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American Philological Association

Plutarch on Isis and Osiris: Text, Cult, and Cultural Appropriation Author(s): Daniel S. Richter Reviewed work(s): Source: Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-), Vol. 131 (2001), pp. 191216 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20140969 . Accessed: 25/04/2012 15:21
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Transactions

of the American Philological

Association

131 (2001)

191-216

Plutarch on Isis and Osiris: Text, Cult, and Cultural Appropriation*
Daniel S. Richter Princeton University

'EXXnviK?v

y?p

x\ Tlai?

?oTt.

(Plutarch, Is. 2.35If)

The de hide et Osiride {de hide, h.)} written late in Plutarch's life,2 offers some of the most sophisticated formulations of middle-Platonic that metaphysics have come down to us.3 As scholars have long been aware, this is a deeply and text.4 Classicists have generally maintained that in the explicitly philosophical de hide Plutarch merely uses the Egyptian material as a vehicle through which to express middle-Platonic conceptions about the structure and genesis of the

*

Several

scholars Thanks Fritz

carnations. Faraone,

read drafts of this work in one or more in of its various generously are due to above all to Shadi Bartsch, Frederick Brenk, Christopher Jonathan Laura Jonathan Z. Smith, Graf, Hall, Slatkin, Stephen Scully, readers are due of TAPA above and TAPA's own and present

William
editors.

Stull, and Ann Marie Yasin. The article has greatly benefited as well from the
past all to my stubborness.

comments of the two anonymous insightful What confusion and lapses remain

^he most important commentaries on the de hide are Hopfner 1940, Gwyn Griffiths 1970, Betz and Smith 1972, Cavalli 1985, and Froidefond 1988. Recently, much inter esting work on the de hide has been done by Italian scholars; see Borghini 1991, Chiodi 1991, Casadio 1991, Casadio 1994, and Chiodi 1996. 2On its date see Bowersock fundamental
Dillon 1989. For Plutarch's

1965, Jones 1966, and Gwyn Griffiths 1970: 16-18.
reading of Plato's Timaeus, see Froidefond 1987 and

to an understanding of Plutarch's metaphysics are Froidefond 1986 and 1977.

Hershbell 1987. The best overview of middle-Platonism generally is still Dillon 4See Feldmeier 1998.

370e-f). I have used the Greek text of Gwyn Griffiths 1970. Dunand 1972-73. in some cases adapted. was a good religious historian. towards treatise 48. the de hide has a fairly of the Egyptian cult of the goddess Isis and her consort Osiris as 5Plutarch does not explicitly claim that the de hide as is his de this Animae latter intends ismeant to be read as an exegesis.7 so Egyptologists curate account of the cultic practices associated with Isis in the Pharaonic pe riod. true faith.8 Both Gwyn Griffiths9 and Hani10 felt that Plutarch. That the de hide one of those treatises and Horus clear from Plutarch's and remark enigma Plutarch there Isis. philosophical of Plato's Timaeus. Throughout. Translations are from Gwyn 1970. passage OeoXoyiav" to the Timaeus and early parallels Griffiths Christian "?i?ooocpia" the Laws (Is. For Plutarch's etymological Egyptian hieroglyphics. In addition period. He does. treatments of the cult of Isis as the spouse of Isis rather see Gwyn Griffiths than the Hellenistic 1970: 44.374a. Malaise 1972.11 full discussion it existed in the Pharaonic to its philosophical agenda. Plutarch felt. argued that the de hide reflected Plutarch's narrow inter est in the Hellenized Alexandrian cult. The relationship of the de hide the middle he will of de hide "Triv relate AiyuTrricov references that follows between the de hide to the Timaeus states that in the to Plato's and is made explicit remainder of the (Is. 48. (or ecphrastic?) interpretations of . ^Scott-Moncrieff. Osiris. "alone held the key of the Egyptian This was.6 As historians of Roman religion have been Ro reflected in Plutarch's Quaestiones impressed by the depth of knowledge have often cited Plutarch's de hide as a relatively ac manae." however. Witt Griffiths 1980. Plu Sarapis is itself in the Greco-Roman world. however. Plato's view tell his of sons that he and the the soul in Timaeo. which. 1971. see Is. Smith 1972. an exegesis it is thus seen as incidental to the primary. and Gwyn 9Gwyn Griffiths 1970.354e. see Betz and literature. "of course a total inversion of the facts" (1909: 90).5 aim of the text. on Osiris emphasis an archaizing feature. despite his inability to or to converse with non-Alexandrian read hieroglyphics natives. 10Hani 1976.371a)?a For theological expound in myth itself when is of that the Egyptian myths truths that Plato had metaphysical formulated (1026c). 10. as Scott-Moncrieff remarked. procreatione statements text to sum up various about seems structure of the cosmos that he had himself made in other treatises.192 Daniel S. tarch's 7For example 8For good Graf general 1996. see Festugi?re 1949. however. Richter cosmos. 6For the archaizing Sitz im Leben of the de hide. Heyob 1975. 56.

17 This is not to say that the de hide dismisses 12Most recently by Brenk 1999. both of Plutarch's text itself12 and in broader intellectual histories of the early Roman Empire. 16Smelik and Hemelrijk 1984: 1946. with exten sive bibliography. see Hani 1964. ? cause de leur ?l?vation morale. have assumed that the prestige of Egyptian wisdom moti vated Plutarch's attempt to discover in the cult of Isis reflections of Greek phi that. Hartog 1996 (especially chapter 2). 756c. For Hani's thoughts on Plutarch's relationship to Iranian dualism. 15Hani 1976: 8."16 In what follows. the Syrian Goddess at adversus Coloten at Quaestiones convivales IV. the de Superstitione (Sup.69." immemorial oriental wisdom sources the East?a their methods discovery of exege 14Hostility towards Attis at Erotikos 1127d and de Pythiae oraculis 407c.. and Vasunia 1995.4-5 and de the Jews Superstitione 169c. days among no but aroused have won the Egyptians little admiration repute 1. those men who Greeks. Plutarch) and Hemelrijk see a similar motivation behind the de hide and go so far as to claim that "in his well-disposed appreciation of Egyptian ceeds all earlier authors including Herodotus. which they considered to be worthy of note" (Tro?A? y?p tcov TraAaicbv e9cbv tcov yevon?vcov o? n?vov Trap? to?? ?yxcop?oic Trapa AiyuTrriois .).. is discussed below. religion Plutarch ex I shall suggest that Plutarch's de hide was motivated less than by an unwillingness to accept what he saw by early imperial Egyptomania as the culturally derivative status of Greece that an Egyptian origin of Greek wisdom the Egyptian implies.Plutarch on Isis and Osiris 193 The present contribution seeks to answer the question of why Plutarch chose the ostensibly Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris as the vehicle for his most mature and developed thoughts on the divine and the structure of the universe. Armstrong (1978: 89) sees this form of Egyptomania as typical of the age: "most discover of philosophers that the doctrines the early centuries as of our those of era were they regarded accord with the of genuine pious men the ancient masters of and and anxious phi to of Greek in perfect losophy were which their degree of knowledge sis easily enabled them to make. Hani maintained cion of non-Greek forms of cult.2-3: "For have not among only the the greatest in intellectual things have been eager to visit Egypt in order to acquaint themselves with its laws and institutions.14 the religions of Egypt and Persia "ont trouv? ."15 Smelik gr?ce devant lui (sc.13 Most scholars. This is a question that has been posed before. 17A clear formulation of which may be found at Diodorus Siculus many been of the customs that obtained in ancient inhabitants accepted by the present and for that reason. despite Plutarch's general suspi losophical speculation. 13SeeHartog 1986. Hani among them. The key text on this hostility.

