Title page to the Original Edition of 1595
Hieroglyphica Horapollinis,
a Davide Hoeschelio fide Codicis Augustani
ms. correcta, suppleta, illustrata Augustae Vindelicorum:
ab insigne pinus



The Hieroglyphica


1 On Eternity 36 On the Heart
2 On the Universe 37 On Education
3 On the Year 38 On Egyptian Letters
4 On the Month 39 On the Sacred Scribe
5 On the Season 40 On a Magistrate or Judge
6 On what is meant by a Hawk 41 On the Shrine-Bearer
7 On the Soul 42 On the Horoscopist
8 On Ares and Aphrodite 43 On Purity
9 On Marriage 44 On the Lawless or Abominable
10 On the Only Begotten 45 On the Mouth
11 On what is meant by a Vulture 46 On Courage with Temperance
12 On Hephaistus 47 On Hearing
13 On what the Stars Signify 48 On the Penis of a Fecund Man
14 On what a Baboon Signifies 49 On Impurity
15 On Moonrise 50 On Disappearance
16 On the Two Equinoxes 51 On Impudence
17 On Spiritedness 52 On Knowledge
18 On Strength 53 On a Son
19 On Guard 54 On a Fool
20 On Fear 55 On Gratitude
21 On the Rising of the Nile 56 On the Unjust and the Ungrateful
22 On Egypt 57 On Ingratitude for Kindness to Oneself
23 On a Man who has never Travelled 58 On the Impossible
24 On Phylacteries 59 On a very powerful King
25 On an Unformed Man 60 On the King as Guardian
26 On an Opening 61 On a Cosmic Ruler
27 On Speech 62 On the People obedient to the King
28 On Silence 63 On the King Ruling part of the Cosmos
29 On a Distant Voice 64 On the Almighty (Pantocrator)
30 On Ancient Descent 65 On a Fuller
31 On Taste 66 On a Month
32 On Pleasure 67 On a Plunderer, a Fecund Man, and a Madman
33 On Copulation 68 On the Rising Sun
34 On the Soul delaying here a long Time 69 On a Sunset
35 On the Return of a long-absent Traveller 70 On Shadows


1 On what is meant by a Star 61 On what is meant by a Basilisk
2 On what is meant by an Eagle's Chick 62 On what is meant by a Salamander
3 On what is meant by Two Feet 63 On what is meant by a Mole
4 On what is meant by a Heart & Gullet 64 On what is meant by an Ant & Bat's Wings
5 On what is meant by Hands, a Shield & Bow 65 On what is meant by a Beaver
6 On what is meant by a Finger 66 On what is meant by Two Monkeys
7 On what is meant by a Penis held in a Hand 67 On what is meant by a Monkey Urinating
8 On what is meant by an Anemone Flower 68 On what is meant by a Goat
9 On what is meant by the Spine 69 On what is meant by a Hyena
10 On what is meant by a Quail's Bone 70 On what is meant by Two Animal Skins
11 On what is meant by Two Men Greeting 71 On what is meant by a Hyena facing Two Ways
12 On what is meant by a Man in Armour 72 On what is meant by a Hyena Skin
13 On what is meant by a Man's Finger 73 On what is meant by a Wolf's Tail without a Tip
14 On what is meant by a Solar Disk cut in Half 74 On what is meant by a Wolf & Stone
15 On what is meant by a Hawk Flying 75 On what is meant by Lions & Torches
16 On what is meant by Smoke 76 On what is meant by a Lion & Monkey
17 On what is meant by a Bull's Horn 77 On what is meant by a Bull & Wild Figs
18 On what is meant by a Cow's Horn 78 On what is meant by a Bull's Bound Knee
19 On what is meant by a Bust with a Sword 79 On what is meant by Sheep & Goats
20 On what is meant by a Hippopotamus 80 On what is meant by a Crocodile's Mouth
21 On what is meant by a Pair of Stag's Horns 81 On what is meant by a Crocodile & Ibis Feather
22 On what is meant by a Dog or Wolf 82 On what is meant by a Lioness
23 On what is meant by an Ear 83 On what is meant by a She-Bear
24 On what is meant by a Wasp or a Crocodile 84 On what is meant by an Elephant's Trunk
25 On what is meant by a Night-Owl 85 On what is meant by an Elephant & Ram
26 On what is meant by a Snare 86 On what is meant by an Elephant & Pig
27 On what is meant by Words or a Signed Book 87 On what is meant by a Deer & Viper
28 On what is meant by a Ladder 88 On what is meant by an Elephant burying Tusks
29 On what is meant by Seven Letters, etc 89 On what is meant by a Dead Crow
30 On what is meant by a Line on another Line 90 On what is meant by a Leopard
31 On what is meant by a Swallow 91 On what is meant by a Deer & Flute-Player
32 On what is meant by a Black Dove 92 On what is meant by an Owl
33 On what is meant by a Weasel 93 On what is meant by an Owl & Maiden-hair
34 On what is meant by Origanum 94 On what is meant by a Crane on Watch
35 On what is meant by a Scorpion & Crocodile 95 On what is meant by Two Partridges
36 On what is meant by a Marten 96 On what is meant by an Eagle's Beak
37 On what is meant by a Pig 97 On what is meant by Young Crows
38 On what is meant by a Lion & its Cubs 98 On what is meant by a Flying Crane
39 On what is meant by a Swan 99 On what is meant by a Pregnant Hawk
40 On what is meant by Two Crows 100 On what is meant by a Camel
41 On what is meant by a Blind Beetle 101 On what is meant by a Frog
42 On what is meant by a Mule 102 On what is meant by a Frog's Hind Legs
43 On what is meant by a Bull facing Left, etc 103 On what is meant by an Eel
44 On what is meant by a Dead Horse 104 On what is meant by an Electric Ray
45 On what is meant by a Mare kicking a Wolf 105 On what is meant by an Octopus
46 On what is meant by a Pigeon & Laurel-leaf 106 On what is meant by a Lobster & Octopus
47 On what is meant by Worms 107 On what is meant by a Pregnant Lobster
48 On what is meant by a Pigeon's Hind Parts 108 On what is meant by an Oyster & Crab
49 On what is meant by an Eagle & Stone 109 On what is meant by a Scarus Fish
50 On what is meant by a Horse & Bustard 110 On what is meant by a Shark
51 On what is meant by a Sparrow & Dog-fish 111 On what is meant by a Lamprey
52 On what is meant by a Bat 112 On what is meant by a Roach on a Hook
53 On what is meant by Bat's Teeth & Breasts 113 On what is meant by an Octopus Eating
54 On what is meant by a Turtle-dove 114 On what is meant by a Squid
55 On what is meant by a Cicada 115 On what is meant by a Sparrow on Fire
56 On what is meant by an Eagle 116 On what is meant by a Lyre
57 On what is meant by a Phoenix 117 On what is meant by the Pipes of Pan
58 On what is meant by a Stork 118 On what is meant by an Ostrich Wing
59 On what is meant by a Viper 119 On what is meant by a Man's Hand
60 On what is meant by a Viper also    






The Hieroglyphica of Horapollo, or simply the Hieroglyphics, presents many interesting problems in the matter of origin of symbols and possible derivations. That the text and scope of Horapollo was not unique and did not begin with his attempt at an understanding of the glyphs is certainly true. However, what is of importance is the understanding of its considerable influence in matters of hieroglyphic decipherment, from Champollion and Young, to the later eminent Egyptologists like Lepsius and Birch, the matter of Horapollo's text has inevitably exerted great interest in the minds of prominent men, possibly because at the time of its discovery in the burgeoning period of science early in the sixteenth century it was considered to be then an authoritative text, thus beguiling and duping many would be scholars who perhaps should have known better. In fact, the influence Horapollo was to have on the Renaissance and the rediscovery of Egypt was to prove both positive as well as negative. Horapollo was seen to be a precursor to the modern Egyptologist as a scientist, as well as a misleading errant who could not refrain from his outlandish hieroglyphical interpretations without perhaps having his tongue firmly in his cheek.

Horapollo's text, as it had come down to us, was first published in 1505, but only as an appendix to Aesop's Fables. From there it grew and developed as a text in its own right. By 1835 there were already thirty-five different editions of the text available, in several languages until Leemans in that year brought out what was thought to be, at least for the time, the definitive version. His was based on the bilingual text of De Pauw's of 1727, as were the others produced after that, and which has formed the basis of most editions after this period. The modern version of Boas is a basic model, and through him the text of 1940 published by Sbordone, the Italian scholar, which has never unfortunately appeared in English.

Since 1950, when Boas' translation in modern English was first published, there have been no attempts at a good translation representative of the original mystery and grandeur once benefiting from the minds of serious translators. Indeed, once out of the classical language Horapollo's text comes to assume nothing more than a prescriptive bill that one would associate perhaps with a cure for ulcers. It reads so plain in Boas' translation that it is hard to imagine what the original fuss was all about. Further, most modern scholars who bother to read his translation do not agree with it, or find it far from attractive. Admittedly, this is true. And some, like van der Horst in his compilation of the Chaeremon material,1 rate it very low indeed, describing it as 'unreliable.' Personally, I find his edition of the work totally unsatisfactory as it contains neither the Latin nor Greek, has few notes to enlighten the stupefied reader, bears no commentary to each interpretation, or makes any attempt to assign known hieroglyphs to the ones Horapollo may possibly be inferring. But Boas is not too obliged to adhere to the historicity of the text, his main angle being that of the artistic interpretation that the text affords. He is not interested in presenting a scholarly translation, only a readable modern one.

The better one that we possess in English is that of 1840 by Cory, again based on De Pauw's work, but unfortunately out of print and has been for many years now.2 At least Cory's has the benefit of being written in the quaint old style usually associated with Victorian England, and he has proved erstwhile in his attempt to capture the exact wording without accruing any superficial artifice or redundant language. His understanding, however, of the symbols is extremely limited, is unreliable and therefore of little use to us. What one has to consider in any translation of the reliable texts in our possession is the exact meaning Horapollo is trying to convey without too much of a recourse to the actual words being used. By at least allowing a considerable flexibility for the transposition into a language so that it can be understood, it may be possible to give back to Horapollo what was originally extracted out of carelessness. Also, to add to the quagmire of poor or inept translations no translator has bothered too deeply to provide a fresh insight into this highly original work. Where it suffers is from this complaint: the translators are not familiar with the original symbology and therefore cannot get to grips with the material at hand. It is also highly inappropriate for such a text to be published without a good measure of notes and commentary, and a comparison with other relevant material that is at our disposal, thanks largely to the immense resources of the internet. What needs to be attempted is a deliberate endeavour to provide a good rationale for a version by adding all relevant material, particularly as it pertains to the Egyptian glyphs where they are known. This is something I intend to follow up after my elaboration on the Masseian corpus is completed.

For the time being, to understand how Horapollo fits into the scheme of things it's best to take a brief look back at the history of early efforts at hieroglyphic decipherment, and various scholars who have used the Hieroglyphica as a basis for their own understanding of the rudiments of the Egyptian symbolism. And one can do no better that provide for the earnest student some documentary material beforehand showing the high regard in which Horapollo was placed in the minds of the scholars of the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries, beginning with the eminent English scholar, and prolific author, Sir Thomas Browne (1605-82), who in his Vulgar Errors (1646) has done much to prove the invalidity of outmoded beliefs and foolish notions. Indeed, his book can be seen as a textbook for a need to bring back to humanity a common sense so sorely lacking in the mania of the Renaissance period.

