Page images
PDF
EPUB

were so famous ;* taking his patterns from the animals, which had been consecrated to the luminaries of hea

Philo does not sufficiently distinguish the first Hermes or Taautus from the second ; but ascribes some particulars, which were true of the first Mercury only, to the person he speaks of. Yet what he hints about the sacred animals and horoglyphics must be ascribed to the second Mercury; for if, as I have formerly observed," the religion of the Egyptians was not corrupted in the days of Abraham, the first Taautus must be dead long before the sacred animals were appointed. And I may here add that hieroglyphics were not in use in his days ; for the pillars upon which he left his memoirs, were inscribed, not in hieroglyphics, but reporypxQixous ypapadaos, in the sacred letters, in letters which were capable of being made use of by a translator, who turned what was written in these letters out of one language into another. The hieroglyphical inscriptions of the Egyptians are pretty full of the figures of birds, fishes, beasts, and men, with a few letters sometimes between them. Now this alone is sufficient to hint to us, that they could not come into use, before the animals represented in inscriptions of this sort, were become by allegory and mythology capable of expressing various things, by their having been variously used in the ceremonies of their religion.

ven.

* Τααυτου μιμησαμεν τον Ουρανoν, των θεων οψας, Κρονατε και Δαγωνος και των λοιπων διετυπωσεν και της ιερας των Σοιχείων xxgæxingas. Id. ibid. Vol. i. b. 5.

i See vol. i. b. 4.

It may perhaps be said that the Egyptians had two sorts of hieroglyphics, as Porphyryk has accurately obscrvod, calling the one sort 'lepoyaupuxo xoivodoy Huleve Mata Milanoiv, i. e. hieroglyphics communicating their meaning to us by an imitation of the thing designed ; and the other sort, Συμβολικα αλληγορημενα κατα τινας Arviryless, i. c. Figures conveying their meaning by alluding' to some intricate mythologies. Perhaps it may be thought, that this latter sort of hierogryphics were probably invented about the times I am treating of; but that the former were in use long before, and being nothing else but a simple representation of things, by making their pictures or imitations, might be perhaps the first letters used by men. But to this I answer, 1.

We have no reason to think that these hieroglyphics were so ancient as the first letters. 2. They would be but a very imperfect character; many, nay most occurrences could be represented by them only by halves. The Egyptians intermingled letters with their hieroglyphic., to fill up and connect sentences, and to express actions; and the first men must have had letters as well as pictures, or their pictures could have hinted only the ideas of visible objects ; but there would have been much wanting in all inscriptions to give their full and true meaning. 3. This picturc-character would have been unintelligible, unless men could be supposed to delineate the forms or pic

\ In lib. do Vit. Pythag. p. 12.

These Ilieroglyphics were something like Pythagoras precepts, they expressed one thing, but mcant another. Plut. lib. de Iside & Osiride, p. 354.

tures, more accurately, than can well be imagined. The first painters and figure-drawers performed very rudely, and were frequently obliged to write underneath what their figures and pictures were, to enable those who saw them to know what was designed to be represented by them. The Egyptians drew the forms of their sacred animals but imperfectly, even in later ages ; and I cannot doubt, but if we could see what they at first delineated for a bull, a dog, a cat, or a monkey, it would be difficult to tell which figure might be this or that, or whether any of their figures were any of them. Therefore to help the reader, they usually marked the sun and moon or some other characters, to denote what god the animal designed was sacred to ; and then it was easier to guess without mistake, what the picture was, and what might be in. tended by it. Now something like this the men of the most ancient times must have done ; for they can- not be supposed to be able to paint well enough to make draughts expressive of their meaning. They might invent and learn a rude character much sooner than they could acquire art enough to draw pictures ; and therefore it is most probable, that such a character was first invented and made use of. But, 3. Porphyry did not mean by the expression κοινολογημενα XXTa pilnow, that the characters he spoke of imitated the forms or figures of the things intended by them ; for that was not the whilensis, which the ancient writers ascribed to letters. Socrates gives us the opinion of the ancients upon this point, namely, that letters were like the syllables of which words were compounded, and expressed an imitation ; for he uses that word (not

of the figure, or picture ; but) of the doua or substance, power or meaning of the think designed by them." Thus he makes letters no more the pictures of things than the syllables of words are. The ancients were exceedingly philosophical in their accounts of both words and letters. When a word or a sound was thought fully to express, according to their notions, the thing of which it was designed to be the name, then they called it the exw or picture of that thing. They apprehended that a word could not be compleatly expressive, unless it was compounded of letters well chosen to give it a sound suitable to the nature of the thing designed to be expressed by it; and when a word hit their fancy entirely in these respects, then they thought that the sound and letters of it expressed, imitated, or resembled the true image of the thing it stood for. All this may be collected from several pas. sages of Plato upon this subject," and in this sense we must take Porphyry's expression ; which will lead us to think that the letters he treats of were the Egyptian sacred letters, as I have formerly hinted from this very

4

και ο δια των συλλαβων τε και γραμματων την ασιαν των πραγμάτων απομιμημενος--τατο δ' ESiv ovou.ce.. Plato in Cratylo, or in other words he says, Δηλωμα συλλαβαις και γραμμασι ονομα εσι. Ιbid.

n (Ουκάν ο μεν αποδιδες σανlα καλα τα γραμματα-ωσσερ εν τον ζωγραφημασι-- και τας εικονας αποδνδωσιν· 'Ο δε η προςιθεις η αφαιρων γραμματα, εικονας μεν εργαζεται και στG», αλλα πονηρας-ωσσες και Δεκα, η οσις βαλει αλλου αριθμος, εαν αδελης τι η προσθης, ετερος ευθυς γεγονε·--Ει μελλοι καλως κεισθαι το ονομα, τα προσnxovla du avtw ayparfufua ta iyeur' See Plat. Cratyl. Edit. Ficini, P. 295, 296, 297, &c.

See. vol. i. book 4.

description of them. When language consisted of monosyllables only, a single stroke, dash or letter might be thought as expressive of a single sound, as various letters were afterwards thought of various and compounded words, or of polysyllables. And since the winous or imitation, which the ancients ascribed to their letters, was an imitation relating to the expressing well the word they stood for, and not an imitation of the form or shape of the thing ; we err widely from their meaning, if we suppose that their letters had been pictures or hieroglyphics, because they ascribe such a mimesis to them.

V. It was customary in Egypt, in very ancient times, to call eminent and famous men by the names of their gods. This Diodorus Siculus informs us of; who, after his account of the celestial deities, adds, that they had men of great eminence, some of whom were kings of their country, and all of them benefactors to the public by their useful inventions. Some of these they called by the name of their celestial deities ;P in which number he reckons the persons called Sol, Saturnus, Rhea, Jupiter, Juno, Vulcanus, Vesta, Mercurius ; intimating indeed that these were not their Egyptian names, but only equivalent to them. The Egyptians in the beginning of their idolatry worshipped the sun and moon; and in a little time the elements, the vis vivifica of living creatures, the fire, air, earth and water. Perhaps the wind might be the

Diodor. lib. 1. p. 12.

• See vol. i. book 4. . Diodor. Sic. lib. 1.

« PreviousContinue »