96.5.96. 18Onallegory in the early Empire. 1. and cult (oracles. I believe that Plutarch chose to explicate his middle-Platonic via an allegorical metaphysics interpretation of the cult and myth of the Egyp tian goddess Isis in an effort to renegotiate the traditional. 2. Greek sages practiced in Egypt: Orpheus learned Solon learns the law regulating professions and the law regulating debt from the Egyptian king Amasis (1. In a recent and provocative book. astrology 2. Orpheus. derivative status of Greek cult. is enormous see note and readily available. the names of the twelve gods. The bibliography on Greek tarch's views views of Egypt of Egypt. the de hide is an appropriative text that has as one over of its central aims the demonstration of the priority of Greek philosophy Egyptian cult. law. all men who education Plato. 2. Chios. ?XX? Kai Trap? to?? "EXXrjaiv o? nETpico? ?Sauiaaaor).50). Diodorus is more and Pythagoras.4). of literary allegory for cultural appropriation. Homer. culture. On the contrary. up to a point. .1 Daedalus. Philo and early Christian apologists prominent among them. Bicrrrep oi ?aXeTv. Richter material as worthless. divination. for Orpheus. about the borrowing that these specific his "mystic ceremonies" there (1.4). used allegory as a means of appropriating pagan culture for their own ends.58. 19Dawson 1992.19 According ancient authors. At this point. Democritus and Pythagoras. a deep respect for the wisdom of Egypt and an insistence on the priority of Greek philosophical speculation are not mutually exclusive. n?yioToi ?va tcov HETaaxcoai ?v TraiBeig tcov 5o?aa0EVTcov te v?ucov e'i? AtyuTTTov Trapa ?<piXoTi|jr|6riaav Kai tcov cos ??ioXoycov ETriTr|8Euii?Tcov the Egyptian visits of Solon. towards the end of the Egypt Book. and finally. Elsewhere.82. Frederick Brenk has argued that the de hide is in fact an exception to Dawson's rule and that the ultimate end of the text is not the Hellenization of the Egyptian cult of Isis and that in Plutarch's text we find rather "Egyptomania and a kind of of Rome.194 Daniel S. 2. Homer. of koi and Oenopides ?tti ouv?oei that the Greeks TraioE?a). learning" (1. For works pertaining to Plu 1 above. Diodorus mentions ?vtcov). 20Brenk 1999: 234. an Egyptian Solon. won fame "for had made Melampus. Eudoxos. of Abdera. Herodotus a series about the borrowings had made from the Egyptians in the fields of science.18 On my reading. But I am the aim and the ?TroSoxfj? etuxev.54.79."20 I think that Brenk is right to religious Egyptianization observe that Plutarch's choice of the Isis material as the vehicle the Platonic between phical message perhaps unintentionally egyptianizes asking a different question here and would distinguish for the philoso text. David Dawson has explored the potential to Dawson's model. Diodorus claims Lycurgus. see Lamberton 1986.77. their wisdom of claims Musaeus.

21 The meaning of this claim has modifying to explain been variously its interpreted. understandably enough.362d). but no scholar has attempted importance within the context of the de hide as a whole. for his part. noting that Plutarch's belief in the ontological Egyptian sameness of Greek and Egyptian deities was unexceptional in antiquity. 60. "Isis. 23Froidefond 1988: 120.Plutarch on Isis and Osiris 195 ultimate effect of the text." and ? assumes that this fact was not unknown to Plutarch. Scholars have attended to the theological implications of Plutarch's claim." Froide fond. In the second 21 Gwyn Griffiths translates "Isis is a Greek name." 22Cavalli 1985. . "Iside. in the of Greek writing about Egypt. infatti. impulse that motivates the text does Etymology context and the Names of the Gods introductory section of the de hide.35If 'EXXnviK?vy?p t? Tlai? eoti). an astonishing claim: "Isis is a Greek name" (Is." Froidefond. Gwyn Griffiths draws attention logical claims as he is of their inaccuracy. 29. ? un nome greco. Cavalli notes that "II nome "Mois naturalmente la trascrizione di un an?logo vocabulo egiziano.24 Outside of these commentaries." Cavalli. 2. however. Plutarch's phrasing is somewhat ambiguous. but scholars have uniformly translated 'EXXnviK?v as an adjective Touvoua from the previous clause. Cavalli's notes are typically short.375c. where Plutarch makes the related statement that the ounoma of Isis "is not a barbaric name" (o? y?p eoti but does not dwell on the significance of either state Touvoua ?ap?apiKOv).23 Gwyn Griffiths assertion of the Greekness of Isis' name in terms of Herodotus' equations of and Greek deities. en effet. is as convinced of the sincerity of Plutarch's etymo however. refers the reader to Is. Plutarch's claim for the Greekness of Isis' name has not drawn a sig nificant amount of scholarly comment.22 She concludes that the proposed etymology served to explain the homophony of Isis' name with vari ous forms of the Greek verb oT5a. est un mot grec. The appropriative not preclude perhaps unforeseen consequences. In distinction to Cavalli. noting Plutarch's sug gestion that Sarapis is Egyptian in origin (Is. Plutarch makes what is. 24Gwyn Griffiths 1970: 257-58. He also to the fact that Plutarch does not attempt Greek etymological explanations for all of the names of the Egyptian gods. and she does not ask why Plutarch might make this particular "falsa etimologia. is as usual more helpful and contextualizes Plutarch's ment. But the claim also has crucial cultural implications that are developed at length in both the content and structure of the de hide.

See Kees 1935 and Cook 1937. In Plutarch's account of Greek colonization of Egypt and the resultant pres ence of Greek loan words in Egyptian.375e ko\ y?p ?XXa jaup?ato?? |iE0ioTau?vois ?k Tfj? 'EXXaSo? ouvEKTTEo?vTan?xpi vOv Trapan?vEi Ka\ ?evite?ei Trap' ?T?poi?). names that Greeks and Egyptians give to the same divine powers: the Egyptians 25Plutarch may here be thinking of the settlement at Naucratis. the Dorian cities of Rhodes. we are not told. Phocaea. They came from the barbarians" (2. Cnidos. Mytilene. 8i?ti (i?v y?p ek t?kei). Teos. and still remain as guests among strangers" (h.375e ?ap?apiCouoav). certain amount of commentary. . for "a whole host of other words came out of Greece with those who emigrated. After Plutarch the rather claims that words that look Egyptian are in fact Greek. and B.362e tcov ?k Tfj? 'EXX?5oc aTTEXO?vTcov ir?Xai Ka\ |jETaKO|aio0?vTcov ovoia?Tcov). poetry enigmatic is attacked as resorting to an outlandish style by those who call such words He then exemplifies the various 'barbarizing'" (Is. he makes statement that "when poetry summons some of them to its use. Halicarnassus. one Aeolian city. Strabo for his part (17.1. At another time. 29.C.1 oxeoov 5e koi Tr?vTcov Ta o?vojjaTa tcov tcov ?ap?apcov ?ecov ?? Aiy?TTTOu ?Xr|Xu0E ?? tt?v 'EXX?Sa. it is enough to point out that the origin of the names of the gods received a certain amount of thought in antiquity. Herodo tus (2. 61.. 61. Richter The assertion "Isis is a Greek name" was a radical position in antiquity. historical linguistics does not seem to be the concern.178-79) considered Naucratis to be a foundation of the "?iX?XXnv"Amasis that he gave Greeks to the Greeks to set up altars as a trading in Naucratis post. which seems to have had a Greek presence from at least the first quarter of the seventh century that Amasis Kai TE^i?va). Plutarch speaks of "words (or names) that came from Greece long ago instance. Egyptian priests had given Herodotus after inquiry. and were transferred back" (Is. and Clazomenae.). In the second half of this paper.E.18) writes that Naucratis was a foundation of Milesian mercenaries. we shall consider Plu tarch's explicit reaction to this claim in his de Malignitate Herodoti (Mai. he suggests that these transferences were part of a more general trend.. a that the ounoma "Isis" is Greek necessitates To claim. commentary that Plutarch twice provides in the In one de Iside with (albeit sketchy and allusive) historical explanations.25 Just who these emigrants were and what the circumstances of the actual transfer of cultic forms may have been. contra Herodotus. but for the present. The the opposite impression and Herodotus. but rather the definition of cultural hierarchies. believed the priests to be correct. Phaselis. In Book Two Herodotus made the famous claim that "the names of nearly all the gods came from Egypt to Greece .196 Daniel S. Herodotus also gods tells (?coiaouc us allowed the to their own the greatest and of which was the Hellenion founded jointly by the Ionian cities of Chios..50.

