Egyptian Mythology and Egyptian Christianity - The Religion Under the Persian Conquerors

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The Religion Under the Persian Conquerors

The Persians, on their conquest of Egypt, in the year B.C. 523, began with insulting the Egyptians in their religious feelings, by killing the bull Apis, and by breaking to pieces the statues of the gods. They afterwards made an earnest attempt to bring about some changes in the religion, and the chief was to abolish the worship of all statues and figures of the gods, and to introduce the more simple worship of the sun. Of this we see traces in the sculptures, made by a native Satrap, who governed the country under Artaxerxes Longimanus (see Fig. 83). We there see Thaomra, the son of the late king Adon-Ra Bakan, or Thannyras, the son of Inarus, as Herodotus calls him, worshipping the sun, Adon-Ra, which is distinguished from the sun of the Egyptians by the absence of wings or asps, and by its sending forth a number of rays, each ending with a human hand, and yet more particularly by the absence of the human figure or statue of the god. In this the sculptor borrows a figure from the name of the Persian king, who was called Longimanus, because his arm was supposed to over Asia, reach Africa, and part of Europe. And when we see a sculpture with one of the early Theban kings worshipping the figure of Amun-Ra, with the same sun, as in Fig. 84, we may suppose that the rays ending in human hands were an after addition made by order of the Persians.

Fig. 83.

Fig. 84.

It was in the fourth century before the Christian era that Plato, the Athenian, visited Egypt to study at Heliopolis, where was then a celebrated school of philosophy. The country was at the time independent, and under the rule of a native sovereign, but it had been for a century oppressed by the Persian conquerors. Heliopolis was on the Phenician side of the Delta, in the neighbourhood of the district inhabited by the Jews, who by this time had very much acquired the use of the Greek language, from the colonists on the other side of the Delta. Hence Greek, Hebrew, Phenician, Persian, and Egyptian opinions had been there freely, brought into comparison, and the consequence was a burst of free thought which made Heliopolis for a time an important centre of learning.

That Plato's opinions were very, much the fruit of his visit to this celebrated school is clear from his writings. Here he may have gained better views of a future state of rewards and punishment; but here he may have lost somewhat of the pure morality before taught to him by Socrates. He seems to have been more particularly pleased with the Egyptian mysticism. But had Plato's philosophy died with himself it would claim little notice here; it is the writings of his followers that make us note its rise as important in the history of Egyptian opinions.

"Pharaoh Thaomra, his name successor to Adonra."

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