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The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo Nilous

translated by Alexander Turner Cory


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Horapollo, the traditional author of this work, was one of the last priests of the Ancient Egyptian religion in the fifth century C.E. His only extant work is this, the Hieroglyphica, which claims to be an explanation of the Egyptian Hieroglyphs, mixed with a great deal of ancient, and often wrong, natural history. It was translated two centuries later into Greek. The text was rediscovered in 1422, and it was first put into print in 1505.

By the time that Egyptian was finally deciphered in the 19th century, the Hieroglphics of Horapollo fell out of favor. A few of the examples in the beginning of the book turned out to be correct, or close to correct. What makes this book of continued interest is that it can be read in a number of ways: a glimpse into an archaic mindset, a mystical inventory of the universe, or a series of surreal images.

Production Notes: I had to omit the parallel Greek text which appears in the original book. For this reason, I also omitted any footnotes which only pertained to the Greek, not to the English translation. Portions of this book were in Latin. These parts are transcribed verbatim, with no attempt to translate them.

Title Page

The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo Nilous

Title Page and Front Matter

Book I

I. How They Denote Eternity
II. How the Universe
III. How A Year
IV. How A Month
V. How the Current or Civil Year
VI. What They Signify by Delineating a Hawk
VII. How They Indicate the Soul
VIII. How Ares and Aphrodite (Hor and Hathor)
IX. How Marriage
X. How an Only Begotten
XI. What They Imply by Depicting a Vulture
XII. How They Denote Hephæstus [Phthah]
XIII. What They Intimate When They Depict a Star
XIV. What They Denote When They Pourtray A Cynocephalus
XV. How They Denote the Renovation of the Moon
XVI. How the Two Equinoxes
XVII. How They Denote Intrepidity
XVIII. How They Denote Strength
XIX. How They Denote a Watchful Person
XX. How the Terrible
XXI. How the Rising of the Nile
XXII. How They Designate Egypt
XXIII. How a Man That Has Not Travelled Abroad
XXIV. How an Amulet [Protection]
XXV. How They Denote an Imperfect Man
XXVI. How an Opening
XXVII. How Speech
XXVIII. How Dumbness
XXIX. How a Voice From a Distance
XXX. How Ancient Descent
XXXI. How Taste
XXXII. How Delight
XXXIII. How Sexual Intercourse
XXXIV. How a Soul Continuing a Long Time Here
XXXV. How a Man Returning Home After a Long Time From a Foreign Land
XXXVI. How They Denote the Heart
XXXVII. How Education
XXXVIII. How the Egyptian Letters
XXXIX. How a Sacred Scribe
XL. In What Manner They Represent Government, or a Judge
XLI. How They Signify the Bearer of the Shrine
XLII. How They Represent an Horoscopus [Observer of the Hours.]
XLIII. How They Denote Purity
XLIV. How They Intimate a Thing Unlawful, or an Abomination
XLV. How They Represent the Mouth
XLVI. How Manliness Combined with Temperance
XLVII. How Hearing
XLVIII. How the Member of a Prolific Man
XLIX. How They Denote Impurity
L. How a Disappearance
LI. How Impudence
LII. How They Represent Knowledge
LIII. How They Represent a Son
LIV. How a Fool
LV. How They Represent Gratitude
LVI. How an Unjust and Ungrateful Man
LVII. How One Who is Ungrateful to His Benefactors
LVIII. How an Impossibility
LIX. How a Very Bad King
LX. How a Vigilant King
LXI. How They Designate a Ruler of the World
LXII. How a People Obedient to Their King
LXIII. How a King Who Governs a Part of the World
LXIV. How One Who Governs All Things
LXV. How a Fuller
LXVI. How a Month
LXVII. How a Rapacious, or Prolific, or Furious Man
LXVIII. How Sunrise
LXIX. How Sunset
LXX. How They Shadow Forth Darkness

Book II.