the power in charge of the wind the Egyptians call Sarapis. should I then. with should prefer to yield that of Sarapis to the Egyptians than that of Osiris." The etymologies too ?v?i?otos?to include the name for the yEvoia?vns further?TrapaTpoTrfis Dog Star sacred to Isis as well. ?voiaa?ETai y?p 'Ioe?ov c?s e?oo(??vcov t? ov. ajacpco 8' evos 6E?0 Ka\ liia? Suv?jiEcoc riyo?uEvo?. 810 k?cov Ka\ 'EXXnviaTi vlai8os TrapaTpoTrfis t? [xkv yEvo aoTpov. leads him to a general comment on the ontological sameness of divinities with the same names (Is. is not meant in an historical sense. is Greek. the Greeks Osiris. with a modification of the word. the Greeks Apollo.376a): ormaivEi li?vris ?TTEp toO t?iov <8?> K?naiv ov?maTos Tf)? f\ t? k?eiv. ?v jiET? X?you Kai ?a?cos eW t<?x Up? Tfjs Oeou Trap?XOconEv. 2. The name Egyptians and phonological links Sothis. for which Plutarch provides the etymological between Egyptian and Greek.Plutarch on Isis and Osiris 197 call the power in charge of the sun's course Horus. to?to 8' 'EXXnviK?v. lies in interpretation. like that of Isis. 61. And so Plutarch's claim. The larger point seems to be that speculation into since the gods are neither Egyptian nor the origins of names is meaningless. (ky?n) in Greek. Rather. ekeTvo ??E?unv li?v [o?v] Cevik?v. mean can be pushed even ing both "dog" and "pregnant. too ZaTr?TTiBos AiyinTT?ois f\ toO 'Oa?piBoc. . It (Sothis) means "pregnancy" (ky?sis) or "to be pregnant" (kyein) and so. o?v 8eT kekXtitoi f]KlOTa vojii?ouoiv. the Greeks Sirius. "Isis" and "Osiris" are meaningful in Greek. "Sirius" and "Sothis" may be shown to be in fact the same word. but that both belong to one god and one power. We regard to names. meaning sented almost as an aside.352a): ?Trayy?XXETai Kai yvcooiv Kai ElSnoiv toO ?vtos. the say Sothis has power over the earth. the star which they regard indeed as peculiar to Isis is called "the Dog" indulge very little in rivalry. The first such etymological speculation comes at the end of the introductory section of the work toO 8' ?Epou To?vojaa Kai 009005 (Is. O? \1T)V ?XX? [i?Wov <piXoTlt!E?O0ai TTEpiTCOVOVOH?TCOV. here pre Greek. of the name of Isis come at crucial Plutarch's various Greek etymologies in the argument of the de Iside and offer an entry into the way in which points he conceived her Greekness. Rather. for I believe that the former is foreign and that the latter is Greek. That is. that the name of Osiris.

Whereas shade expe and.351e): 810 0ei?tt]tos TT?p\ EXOuaa Epyov The 0Ecbv Ka\ opE^?s ?otiv e?eois. epist?m? as scientific knowledge. and to Isis is appropriately clearly indicates that the form of worship most welcome an intellectual contemplation of the divine.35le yE than anyone belongs knowing (Is. Her name certainly seems to imply that to her more 2. TrpoaT?Kouaav). approach the sanctuaries of the goddess Plutarch here uses two interrelated terms to describe the knowledge of the divine available to devotees of Isis: cognates of the verb oida. and the term gn?sis. and 1990. oida. knowledge is valued here more highly than cult. This is a point to which Plutarch imme is one who is exceptionally diately returns: "(this goddess) whom you worship wise and a lover of wisdom. as we shall see. ?TrioTrinr]. holier truth about the gods. Throughout. from which word he would derive the name of Isis. since it involves the learning of and quest for sacred lore as a means tion and temple task than all ceremonial purifica Plutarch returns repeatedly to the theme of the emptiness of cult of understanding.352c): In the de hide. On evidence for Gnosticism ." see Betz in Plutarch. 3." forms of oida I translate gn?sis ritual knowledge. The idea is perhaps most clearly formulated at the end of the third chapter (Is. a cer is associated with the context of the mysteries. gn?sis. These Greek etymologies for the Egyptian divine name clearly align the cult of Isis with the rationalizing ten dencies of Greek philosophical religion. is a yearning after divinity. T) Tfjs ?Xr)0??as naXioTa ?vaXriyiv ayvE?as te ?Epcov Tr?aris 8? Tfjs n?Onaiv Tf]v Kai vEcoKop?as ?aic?TEpov. cbs touvoh? ?pa?Eiv EoiKE TravT?s la?XXov a?Tfj t? e?S?voi koi tt\v ?TrioTrmnv terms for knowledge of the divine in rapid succession: forms of the verb oida. riential tain with somewhat oida seems into one another. longing for truth. and epist?m?. in the absence 26Plutarch here introduces a third term for knowledge of the divine associated with which I have translated "experiential knowledge. particularly of ascent?a service." The semantic fields of Isis. For it is called an Iseion to indi cate that we shall (e?oomevcov) rationally the "real" and piously. epist?m? gn?sis. cognates of "knowledge. Indeed. This is explicit at the outset of the text (Is. (to e?S?voi) and experiential knowledge" f|v o? 0EpaTTE?Eis??aip?Tcos ao?rjv Kai <piX?ao<povo?aav. and gn?sis evokes epist?m? as "understanding.26 Plutarch here introduces several 2. Richter The name of her sanctuary know as well clearly proclaims if we both under standing and knowledge of reality. Tf]v cooTTEp ?rjTnaiv.198 Daniel S.

