ANIMALS

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TT100,  Mortuary Chapel of Rekhmire, Sheikh Abd el QurnaTheban Necropolis

"As regards the consecration of animals in Egypt, the practice naturally appears to many to be extraordinary and worthy of investigation. For the Egyptian venerate certain animals exceedingly, not only during their lifetime but even after their death, such as cats, ichneumons [mongooses/mongeese] and dogs, and, again, hawks and the birds which they call "ibis," as well as wolves and crocodiles and a number of other animals of that kind ...

But if what has been said seems to many incredible and like a fanciful tale, what is to follow will appear far more extraordinary. Once, they say, when the inhabitants of Egypt were being hard pressed by a famine, many in their need laid hands upon their fellows, yet not a single man was even accused of having partaken of the sacred animals.  Furthermore, whenever a dog is found dead in any house, every inmate of it shaves his entire body and goes into mourning, and what is more astonishing than this, if any wine or grain or any other thing necessary to life happens to be stored in the building where one of these animals has expired, they would never think of using it thereafter for any purpose.  And if they happen to be making a military expedition in another country, they ransom the captive cats and hawks and bring them back to Egypt, and this they do sometimes even when their supply of money  for the journey is running short.  As for ceremonies connected with the Apis of Memphis, the Mnevis of Heliopolis and the goat of Mendes, as well as with the crocodile of the Lake of Moeris, the lion kept in the City of Lions (Leontopolis), as it is called, and many other ceremonies like them, they could easily be described, but the writer would scarcely be believed by any who had not actually witnessed them.  For these animals are kept in sacred enclosures and cared for by many men of distinction who offer them the most expensive fare; for they provide, with unfailing regularity, the finest wheaten flour or wheat-groats seethed in milk, every kind of sweetmeat made with honey, and the meat of ducks, either boiled or baked, while for the carnivorous animals birds are caught and thrown to them in abundance, and, in general, great care is given that they have an expensive fare. They are continually bathing the animals in warm water, anointing them with the most precious ointments, and burning before them every kind of fragrant incense; they furnish them with the most expensive coverlets and with splendid jewellery, and exercise the greatest care that they shall enjoy sexual intercourse according to the demands of nature; furthermore, with every animal they keep the most beautiful females of the same genus, which they call his concubines and attend to at the cost of heavy expense and assiduous service. When any animal dies they mourn for it as deeply as do those who have lost a beloved child, and bury it in a manner not in keeping with their ability but  going far beyond the value of their estates. For instance, after the death of Alexander and just subsequently to the taking over of Egypt by Ptolemy the son of Lagus, it happened that the Apis in Memphis died of old age; and the man who was charged with the care of him spent on his burial not only the whole of the very large sum which had been provided for the animal's maintenance, but also borrowed in addition fifty talents of silver from Ptolemy. And even in our own day some of the keepers of these animals have spent on their burial not less than one hundred talents."

--- Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, Book I, 83 & 84

Egyptian attitudes toward animals fall into three major categories:

     1) animals for food,

     2) animals for religious applications,

     3) companion animals (pets).

"Meat was a luxury.  Herds were probably grazed on swampy, marginal land, especially in the delta.  The most prestigious meat was beef, but mutton, pork and goat were probably also eaten, as was the flesh of various species of antelope.  Fowl was the food of the rich.  Pigeon, which is very common in Egypt today, was eaten, probably the birds being raised in dovecotes, as were ducks, geese and various game birds.  Chickens were not known before the New Kingdom, and probably became common only in the Greco-Roman Period."

"One area of popular and official religious life that impressed foreigners in antiquity was animal worship.  There had always been animals kept as sacred to particular deities - or possibly worshiped as deities in their own right - and buried ceremonially.  In the Late Period these practices proliferated enormously.  The species associated with the main deity of an area was often held sacred there, and either a single member of it or all members were mummified and buried.  To pay for an animal' s burial was a 'good deed.'  In Memphis, whose population was no doubt very mixed, many species were buried.  The most famous is the Apis bull, sacred to Ptah, which was  buried in one catacomb (the Serapeum) and its mother in a second, while ibises, dogs or jackals, cats, baboons, ichneumons <mongooses/mongeese> and rams are all attested in varying numbers.  Other species, including several types of fish, snakes and crocodiles, are known from other parts of the country.  A whole town sprang up in the desert at north Saqqara to cater for these needs, and ibises were farmed on an almost industrial scale, before being probably hastened to their death.  These practices, whose precise understanding eludes us still, were common to all classes of society." 

--- Baines, John and Jaromir Malek. (1984)  Atlas of Ancient Egypt, page 16 & page 211
 

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CATS

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DOGS

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CHEETAHS

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CROCODILES

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BABOONS

"One comes next to the Cynopolite Nome, and to Cynonpolis, where Anubis is held in honour where a form of worship and sacred feeding has been organised for all dogs. On the far side of the river lie the city Oxyrynchus and a nome bearing the same name. They hold in honour the oxyrynchus and have a temple sacred to Oxyrynchus, though the other Aegyptians in common also hold in honour the oxyrynchus. In fact, certain animals are worshipped by all Aegyptians in common, as, for example, three land animals, bull and dog and cat, and two birds, hawk and ibis, and two aquatics, scale-fish and oxyrynchus, but there are other animals which are honoured by separate groups independently of the rest, as, for example, a sheep by the Saïtae and also by the Thebans; a latus, a fish of the Nile, by the Latopolitae; a lycus [wolf] by the Lycopolitae; a cynocephalus [dog-faced baboon] by the Hermopolitae; a cebus [monkey] by the Babylonians who live near Memphis (the cebus has a face like a satyr, is between a dog and a bear in other respects, and is bred in Aethiopia); an eagle by the Thebans; a lion by the Leontopolitae; a female and male goat by the Mendesians; a shrew-mouse by the Athribitae, and other animals by other peoples; but the reasons which they give for such worship are not in agreement."

--- Strabo, Geography, Book XVII, 40

© 2020 by Marian Marion Kebab