what forms they bore- these are questions of which the Greeks
    knew nothing until the other day, so to speak. For Homer and Hesiod were the
    first to compose Theogonies, and give the gods their epithets, to allot them
    their several offices and occupations, and describe their forms; and they
    lived but four hundred years before my time, as I believe. As for the poets
    who are thought by some to be earlier than these, they are, in my judgment,
    decidedly later writers. In these matters I have the authority of the
    priestesses of Dodona for the former portion of my statements; what I have
    said of Homer and Hesiod is my own opinion. "
    41."The following tale is commonly told in Egypt concerning the oracle of
    Dodona in Greece, and that of Ammon in Libya. My informants on the point
    were the priests of Jupiter at Thebes. They said `that two of the sacred
    women were once carried off from Thebes by the Phoenicians, and that the
    story went that one of them was sold into Libya, and the other into Greece,
    and these women were the first founders of the oracles in the two
    countries.' On my inquiring how they came to know so exactly what became of
    the women, they answered, `that diligent search had been made after them at
    the time, but that it had not been found possible to discover where they
    were; afterwards, however, they received the information which they had
    given me.'
    42."This was what I heard from the priests at Thebes; at Dodona, however,
    the women who deliver the oracles relate the matter as follows: `Two black
    doves flew away from Egyptian Thebes, and while one directed its flight to
    Libya, the other came to them. She alighted on an oak, and sitting there
    began to speak with a human voice, and told them that on the spot where she
    was, there should henceforth be an oracle of Jove. They understood the
    announcement to be from heaven, so they set to work at once and erected the
    shrine. The dove which flew to Libya bade the Libyans to establish there the
    oracle of Ammon.' This likewise is an oracle of Jupiter. The persons from
    whom I 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. "
    43. "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. "
    44. "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. 
    45."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. "
    46."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. "

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    Egyptians Statue of Ramses II at Abu Simbel (second from the right). The sham beards worn by the Pharaohs and clearly displayed here had texture resembling common Africoid hair.
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