Horus' connection to Buto. Plato and Hesiod are there adduced as those who 27See Gwyn Griffiths 1970: 47. Here. v?ncp ?v a?ToTs whenever TrapaXa?n. Further mention of Egyptian cult sites in the de Iside are listed by Gwyn Griffiths 1970: 47-48. Solon. Pythagoras.359b. inundations of the Nile at Elephantine. burning men alive at Eileithyiaspolis. 20.3371d. 28. is in fact imbued with the paideia of philosophical rationalism. 20. 3. the Apis inMemphis. even for a text produced during the Second Sophistic.352a. these myths philosophi interpret the devotee of Isis who would behold the truth cally.357f.359b. he receives what examines is X?ycp true and done with customarily displayed regard and investigates truth there may rationally what to the gods.29 It matters little whether there is conscious reference to Egyptian cult. Isis as leader of the Muses at Hermopolis. and Xenophanes of Abdera. For a full list see the references in square brackets inGwyn Griffiths' index. both philosophical and poetic. Hecataeus Euripides. Mendes. of Colophon.352c). Homer. image of Typhon at Hermopolis. the body of Osiris at Busiris.359c. 3. Euhemerus. Eudoxus Manetho. objects and myths and his avoidance of reference to Isis worship Greco-Roman world.Plutarch on Isis and Osiris 199 ?XX' 'laiaK?s eotiv cbs ?Xr]0cbs ? Ta Seikv?mevo Kai Spc?nEva TTEpi tous ?r)Tcov The 0?o?s toutous. however. 21. 21.27 One must. 280n the importance of a philosophical approach to myth and ritual. This becomes clear from the Greek authorities.359a-b. 50. of Cnidos. Plutarch creates an implicit hierarchy of Greek philosophy over Egyptian cult. whom Plutarch ad duces as examples of learned men who have correctly apprehended the truth contained in the mysteries of Isis. Aristotle. Plato. and Memphis. be in them. 290n citations in the de Iside. 18.380d. statue of Pluto/Sarapis inAlexandria. Among the authors frequently quoted or alluded to are: Aeschylus. 3. see Casadio 1991. as is suggested in the section that directly follows the text cited above (Is. The number of Classical and Helle nistic Greek authors cited in the de Iside is striking. eating of crocodiles at Apollonopolis. abstention of the Lycopolitans from sheep.352a. The "Seikv?hevo" and the "8pcb|iEva" that are associated with the cult of Isis are of course Egyptian in origin and are to be as such. 72. Burial of Egyptians at Abydos. tomb of Osiris at Taphosiris. Hence Plutarch's understood repeated reference to Egyptian cultic in the places.28 The cultural centrism of Plutarch's text emerges from the fact that this phi losophical training is characterized as peculiarly Greek.361f. aXr|0E?as. rationally: the true hiakos. contained in her mysteries. .380b. 73. Hesiod. otov Ka\ qnXoao?cov devotee of Isis TTEpi Tfjs is he who. see column 21 of theDerveni Papyrus with Laks andMost 1997. at the outset of the text. 43. Xo?s.368b. Tha?es.

Plutarch likewise rejects fantastic stories about the gods that lead to an improper understanding of the nature of the di vine. Plutarch mentions to Clea that some elements of the myth have been expunged (??aipE0?vTcov) in his account.358e "?TroTrr?oai 8eT koi Ka0T?paa0ai" t? (Is.3 58e). 112. and on the other hand satisfy certain basic criteria that he has for the appropriateness and sanctity of myth. that enables a perfect understanding of the Egyptian cult of Isis. however. when one hears such horrors "about the blessed and incorruptible nature in terms of which the divine is above all known" (TTEpi Tfjs MaKapias Kai ??0apTou ??oecos. 310b. Richter have correctly understood the reason why the Egyptian priests cut off their hair and wear linen clothes (Is. he cites Aristagoras for an alternative explanation (Is. Indeed. has no patience with those who "hold transgressive and barbarous opinions about the gods" (Is.358e Trapav?nous Kai ?ap?apous So?as TTEpi0?cbv).). In the following section. 20e). Above all.30 Our Greek author chooses from among the Egyptian those stories that will on the one hand help him explicate his metaphysical scheme. 4. 5. and purify the mouth" 20. citing Aeschylus. 20. traditions "oT?na"). In demonstrating that the cultic activities of the Egyptians lack meaning in the absence of a Greek interpretive frame. non-philosophical elements?described here as "barbarian"?are excluded from this text.352f). pr. Plutarch privileges only the elements that "belong" in this frame. 20. Ultimately. In the de Audiendis poetis (Aud. like himself. Ka0' fiv "one must spit [i?XioTa voE?Tai t? 0e?ov). Plato's Timaeus. 20d-e. stories that the Egyptians themselves tell (Is." must be cast out. Plutarch feels. Plutarch tells Clea. especially poetry about the nature of the gods. . As an example of barbarous tales Plutarch cites the dismemberment of Horus and the decapitation of Isis. is that poets often say things about the gods that are com such as Homer's accounts of the gods being wounded by pletely preposterous. poetic descriptions of the gods that do accord with truth ought to be presented to children often. Such passages. 1959. fr. Thus in section consistently 20. The danger of poetry.200 Daniel S. after he has finished re-telling the myth of Isis and Osiris.31 On the other hand. it is the responsibility of 30Mette 31 Aud. when Plutarch discusses the reasons for priestly abstentions from salt. it is an here presented as an exegesis of understanding of middle-Platonic metaphysics. men (Aud. on the grounds that Clea. as we shall see below.d-e).352. The de Audiendis poetis is a work in which Plutarch informs his readers how to teach poetry to children. if they do not admit of an easy interpretation that will direct a child's thoughts "Trpos to ?EXTiova.

those stories that lead the soul away from the divine are Egyptian. in the de Audiendis poetis. whereas some poets have written "sound opinions about the gods. . comes to the hall and sees her child in the flames. and true ones. comes to Byblos where she sits down by a fountain and speaks with no one except the queen's maids. having heard the lament. "likeness to truth. One night the queen. for example." 33SeeHopfher 1940: 52-53.Plutarch on Isis and Osiris 201 those who educate children to know the difference between true and false stories about the gods. 15. Plutarch writes that "we must not use the myths as wholly factual accounts. In the de Iside. ?KE?va 8? TT?TrXaoTai TTp?s EKTrXrj?iv ?vOpcOTTcov). ?XX? Thus t? compares the prescriptions for censorship in the de hide and the de Audiendis poetis. Plutarch has "purified" the myth of Isis and Osiris of all fantastic elements and left only those stories about the one gods that will lead the soul towards an understanding of the divine. 58. crying as she flies around the pillars of the great hall. cited atGwyn Griffiths 1970: 324. those (other) accounts have been fabricated for the astonishment of men" (Aud." In sec tion 58 of the de Iside. Plutarch remarks that.374e xptI^teov As [t?] KaT? Tf)v ?iaoi?TTjTa Trp?acpopov ?k?otou of in removing the stories about the dismemberment Xan?avovTas)." Plutarch tells us that Isis. her cry causes Isis to remove the child from the fire and deprive the queen's child of immortality. 20f ?yiaivouoai TTEp\0ecov 8o?ai Ka\ ?Xr)0E?s. The maids for their part.33 though Isis was a mourning goddess in Egypt from the mythology earliest periods.32 Horus and the decapitation of Isis. Plutarch then tells us that the Egyptians say that Isis nurses the child by day.357a-16. so in the de hide Plutarch would remove the mythical treatments about the divine that do not accord with the "true.357c) provides an excellent example Plutarch's hellenization of the Egyptian myth in an effort to make it "true. but take what is fitting in each episode according to the 8e toTs u?Oois o?x cbs X?yois principle of likeness" (Is. struck by the beauty of the stranger and the fragrance of her skin. while searching for the body of Osiris. The extent to which the elements of this story are related to Egyptian Isis is unclear.34 Gwyn Griffiths cites an interesting parallel in a hematite cyl 32Gwyn Griffiths (1970: 211) translates. Plutarch's retelling of the episode of Isis' wanderings (Is. but by night burns away the mortal parts of his body in the fire and herself turns into a swallow. After giving examples of both types. When Tr?|iTrav o?aiv. take her to the queen who makes Isis the nurse of her child. 34Micha?ldes 1956: 200-201. an interesting conjunction of categories emerges: what is "fabricated for the astonishment of men" in the latter text is "barbarian" in the former.

