A Handbook of Egyptian Religion

By Adolf Erman; A. S. Griffith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI

THE EGYPTIAN RELIGION IN EUROPE

IN its decay, the aged tree of the Egyptian Religion put forth a sapling which was destined to overshadow foreign lands to a remarkable degree; throughout the wide Roman empire the worship of Isis and Osiris obtained zealous adherents.

Some knowledge of these gods had long before been introduced by Egyptian sailors and merchants who had settled in the ports and great towns of the Mediterranean. Here they formed Egyptian communities, and their fellow citizens must have felt the contagious attraction of their mysterious festivals. But this would have had no further development had not the attention of the educated classes been arrested. They would in the first place be drawn to the Egyptian beliefs by the vague feeling of veneration which in those countries was accorded to ancient culture and remarkable monuments: in the Roman world there was scarcely any landscape so often represented as that of Egypt with its temples, reed huts and crocodiles. It would, moreover, be supposed that the Egyptians possessed ancient and profound learning; and it was believed that the leaders of the religious world, the Greek philosophers, had acquired the best of their learning from the Egyptian priests. Finally--and for thoughtful minds this was the principal attraction--it was surely among this devout people that the something was to be found, the lack of which was vaguely felt by so many. Religion itself had almost perished among the educated classes, but in many individuals there was a quiet seeking after the supernatural, and anything that could gratify this would be welcome. At the present time we can observe a similar feeling among many of our contemporaries. They have lost the repose

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