Sir Thomas Browne, Book Five, Chapter XX (Of the Hieroglyphical Pictures of the Egyptians), has this to say regarding the text of Horapollo:

Certainly of all men that suffered from the confusion of Babel, the Egyptians found the best evasion; for, though words were con­founded, they invented a language of things, and spake unto each other by common notions in Nature. Whereby they discoursed in silence, and were intui­tively understood from the theory of their Expresses. For they assumed the shapes of animals common unto all eyes; and by their conjunctions and compositions were able to communicate their conceptions, unto any that co-apprehended the Syntaxis of their Natures. This many conceive to have been the primitive way of writing, and of greater antiquity than letters; and this indeed might Adam well have spoken, who under­standing the nature of things, had the advantage of natural expressions. Which the Egyptians but taking upon trust, upon their own or common opinion; from conceded mistakes they authentically promoted errors; describing in their Hieroglyphicks creatures of their own invention; or from known and conceded animals, erecting significations not inferrible from their natures.

And first, Although there were more things in Nature than words which did express them; yet even in these mute and silent discourses, to express corn­plexed significations, they took a liberty to compound and piece together creatures of allowable forms into mixtures inexistent. Thus began the descriptions of Griphins, Basilicks, Phoenix, and many more; which Emblematists and Heralds have entertained with significations answering their institutions; Hieroglyphically adding Martegres, Wivernes, Lion fishes, with divers others. Pieces of good and allowable invention unto the prudent Spectator, but are lookt on by vulgar eyes as literal truths, or absurd impossibilities; whereas indeed, they are commendable inventions, and of laudable significations.

Again, Beside these pieces fictitiously set down, and having no Copy in Nature; they had many unques­tionable drawn, of inconsequent signification, nor naturally verifying their intention. We shall instance but in few, as they stand recorded by Orus [i.e. Horus = Horapollo]. The male sex they expressed by a Vulture, because of Vul­tures all are females, and impregnated by the wind; which authentically transmitted hath passed many pens, and became the assertion of Aelian, Ambrose, Basil, Isidore, Tzetzes, Philes, and others. Wherein notwithstanding what injury is offered unto the Crea­tion in this confinement of sex, and what disturbance unto Philosophy in the concession of windy conceptions, we shall not here declare. By two dragms they thought it sufficient to signifie an heart; because the heart at one year weigheth two dragms, that is, a quarter of an ounce, and unto fifty years annually encreaseth the weight of one dragm, after which in the same proportion it yearly decreaseth; so that the life of a man doth not naturally extend above an hundred. And this was not only a popular conceit, but consen­taneous unto their Physical principles, as Heurnius hath accounted it.

A Woman that hath but one Child, they express by a Lioness; for that conceiveth but once. Fecundity they set forth by a Goat, because but seven daies old, it beginneth to use coition. The abortion of a Woman they describe by an Horse kicking a Wolf; because a Mare will cast her foal if she tread in the track of that animal. Deformity they signifie by a Bear; and an unstable Man by an Hyena, because that animal yearly exchangeth its sex. A Woman delivered of a female Child, they imply by a Bull looking over his left shoulder; because if in coition a Bull part from a Cow on that side, the Calf will prove a female.

All which, with many more, how far they consent with truth, we shall not disparage our Reader to dis­pute; and though some way allowable unto wiser con­ceits, who could distinctly receive their significations: yet carrying the majesty of Hieroglyphicks, and so transmitted by Authors: they crept into a belief with many, and favourable doubt with most. And thus, I fear, it hath fared with the Hieroglyphical Symboles of Scripture: which excellently intended in the species of things sacrificed, in the prohibited meats, in the dreams of Pharoah, Joseph, and many other passages: are oft-times wrackt beyond their symbolizations, and inlarg'd into constructions disparaging their true intentions.3

Again in Book Three, chapter 16 of the Vulgar Errors, in his discussion of vipers (2.60), he says:

And lastly, Concerning the Hieroglyphical account, according to the Vulgar conception set down by Orus Apollo, the Authority thereof is only Emblematical; for were the conception true or false, to their appre­hensions, it expressed filial impiety. Which strictly taken, and totally received for truth, might perhaps begin, but surely promote this conception.4

Further, ibid., Book One, chapter 9:

The Hieroglyphical doctrine of the Egyptians (which in their four hundred years cohabitation some conjecture they learned from the Hebrews) hath much advanced many popular conceits. For using an Alphabet of things, and not of words, through the image and pictures thereof, they endeavoured to speak their hidden conceits in the letters and language of Nature. In pursuit whereof, although in many things, they exceeded not their true and real apprehensions; yet in some other they either framing the story, or taking up the tradition, conducible unto their inten­tions, obliquely confirmed many falsities; which as authentick and conceded truths did after pass unto the Greeks, from them unto other Nations, and are still retained by symbolical Writers, Ernblematists, Heralds, and others. Whereof some are strictly maintained for truths, as naturally making good their artificial repre­sentations; others symbolically intended, are literally received, and swallowed in the first sense, without all gust of the second. Whereby we pervert the profound and mysterious knowledge of Egypt; containing the Arcana's of Greek Antiquities, the Key of many ob­scurities and ancient learning extant. Famous herein in former Ages were Heraiscus, Chaeremon, Epius, especially Orus Apollo Niliacus: who lived in the reign of Theodosius, and in Egyptian language left two Books of Hieroglyphicks, translated into Greek by Philippus, and a large collection of all made after by Pieriua. But no man is likely to profound the Ocean of that Doctrine, beyond that eminent example of industrious Learning, Kircherus.5

The last mentioned authority here is the Jesuit scholar and polymath Athanasius Kircher (1602-80) who did much to contribute towards the dearth of knowledge pertaining to anything Egyptian, and his Oedipus Aegyptiacus (1655) is still worth considering in the light of early notions of the meaning of the glyphs. Like Horapollo, Kircher has been sadly underrated, his ideas being considered too extreme and far-fetched, but is certainly a scholar who should not be avoided in the quest to arrive at a recoverable interpretation of the glyphs themselves, mainly because he put to use Horapollo's efforts to great effect.

Other writers, in discussing the Hieroglyphica, say that Horapollo should be totally ignored and blame him for the fallacies that have evolved over the centuries, and that have assiduously adhered to the graven images found on walls, statues, ostraca, etc. Such is the stance of such eminent authorities as Birch, Budge, Gardiner, et al. For the time being, their ignorance can be ignored. Let us consider other scholars who have at least the advantage of a somewhat open mind.

Erik Hornung, the Professor of Egyptology at Basel University, considers Horapollo a bad influence in the proper development of hieroglyphic decipherment. He says of him:

Hieroglyphs, which first appeared in Egypt around 3000 B.C., were still being composed almost 3,500 years later. However, by the fifth century AD, the initial meanings of the signs had become entirely obscured by fantastic allegorical interpretations. One of the last philosophers of the Alexandrian school, Horapollon, wrote a text on hieroglyphs in which he states: "When [the Egyptians] want to show 'open.' they paint a rabbit, for this animal always has its eyes open" (Hieroglyphica, 1.26); to indicate "mother" they paint a picture of a vulture, for as he points out, this species has no male; fertilization takes place through the wind (Hieroglyphica, 1, ii). Horapollon was correct about the choice of signs for "mother" and "open," but he was quite wrong about the basis for choosing these hieroglyphs. The ancient Egyptians were far from such speculations; for them there were very simple phonetic connections between the image of a vulture and the word "mother," and between that of a hare and the verb "to open."

After the fifth century A.D. the study and use of hieroglyphs ceased for approximately a thousand years. In 1419 a manuscript of Horapollon's Hieroglyphica was discovered on the Greek island of Andros. Only several years earlier, a translation by the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus of an Egyptian obelisk inscription had also resurfaced. Together, these two works became indispensable, authoritative sources of information for early Renaissance scholars attempting to interpret Egyptian hieroglyphs. They also inspired the invention of new visual symbols: in the fifteenth century Leone Battista Alberti and Antonio Averlino (known as Filarete) encouraged the use of such lettere figurate as decorative architectural elements, and countless fictive hieroglyphic inscriptions on imaginary ruins and monuments, complete with symbolic-allegorical translations, appeared in Francesco Colonna's illustrated book Hypnerotomachia Polifli (1499).

Numerous illustrations, imitations, and adaptations of Horapollon followed during the sixteenth century. Albrecht Durer produced a series of illustrations for the Hieroglyphica; he also borrowed many of its symbols for his woodcut Triumphal Arch for the Emperor Maximilian. The purpose of this Renaissance picture-writing was to develop a universal language of visual images that scholars everywhere could understand and read. By the late sixteenth century, however, the new hieroglyphs had already begun to fall out of fashion. Rabelais and Johann Fischart, among others, mocked the "word twisters" who ex­pressed abstract concepts by drawing objects whose names resembled the words for the intended concepts. By honoring the one-sided, purely symbolic interpretation of hieroglyphs, Renaissance scholars and artists hampered the later efforts of Athanasius Kircher in the seventeenth century, and others who followed him, to decipher Egyptian script, and thus promoted abstruse translations. Eighteenth-century attempts to understand hieroglyphs with the help of Chinese characters likewise met with failure, as the two writing systems and languages have fundamentally different structures.6

This is the general opinion of most modern scholars who cite Horapollo, deeming him to have been nothing but a pest, having done much to be responsible for the obfuscation of the hieroglyphic material already since a large proportion of it had by then lost all sense and meaning. Admittedly, pretend scholars like Kircher also did little to help in a field where darkness filtered out any rays of hope in discovering the real, actual meanings. Rather than a transmitter of the genuine current from which it must have inevitably arisen, the Hieroglyphica of Horapollo is seen to be a grave mistake that did all but hamper any serious efforts at decipherment, and purely because it was treated with such respect and awe for nearly three hundred years.

Horapollo's work is either avoided by scholars of Egypt for its amateurishness or disparaged as belonging purely to the occult fraternity with little value for academicians for it to be worth studying. Such is the view of Rice in his analysis of Egypt's legacy, who says of this work that it was part of the symbolic school of thought; each glyph was viewed as being allegorical in meaning, rather than purely phonetic, something that would not occur until the time of Champollion, and a view that has been largely discarded, although a few adherents still cling tenaciously to such a concept, seeing the glyphs as being part of a universal language that could be understood by all, not through analysis but rather through inspiration, each glyph being an image and thus capable of provoking a corresponding mental image resonant with inherent meanings. Rice, having stated the familiar story of the finding of Horapollo's text by Buondelmonti on the island of Andros and its subsequent publication in the fifteenth century, says: 'His treatise purported to reveal the meaning of the hieroglyphs and gained rapid fame in intellectual circles. It exercised a considerable influence in late medieval times and is still current in magical and occult circles,'7 thus implying that it is of no value to the scholar, as if it amounted to nothing more than a manual on Tarot cards.