Richter inder in which the goddess Astarte is depicted as a Venus lugens. 21d aT?Trcos Eiprju?vcov) is to of Demeter for those of be cast out. cf. See Seyrig 1955: 37-38 and Gwyn Griffiths 1970: 324-25. Plutarch's tendency is to interpret Egyptian material in light tradition. provides an appropri ate interpretive frame in terms of which Plutarch explains the Egyptain myth. so Plutarch's text provides the appropriate 35The cylinder dates from the second millennium b. Like Isis with the prince of Byblos. Greek myth is the material will ultimately be interpreted is Greek. Unfortunately. this seems to make eminent sense. the way is regrettably beyond the present Plutarch has reworked the Egyptian material state of the evidence. I shall now turn to a closer discussion The Structure The de of the Text Iside of this hermeneutic.e. But "astonishing" it is clear from both works that stories about the gods that lead to knowledge of the divine are to be preferred to those tales that do not.35 However. Plutarch's substitution of the wanderings Isis and removal of Egyptian stories that he deems "barbarous" puts the pre of scriptions of both texts into practice: at least in the matter of the wanderings more suitable than Egyptian. Demeter becomes the nurse of the Plutarch's and burns away his mortal child Demophoon causes her to stop and reveal herself.202 Daniel S. described in the de Iside as "barbarous" and in the de Audi endis poetis as "fabrication" (20f TrETrXaoTai. . In the absence of such knowledge. true and false in poetic representation of the divine to be a matter of common sense and offers no hint about the criteria behind his evaluations of the in the de Audiendis poetis and the "barbarous" in the de hide. Like Plutarch's Isis. parts until the panic of Metaneira If there was a comparable episode in the Egyptian myth of Isis. It seems that the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. text and is meant to be read as is a philosophical is he who participates in the myster As the true hiakos such?philosophically.c.Cer. 98-100) where she meets the daughters of Metaneira. As the hermeneutic with which Isis. these parallels are. Clearer are the parallels with the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. we might try to inter into his version of the pret Plutarch's interpolation of the Demeter material in light of the methodological statements we have considered Egyptian myth Plutarch seems to have considered the difference between above. ies according to the dictates o? logos. In the de Iside. rather unsure. the in the midst of her search for Persephone sits by the fountain Homeric Demeter in Eleusis (h. Mythic material unsuitable for of the Greek poetic and philosophical such interpretation. as Gwyn Griffiths himself concedes. poetically and theologically canonical.

716a) Plutarch dismisses men who woul claim divine honors for themselves. 2. Plutarch begins with programmatic statements about a proper. we are nevertheless below the metaphysical heights towards which the text is tending. With an allusion to Plato's Laws (4. Plutarch at the same time shifts from Egyptian lore to Greek philosophi cal speculation and poetic expression. Most 37Plutarch's important on this subject are Brenk 1986 and Brenk 1973. suggest that these interpretations are offered at a point in the de Iside that makes no claim to ultimate interpretive authority. Euhemeristic interpreta 1992. has been the subject of much scholarly speculation. levels. a preliminary identifies the next interpretive level.Plutarch on Isis and Osiris 203 interpretive frame. rejecting them out of hand as a foolish evasion of truth "that quite cleverly transfers everything from gods to men" (h. to think in this way. See also Soury 1942 and Verni?re 1977. best. as we shall though not.. terms. see Hardie demonology For Plutarch's use of rationalizing. This is implicit in the very structure of the de hide. in fact. Aiy?Trnoi) when ioTopouoi they say that Osiris was a general from the lowest of interpretive (oTpaTTiy?v ?von??ouaiv vOaipiv). so the reader of Plutarch's text moves upwards through hermeneutic standing. Typhon as describing the deeds of "great daimons" (Is. 22. with the aid of philosophy.4 D-K).. Plutarch then proceeds to lead the reader levels that increase in complexity through a series of successive hermeneutic and closeness to the ultimate goal of the text: an allegorical interpretation of the myth meta and cult of Isis that accords with Plutarch's own middle-Platonic Inherent in the structure of the de Iside then. and It is better. Whereas daemonological far speculation raises us above the atheism of Euhemerus. that it is better (?eXTiov o?v) to understand the stories about Isis. 36Though at Thes.36 Those who offer the After discussion ideas are in fact the Egyptians for these atheistic themselves (Is. philosophical approach to and cult. is an exemplum of the physics. ideal marriage of Egyptian cult and Greek philosophy.4 Plutarch interprets the katabasis of Theseus inwhat are obvi ously tions Euhemeristic in the Lives.359d o? ?a?Xcos cctt? tcov 0Ecbv ?tt' ?vOpcOTTous UETa??pouai). . see. 31.358e). . Plutarch begins with interpretations.359e off his charges with a verse of Empedocles (fr.360d). Osiris. As the participant in the ascends to greater degrees of under cult of Isis.37 The comparatives. 25. rounding grounds 22. 20. and then offers his own version of the myth "with all of the bar myth baric elements removed" (Is. Euhemeristic of the myth and cult. Moving levels. that of daemono Plutarch explicitly as an advance over the fallacies of Euhemerus when he says logical speculation.

these symbols (generative element). In the de Iside.364a).. The final product of this allegorical process metaphysical discourse that comprises the last half of the de Iside. 32. physical application. those who seem to have something more philosophical to say speculations from another standpoint" (Is.204 Daniel S. metaphysical Plutarch has been preparing his reader for this allegorical process from the first section of this text. 19e-f: "By forcibly dis torting (Trapa?iaCotiEvoi) these stories through what used to be called 'deepermeaning' (?TTOvoiais) but are nowadays called 'allegorical interpretations' (?XXEyopiais). they cannot that the sun in adultery kept secret. Plutarch then (re)organizes so that they become mythical expressions of Plato's Timaeus and Plutarch's own is a phi scheme. simplistic. That is. And although Plutarch still distances himself from the results of this hermeneutic the comparative here as (Soko?vtcov?note ?iXooo?coTEpov ?EXTiov before) the key interpretive concept of the treatise. Such a reference to a principle of nature rather than a single phenomenally occurring object allows Plutarch to raise allegorical the Egyptian Nile to discourse from the specific to general metaphysics?from process: one begins with a goal and shows how a set of steps lead to that goal. philosophy. see Aud.38 One should not simply state that "Osiris is the Nile uniting with Isis as the earth" (Is." . losophical.363d ?-rr' ?XXrjs 8' ?pxns tcov (p?Xoaocc?TEp?v ti X?yeiv 8oko?vtcov). has here surfaced along with the mode of interpretation. the three main overriding concerns of Plutarch's metaphysical and Horus?are reduced to symbols: mother. and symbols and myth of the cult in a philosophical "the principle of moisture. original. father characters?Isis." is a ideological Allegory 38For a fuller rejection of physical Stoic allegory. but rather its crude. (albeit ultimately on a subtler and more complicated which will ultimately inform Plutarch's level) own claims. Osiris.363d) but instead follow the "wiser of the priests" who speak somewhat more subtly of Osiris as "the general principle and Plutarch power of moisture" (Is. organizing logic is subsumed by the telos. 32. does not reject allegory as such. Richter In section 32. 33. Plutarch reduces the myth and given the "8EiKv?|iEva koi 8pc?[iEva" of the cult of Isis to a series of manipulable symbols whose internal. Plutarch moves from these etymological and syncretistic to ". The true Isiakos is the worshipper who interprets the (sc. some persons of Ares say because as giving in the arms information about Aphrodite is represented births conceived the conjunction of the planet Mars with Venus portends in his course the sun returns and discovers be and when these. allegoresis. and offspring. allegorical) manner. We here enter the level of very simplistic Stoic physical allegoresis.. Egyptian.

