IX. Now, the kings of Egypt were always chosen either out of the soldiery or priesthood, the former order being honoured and respected for its valour, and the latter for its wisdom. If the choice fell upon a soldier, he was immediately initiated into the order of priests, and by them instructed in their abstruse and hidden philosophy, a philosophy for the most part involved in fable and allegory, and exhibiting only dark hints and obscure resemblances of the truth. This the priesthood hints to us in many instances, particularly by the sphinxes, which they seem to have placed designedly before their temples as types of the enigmatical nature of their theology. To this purpose,
likewise, is that inscription which they have engraved upon the base of the statue of Athene 1 at Saïs, whom they identify with Isis: "I am everything that has been, that is, and that shall be: and my veil no man hath raised." In like manner the word "Amoun," or as it is expressed in the Greek language, "Ammôn," which is generally looked upon as the proper name of the Egyptian Zeus, is interpreted by Manetho 2 the Sebennite 3 to signify "concealment" or "something which is hidden." 4 Hecataeus of Abdera indeed tells us that the Egyptians make use of this term when they call out to one another. If this be so, then their invoking Amoun is the same thing as calling upon the supreme being, whom they believe to be "hidden" and "concealed" in the universal nature, to appear and manifest itself to them. So cautious and reserved was
the Egyptian wisdom in those things which appertained to religion.
210:1 In Egyptian, TAFNEKHT, the first king of the XXIVth Dynasty.
210:2 An unlikely story, for Tafnekht had no authority at Thebes.
211:1 The Egyptian goddess Net, in Greek Νηιθ, the great goddess of Saïs, in the Western Delta. She was self-existent, and produced her son, the Sun-god, without union with a god. In an address to her, quoted by Mallet (Culte de Neit, p. 140), are found the words, "thy garment hath not been unloosed," thus Plutarch's quotation is correct.
211:2 He compiled a History of Egypt for Ptolemy II., and flourished about B.C. 270; only the King-List from this work is preserved.
211:3 He was a native of the town of Sebennytus.
211:4 Amen means "hidden," and AMEN is the "hidden god."