This is perhaps the reason underlying the unease the text evokes in the academic schools of discipline; Horapollo is a fraud, his text is a fake. But there is an indication of another reason why this may be so, and why a genuine loathing towards it is noticeable in most histories on hieroglyphics by English writers; possibly because it may be the real reason why it was the French who paved the way for their proper decipherment. This is certainly evident in Thompson's biography of the early English Egyptologist Sir Gardiner Wilkinson, who seems to blame Wilkinson's reliance on Horapollo for leading him astray. On page 73 he notes:

Wilkinson also studied Coptic, the same approach that Champollion was taking, on the assumptioncorrect as it turned outthat the more modern language might resemble the ancient one. Had he pursued Coptic single-mindedly, Wilkinson might have achieved notable results, but he also relied heavily upon the arcane intricacies of Neoplatonism and Hermeticism, as well as the text attributed to Horapollo, another of those mysterious hieroglyphic treatises from late antiquity. From these sources Wilkinson, like many before him, derived the view that the hieroglyphs were based upon symbolic and philosophic principles, that they represented the language of learned priests. Hermetic and Neoplatonic influences are evident in his early efforts, for example, on his first trip upriver in 1822 we find him pondering over the significance of the hieroglyphic representation of a bee: "May this not in its original meaning be 'King of the people' or 'King of Men'? for the Bee (properly hornet) is said by Horapollo to signify 'a people obedient to the will of a King.'" His attachment to Hermes Trismegistus also shows in his first major publication, Topography of Thebes, which he prefaced with a quotation from Hermes. Even after being in Egypt for years and having access to more accurate material, Wilkinson used Horapollo extensively. Horapollo was, in fact, an especially insidious influence, for his text contains some correct elements, just enough to encourage scholars to rely upon it and be led astray. Its author apparently drew upon some authentic material but misunderstood its nature. With such guides, Wilkinson could make only limited progress to­ward translating the hieroglyphs.8

In other words, if Wilkinson hadn't been so dependent on Horapollo for his understanding of the hieroglyphics, and not wasted time with such a flagrantly fraudulent text, then possibly he may have gone onto greater things and robbed Champollion of his victory. Or at least this is what Thompson is implying. That Horapollo and his infamous text is cited for the blame of leading scholars up the wrong path is undoubtedly true, but what is often overlooked is the enormous impulse he gave to historians to look at Egypt once more as a veritable source of knowledge. It is only right that in the early years of the Renaissance, and with the re-accumulation of knowledge that was lost in the dark ages, that such an influence could be felt. There was a dying need for arcana, sacred knowledge, esoterica, and anything else seemingly exotic. Horapollo just happened to come along once more at a very opportune moment. That is why his influence was so insidious and widespread.

The best way for any new reader to approach the Hieroglyphica is to view it as an allegorical interpretation of a lost system of communication, and to forget about such hard, concrete things as Egyptian glyphsat least as we know and understand them. By removing from one's mind the knowledge that a circle with a point in its centre means 'day', or a cross capped with a semi-circle means 'life', etc., one is free to explore the full range the interpretations here given and what they offer, thus seeing a reason why each has the symbolism it has. But this can only be fully appreciated if we go back to the origin of the symbols themselves. This is the work of typology, to arrive at a close approximation of how a symbol would have evolved and from what inclination such an association could have arisen. For this reason I have personally relied heavily on the work of Massey, who did much to re-introduce the ideas of Horapollo back into the popular consciousness in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Massey, much neglected in his time, is probably the only true scholar who got to grips with the original symbolic material. He also had a high regard for the Hieroglyphica, citing it over a hundred times throughout his three monumental works, and saw the symbolism as being of great importance in understanding early mythological and astronomical imagery. To him, Horapollo was the conveyor of what was an early tradition which became vulgarized with the overthrow of the dynastic reigns of Egypt and the influx of Romans and Greeks, preserving in itself a few re-discoverable fragments of the original gnosis from which it sprang. Thus, in terms of typology, an interpretation like the one given by Horapollo for a hare meaning 'open' or 'an opening' (Bk. 1.26) makes perfect sense; the hare typified pubescence in that at this time it was considered lawful for sexual intercourse to first take place, i.e.. the pubescent girl was ripe, therefore open. The hare is also recoverable in our popular mythology of the Easter Bunny, Easter time marking the opening of another year.9

Therefore, the value to be derived from a re-examination of the Hieroglyphica is through typology. This alone can provide us with sufficient insight to see whether Horapollo is accurate on all counts, in terms of allegory, or if he is far out, in terms of actuality. If so, then we would have to admit to ourselves that the text is practically useless and not a good indicator of possessing the original gnosis, even in a very fragmented form.

For those wishing to study a typological interpretation of Horapollo's Hieroglyphica, my essay (Essay 6) is worth consulting. A fuller, deeper exanimation is pending once the relevant material becomes available.


The following is a short list of published sources:

B = Boas, George

The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo, Translated and introduced by G. Boas, With a new foreword by Anthony T. Grafton, Bollingen Series XXIII, Princeton University Press, NJ, 1993.

C = Cory, Alexander Turner

The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo Niliacus, Written by Him in the Egyptian Tongue and Put into Greek by Philip in Two Books, and Translated by Cory from the Latin of Pauw (with notes by Samuel Sharpe and Samuel Birch), London, 1840.

L = Leemans, Conrad

Horapollinis Niloi Hieroglyphica, edidit, diversorum codicum recenter collatorum, priorumque editionum varias lections et versionem latinam subjunxit, adnotationem, item hieroglyphicorum imagines et indices adjecit C. Leemans, Amsterdam, 1835.

P = Pauw, Joannes Cornelius de

Horapollinis Hierogliphica, Graece et Latine cum integris observationibus et notis Jeann. Merceri et David. Hoeschelli, et selectis Nicolai Caussini curante Joanne Cornelio de Pauw, qui suas observationes addidit, Utrecht, 1727.

S = Sbordone, F.

Hori Apollinis Hieroglyphica, Loffredo, Naples, 1940.

Note: B is available from Amazon. C is the translation used here, without the footnotes as most are redundant. A fuller, more complete text will be published shortly, complete with footnotes and Massey's interpretation. L, P, and S are no longer available.


The Hieroglyphica of Horapollo in Two Books

Cory's Original

For some years past an ardent spirit of enquiry has been awakened with regard to the interpretation of the hieroglyphics inscribed upon the monuments of Egypt. For ages, these had been looked upon as the depositories to which had been committed the religion arts and sciences of a nation once pre-eminent in civilization. Attempts had been continually made to penetrate the darkness, but without the slightest success, till the great discovery of Dr. Young kindled the light, with which the energetic and imaginative genius of Champollion, and the steady industry and zeal of his fellow labourers and successors, have illustrated almost every department of Egyptian antiquity, and rendered the religion and arts, and manners of that country, almost as familiar to us as those of Greece and Rome; and revived the names and histories of the long-forgotten Pharaohs.

The ill success of every previous attempt, may in a great measure, be attributed to the scantyremnants of Egyptian literature that had survived, and the neglect into which the sacred writings of Egypt had fallen, at the time when Eusebius and several of the fathers of the Christian church turned their attention to antiquity.

The ravages of the Persians had scattered and degraded the priesthood of Egypt, the sole depositories of its learning. But the fostering care of the Ptolemies reinstated them in splendour, and again established learning in its ancient seat. The cultivation of the sacred literature and a knowledge of hieroglyphics continued through the whole of the Greek dynasty, although the introduction of alphabetic writing was tending gradually to supersede them. Under the Roman dominion and upon the diffusion of Christianity they further declined; but the names of Roman emperors are found inscribed in hieroglyphic characters, down to the close of the second century, that of Commodus being, we believe, the latest that appears. During the two centuries that succeeded, the influence of Christianity, and the establishment of the Platonic schools at Alexandria, caused them to be altogether neglected.

At the beginning of the fifth century, Horapollo, a scribe of the Egyptian race, and a native of Phænebythis, attempted to collect and perpetuatein the volume before us, the then remaining, but fast fading knowledge of the symbols inscribed upon the monuments, which attested the ancient grandeur of his country. This compilation was originally made in the Egyptian language; but a translation of it into Greek by Philip has alone come down to us, and in a condition very far from satisfactory. From the internal evidence of the work, we should judge Philip to have lived a century or two later than Horapollo; and at a time when every remnant of actual knowledge of the subject must have vanished. He moreover, expressly professes to have embellished the second book, by the insertion of symbols and hieroglyphics, which Horapollo had omitted to introduce; and appears to have extended his embellishments also to the first book. Nevertheless, there is no room to doubt but that the greater portion of the hieroglyphics and interpretations given in that book, as well as some few in the second book, are translated from the genuine work of Horapollo, so far as Philip understood it: but in all those portions of each chapter, which pretend to assign a reason why the hieroglyphics have been used to denote the thing signified, we think the illustrations of Philip may be detected.

In the first stages of hieroglyphical interpretation, this work afforded no inconsiderable light. But upon the whole, it has scarcely received the attention which it may justly claim, as the only ancient volume entirely devoted to the task of unravelling the mystery in which Egyptian learning has been involved; and as one, which in many instances, unquestionably contains the correct interpretations. In the present edition of the work, where any interpretations have been ascertained to be correct, the chapter has been illustrated by the corresponding hieroglyphic. In those cases where the hieroglyphic is mentioned, but an incorrect interpretation assigned, engravings have been given of it, as well as of the hieroglyphic corresponding to such interpretation, wherever these have been ascertained: and they have been inserted in the hope that they may lead persons better acquainted with the subject to discover more accurate meanings than we have been able to suggest.

Among the engravings is inserted a complete Pantheon of the great gods and goddesses of Egypt —Khem, of whom Osiris is a form, is the great deity corresponding to the Indian Siva, and the Pluto of the Greeks—Phtha, of whom Horus is another form, is the Indian Brahma, and Greek Apollo—and Kneph is the counterpart of Vishnu and Jupiter—Isis, of Vesta—Hathor, of Venus—Neith, of Minerva—and Thoth, of whom Anubis is another form, * is the origin of Mercury.

In this edition, the best text that could be found has been adopted, and in no instance has any emendation been hazarded without express authority; and our own suggestions have throughout been inserted in the notes, or within parentheses. And at the end will be found an index of the authors and manuscripts referred to, as well as the celebrated passages of Porphyry and Clemens relating to Hieroglyphical interpretation.

To Lord Prudhoe, at whose request and expense this work has been completed, and by whom also a very considerable part of the illustrations has been furnished, I beg to return my most sincere thanks. To Sir Gardner Wilkinson's published works I am much indebted, as well as to his assistance in the progress of the work; also to the kindness of Messrs. Burton, Bonomi, Sharpe, and Birch, who have respectively supplied several additional illustrations. But for more convenient reference, I have generally cited Mr. Sharpe's vocabulary, in which are comprised in a condensed form almost all the established discoveries of his predecessors.

The edition of Horapollo by Dr. Leemans has afforded some illustrations, and several of the various readings subjoined; and it is with great pleasure that the reader is referred to chat work for almost every passage contained in ancient authors which has any bearing upon the subject. The kindness of Mr. Bonomi, in executing designs for all the engravings, and of Mr. J. A. Cory, for the frontispiece and plates at the end, I beg with many thanks to acknowledge: and to Mr. I. P. Cory I am indebted for much assistance throughout the whole progress of the work, both in the translation and the notes, and in furnishing many of the illustrations and elucidations of some of the very obscure passages that occur throughout the work; and also for the labour of correcting much of the press, which he undertook for me while unavoidably engaged in other pursuits.

In conclusion, I beg to state, that upon myself must rest the responsibility of all the errors and deficiencies in the work, which I feel convinced cannot but be many; I trust, however, that they will in general be found comparatively unimportant.