and cult are all equally valid reflections of the divine. o?k ?V X?yois Kai Oua?ais . only and Greeks is of anony been and in rites and offering-festivals in its openness and apparent willing This statement seems almost Herodotean ness to give credence to non-Greek forms of cult?we are reminded of Herodo tus' famously relativistic statement that. 8e tt?otiv ?S?oTTOTOv Ka\ tt)v Exouaa. or at least been available for understanding. ev te Epoia?vn There has. myth. it is universal. The assertion that this wisdom in his biography of Apollonius of Tyana istic claim. but transmitted but also is given strong to barbarians and tenacious credence. the "true" interpreta tion of the myth follows (Is. "for the wise man.34 oo?cp ?v8pi 'EXX?s Tr?vTa). 45. what is al expressed here is the belief that Greek and Egyptian divine names.369b): ?k 0EoX?ycov k?teioiv TranTr?Xaios a?Tr) te Kai e?? TTOirjT?s qnXoa?cpous 8?Ca. Plutarch makes a statement about the gods that again seems eminently ecumenical but is in fact fundamentally Plutarchan most . has been progress away from Egyptian myth?a of the myth of Isis of all its "barbaric" elements until its kernel of "Greek" truth is universal is anything but a relativ is laid bare. not . Plutarch claims. subtle. The progress to wisdom. the allegorical manipulation of the cult is. come down from theologians and lawgivers and has in sayings to both poets and philosophers this ancient belief which mous widely reports origin. internal logic of the de Iside. i??vov ?ap?apois o?8' Kai Kai Tr)v vojao ?pxr)v Suoe?oXeitt ev te teXetoTs ?v crin?is. ?XX' Kai "EXXriai TTEpicp TroXXaxo? therefore. This is the background those who would hermeneutics interpret the meaning that have been dismissed to the truth claim made here in the text. according to the consistent. iaxup?v 8io 0ETcbv tov.2 TT?vTas ?vOpcOTTous ?aov TTEpi a?Tcov ?TriaTao0ai).. what is most welcome to the goddess. however. Contrary to of the cult of Isis according to the lower earlier in the text.. Towards the end of the treatise. 45. The Hellenizing impulse of the de hide is. Indeed.. to truth towards which the text has led us through successively more com purging plicated hermeneutics. For we must bear in mind the central claim with which the text opens: 'EXXtjvik?vy?p t? vla(s eoti. by both Greeks and barbarians (Is. and it has thus been understood. Hellas is everywhere" (Philostr.Plutarch on Isis and Osiris 205 Plutarch has led his reader to perform precisely this task along with him in the or interpretation of the myth and symbols de hide'. as Philostratus would later put it. "all men know equally about the gods" (2. VA 1.369a). Because this dualistic metaphysics is true. Rather..3.

in origin. The Greekness of Isis. o?k Kai TETayji?vcov Kai Tinai kooi?ouvtos SuvajjEcov ?Troupycov KOT? v?iaous Trap' ?T?pois Kai auu?oXois XP^"1"*31 Ka0iEpco|a?vois ol n?v ?nuSpo?s oi 8? TpavoT?pois. 66. it is. and some people peoples according symbols ones directing clearer that are obscure toward the and others thought but not without divine. when and cultic activities of the heion an understanding afford the philosopher/worshipper interpreted philosophically. are Greek. emerges in the process. son which orders these and the one providence which has things are assigned to eve of them. koivo?s) and not "peculiar to the Egyptians" (Is. 67. to demonstrate in the de hide the presence of these Plutarch's decision ideas among the barbarians stems not from an impulse to appreciate native tra ditions on their own terms. danger.. or rather. Greek philosophical supports the ultimate conclusions of Plutarch's own metaphysical speculations. fsis and Osiris. on the other hand. Plutarch's to foreign cult name. "the gods are our common heritage" (rin?v tous 0EO?S . ?XXcos ?tt' ?XXcov. just as the though they are it is with the one rea But names so various by the varying given peoples. o?rrcos ?v?s X?you to? Ta?Ta Trpovo?as ?TTiTpoTTEuo?aris ETEpai Trpoariyop?ai. assumptions I quote this passage at length as it encapsulates of Plutarch's methods (Is. and indeed. seeming openness forms goes only so far as his philosophical interpretation of cult will allow him to the boundary of what on the one hand jibes with good to go?in other words. sea are common to all. . But Plutarch's words are culturally charged as well as theological. the way which barbarian wisdom inwhich the name of Isis is understood to be Greek. this looks very much like the kind of divine 18(ous). Richter in its Hellenocentrism. the text is rather a Greek measuring rod according to is evaluated.377c AiyuTTT?cov As Gwyn Griffiths noted. tt?v v?riaiv ?SrjyouvTES ?kivS?vcos ?tti Ta 0??a Nor do we regard the gods as different among different peoples nor as barbarian sun. and poetic writings about the gods and. Plutarch further claims that. moon.. speaking.206 Daniel S. and the assistant which powers charge different honors and modes of address exist among different rything: use hallowed to custom. and Greek heaven. earth and and southern and northern. For the mythic contain sacred symbols that. syncretism that we find in Herodotus. and meaning. ontologically The gods of the Egyptians are in fact the gods of the Greeks.377f-378a): Kai "EXXrjvas o?8? Kai oeXt?vti Kai 8' ovoi??Cetoi Kai Kai ?XX' O?Xaoaa the core o?x ?T?pous Trap* ?T?pois o?8? ?ap?apous vot?ous o?pav?s Kai mas ETTi Tr?vTa yEy?vaai ?opEious* Kai yfj cooTTEp Koiv? rjXios tt?oiv.

Neoplatonic demonology. majesty 167e tt)v toO 0eou oEiiv?TrjTa solicitude" i?eto xP^ot?ttitos (Sup. As Isis is knowledge herself. The epideictic flavor of the text and its somewhat unpolished style have career to date in Plutarch's it early 1977: (Brenk 15).39 Deisidaimonia emotion in which the gods are believed to exist but considered harmful. Brenk 1975 pos its a good deal more continuity in Plutarch's thought than the traditional "development" model has allowed. she both embodies and is the object of the hermeneutic frame. kindliness. the true losopher and philosophy hiakos is a Hellene imbued with the philosophical training of Greek paideia.40 and Kai Plutarch equates superstitious cults and rites with those of the bar inclined forms of worship that elevate the soul are barians. Other arguments text as a product of Plutarch's youth are based upon the "development" Plutarch's rationalism in his mature gave way years youthful ultimately for the to a ory whereby full-fledged. Directly contrasted with deisi daimonia is a philosophical approach to religion that attempts to show that "the of God is associated with goodness. The meaning of the Egyptian symbols emerges only in the context of a Greek interpretive frame. The cultural logic of the text might be formulated in the following way: as the true hiakos is a phi is the peculiar possession of the Greeks. in the de Superstitione tion with non-Greek among Plutarch's works to the de Iside. a mis apprehension of the nature of divinity that "produces the notion that good is evil" (Sup. The barbaric in religion is for Plutarch both a theological and a cultural issue. leads the soul towards knowledge of the divine. superstitious rites that have entered the Greek world are in Whereas 39The most recent edition of this text with translation and commentary is that of Moellering led scholars reading this 1963.Plutarch on Isis and Osiris 207 of the nature of the divine. 167e kok?v t? ?ya0?v ?Trovoouoa). an all too brief treatment of Plutarch's understanding of the relationship between 40For to ?ap?apiKOv ter 2001). magnanimity. Plutarch consistently equates supersti cult forms and contends that barbaric cult leads the mind to leads the soul towards knowledge of the superstition while Greek philosophy is here characterized as a mental state produced by divine. See especially Volkmann 1869. those philosophically Greek. In the de Iside. What ismore. see Schmidt 1999: 224-34 (with my review: Rich . HEyaXo?poa?vris Kai e?ueve?os Kai KT)8E|jov?as). This via citations from allegorical interpretation. Greek authorities. and 8Eioi8ainovia. the barbaric elements of the myth are removed from Plu tarch's retelling in the same way as barbaric interpretations are disallowed. In the de Iside. what is barbaric and false is consistently Egyptian?in the same way. canonical Greek is not an idea that is confined On the contrary.

