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some humour. A Grecian is made to address himself to an Egyptian: and he accordingly says," It is impossible for me to ride in the "same troop with you: for our notions and "manners are diametrically opposite. You 66 pay adoration to an ox: I kill and sacrifice "it to the gods. You esteem an eel to be a very great divinity. I only think it the best "dish that comes upon table. You worship a dog. I whip him handsomely; especi"ally if I find the cur purloining my dinner."
These punishments, brought upon the Egyptians, bore a strict analogy with their crime. They must therefore have been greatly alarmed when they beheld their sacred stream defiled with blood, their land infected, and themselves almost poisoned with their stinking deities. The evil reached the land of Goshen; for it seemed proper, that the Israelites should partake in it; that the impression might be the stronger on their minds. One great reason for this part of the punishment was to give them a thorough disgust to this worship, that they might not hereafter lapse into this popular idolatry. For it is to be observed, as they were to be conducted to the land of Canaan, and to the confines of Syria, that there
were many nations in those parts, among whom this worship was common.
Of the Compound Deity Atargatis.
And here it is proper to take notice, that there was a female deity, called Athor in Egypt: but in Syria ' Atar-Cetus, or Atargatis; and abbreviated Dercetus and Derceti. This personage was supposed to have been of old preserved by means of a 3 fish and was represented one half under that form; and the other half as a woman. She was esteemed to be the same as the Aphrodite of the Greeks, and the Venus of the Romans: whose origin
1 Atar-catus, or cetus, signifies the fish Atar. Catus and Cetus in many languages signified a fish.
Pliny speaking of Joppa says--colitur illic fabulosa Ceto. 1. 5. c. 13. p. 260. This was the same as Derceto and Atargetis.
Aτagɣativ TEY Abagar. Atargatis was the goddess Athar. Strabo, 1. 16. p. 1132.
3 Ο μέγας καλεμενος ιχθυς-εν λίμνη τινί κατα την Βαμβύκην, εμπ πίσωσης δε της Δερματες νυχτός σώσαι αυτήν. Eratosthenis Karasigious xlus. Some speak of more fishes than one. Schol. in Arat. P. 32.
Ημισεη μεν γυνή, το δε άκοσον εκ μήρων εις ακρες πόδας, ιχθεις
ούρη αποτείνεται. Lucian de Syriâ Deâ, p. 884.
At Hierapolis she was represented intirely in the form of a woman, πασα γυνή. Ibid. p. 884.
was from the sea. In consequence of this, wherever her worship prevailed, fish were esteemed sacred; and the inhabitants would not feed upon them. This was the case at ' Edessa, called Hierapolis, where Atargatis, or Derceto, was held in particular veneration. Xenophon, in his march through these parts, observed, in a river called Chalus, many large fishes, which appeared tame, and were never taken for food: the natives esteeming them as gods. Lucian tells us, that this worship was of great antiquity; and was introduced into these parts from Egypt. The same
Βαμβύκη πολις--ην και Έδεσσαν, και Ιεραν πολιν καλεσιν. εν ή τις βωσι Συριαν θεον, την Αταργάτιν. Strab. l. 16. p. 1085. Κατα την παλαι Βαμβύκην ιχθυες εισιν ἱεροι. Elian de An. 1. 12. c. 2. p. 661.
Ibi prodigiosa Atargatis, Græcis autem Derceto dicta, colitur. Pliny, 1. 5. c. 23. p. 266. Theon tells us, that out of honour to the goddess, the Syrians abstained from fish, οι Σύριοι ιχθύων απεχονται. Schol. in Aratum, p. 32.
Some say, that Derceto was turned into a fish.
Joh. Tzetzes. Chil. ix. Hist. 275. 172.
-------πλήρη ιχθύων μεγάλων και πραίων, ὡς οι Σύροι θεός ενομιζον. Aval. 1, 1. P. 254.
3 De Syriâ Deâ, p. 877. He stiles the temples-a8x810 και μέγαλα ίρα. ibid. p. 881.
custom seems to have been kept up in Babylonia: but what was of more consequence to the Israelites, it prevailed within their own borders. Dagon of Ashdod, or Azotus, was the same deity and represented under a like figure as Atargatis. The same rites and abstinence were observed also at Ascalon. Di
odorus Siculus speaks of this city, which he places in Syria, rather than Palestine; at no great distance from which he says was a large lake, abounding with fishes. Near it was a noble temple of the goddess Derceto, whom they represented with the face of a woman, but from thence downwards under the figure of a fish. The history of Derceto in this place was, that she threw herself into this lake, and was changed to a fish. On which account the inhabitants of Ascalon, and of some
' Cogitat, et dubia est, de te Babylonia narret Derceti, quam versâ, squamis velantibus artus, Stagna Palæstinæ credunt celebrâsse figurâ.
·Ovid. Met. 1. 4. v. 44, 45.
Manilius makes it a Babylonish history;
Astronom. 1. 4. v. 577.
2 1 Samuel c. 5. v. 2, 3, 4.
3 Diodorus. Sic. 1. 2. p. 92.
4 Διο και τις Συρες μεχρι τε νυν απεχεσθαι τότε το ζωές και τιμή TS 1xbus Ms Drs.
parts of Syria, abstained from fish: and held those of the lake as so many deities.
Extent of this Worship.
However strange this idolatry may appear, yet we see how very far it reached; and with what a reverence it was attended. It was to be found not only in Syria, which was sufficiently near; but in the borders of' Lebanon; also at Ascalon, Ashdod, and Joppa; which cities were within the precincts of the tribes of Dan and Judah. These prodigies therefore in Egypt were very salutary and well directed. They must have had a great influence upon the Israelites; and been attended with a permanent disgust and abhorrence. The fallacy too of the worship must have been apparent : when judgments were thus executed upon these reputed deities: who could neither protect their votaries, nor defend themselves. Whose priests and magicians were obliged to sue to the servants of the true God to remedy those evils, which the popular gods were not
Τες ιχθυς έτω σεβεσι περίττως, ὡς Ηλείοι τον Δια. Clemens Alex. Cohort. p. 35.
Δερκετες δε είδος εν Φοινική εθηησάμην. Lucian de Syria Dea,