Pembroke College, 1840.


Editor's note: Due to Cory's Victorian prudishness,
 his Latin passages containing sexual references have
been translated in the footnotes beneath each verse.


First Book


1.01To denote Eternity they depict the Sun and Moon, because their elements are eternal. But when they would represent Eternity differently, they delineate a Serpent with its tail covered by the rest of its body: the Egyptians call this Ouraius, which in the Greek language signifies Basilisk: And they place golden figures of it round the Gods. The Egyptians say that Eternity is represented by this animal; because of the three existing species of serpents, the others are mortal, but this alone is immortal; and because it destroys any other animal by merely breathing upon it even without biting. And hence, inasmuch as it thus appears to have power over life and death, they place it upon the head of the Gods.


1.02When they would represent the universe, they delineate a Serpent bespeckled with variegated scales, devouring its own tail; by the scales intimating the stars in the universe. The animal is also extremely heavy, as is the earth, and extremely slippery, like the water: moreover, it every year puts off its old age with its skin, as in the universe the annual period effects a corresponding change, and becomes renovated. And the making use of its own body for food implies, that all things whatsoever, that are generated by divine providence in the world, undergo a corruption into it again.


1.03When they would represent a year, they delineate Isis, i.e,. a woman. By the same symbol they also represent the goddess. Now Isis is with them a star, called in Egyptian, Sothis, but in Greek Astrocyon, [the Dog' star]; which seems also to preside over the other stars, inasmuch as it sometimes rises greater, and at other times less; sometimes brighter, and at other times not so; and moreover, because according to the rising of this star we show all the events of the ensuing year: therefore not without reason do they call the year Isis. When they would represent the year otherwise, they delineate a Palm Tree [branch], because of all others this tree alone at each renovation of the moon produces one additional branch, so that in twelve branches the year is completed.


1.04To represent a month they delineate a Palm Branch, or, the Moon inverted. A palm branch for the reason before mentioned respecting the palm tree; and the moon inverted, because they say, that, in its increase, when it has come to fifteen degrees, it appears in figure with its horns erect; and in its decrease, after having completed the number of thirty days, it sets with its horns inverted.


1.05'To represent the current year, they depict [with the sign of the year?] the fourth part of an Arura: now the Arura is a measure of land of an hundred cubits. And when they would express a year they say a quarter [add the quarter?]: for they affirm that in the rising of the star Sothis, the fourth part of a day intervenes between the (completion of the solar year and the) following rising (of the star Sothis), because the year of the God [the solar year] consists of only 365 days; hence in the course of each tetracterid the Egyptians intercalate an entire day, for the four quarters complete the day.


1.06When they would signify God, or height, or lowness, or excellence, or blood, or victory, (or Ares, or Aphrodite,) [Hor or Hathor], they delineate a Hawk. They symbolize by it God, because the bird is prolific and long-lived, or perhaps rather because it seems to be an image of the sun, being capable of looking more intently towards his rays than all other winged creatures: and hence physicians for the cure of the eyes use the herb hawkweed: hence also it is, that under the form of a Hawk, they sometimes depict the sun as lord of vision. And they use it to denote height, because other birds, when they would soar on high, move themselves from side to side, being incapable of ascending vertically; but the hawk alone soars directly upwards. And they use it as a symbol of lowness, because other animals move not in a vertical line, but descend obliquely; the hawk, however, stoops directly down upon any thing beneath it. And they use it to denote excellence, because it appears to excel all birds—and for blood, because they say that this animal does not drink water, but blood—and for victory, because it shows itself capable of overcoming every winged creature; for when pressed by some more powerful bird, it directly turns itself in the air upon its back, and fights with its claws extended upwards, and its wings and back below; and its opponent being unable to do the. like, is overcome.


1.07Moreover, the Hawk is put for the soul, from the signification of its name; for among the Egyptians the hawk is called Baieth: and this name in decomposition signifies soul and heart; for the word Bai is the soul, and Eth the heart; and the heart, according to the Egyptians, is the shrine of the soul; so that in its composition the name signifies 'soul enshrined in heart. Whence also the hawk, from its correspondence with the soul, never drinks water, but blood, by which, also, the soul is sustained.


1.08To denote Ares and Aphrodite (Hor and Athor), they delineate Two Hawks; of which they assimilate the male to Ares (Hor), and the female to Aphrodite (Hathor), for this reason, quod ex cæteris animantibus fœmina mari non ad omnem congressum obtemperat, ut in accipitrum genere, in quo etsi tricies in die fœmina a mare comprimatur, ab eo digressa, si inclamata fuerit paret iterum*. Wherefore the Egyptians call every female that is obedient to her husband Aphrodite (Hathor), but one that is not obedient they do not so denominate. For this reason they have consecrated the hawk to the sun: for, like the sun, it completes the number thirty in its conjunctions with the female.
* 'For the other females do not submit to sexual union with the male as the hawk does. For though she is served by the male thirty times in a day, if called by the male, after being withdrawn, she submits again to his desire.'

When they would denote Ares and Aphrodite (Hor and Athor) otherwise, they depict Two Crows [ravens?] as a man and woman; because this bird lays two eggs, from which a male and female ought to be produced, and, ([except?] when it produces two males or two females, which, however, rarely happens,) the males mate with the females, and hold no intercourse with any other crow, neither does the female with any other crow, till death; but those that are widowed pass their lives in solitude. And hence, when men meet with a single crow, they look upon it as an omen, as having met with a widowed creature; and on account of the remarkable concord of these birds, the Greeks to this day in their marriages exclaim, Ekkoki Kori Korone*, though unacquainted with its import.
* 'Boy, drive away the crow.'


1.09To denote marriage, they again depict Two Crows, on account of what has been mentioned.


1.10To denote an only begotten, or generation, or a father, or the world, or a man, they delineate a Scarabaeus. And they symbolise by this an only begotten, because the scarabaeus is a creature self-produced, being unconceived by a female; for the propagation of it is unique after this manner:—when the male is desirous of procreating, he takes dung of an ox, and shapes it into a spherical form like the world; he then rolls it from the hinder parts from east to west, looking himself towards the east, that he may impart to it the figure of the world, (for that is borne from east to west, while the course of the stars is from west to east): then, having dug a hole, the scarabaeus deposits this ball in the earth for the space of twenty-eight days, (for in so many days the moon passes through the twelve signs of the zodiac). By thus remaining under the moon, the race of scarabaei is endued with life; and upon the nine and twentieth day after having opened the ball, it casts it into water, for it is aware that upon that day the conjunction of the moon and sun takes place, as well as the generation of the world. From the ball thus opened in the water, the animals, that is the scarabaei, issue forth. The scarabaeus also symbolizes generation, for the reason before mentioned—and a father, because the scarabaeus is engendered by a father only—and the world, because in its generation it is fashioned in the form of the world—and a man, because there is no female race among them. Moreover there are three species of scarabaei, the first like a cat, and irradiated, which species they have consecrated to the sun from this similarity: for they say that the male cat changes the shape of the pupils of his eyes according to the course of the sun: for in the morning at the rising of the god, they are dilated, and in the middle of the day become round, and about sunset appear less brilliant: whence, also, the statue of the god in the city of the sun is of the form of a cat. Every scarabaeus also has thirty toes, corresponding with the thirty days duration of the month, during which the rising sun [moon?] performs his course. The second species is the two horned and bull formed, which is consecrated to the moon; whence the children of the Egyptians say, that the bull in the heavens is the exaltation of this goddess. The third species is the one horned and Ibis formed, which they regard as consecrated to Hermes [Thoth], in like manner as the bird Ibis.


1.11To denote a mother, or vision, or boundary, or foreknowledge, or a year, or heaven, or one that is compassionate, or Athena [Neith], or Hera [Saté], or two drachmas, they delineate it a mother, because in this race of creatures there is no male. Gignuntur autem hunc in modum. Cum amore concipiendi vultur exarserit, vulvam ad Boream aperiens, ab eo velut comprimitur per dies quinque*, during which time she partakes neither of food nor drink, being intent upon procreation. There are also other kinds of birds which conceive by the wind, but their eggs are of use only for food, and not for procreation; but the eggs of the vultures that are impregnated by the wind possess a vital principle. The vulture is used also as a symbol of vision, because it sees more keenly than all other creatures; and by looking towards the west when the sun is in the east, and towards the east when the god is in the west, it procures its necessary food from afar. And it signifies a boundary [landmark?] because, when a battle is to be fought, it points out the spot on which it will take place, by betaking itself thither seven days beforehand:—and foreknowledge, both from the circumstance last mentioned,  and because it looks towards that army which is about to have the greater number killed, and be defeated, reckoning on its food from their slain: and on this account the ancient kings were accustomed to send forth observers to ascertain towards which part of the battle the vultures were looking, to be thereby apprized which army was to be overcome. And it symbolizes a year, because the 365 days of the year, in which the annual period is completed, are exactly apportioned by the habits of this creature; for it remains pregnant 120 days, and during an equal number it brings up its young, and during the remaining 120 it gives its attention to itself, neither conceiving nor bringing up its young, but preparing itself for another conception; and the remaining five days of the year, as I have said before, it devotes to another impregnation by the wind. It symbolises also a compassionate person, which appears to some to be the furthest from its nature, inasmuch as it is a creature that preys upon all things; but they were induced to use it as a symbol for this, because in the 120 days, during which it brings up its offspring, it flies to no great distance, but is solely engaged about its young and their sustenance; and if during this period it should be without food to give its young, it opens its own thigh, and suffers its offspring to partake of the blood, that they may not perish from want of nourishment:—and Athena [Neith], and Hera [Saté], because among the Egyptians Athena [ Neith] is regarded as presiding over the upper hemisphere, and Hera [Saté] over the lower; whence also they think it absurd to designate the heaven in the masculine, τόν ούρανόν, but represent it in the feminine, τήν ούρανόν, inasmuch as the generation of the sun and moon and the rest of the stars, is perfected in it, which is the peculiar property of a female. And the race of vultures, as I said before, is a race of females alone, and on this account the Egyptians over any female hieroglyph place the vulture as a mark of royalty [maternity?]. And hence, not to prolong my discourse by mentioning each individually, when the Egyptians would designate any goddess who is a mother, they delineate a vulture, for it is the mother of a female progeny. And they denote by it (ούρανίαν) heaven, (for it does not suit them to say τόν ούρανόν, as I said before,) because its generation is from thence [by the wind]:—and two drachmas, because among the Egyptians the unit [of money] is the two drachmas, and the unit is the origin of every number, therefore when they would denote two drachmas, they with good reason depict a vulture, inasmuch as like unity it seems to be mother and generation.
* 'But they are born in this manner: when the vulture longs for conception, she opens her vagina to the North Wind, and is mounted by him for five days.'


1.12To denote Hephæstus [Phthah], they delineate a Scarabaeus and a Vulture, and to denote Athena [Neith], a Vulture and a Scarabaeus; for to them the world appears to consist both of male and female, (for Athena [Neith] however they also depict a vulture) and; according to them, these are the only Gods who are both male and female.


1.13When they would symbolise the Mundane God, or fate, or the number 5, they depict a Star. And they use it to denote God, because the providence of God maintains the order by which the motion of the stars and the whole universe is subjected to his government, for it appears to them that without a god nothing whatsoever could endure. And they symbolise by it fate, because even this is regulated by the dispositions of the stars:—and also the number 5, because, though there are multitudes of stars in the heavens, five of them only by their motion perfect the natural order of the world.