The Gauls. . and the Carthaginians practice the ultimate impiety of child sacrifice (171b). [if] 0pr|VElv. easily fall into superstition. and if they bewailed them.3)?by state of mind characterized as a misapprehension of prey for superstition?the the very nature of the divine. In contrast to these rollings in the mud and debasing prostrations.. and just. and the Egyptians wail and beat their breasts before the silent majesty of the altar (171e). 166b) to?s Oe??s ??ioOnEv ?p0cp Tcp OTOjaaTi Kai SiKa?cp TrpooE?x EO0ai. Richter 166a Plutarch explains the presence origin barbarian. The Egyptians are most culpable. in their mis 0EO?S |?ti vojj?Ceiv). if they believed in the gods. 41Schmidt 1999: 224-25.. spells. "e?oXcotov ei? 8Eioi8ai|jov?av E?vai ??oei t? cludes its very nature. 11. Plutarch puts the matter in his Life of Sertorius. Indeed. not to believe they were gods" (Is. After relating the story of somewhat more succinctly how the basically rational Roman general took advantage of the native Span iards' superstitious awe of a white doe who followed him around. we notice that all behavior deemed super and dirty charms. the Scythi ans. "??oei. Plutarch cites with approval Xenophanes who ". the Persians bury men alive (17Id). e? 0eo?s voi??Couoi. When The de hide the tendency of Egyptians to bewail their gods and to participate in of Colophon excessively gloomy rites. rushings about. e? Se 0pr|vouoi." "t? ?ap?apiKOv" is easy ?ap?apiKOv" (Sert.41 is not a systematic treatment of the problem of 8Eioi8aitaovia. rightly requested the Egyptians. but towards the end of the treatise Plutarch makes explicit what has been im the meaning plicit and offers several examples of how Egyptians misunderstand of their own cults of the gods and in doing so. we Greeks rather (Sup. at de Superstitione of these disgraceful rites in the Greek world with a passage from Euripides' evil barbarian ways" Trojan Women: "Greeks discovering (764 co ?ap?ap' ??Eup?vTEs "EXXnvEs kok?).379b ri?icooE tous AiyuTrr?ous. 171b)...208 Daniel S. Tas Kai nr] . however. discussing 70.. tral dignity religion. and ances Kai TrapavoME?v think it worthy to distort phrases of our and not barbarous sully to the gods with the mouth our own tongues with and transgress straight strange names disgrace the god-given. impure purifications stitious?magic sanctifications?is described as "barbarous" (Sup. Tf]v 8' ?auTcbv Kai 0e?ov Kai prmaai TT?Tpiov 8iaoTp?<povTas ?ap?apiKoTs ??icona Tfjs Kai jaoX?vov aT?TTOis ?voiaaai t? to pray and and kotoiox?veiv EUOE?Ei'as.. Plutarch con with the gnomic statement. not to bewail them. As we read on in the de Superstitione.

968). both gives meaning losophy alone. a Greek possession. Rather than attempting to raise the status of Greek philosophy by claiming that it reflects Egyptian wis dom. 71. venerate the Egyptians and scorn?this gods.Plutarch on Isis and Osiris 209 guided worship of animals. the Egyptian cult of Isis. 'Ekottis ?yaXjia Kai t?v K?paKa to? 'Att?XXcovos cbs E?piTri8r|s ?coacp?pou k?cov Eary AiyuTTT?cov 8' oi ttoXXoi 0EpaTTE?ovTEs a?T? Ta ?cpa Kai COS TTEpi?TTOVTES 0?O?S O? y?XcOTOS ji?VOVO?8? X^euaGM?? tos ?Epoupy?as. and thus not only have they involved the sacred rites in laughter is the smallest evil resulting from their folly?but a baneful belief becomes established which hurls the weak and inno cent into stark superstition." and But treat most them of as Kai aK?KOus e?s ?KpaTov UTTEpE?Trouaa tt)v 8Eiai8ai as the sacred of Apollo. The logic of this passage of the de Iside is entirely consistent with that of the de Superstitione: Egyptians are prone to superstition and worship the animal itself rather than the deity to whom it is sacred. animal an the image animals of bright themselves Hecate. In contrast to this Egyptian error. Greek and barbarian. ?XX? touto ttjs a?EXTEpias KaTaTTETrXriKaoi eoti kok?v 8?Ca 8' ?|j<p?ETai Seivt) tous u?v eX?xioT?v ?a0EVE?s jaov?av. but are rather sacred to certain deities. For they fail to understand that the animals are not sacred in and of themselves. says (fr. In a very important sense. The Greeks for their part interpret the ritual correctly (opOcbs) and so are possessed of a more elevated understanding of the divine. of Aphrodite. the as Euripides the dog of Artemis.379d-e) ev yE to?tois Kai "EXXrjVEs |i?v y?p X?youoiv ?p0cos VOJi??oUOlV'lEp?V 'A?poS?TTlS ?cpOV E?vai TT)V TTEpiOTEp?vKOl t?v Tfjs 'A0r]v?s Sp?KOVTa Kai t?v K?va Tfjs 'ApT?niSos. I have argued that in the de hide generally. the Greeks the dove raven "a dog use the correct in these matters. Plutarch avers that (Is. and shalt thou become. to a superstitious and false apprehension of the divine. left is barbaric in the sense that it leads the soul uninterpreted by Greek philosophy. and regard expressions the serpent of Athena. . this attitude runs counter to ancient Greek accounts of Egypt and in the last section of this paper I shall try to clarify the way in which the de hide might be understood as a Plutarchan re negotiation of Greek writing about Egypt. I have tried to show that the de hide begins with the assumption that phi to all forms of cult.

6) had used the verb. Plutarch puts forward what he characterizes as the opinion that "all the Greeks hold" (tt?vtes "EXXtives . "qnXo?ap?apiCco" sense of "enjoying the use of linguistic barbarisms" (LSJs. in teXet?s ?tt? OuyaT?pcov learnt festivals ?? Aiy?Trrou and processions the Greeks cluding theworship of the twelve gods.857a). what In the first half of the de Malignitate Herodoti. When Plutarch comes to deal with Herodotus' claims for the origins of the cults of the Greek gods in Egypt. he sees as a fundamental methodological The story of Io is the case in point: against the less than flattering version of the themselves (that Io. behalf of his ancestors and truth" (Mal. Plutarch criticizes error pervading the Histories. voluntarily sailors). that the mysteries and rituals con cerning Demeter were brought from Egypt by the daughters of Danaus. vom'?ouoi). To do otherwise.210 Daniel S. Greek thought is to be as Plutarch says (coining a preferred to barbarian thought.42 This is a text primarily devoted to cor recting the errors of fact that Plutarch felt Herodotus had made with respect to in the Persian Wars: Plutarch the exploits of the Boeotians and the Corinthians that he writes the text "on tells his dedicatee. from the Egyptians.. pregnant story that Herodotus heard from the Phoenicians fled with Phoenician and in love. Richter Post hoc ergo propter hoc? Plutarch's found fullest expression about the tradition of Greek views of Egypt is to be in the de Malignitate Herodoti. The most recent edition see most recently Hershbell is Bowen 1992. Legrand 1932 is still use in the 43Although Philodemus (Here.v. In short. 994. 1993.857c) "EXXrjvas 8? |aa0E?v Trap' AiyuTTT?cov TTonTr?s Kai Travrjy?pEis Ka\ t? tous ScoSeko 0eo?s ae?EO0ai* Aiov?aou 8? Kai To?voua Trap' AiyuTTT?covMEX?|jTTo8a |aa0E?vKai 8i8a?ai tous aXXous tc?v "EXXnvas' Aavaou jauoTripia 8? Ka\ T?s TTEpi ArjunTpav KO|iia0fjvai. barbarophilic cultural dotus' methodological perspective. Hero term). he is more explicit about the conse for his claim that (Mai.).. that the very name (ounoma) of Dionysus was picked up from the Egyptians by Melampus who taught it to the rest of the Greeks. 12. however. 11. namely. . an otherwise unknown Alexander.856e). 420n the de Malignitate ful. 1. error is a result of his flawed. that Io is divine and worshipped all over the inhabited world as a Greek goddess (Mal.43 is the mark of a "barbarophile" (qnXo?ap?apos.854f ?Tr?p tc?v Trpoy?vcov ana Kai Tfjs aXr?0E?as). quences of this issue: Plutarch attacks Herodotus 13. Mal.