I. What They Signify By Depicting A Star
II. What by an Eaglet
III. What by Two Feet Conjoined and Advancing
IV. What by the Heart of a Man Suspended by the Windpipe
V. How They Denote the Front of Battle
VI. What by a Finger
VII. Quid Penis Manu Compressa
VIII. How They Denote Disease
IX. How the Loins of a Man
X. How They Symbolize Permanency and Safety
XI. How Concord
XII. How a Crowd
XIII. How Admeasurement
XIV. How a Woman Pregnant
XV. How Wind
XVI. How Fire
XVII. How a Work
XVIII. How Punishment
XIX. How Impiety
XX. How an Hour [Execration?]
XXI. How Anything of Long Duration
XXII. How Aversion
XXIII. How a Future Act
XXIV. How a Murderer, or the Blood of a Crocodile
XXV. How Death
XVI. How Love
XXVII. How the Most Ancient
XXVIII. How a Siege
XXIX. How Infinite, or a Song, or Fate
XXX. What One Line Bent Over Another Signifies
XXXI. What They Denote by Depicting a Swallow
XXXII. What by a Black Dove
XXXIII. What by an Ichneumon
XXXIV. What They Denote by Engraving Origanum (Wild Marjoram) for a Hieroglyphic
XXXV. What by a Scorpion and Crocodile
XXXVI. What by a Weasel
XXXVII. What by a Hog
XXXVIII. How Immoderate Anger
XXXIX. How an Old Minstrel
XL. How They Denote a Man Who Lives with his Wife
XLI. What They Intimate by Pourtraying a Blind Beetle
XLII. What They Design by Depicting a Mule
XLIII. How They Denote a Woman who has Brought Forth Female Infants
XLIV. How They Denote Wasps
XLV. How A Woman Who Miscarries
XLVI. How a Man Who Cures Himself by an Oracle
XLVII. How a Swarm of Gnats
XLVIII. How a Man That Has No Bile, But Receives It From Another
XLIX. How a Man Who Dwells Securely in a City
L. How a Man Who is Weak and Persecuted by Another
LI. How They Denote A Man Who Flees For Refuge to his Patron, and Receives No Assistance
LII. How They Represent a Weak Man That is Audacious
LIII. How a Woman Suckling and Bringing Up Her Children Well
LIV. How a Man Fond of Dancing
LV. How a Mystic Man
LVI. How a King who Keeps Himself Apart, and Shews No Mercy to Delinquencies
LVII. How the Great Cyclical Renovation
LVIII. How One Who is Fond of His Father
LIX. How a Woman That Hates Her Husband
LX. How They Denote Children Plotting Against Their Mothers
LXI. How They Denote a Man Who Sickens Under the Reproach of Accusation
LXII. How a Man that is Burnt with Fire
LXIII. How a Blind Man
LXIV. How a Man That Never Stirs Out
LXV. How a Man who is Injured by Self-Inflictions
LXVI. How a Man Who Has Been Succeeded in His Property by a Son Whom He Hated
LXVII. How a Man That Conceals His Own Defects
LXVIII. How One Who Hears With More Than Usual Acuteness
LXIX. How an Unsettled Person
LXIX. How a Man Overcome by his Inferiors
LXX. How a Man Who Overcomes His Private Enemy
LXXII. How a Man Who Passes Fearlessly Through the Evils Which Assail Him
LXXIII. How a Man Annoyed by his Private Enemies
LXXIV. How a Man Who is Fearful Lest Accidents Should Happen Unexpectedly to Himself
LXXV. How a Man Calmed by Fire During Anger
LXXVI. How a Feverish Man Who Cures Himself
LXXVII. How a Man who Becomes Steady at Last After his Former Excesses
LXXVIII. How a Man Whose Temperance is Easily Changed
LXXIX. How a Slayer of Sheep and Goats
LXXX. How They Denote a Man Eating
LXXXI. How They Denote a Rapacious and Inactive Man
LXXXII. How a Woman That Has Brought Forth Once
LXXXIII. How a Man Who is at First Deformed
LXXXIV. How a Powerful Man, and One That Discerns What Things Are Right
LXXXV. How a King That Flees From Folly and Intemperance
LXXXVI. How a King that Flees from a Trifler
LXXXVII. How a Man That is Quick in his Movements, But Who Moves Imprudently and Inconsiderately
LXXXVIII. How a Man That is Providing His Own Tomb
LXXXIX. How a Man that has Lived to a Proper Age
XC. How a Man who Conceals his Depravity within Himself
XCI. How a Man Deceived by Flattery
XCII. How the Presage of a Plentiful Vintage
XCIII. How a Man Having Received Injury from the Grape
XCIV. How a Man that Guards Himself from the Plots of His Enemies
XCV. Quomodo Pædicationem
XCVI. How an Old Man Dying of Hunger
XCVII. How a Man Living Perpetually in Motion, and Agitation of Mind
XCVIII. How a Man Skilled in Celestial Matters
XCIX. How a Man Who Through Want Dismisses His Own Children
C. How a Man Who is Tardy in Moving With His Feet
CI. How a Man Who is Impudent and Quick-Sighted
CII. How a Man Unable to Move Himself
CIII. How a Man Hostile to All
CIV. How a Man Who Saves Many in the Sea
CV. How a Man that Wastefully Consumes Both Things that Are Requisite and Things That Are Not
CVI. How a Man the Ruler of his Tribe
CVII. How a Man who is Married to a Woman
CVIII. How a Man that Does Not Provide For Himself
CIX. How a Man Addicted to Gluttony
CX. How a Man that Vomits Up His Food
CXI. How a Man That Has Commerce With Persons of Another Tribe
CXII. How a Man Punished for Murder
CXIII. How a Man that Eats Unsparingly of Another's Substance
CXIV. How a Man That is Eager After Good
CXV. How a Prolific Man
CXVI. How a Man That is Constant, and Uniformly Tempered
CXVII. How a Man Previously Deranged in His Intellects, but Afterwards Becoming Sane
CXVIII. How a Man Who Distributes Justice Impartially to All
CXIX. How a Man That is Fond of Building
Index of the Abbreviations Used