1.14To denote the moon, or the habitable world, or letters, or a priest, or anger, or swimming, they portray a Cynocephalus. And they symbolise the moon by it, because the animal has a kind of sympathy with it at its conjunction with the god. For at the exact instant of the conjunction of the moon with the sun, when the moon becomes unillumined, then the male Cynocephalus neither sees, nor eats, but is bowed down to the earth with grief, as if lamenting the ravishment of the moon: and the female also, in addition to its being unable to see, and being afflicted in the same manner as the male, ex genitalibus sanguinem emittit*: hence even to this day cynocephali are brought up in the temples, in order that from them may be ascertained the exact instant of the conjunction of the sun and moon. And they symbolise by it the habitable world, because they hold that there are seventy-two primitive countries of the world; and because these animals, when brought up in the temples, and attended with care, do not die like other creatures at once in the same day, but a portion of them dying daily is buried by the priests, while the rest of the body remains in its natural state, and so on till seventy-two days are completed, by which time it is all dead. They also symbolise letters by it, because there is an Egyptian race of cynocephali that is acquainted with letters; wherefore, when a cynocephalus is first brought into a temple, the priest places before him a tablet, and a reed, and ink, to ascertain whether it be of the tribe that is acquainted with letters, and whether it writes. The animal is moreover consecrated to Hermes [Thoth], the patron of all letters. And they denote by it a priest, because by nature the cynocephalus does not eat fish, nor even any food that is fishy, like the priests. And it is born circumcised, which circumcision the priests also adopt. And they denote by it anger, because this animal is both exceedingly passionate and choleric beyond others:—and swimming, because other animals by swimming appear dirty, but this alone swims to whatever spot it intends to reach, and is in no respect affected with dirt.
* 'Emitting blood from her genitals.'


1.15When they would denote the renovation of the moon, they again portray a Cynocephalus in this posture, standing upright, and raising its hands to heaven, with a diadem upon its head; and for the renovation they depict this posture, into which the cynocephalus throws itself, as congratulating the goddess, if we may so express it, in that they have both recovered light.


1.16Again, to signify the two Equinoxes they depict a sitting Cynocephalus, for at the two equinoxes of the year it makes water twelve times in the day, once in each hour, and it does the same also during the two nights; wherefore not without reason do the Egyptians sculpture a sitting Cynocephalus on their Hydrologia (or waterclocks); and they cause the water to run from its member, because, as I said before, the animal thus indicates the twelve hours of the equinox. And lest the contrivance, by which the water is discharged into the Horologium, should be too wide, or on the other hand too narrow, (for against both these caution must be taken, for the one that is too wide, by discharging the water quickly, does not accurately fulfil the measurement of the hour, neither the one that is too narrow, since it lets forth the water little by little, and too slowly,) they perforate an aperture to the extremity of the member, and according to its thickness insert in it an iron tube adapted to the circumstances required. And this they are pleased to do, not without sufficient reason, more than in other cases. They also use this symbol, because it is the only animal that at the equinoxes utters its cries twelve times in the day, once in each hour.


1.17When they would denote intrepidity, they depict a Lion, for he has a great head, and fiery eyeballs, and a round face, and about it hairs like rays in resemblance of the sun; and hence it is, that they place lions under the throne of Horus, intimating the connexion of the animal with the god. And the sun is called Horus from presiding over the Hours.


1.18To denote strength, they portray the Foreparts of a Lion, because these are the most powerful members of his body.


1.19To denote a watchful person, or even a guard, they portray the Head of a Lion, because the lion, when awake, closes his eyes, but when asleep keeps them open, which is a sign of watching. Wherefore at the gates of the temples they have symbolically appropriated lions as guardians.


1.20To signify the terrible they make use of the Same Symbol, because this animal, being the most powerful, terrifies all who behold it.


1.21To signify the rising of the Nile, which they call in the Egyptian language Noun, and which, when interpreted, signifies New, they sometimes portray a Lion, and sometimes Three Large Waterpots, and at other times Heaven and Earth Gushing Forth with Water. And they depict a Lion, because when the sun is in Leo it augments the rising of the Nile, so that oftentimes while the sun remains in that sign of the zodiac, half of the new water [Noun, the entire inundation?] is supplied; and hence it is, that those who anciently presided over the sacred works, have made the spouts [?] and passages of the sacred fountains in the form of lions. Wherefore, even to this day in prayer for an abundant inundation ... And they depict Three Waterpots, or Heaven and Earth Gushing Forth with Water, because they make a waterpot like a heart having a tongue,—like a heart, because in their opinion the heart is the ruling member of the body, as the Nile is the ruler of Egypt, and like [a heart with?] a tongue, because it is always in a state of humidity, and they call it the producer of existence. And they depict three waterpots, and neither more nor less, because according to them there is a triple cause of the inundation. And they depict one for the Egyptian soil, as being of itself productive of water; and another for the ocean, for at the period of the inundation, water flows up from it into Egypt; and the third to symbolise the rains which prevail in the southern parts of Ethiopia at the time of the rising of the Nile. Now that Egypt generates the water, we may deduce from this, that in the rest of the earth the inundations of the rivers take place in the winter, and are caused by frequent rains; but the country of the Egyptians alone, inasmuch as it is situated in the middle of the habitable world, like that part of the eye, which is called the pupil, of itself causes the rising of the Nile in summer.


1.22To designate Egypt, they depict a Burning Censer and a Heart. Above it, implying, that as the heart of a jealous person is constantly inflamed, so Egypt from its heat perpetually vivifies the things which are in or near it.


1.23To symbolize a man that has not travelled out of his own country, they delineate an Onocephalus [creature with an ass's head], because he is neither acquainted with history, nor conversant with foreign affairs.


1.24When they would denote an amulet, they portray Two Human Heads, one of a male looking inwards, the other of a female looking outwards, (for they say that no demon will interfere with any person thus guarded); for without inscriptions they protect themselves with the two heads.


1.25To denote an imperfect man, they delineate a Frog, because it is generated from the slime of the river, whence it occasionally happens that it is seen with one part of a frog, and the remainder formed of slime, so that should the river fall, the animal would be left imperfect.


1.26When they would denote an opening, they delineate a Hare, because this animal always has its eyes open.


1.27To denote speech they depict a Tongue, and a Bloodshot Eye; because they allot the principal parts of speech to the tongue, but the secondary parts thereof to the eyes. For these kinds of discourses are strictly those of the soul varying in conformity with its emotions; more especially as they are denominated by the Egyptians as different languages. And to symbolize speech differently, they depict a Tongue and a Hand Beneath; allotting the principal parts of speech to the tongue to perform, and the secondary parts to the hand as effecting the wishes of the tongue.


1.28To denote dumbness, they depict the number 1095, which is the number of days in the space of three years, the year consisting of 365 days, within which time, if a child does not speak, it chews that it has an impediment in its tongue.


1.29When they would symbolise a voice from a distance, which is called by the Egyptians Ouaie, they portray the Voice of the Air, i.e., Thunder, than which nothing utters a greater or more powerful voice.


1.30To denote ancient descent they depict a Bundle of Papyrus, and by this they intimate the primeval food; for no one can find the beginning of food or generation.


1.31To denote taste they delineate the Extremity of the Gullet, for all taste is preserved thus far: I am speaking however of perfect taste. But to denote imperfect taste they delineate the Tongue upon the Teeth, inasmuch as all taste is effected by these.


1.32When they would represent delight they depict the Number 16; for from this age men begin to hold commerce with women, and to procreate children.


1.33To denote sexual intercourse they depict Two Numbers 16. Cum enim sedecim voluptatem esse diximus; congressus autem, duplici constet, maris ac fœminæ, voluptate, propterea alia sedecim adscribunt*.
* 'For we say that children are born of pleasure. And since sexual intercourse consists in the pleasure of both partners—that of the man and the woman—they add the numbers 16 together.'


1.34When they would denote a soul continuing a long time here, or an inundation, they depict the Phoenix the bird: and they denote the soul by it, because this is the longest lived of all creatures in the world; and an inundation, because the Phoenix is a symbol of the sun, than which nothing is greater in the universe. For the sun passes over all and scrutinises all, hence he is called ... Polys (much).


1.35To denote a man returning home after a long time from a foreign land they again delineate the Phoenix the bird: for this creature, after an interval of 580 years, when the time of death is about to overtake him, returns to Egypt, and as soon as he pays the debt of nature in Egypt, he is mystically served with funeral rites; and whatever rites the Egyptians pay to the rest of the sacred animals, the same are due to the Phoenix: for it is said by the Egyptians to rejoice in the sun more than other birds, and because among them the Nile overflows through the heat of this god; of which matter we discoursed with you a short time since.


1.36When they would denote the heart they delineate the Isis; for this animal is consecrated to Hermes [Thoth], the lord of every heart and of reasoning. The Ibis also is itself in its own shape like the heart, respecting which great discussions are maintained by the Egyptians.


1.37To denote education they represent the Heaven Distilling Dew, intimating that as falling dew alights on all Vegetables, and softens those which have a nature susceptible of being softened, but is unable to operate upon those which essentially remain hard in the same way as upon the others; so also among men education is common to all; and a man of an apt disposition receives it as dew, while a man of a disposition less docile is incapable of doing so.


1.38To denote the Egyptian letters, or a sacred scribe, or a boundary, they delineate Ink, and a Sieve, and a Reed, and they thus symbolise the Egyptian letters, because by means of these things all writings among the Egyptians are executed: for they write with a reed and nothing else: and they depict a Sieve, because the sieve being originally an instrument for making bread is constructed of reed; and they thereby intimate that every one who has a subsistence should learn the letters, but that one who has not should practise some other art. And hence it is that among them education is called Sbo, which when interpreted signifies sufficient food. Also they symbolize by these a sacred scribe, because he judges of life and death. For there is among the sacred scribes a sacred book called Ambres, by which they decide respecting any one who is lying sick, whether he will live or not, ascertaining it from the recumbent posture of the sick person. And a boundary, because he who has learnt his letters has arrived at a tranquil harbour of existence, no longer wandering among the evils of this life.


1.39And again when they would denote a sacred scribe, or a prophet, or an embalmer, or the spleen, or smelling, or laughter, or sneezing, [or government, or a judge,] they depict a Dog. And by this they denote a sacred scribe, because it is necessary for one who is desirous of becoming a perfect sacred scribe to be extremely careful, and to bark perpetually, and to be fierce, fawning upon no one, like dogs. And they symbolise by it a prophet, because the dog gazes intently 1 upon the images of the gods more than all other animals, as does a prophet. And an embalmer of the sacred animals, because he also surveys the naked and dissected forms which are preserved by him. And the spleen, because this animal alone of all other creatures has this organ very light: and whether death or madness seizes him it arises from his spleen. And those who attend this animal in his exequies, when about themselves to die, generally become splenetic; for smelling the exhalations from the dog, when dissecting him, they are affected by them.

And it denotes smelling, and laughter, and sneezing, because the thoroughly splenetic are neither able to smell, nor laugh, nor sneeze.


1.40When they denote government, or a judge, they place close against the dog a Royal Robe, the undress garment: because like the dog, who, as I said before, gazes intently on the images of the gods, so likewise the minister, being in the more ancient times a judge also, used to see the king naked, and on this account they add the royal garment.


