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CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter IV.—The Greeks Drew Many of Their Philosophical Tenets from the Egyptian and Indian Gymnosophists.
Chapter IV.—The Greeks Drew Many of Their Philosophical Tenets from the Egyptian and Indian Gymnosophists.
We shall find another testimony in confirmation, in the fact that the best of the philosophers, having appropriated their most excellent dogmas from us, boast, as it were, of certain of the tenets which pertain to each sect being culled from other Barbarians, chiefly from the Egyptians—both other tenets, and that especially of the transmigration of the soul. For the Egyptians pursue a philosophy of their own. This is principally shown by their sacred ceremonial. For first advances the Singer, bearing some one of the symbols of music. For they say that he must learn two of the books of Hermes, the one of which contains the hymns of the gods, the second the regulations for the kings life. And after the Singer advances the Astrologer, 3250 with a horologe in his hand, and a palm, the symbols of astrology. He must have the astrological books of Hermes, which are four in number, always in his mouth. Of these, one is about the order of the fixed stars that are visible, and another about the conjunctions and luminous appearances of the sun and moon; and the rest respecting their risings. Next in order advances the sacred Scribe, with wings on his head, and in his hand a book and rule, in which were writing ink and the reed, with which they write. And he must be acquainted with what are called hieroglyphics, and know about cosmography and geography, the position of the sun and moon, and about the five planets; also the description of Egypt, and the chart of the Nile; and the description of the equipment of the priests and of the places consecrated to them, and about the measures and the things in use in the sacred rites. Then the Stole-keeper follows those previously mentioned, with the cubit of justice and the cup for libations. He is acquainted with all points called Pædeutic (relating to training) and Moschophatic (sacrificial). There are also ten books which relate to the honour paid by them to their gods, and containing the Egyptian worship; as that relating to sacrifices, first-fruits, hymns, prayers, processions, festivals, and the like. And behind all walks the Prophet, with the water-vase carried openly in his arms; who is followed by those who carry the issue of loaves. He, as being the governor of the temple, learns the ten books called “Hieratic;” and they contain all about the laws, and the gods, and the whole of the training of the priests. For the Prophet is, among the Egyptians, also over the distribution of the revenues. There are then forty-two books of Hermes indispensably necessary; of which the six-and-thirty containing the whole philosophy of the Egyptians are learned by the forementioned personages; and the other six, which are medical, by the Pastophoroi (image-bearers),—treating of the structure of the body, and of diseases, and instruments, and medicines, and about the eyes, and the last about women. 3251 Such are the customs of the Egyptians, to speak briefly.
The philosophy of the Indians, too, has been celebrated. Alexander of Macedon, having taken ten of the Indian Gymnosophists, that seemed the best and most sententious, proposed to them problems, threatening to put to death him that did not answer to the purpose; ordering one, who was the eldest of them, to decide.
The first, then, being asked whether he thought that the living were more in number than the dead, said, The living; for that the p. 489 dead were not. The second, on being asked whether the sea or the land maintained larger beasts, said, The land; for the sea was part of it. And the third being asked which was the most cunning of animals? The one, which has not hitherto been known, man. And the fourth being interrogated, For what reason they had made Sabba, who was their prince, revolt, answered, Because they wished him to live well rather than die ill. And the fifth being asked, Whether he thought that day or night was first, said, One day. For puzzling questions must have puzzling answers. And the sixth being posed with the query, How shall one be loved most? By being most powerful; in order that he may not be timid. And the seventh being asked, How any one of men could become God? said, If he do what it is impossible for man to do. And the eighth being asked, Which is the stronger, life or death? said, Life, which bears such ills. And the ninth being interrogated, Up to what point it is good for a man to live? said, Till he does not think that to die is better than to live. And on Alexander ordering the tenth to say something, for he was judge, he said, “One spake worse than another.” And on Alexander saying, Shall you not, then, die first, having given such a judgment? he said, And how, O king, wilt thou prove true, after saying that thou wouldest kill first the first man that answered very badly?
And that the Greeks are called pilferers of all manner of writing, is, as I think, sufficiently demonstrated by abundant proofs. 3252
Ὠροσκόοπος. [Elucidation III.]488:3251
[Instructive remarks on the confusions, etc., in Greek authors, may be seen in Schliemann, Mycenœ, p. 36, ed. New York, 1878.]
Next: Chapter V.—The Greeks Had Some Knowledge of the True God.
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