Plutarch


Plutarch
Classical Author Before AD 50-after AD 120.
    The works of the *Greek writer, Plutarch of Chaeronea, have preserved, in its fullest form, one of Egypt's greatest myths, although the same story occurs earlier in the writings of *Diodorus Siculus.
    This myth, De Iside et Osiride ('On Isis and Osiris'), relates the story of *Osiris who was originally believed to have been a human ruler who brought civilisation to Egypt. He was subsequently murdered by his brother Seth, his body was dismembered and his limbs scattered throughout the land. His devoted wife, Isis, reunited his limbs and posthumously conceived their son, Horus, who in adulthood, fought Seth in a famous conflict to avenge his father's death. The gods sat in judgement on their case and, when they found in favour of Horus, he became King of the Living while Osiris was resurrected as Judge of the Dead and King of the Underworld; Seth, was banished. The Myth expressed in graphic terms the eternal triumph of good over evil and the success of life over death, as well as the continual ability of the countryside and the vegetation to renew their vitality after the Nile's annual inundation. It was a potent story that symbolised in vivid and easily understood imagery the roles of Seth as the 'Evil One' and of *Osiris as the god of the dead, who could promise his followers the chance of individual resurrection and eternal life.
    Although there is no extant Egyptian account of the Myth, Plutarch's version undoubtedly recounts the story as it existed in popular mythology and it agrees to a considerable degree with the references and allusions which are preserved in the Egyptian religious texts found on temple walls and in papyri. Plutarch probably provides an authentic outline of the Myth, but his account almost certainly presents an analysis of the Myth's meaning and significance which reflects a *Greek rather than an Egyptian outlook. Nevertheless, even with its inaccuracies, Plutarch and the other Classical writers provided one of the few detailed accounts of Egyptian religion which was available to Western scholars during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Only with modern archaeological excavation of the sites and monuments and the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs, could scholars obtain firsthand information about Egyptian civilisation which enabled Classical sources to be reassessed.
BIBL. Plutarch's Moralia. (fourteen vols) Vol. 5. Cambridge, Mass.: 1936; Griffiths, J.G. Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride. Cardiff: 1970.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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