1.41To signify the bearer of the shrine,  they depict the Keeper of a House, because by him the temple is guarded.


1.42To signify an Horoscopus [observer of the hours], they delineate a Man Eating the Hours, not that the man eats the hours, for that is impossible, but because food is prepared for men according to the hours.


1.43To represent purity they delineate Fire and Water, because by these elements all purification is perfected.


1.44To denote a thing unlawful, or an abomination, they delineate a Fish, because the feeding upon fish is considered in the sacred rites as abominable, and a pollution: for every fish is an animal that is a desolator [laxative as food?], and a devourer of its own species.


1.45To represent the mouth they depict a Serpent, because the serpent is powerful in no other of its members except the mouth alone.


1.46To denote manliness combined with temperance, they delineate a Bull that has a vigorous constitution*. Calidissimum enim est huic animali membrum, ita ut semel eo in fœminæ vulvam immisso, vel absque ullo motu semen effutiat. Quod si quando a vulvâ vaccæ aberrans, in alium corporis partem membrum intenderit, tum ejus immodicâ intentione vaccani vulnerat. Quin et temperans est: quippe cum nunquam post conceptum, vaccam ineat**.
* 'A Bull that has an erect member.'
** 'For this animal's genital organ is the most hot; by inserting his member once and with hardly any motion into the female, he ejaculates his seed. But if by chance there is a mistake and he thrusts his organ into some other part of the cow's anatomy, then he wounds her with overpowering force. But, on the other hand, he is temperate on account of never entering the female after she has conceived.'


1.47To denote hearing, they delineate the Ear of the Bull, for when the cow is desirous of conception, (and she continues so for not longer than three hours together,) she vehemently lows, and if during this time the bull should not approach her, she reserves herself till another meeting. This however rarely happens; for the bull hears her from a great distance, and knowing that she is inflamed, he hastens to the meeting, and is the only animal that does so.


1.48To denote the member of a prolific man, they depict a Goat, and not a bull: ille enim antequam annum attigerit, coire non solet: hic septem statim post ortum diebus congreditur, infœcundum et genituræ minime accommodum semen excernens. Prius tamen ac celerius cæteris animantibus coit*.
* 'For the bull cannot serve a cow before he is a year old, but the goat mounts the female seven days after birth, ejaculating a sterile and empty sperm. Yet, nevertheless, it matures before all other animals.'


1.49To denote impurity, they delineate an Oryx (a species of wild goat), because when the moon rises, this animal looks intently towards the goddess and raises an outcry, and that, neither to praise nor welcome her; and of this the proof is most evident, for it scrapes up the earth with its fore legs, and fixes its eyes in the earth, as if indignant and unwilling to behold the rising of the goddess. And it acts in the same manner at the rising of (the divine star) the sun. Wherefore the ancient kings, when the Horoscopus apprised them of the rising of the moon, placed themselves near this animal, and by observing the middle of its operations, ascertained, as by a kind of gnomon, the exact time of the rising. And hence the priests, of all other cattle, eat this alone without being previously marked with the seal, inasmuch as it appears to entertain a kind of aversion to the goddess: and in the desert wherever it finds a watering place, after having drunk, it stirs it up with its lips, and mingles the mud with the water, and throws dust into it with its feet, that it may be fit for no other animal to drink; so malicious and odious has the nature of the Oryx been considered. Nor does it act thus unmeaningly, because it is this same goddess who germinates and causes all things whatsoever to increase that are useful in the world.


1.50To denote a disappearance, they delineate a Mouse, because it pollutes and spoils all things by nibbling them. They also make use of the same symbol when they would denote discernment, for when many different sorts of bread lie before him, the mouse selects the purest from among them and eats it. And hence the selection by the bakers is guided by mice.


1.51To denote impudence, they represent a Fly, for this, though perpetually driven away, nevertheless returns.


1.52To represent knowledge, they delineate an Ant, for whatever a man may carefully conceal, this creature obtains a knowledge of: and not for this reason only, but also because beyond all other animals when it is providing for itself its winter's food, it never deviates from its home, but arrives at it unerringly.


1.53When they would denote a son, they delineate a Chenalopex (a species of goose). For this animal is excessively fond of its offspring, and if ever it is pursued so as to be in danger of being taken with its young, both the father and mother voluntarily give themselves up to the pursuers, that their offspring may be saved; and for this reason the Egyptians have thought fit to consecrate this animal.


1.54When they depict a Pelican, they signify both a fool, and an idiot, because although like other winged creatures it is able to deposit its eggs on the higher places, it does not, but it merely scrapes up the earth and there lays its eggs. And the people observing this, surround the place with dried cows’ dung, to which they apply fire. And when the pelican sees the smoke, by endeavouring to extinguish the fire with its wings, she on the contrary kindles it by their motion: and thus, her wings being burnt by the fire, she easily becomes a prey for the fowlers. And because it enters into the contest simply for the sake of its young, the priests consider it unlawful to eat it. But the rest of the Egyptians eat it, alleging that the pelican does not enter into the contest with discretion, as do the geese, but with folly.


1.55To represent gratitude, they delineate a Cucupha, because this is the only one of dumb animals, which, after it has been brought up by its parents, repays their kindness to them when they are old. For it makes them a nest in the place where it was brought up by them, and trims their wings, and brings them food, till the parents acquire a new plumage, and are able to assist themselves: whence it is that the Cucupha is honoured by being placed as an ornament upon the sceptres of the gods.


1.56To symbolize an unjust and ungrateful man, they depict Two Claws of an Hippopotamus turned downwards. For this animal when arrived at its prime of life contends in fight against his father, to try which is the stronger of the two, and should the father give way he assigns him a place of residence, permitting him to live, and consorts himself with his own mother; but if his father should not permit him to hold intercourse with his mother, he kills him, being the stronger and more vigorous of the two. And they make use of the lowest parts of the hippopotamus, the two claws, that men seeing this, and understanding the story of it, may be more inclined to kindness.


1.57To signify a man that is ungrateful and quarrelsome with his benefactors, they delineate a Dove, for when the male becomes the stronger, the drives his father away from his mother, and mates himself with her. This creature however seems to be pure, because when any pestilential epidemic rages, and every thing, animate and inanimate, sickens with disease, those persons alone who feed upon this bird do not share in so great a calamity. Wherefore during such a time nothing is served up to the king as food except the dove alone. And the same food is served up to those who are under a course of purification, that they may minister to the gods. It is likewise reported that this creature has no gall.


1.58To signify an impossibility, they represent a Man's Feet Walking on the Water; or when they would signify the same thing differently, they delineate a Headless Man Walking. And since these are both impossibilities, they have with good reason selected them for this purpose.


1.59To denote a very bad [a very good? a very powerful?] king, they depict a Serpent in the form of a circle, whose tail they place in his mouth, and they write the name of the king in the middle of the coil, intimating that the king governs the world. The serpent's name among the Egyptians is Meisi.


1.60And otherwise to denote a vigilant king, they depict the Serpent (upon the watch), and in the place of the king's name they depict a watcher: for he is the guardian of the whole world; and the king ought to be vigilant everywhere.


1.61Again when they would signify and designate a king who rules the world, they delineate the same Serpent, and in the middle thereof they represent a Large House, and with reason for the royal abode from him ... in the world.


1.62To denote a people obedient to their king, they depict a Bee for this is the only one of all creatures which has a king whom the rest of the tribe of bees obey, as men serve their king. And they intimate from the honey's ... from the force of the creature's sting ... that ... should be both lenient and firm in ... and administration.


1.63When they would symbolize a king who governs not all but a part of the world, they depict Half a Serpent. For by this creature they denote a king, and by half of it, that he is not king over all the world.


1.64They symbolize one who governs all things by the perfect form of the same animal, again depicting the Entire Serpent: for amongst them it is the spirit that pervades the universe.


1.65To denote a fuller,  they depict the Two Feet of a Man in Water, and they depict this from the resemblance of the work.


1.66To represent a month, they depict as before explained the figure of the Moon when it has attained the age of eight and twenty days of equal lengths, each day containing twenty-four hours, for during these it is apparent, and in the remaining two it is in a state of evanescence.


1.67When they would symbolize a rapacious, or prolific, or furious man, they delineate a Crocodile, because it is prolific [?], and fertile in offspring, and furious. For if it fails in its intention of seizing any thing it rages in anger against itself.


1.68To express sunrise they depict the Two Eyes of a Crocodile, because of the whole body of the animal its eyes glare conspicuously from the deep.


1.69To denote sunset, they represent a Crocodile Tending Downwards, for this animal is self productive [?] and inclining downwards.


1.70To denote darkness, they represent the Tail of a Crocodile, for by no other means does the crocodile inflict death and destruction on any animal which it may have caught, than by first striking it with its tail, and rendering it incapable of motion: for in this part lies the strength and power of the crocodile. And now, though there are other appropriate symbols deducible from the nature of the crocodile, those which we have mentioned are sufficient for the first Book.



Here begins the Second Book of Horapollo of Niliacus
on the Interpretation of the
Egyptian Letters.

Now, in this Second Book I will set forth a sound account of what remains. Note also, that I have added things said before by others without explanation.


2.01When a Star is depicted by the Egyptians, it sometimes symbolizes God, sometimes evening, sometimes night, sometimes time, and sometimes the soul of a male man.


2.02An Eaglet symbolizes something prolific of males, or of a circular form, or the seed of man.


2.03Two Feet Conjoined and Advancing, symbolize the course of the sun in the winter solstice.


2.04The Heart of a Man Suspended by the Windpipe signifies the mouth of a good man.


2.05The Hands of a Man, one Holding a Shield and the Other A Bow, when delineated, denote the front of battle.


2.06A Finger denotes the stomach of a man.


2.07Penis manu Compressa* denotes continence in a man.
* 'A penis restrained by a hand.'


2.08The Flowers of the Anemony denote disease of a man.


2.09When we would denote the loins or the constitution of a man we depict the Backbone; for some hold that the seed proceeds from thence.


2.10The Bone of a Quail when delineated symbolizes permanency and safety; because the bone of this animal is difficult to be affected.


2.11Two Men Joining their Right Hands denote concord.


2.12An Armed Man Shooting with a Bow denotes a crowd [troop or army?].


2.13The Finger of a Man denotes admeasurement.


2.14When they would denote a woman pregnant, they portray the Orb of the Sun with a Star and the Sun's Disk Bisected.


2.15A Hawk soaring on high towards the east, signifies the winds; [the spirit or soul?] and again otherwise, a Hawk with its wings expanded in the air symbolizes the wind, as having wings.


2.16Smoke ascending towards heaven denotes fire.


2.17A Bull's Horn when depicted signifies work.


2.18A cow's Horn when depicted signifies punishment.


2.19A Bust portrayed with a Sword denotes impiety.


2.20A River Horse when delineated, denotes an hour.


2.21A Stag shoots its horns every year, and when depicted, signifies anything of long duration.


2.22A Wolf or a Dog Averted denotes aversion.


2.23An Ear when delineated symbolizes a future act.


2.24A Wasp Flying in the Air signifies either the noxious blood of a crocodile, or a murderer.


2.25A Night Raven signifies death; for it suddenly pounces upon the young of the crows by night, as death suddenly overtakes men.


2.26A Noose denotes love as ...


2.27Words and Leaves of a Sealed Book denote the most ancient.


2.28A Ladder signifies a siege by reason of its inequality [?].