according Egyptians themselves have told him and. and the worship of the twelve gods from the Egyptians. has overturned "to oei? v?TOTa Kai ?yvOTaTa tc?v 'EXXnviKcbv ?Epcov. 14. Ta?Tnv n?v airoca?vE? Trpo?0ETo 0eo?s. "EXXnvEs 8?. Tais AiyuTTT?cov ?yvOTaTa ?Xa?ovE?ais tg?v 'EXXtivikc?v Kai |iu0oXoy(ais t? OEiav?TaTa Ka\ ?Epcov ?vaTp?Trcov. not not Pindar of the learned old. Archilochus. not Homer. o? TT?vBapos. as we have seen. He has trusted what the cult.Plutarch on Isis and Osiris 211 Plutarch's suspicion of non-Greek cult. Plutarch next turns to Herodotus' Tyrian Heracleses claims for the temporal and theological priority of the Egyptian over their Greek counterpart (Mai. and oOs M?vAiy?TTTioi (oe?ovTai). t?v f\ Oo?vikos. mentioned one Heracles an Egyptian or a Phoenician Heracles: only.857e-f): Ka?Toi tcov TraXaicov Kai Xoyicov the venerable authority of the Greek ?vSpcov o?x "Ojaripos. largely similar to those that inform the . moreover. Nevertheless. ?Tro?aivcov ?v0pcOTTOus Tr)v KaTayEyrjpaK?Tas. 13.. tence on the worship of the twelve gods is interesting.. not Hesiod. o?k 'Apx?Xoxos. o? TTE?aavSpos. ones he as gods whereas the Greek as gods but should be worshipped sacrifice He has said the same of Pan. Ta a?T? Kai TTEpi TTav?s E?priKE. the Heracles of Boeotia and Argos. Herodotus' accounts of the relationship between Greek and Egyptian to Plutarch. ?XX' ?jjcos EUXa?Eiav o?oauou ?ke?vous 8' cbs ?OiT??s Kai fipcoaiv ?vayi?Eiv o?etoi 8e?v ?XX? to?tois lar] 0?Eiv cbs 0eoTs. not Alem?n. These problems are.. o?x 'Ha?oSos. The insis processions. stem from his sources. AiyuTTT?ou eoxov X?yov 'HpaKX?ous 'HpaKX?a And yet.857d): 0eo?s. o?k 'AXkh?v. in the de Iside and the de Superstitione. Stesichorus. present. not Peisander.. but those whom should the Greek not be worship offered he declares are men who he thinks grow old and the not and reverence." Against the "?Xa?ovE?ai" of erroneous the Egyptian priests. they all knew of In this passage. o? ?Tna?xopos. is here expressed inmore explicit terms. Those whom the Egyptians worship he declares to be gods. . in so doing. overthrowing ones as mortals the most solemn and holy truths of Greek religion with Egyptian myth and false pre tensions. presents should Egyptian be offered heroes. Boic?tiov ?hou men not of ?XX* Kai ?va to?tov ?aaai tt?vtes 'ApyE?ov. Plutarch directly addresses Herodotus' methodological prob lems. He rejects the festivals and Herodotean idea that the Greeks learnt the ounoma of Dionysus. . Plutarch adduces literary tradition (Mai.

one observes a tendency to denigrate non-Greek forms of cult. one must. as I have noted.2). the repository of truth about the gods. "Isis I have tried to show that this cultural hierarchy is implicit is a Greek name. Greek word and Egyptian 44Cf. On the contrary. This is not to say that Plutarch viewed contemporary. These men have written only of a Greek Heracles?ergo. In the absence of this interpretive cult remains at the level of bar frame?a Greek interpretive frame?Egyptian baric superstition. Herodotus. of the Greek epic and the lyric traditions. the hermeneutic technique. in this instance as elsewhere. goddess from a cult that does not exist. I have suggested. rejecting the Egyptian stories of the dismem ?ap?apous berment of Horus and the decapitation of Isis.50. Egyptian religion ceptual framework. this privileging of native accounts over Greek authorities lies at the root of Herodotus' errors.212 Daniel S. recalling to Clea Aeschylus' advice that when one hears such stories. 20." To derive the name of the Egyptian renegotiates the historical relationship Greek in the statement. I argue. . he is far more explicit in the de Malignitate error regarding the Egyptian and the Tyrian Heracleses Herodoti. This is most explicit in the de Superstitione but forms the con as well.1 for the Persian versions of the causes of the war. The cultural centrism of the text. Whereas Greek philosophy Plutarch's privileging of the Greek literary tradition is implicit in the structure. in the de Iside. As so in the de hide in the de Malignitate the Greek literary tradition is Herodoti. the de Iside would elevate Egyptian cult?via Platonic exegesis?to the level of holy mystery. Plutarch consistently refers to Egyp Similarly. of the de hide may be appropriated as a series of symbols and subsequently reorganized ac but this seems more metaphysics. Richter cultural agenda of the de hide. cording to the dictates of middle-Platonic an ecumenical respect for barbarian wis indicative of cultural chauvinism than dom. barbarian Heracles Conclusions Throughout Plutarch's corpus.44 relies explicitly upon the information which he had gained from the Egyptian priests: "X?yco 5? t? X?youoi a?Toi Aiy?Trnoi" (2. and the content of the de Iside. the Greek literary tra dition is the authority in terms of which both Egyptian cult and its relationship to is to be interpreted." In both the de Malignitate Herodoti and the de hide. lies in the hermeneutic itself. or rather lack thereof. For Plutarch. Herodotus' is made manifest by the testimony. 1. Hdt. "spit and purify the mouth.358e So?as TTEpi0egov). largely Hellenized Isism as degenerate barbarism. tian interpretations of their own cult as barbaric and misguided (Is.

Plutarch on Isis and Osiris 213 Plutarch found so objectionable in the de Malignitate Herodoti. . for theological superiority. is available only to those imbued with the paideia of Greek philosophy. Tem poral priority becomes a metaphor." Plutarch claims that the name of the most important Egyptian goddess is in fact Greek. but the statement is nevertheless programmatic. The historical and etymological arguments with which Plutarch supports this claim seem specious. and especially truth about the gods. Over against the Herodotean statement that "the names of the gods came from Egypt to Greece. The de Iside would convince its readers that truth. in a sense.

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