2.29Seven Letters included within  Two Fingers [Rings?] symbolize a song, or infinite, or fate.


2.30A straight line with a curved line above it signifies Ten Plane Lines.


2.31When they would signify that the whole of a parent's substance has been left to the sons, they depict a Swallow. For she rolls herself in the mud, and builds a nest for her young, when she is herself about to die.


2.32When they would symbolise a woman who remains a widow till death, they depict a Black Dove; for this bird has no connexion with another mate from the time that it is widowed.


2.33When they would represent a man that is feeble, and unable of himself to help himself, but who does so by the aid of others, they delineate an Ichneumon. For this animal, when it spies a serpent, does not at once attack it, but by its noise calls others to its assistance, and then attacks the serpent.


2.34When they would symbolise the departure of ants, they engrave Origanum. For if this plant be laid down over the spot from whence the ants issue forth, it causes them to desert it.


2.35When they would symbolise one enemy engaging with another equal to himself, they depict a Scorpion and a Crocodile. For these kill one another. But if they would symbolise one who is hostile to, and has slain another, they depict a Crocodile or a Scorpion; and if he has slain him speedily, they depict a Crocodile, but if slowly, a Scorpion, from its tardy motion.


2.36When they would symbolise a woman performing the works of a man, they depict a Weasel; quod maris pudendum habeat velut ossiculum*.
* 'For the female of this animal has sexual parts like a small bone.'


2.37When they would symbolise a filthy man, they depict a Hog; from such being the nature of the hog.


2.38If they would represent immoderate anger, so that he who is angry takes a fever thereby, they depict a Lion Breaking the Bones of its own Whelps. And they portray the lion to signify anger, and the whelps having their bones broken, because the bones of the whelps when struck together emit sparks of fire.


2.39When they would symbolise an old minstrel, they depict a Swan, for when old it sings the sweetest melody.


2.40When they would symbolise a man living in intercourse with his own wife, they depict Two Crows; for these birds cohabit with one another in the same manner as does a man by nature.


2.41When they would symbolise a man who has caught a fever from a stroke of the sun, and died in consequence, they portray a Blind Beetle; for this creature dies after it has been blinded by the sun.


2.42When they would symbolise a barren woman, they delineate a Mule; for this animal is barren, quod matricem rectam non habet*.
* 'Because its uterus is not straight.'


2.43When they would symbolise a woman who has brought forth female infants first, they delineate a Bull inclining towards the Left: and again if male infants, then they delineate a Bull inclining to the right. Is enim ex congressu discedens, si ad lævam conversus fuerit, genitam esse fœminam indicat, si ad dexteram marem*.
* 'For if that animal after mating moves off to the left, its offspring will be female. But if it moves to the right it will produce males.'


2.44When they would denote wasps, they depict a Dead Horse; for many wasps are generated from him when dead.


2.45When they would symbolise a woman who miscarries, they depict a Mare Kicking a Wolf; for not only by kicking a wolf does a mare miscarry, but it immediately miscarries if it should merely tread on the footstep of a wolf.


2.46When they would symbolize a man who cures himself by an oracle, they delineate a Wood Pigeon carrying a Branch of Laurel; for this bird when sick deposits a branch of laurel in its nest, and recovers.


2.47When they would represent many gnats swarming together, they depict Maggots; for from them gnats are engendered.


2.48When they would symbolise a man who has naturally no bile but receives it from another, they depict a Dove with her Hinder Parts erect; for in them she has her bile.


2.49When they would symbolise a man who dwells securely in a city, they depict an Eagle Conveying a Stone; for he takes up a stone, either from the sea or land, and deposits it in his nest, to keep it steady.


2.50When they would symbolise a man that is weak and persecuted by a stronger, they delineate a Bustard and a Horse; for this bird flies away whenever it sees a horse.


2.51When they would denote a man who flees for refuge to his patron, and receives no assistance, they depict a Sparrow and an Owl; for the sparrow when pursued betakes itself to the owl, and being near it is seized.


2.52When they would symbolise a man who is weak and audacious, they portray a Bat, for she flies though destitute of feathers.


2.53When they would represent a woman suckling and bringing up her children well, they again portray a Bat with Teeth and Breasts; for this is the only winged creature which has teeth and breasts.


2.54When they would symbolise a man fond of dancing and piping, they delineate a Turtle Dove; for it is taken by means of a pipe and dancing.


2.55When they would symbolise a mystic man, and one initiated, they delineate a Grasshopper; for he does not utter sounds through his mouth, but chirping by means of his spine, sings a sweet melody.


2.56When they would symbolise a king who keeps himself apartand shows no mercy to delinquencies, they depict an Eagle; for he builds his nest in desert places, and flies higher than all birds.


2.57When they would denote the great cyclical renovation, they portray the bird Phoenix. For when he is produced a renovation of things takes place, and he is produced in this manner. When the Phoenix is about to die, he casts himself vehemently upon the ground, and is wounded by the blow, and from the ichor, which flows from the wound, another Phoenix is produced; which as soon as it is fledged, goes with his father to the city of the sun in Egypt; who when he is come thither, dies in that place at the rising of the sun. And after the death of his father, the young one departs again to his own country; and the priests of Egypt bury the Phoenix that is dead.


2.58When they would denote a man fond of his father, they depict a Stork; for after he has been brought up by his parents he departs not from them, but remains with them to the end of their life, taking upon himself the care of them.


2.59When they would symbolise a woman that hates her own husband, and designs his death, and is complaisant only during intercourse, they delineate a Viper; for when in connexion with the male, she places his mouth in her mouth, and after they have disjoined, she bites the head of the male and kills him.


2.60When they would denote children plotting against their mothers, they delineate a Viper; for the viper is not brought forth in the [usual manner?], but disengages itself by gnawing through the belly of its mother.


2.61When they would symbolise a man who is reproached with accusations and thence falls sick, they delineate a Basilisk; for he kills those that approach him with his breath.


2.62When they would symbolise a man that is burnt with fire, they depict a Salamander; for it destroys with either head.


2.63When they would symbolise a blind man, they depict a Mole; for it neither has eyes, nor does it see.


2.64When they would symbolise a man that never stirs out, they depict an Ant and the Wings of a Bat; because, when these wings are placed over an ant's nest, none of them come forth.


2.65When they would symbolise a man injured by self inflictions, they delineate a Beaver; for when pursued he tears out his own testicles, and casts them as spoil to his pursuers.


2.66When they would symbolise a man who has been succeeded in his property by a son whom he hated, they depict an Ape with a Young Ape Behind It, For the ape begets two young apes, one of which he loves extravagantly, and the other he hates: and the one which he loves he keeps before him and kills with fondling; but the one which he hates he keeps behind him and brings up.


2.67When they would symbolise a man that conceals his own defects, they depict an Ape Making Water; for when he makes water he conceals his urine.


2.68When they would symbolise a man who hears with more than usual acuteness, they portray a She-Goat, for she respires [hears?] through both her nostrils and ears.


2.69When they would symbolise one that is unsettled, and that does not remain in the same state, but is sometimes strong, and at other times weak, they depict an Hyena; for this creature is at times male, and at times female.


2.70When they would symbolise a man overcome by his inferiors, they depict Two Skins, one of an Hyena, and the other of a Panther; for if these two skins be placed together, the panther's shoots its hair, but the other does not.


2.71To denote a man who overcomes his private enemy, they delineate an Hyena turning to the Right; but if himself overcome, they on the contrary depict One turning to the Left; for should this animal, when pursued, turn to the right, it slays the pursuer, but if to the left, it is slain by the pursuer.


2.72When they would indicate a 'man unaffected by evil', especially one who passes through travail fearlessly even until death, they draw the skin of a hyena, for if a man should wrap this skin about his body he will pass through all of his enemies uninjured and fearlessly.


2.73When they would represent a man annoyed by his private enemies, and extricating himself with small loss, they portray a Wolf which has Lost the Extremity of his Tail; for the wolf, when about to be hunted, shoots the hairs and extremity of his tail.


2.74When they would denote a man who is fearful lest accidents should happen unexpectedly to himself, they depict a Wolf and a Stone; for it fears neither iron, nor a stick, but a stone only; and indeed, if any one throw a stone at him he will find him terrified: and wherever a wolf is struck by a stone, maggots are engendered from the bruise.


2.75When they would denote a man calmed by fire even during anger, they portray Lions and Torches; for the lion dreads nothing so much as lighted torches, and is tamed by nothing so readily as by them.


2.76When they would denote a feverish man who cures himself, they depict a Lion Devouring an Ape; for if, when in a fever, he devours an ape, he recovers.


2.77When they would denote a man who after his former excesses at length becomes steady, they portray a Bull Bound about by a wild Fig Branch; for if when violent he is bound with a wild fig branch, he becomes gentle.


2.78When they would symbolise a man whose temperance is easily changed and inconstant, they depict a Bull with his Right Knee Bound Round; for if you bind him by a fetter on his right knee, you will find him follow. And the bull is always assumed as a symbol of temperance, because it never approaches the cow after conception.


2.79When they would symbolise a slayer of sheep and goats, they portray these Animals Eating Fleabane; for if they eat fleabane they die, being cut off by thirst.


2.80When they would symbolise a man eating, they depict a Crocodile with His Mouth Open; for he ...


2.81When they would denote a rapacious and inactive man, they portray a Crocodile with the Wing of an Ibis on his Head; for if you touch him with the wing of an Ibis you will find him motionless.


2.82When they would symbolise a woman that has brought forth once, they depict a Lioness; for she never conceives twice.


2.83When they would symbolise a man born deformed at first, but that has afterwards acquired his proper shape, they delineate a Pregnant Bear, for it brings forth (a mass of) thick and condensed blood, which is afterwards endued with life by being warmed between its thighs, and perfected by being licked with its tongue.


2.84When they would symbolise a powerful man, and one that discerns what things are right, they depict an Elephant with a Trunk; for with this he discerns by smelling, and overcomes all obstacles.


2.85When they would symbolise a king that flees from folly and intemperance, they delineate an Elephant and a Ram; for he flees at the sight of a ram.


2.86When they would symbolise a king that flees from a trifler, they depict an Elephant with a Hog; for he flees upon hearing the voice of the hog.


2.87When they would symbolise a man that is quick in his movements, but who moves without prudence and consideration, they portray a Stag and a Viper; for she flees at the sight of the viper.


2.88When they would symbolise a man that is providing his own tomb, they depict an Elephant burying its own Teeth; for when his teeth fall out, he takes them up and buries them.


2.89When they would symbolise a man that has lived to a proper age, they depict a Dying Crow; for she lives an hundred years according to the Egyptians; and a year among the Egyptians consists of four (of our) years.


2.90When they would denote a man who conceals his depravity within himself, and hides himself so as not to be known by his own friends and family, they depict a Panther; for it secretly pursues the beasts, not suffering its scent to escape, which is [a hindrance in the pursuit?] of other animals.


2.91When they would symbolise a man deceived by flattery, they represent a Stag and a Man Playing on a Pipe; for she is caught while listening to the sweet breathings of the singers as she stands entranced in pleasure.


2.92When they would symbolise the presage of a plentiful vintage, they depict the Hou-Poo; for if this bird sings [moans?] before the season of the vines, it is a sign of a good vintage.


2.93When they would symbolise a man that is injured by the grape and cures himself, they depict a Hou-Poo and the herb Adiantum (maidenhair); for when injured by the grape, if he places a piece of Adiantum in his mouth he is healed.


2.94When they would symbolise a man that guards himself from the plots of his enemies, they depict a Crane on the Watch; for these birds guard themselves by watching in turns during the whole night.


2.95Pædicationem designantes, geminas perdices pingunt: quæ cum viduæ sunt, se invicem abutuntur*.
* 'When they would symbolize pederasty they draw two partridges. For when these partners lose their mates, they make use of each other.'


2.96When they would symbolise an old man dying of hunger, they delineate an Eagle with his Beak Extremely Hooked; for as he grows old his beak becomes extremely hooked, and he dies of hunger.


2.97When they would symbolise a man living perpetually in motion, and agitation of mind, and not even remaining quiet during meals, they depict the Young Ones of a Crow [a crow with its young]; for whilst she flies she feeds her young.


2.98When they would symbolise a man skilled in celestial matters, they depict a Crane Flying; for she always flies very high, to inspect the clouds lest they send forth a storm, that she may remain in quiet.


2.99When they would symbolise a man who through want dismisses his own children, they portray A Hawk with Egg; for though she lays three eggs, she hatches and brings up but one, and breaks the other two: and she does this on account of the loss of her claws at that season, being for that reason unable to bring up all three young ones.


2.100When they would symbolise a man who is tardy in moving with his feet, they delineate a Camel; for this is the only animal which bends the thigh, whence it is called κάμηλος, a camel.


2.101When they would symbolise a man who is impudent and quicksighted, they depict a Frog; for it has no blood except in the eyes alone, and they call those who have blood in those parts impudent: and hence the poet sings, "Drunkard with eyes of dog and heart of stag."


2.102When they would symbolise a man who for a long time is unable to move himself, but who afterwards moves with his feet, they depict a Frog having its Hind Feet; for it is born without feet, but subsequently as it grows acquires its hind feet.


2.103When they would symbolise a man that is hostile to, and secluded from, all men, they depict an Eel for it is found associating with no other fishes.


2.104When they would symbolise a man who saves many in the sea, they depict the Torpedo Fish; for this, when it perceives a number of fishes unable to swim, draws them to itself and preserves them.


2.105When they would symbolise a man that wastefully consumes both things that are requisite and useless, they delineate a Polypus; for after eating much and extravagantly, it lays by food in its holes, and when it has consumed that which is useful, it then throws away that which is useless.


2.106When they would symbolise a man the ruler of his tribe, they depict a Crayfish and a Polypus; for he rules over the polypi, and holds the chief place among them.


2.107When they would symbolise a man who is married to a woman from their very infancy wherein they were born, they depict Pregnant Pinnae; for these when produced within the shell, after a short time are joined with one another, even within the shell.


2.108When they would symbolise a father, or a man who does not provide for himself, but is provided for by his domestics, they depict a Pinna and a Crayfish; for this crayfish remains adhering to the flesh of the pinna, and is called pinnophylax (protector of the pinna), and acts agreeably with its name. For the pinna when hungry always opens her shell, and when, whilst she lies gaping, any little fish comes within it, the pinnophylax pinches the pinna with its claw, which when the pinna perceives, she closes her shell, and thus catches the little fish.


2.109When they would symbolise a man addicted to gluttony, they delineate a Charfish; for this is the only fish which ruminates, and eats all the little fishes which fall in its way.


2.110When they would symbolise a man that vomits up his food, and again eats insatiably, they depict a Seaweasel; for it brings forth through its mouth, and drinks in the seed whilst swimming.


2.111When they would symbolise a man that has commerce with persons of another tribe, they depict the Lamprey; because it ascends out of the sea, and has commerce with the vipers, and straightway returns to the sea.


2.112When they would symbolise a man punished for murder and repenting, they depict a Partinaca (a fish with a sting in its tail,) caught on a Hook; for when caught it casts away the sting in its tail.


2.113When they would symbolise a man that eats unsparingly of another's substance, and afterwards consumes his own, they depict a Polypus; for, if he be in want of food from other things, he eats his own feelers.


2.114When they would symbolise a man that is eager for good, and who instead of it falls into evil, they portray a Cuttlefish; for this fish if it see any other longing to catch it, ejects a black liquid from its belly into the water, so that by these means it is no longer visible, and thus escapes.


2.115When they would symbolise a prolific man, they depict the House-Sparrow; hic enim immodicâ irâ et copiâ seminis ductus septies in horâ fœminam init copiosum semen effutiens*.
* 'For when the house-sparrow is driven to distraction by desire and an excess of seed, it mates with the female seven times in an hour, ejaculating all its seed at once.'


2.116When they would symbolise a man that is constant, and uniformly tempered, they depict a Lyre; for it preserves the continuity of its notes.


2.117When they would symbolise a man previously deranged in his intellects, but afterwards becoming sane, and bringing a degree of regularity into his life, they depict a Syrinx; for it is soothing, and calls to remembrance things that have been pleasurably done; and it produces a very regulated sound.


2.118When they would symbolise a man who distributes justice impartially to all, they depict the Feather of an Ostrich; for this bird has the feathers of its wings equal on every side, beyond all other birds.


2.119When they would symbolise a man that is fond of building, they delineate a Man's Hand; for it performs all works.





(Extracted from Giambattista della Porta; Die Entwicklung der Emblematik)


Die Hieroglyphica des Horapollo: Kryptographie in der Renaissance


Section 5. Die Hieroglyphica des Horapollo

Woher kommt die für die Renaissance typische Wertschätzung der (erst im 19. Jh. entzifferten) Geheimschrift aus dem alten Ägypten? Wir berühren hier einen mehr zeichentheoretischen Aspekt der Kryptogrammatik, der sich Gedanken darüber macht, ob es Sprachen gibt, die dem göttlichen Wort so ähnlich sind, das sie auch die Fähigkeit haben, auf die Dinge der Weltgottgleichgestaltend und verändernd einzuwirken. Für diese Bewertung der Hieroglyphen war die Auffindung und sofortige enthusiastische Rezeption eines Textes bedeutungsvoll: die sogenannte Hieroglyphica, eine spätantike Schrift die einem Horapollo (dem Ägyptischen Gott Horus) zugeschrieben wird. 1419 auf der Insel Andros vom Florentiner Cristoforo Buondelmonti aufgefunden ist die Hieroglyphica bis ins 17. Jh. weit verbreitet und in zahlreiche Nationalsprachen übersetzt.

Was macht diesen Text so aufsehenerregend? Die Hieroglyphica geben eine symbolische Interpretation von ca. 200 "Schriftzeichen" der Alten Ägypter: Sie sind als voneinander abgetrennte Bilder zu lesen und nicht als Elemente einer Schrift im eigentlichen Sinn. Hier ein Beispiel aus diesem eigenartigen Text: "Den Embryo bezeichnen sie mit dem Bild einer Kröte: denn seine Generation geht aus der Verfaulung der Erde hervor, d.h. aus dem Schlamm des Flusses. Und so kann man manchmal eine halb vollständigen Kröte sehen: sie ist zur einen Hälfte Lebewesen und zur anderen eine bestimmte erdhafte Sache. In der Weise, daß ohne Fluß auch keine Kröte existiert." Dieses Beispiel illustriert, was die Renaissance-Humanisten an dieser Interpretation der Hieroglyphen faszinierte: die Doktrin von der imago dissimilis, vom unähnlichen Bild scheint hier, in der Geheimsprache der ägyptischen Priester verwirklicht zu sein. In unserem Beispiel wird der Embryo wird als Kröte dargestellt, also etwas in rätselhafter (und zugleich für den Eingeweihten aufschlußreicher) Weise durch etwas anderes bezeichnet.

In diesem Zusammenhang ist es von zentraler Bedeutung, daß die Lösung des Rätsels uns wichtige Einsichten über das Werden und Vergehen organischer Lebewesen, also: in naturphilosophische Zusammenhänge vermittelt. Die Hieroglyphen sind der Idealfall einer philosophisch bedeutsamen Geheimschrift in Bildern, die und das ist der springende Punktkeinen direkt abbildenden Charakter haben (Embryo=Kröte). Dieser paradoxe Verweis-zusammenhang setzt die Phantasie des Entschlüsselnden in Bewegung: die dabei freigesetzte psychische Energie wird zum Erlernen und Memorieren von Wissen (in unserem Beispiel über die Entstehung der Körper aus den Elementen Wasser und Erde) genutzt. Solche Einsichten in den Gang der Natur sind dann für den Adepten der ägyptischen Geheimschriftkunst in Form eines Bildes (Kröte) kurz: in Form einer ingeniösen Abbreviatur abrufbar.

Faszinierend an den Hieroglyphen ist also deren zeichentheoretisch avancierte Stellung (imago dissimilis), die den interpretierenden Betrachter miteinbezieht, sowie der pädagogische und memorative Effekt der Hieroglyphen, die als Reihen komplexer Konzepte Wissen zugänglich machen und ordnen. Gleichzeitig geht es bei den Bemühungen um die Entzifferung der Hieroglyphen um ein strategisches Wissen. Nämlich um die in der antiken Literatur (Iamblichos, Plutarch) bis hin zu Augustinus verbriefte Fähigkeit der ägyptischen Priester zur Naturbeherrschung (Athanasius Kircher). Die in der Hieroglyphica dargestellte kryptogrammatische Methode ist also in jeder Hinsicht ein für die Renaissance - Humanisten attraktives Modell um den Inhalt ihrer religiösen, politischen, naturphilosophischen und geistigen Erfahrungen unter Eingeweihten auszutauschen.



References in Massey's Works

BB 1:6, 32, 103, 106, 109, 114, 117, 142, 170, 186, 326, 407, 431. BB 2:53, 65, 237, 242, 290, 300, 317, 318, 328, 334, 375, 394, 395, 422, 542, 574, 586, 594, 607, 620, 635, 636, 638, 659, 661, 664. NG 1:8, 17, 28, 37, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 49, 71, 73, 75, 81, 83, 88, 109, 118, 119, 131, 133, 146, 193, 201, 223, 284-5, 297, 323, 325, 326, 332, 335, 344, 383, 385, 467, 482, 511, 522. NG 2:59-60, 76, 138, 179, 182, 194, 216, 246, 248, 249, 259, 279, 303, 304, 307, 315, 343, 352, 407, 429, 438. AE 1:4, 10, 16, 31, 32, 59, 69, 130, 235, 256, 286, 295, 305, 330, 466. AE 2:567, 656, 666, 671, 732.



1. Brill, Leiden, second edition, 1987, p.72.
2. It was reprinted by Chthonios Press of London in 1987 but even that now has been deleted. The only text available of the Hieroglyphica today in a printed format in any language is that by Boas. Fortunately, Internet Sacred Text Archive has republished Cory's edition of the above text.
See www.sacred-texts.com/egy/hh/index.
3. Works, 1927, vol. II, pp.258-60.
4Ibid., vol. II, p.32.
5Ibid., vol. I, pp. 180-81.
6. Idea into Image, Eng. ed., tr. E. Bredeck, Timken, Princeton, NJ, 1992, pp.17-19.
7. Egypt's Legacy, Routledge, London, 1997, p.202.
8. J. Thompson, Sir Gardiner Wilkinson and His Circle, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1992.
9. See NG 1:47. Also, BB 1:659.





This page last updated: 23/12/2007