A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

(Ἄνουβις), an Egyptian divinity, worshipped in the form of a dog, or of a human being with a dog's head. In the worship of this divinity several phases must be distinguished, as in the case of Ammon. It was in all probability originally a fetish, and the object of the worship of the dog, the representative of that useful species of animals. Subsequently it was mixed up and combined with other religious systems, and Anubis assumed a symbolical or astronomical character, at least in the minds of the learned. The worship of dogs in Egypt is sufficiently attested by Herodotus (2.66), and there are traces of its having been known in Greece at an early period; for a law ascribed to the mythical Rhadamanthys of Crete commanded, that men should not swear by the gods, but by a goose, a dog, or a ram. (Eustath.

ad Odyss. p. 1821; Mich. Apost. Centur. Proverb. xvii. No. 7.) The fact that Socrates used to swear by a dog is so well known, that we scarcely need mention it. (Athen vii. p. 300; Porphyr. de Abstin. iii. p. 285.) It is however a remarkable fact, that, notwithstanding this, the name of Anubis is not expressly mentioned by any writer previous to the age of Augustus; but after that time, it frequently occurs both in Greek and Roman authors. (Ov. Met. 9.690, Amor. 2.13. 11; Propert. 3.9. 41; Verg. A. 8.698; Juv. 15.8; Lucian, Jup. trag. 8, Concil. Deor. 10, 11, Toxar, 28.) Several of the passages here referred to attest the importance of the worship of this divinity, and Strabo expressly states, that the dog was worshipped throughout Egypt (xvii. p. 812); but the principal and perhaps the original seat of the worship appears to have been in the nomos of Cynopolis in middle Egypt. (Strab. l.c.) In the stories about Anubis which have come down to us, as well as in the explanations of his nature, the original character--that of a fetish--is lost sight of, probably because the philosophical spirit of later times wanted to find something higher and loftier in the worship of Anubis than it originally was. According to the rationalistic view of Diodorus (1.18), Anubis was the son of king Osiris, who accompanied his father on his expeditions, and was covered with the skin of a dog. For this reason he was represented as a human being with the head of a dog. In another passage (1.87) the same writer explains this monstrous figure by saying, that Anubis performed to Osiris and Isis the service of a guard, which is performed to men by dogs. He mentions a third account, which has more the appearance of a genuine mythus. When Isis, it is said, sought Osiris, she was preceded and guided by dogs, which defended and protected her, and expressed their desire to assist her by barking. For this reason the procession at the festival of Isis was preceded by dogs. According to Plutarch (Is. et Os.) Anubis was a son of Osiris, whom he begot by Nephthys in the belief that she was his wife Isis. After the death of Osiris, Isis sought the child, brought him up, and made him her guard and companion under the name of Anubis, who thus performed to her the same service that dogs perform to men. An interpretation of this mythus, derived from the physical nature of Egypt, is given by Plutarch. (Is. et Os. 38.) Osiris according to him is the Nile, and Isis the country of Egypt so far as it is usually fructified by the river. The districts at the extremities of the country are Nephthys, and Anubis accordingly is the son of the Nile, which by its inundation has fructified a distant part of the country. But this only explains the origin of the god, without giving any definite idea of him. In another passage (l.c. 40) Plutarch says, that Nephthys signified everything which was under the earth and invisible, and Isis everything which was above it and visible. Now the circle or hemisphere which is in contact with each, which unites the two, and which we call the horizon, is called Anubis, and is represented in the form of a dog, because this animal sees by night as well as by day. Anubis in this account is raised to the rank of a deity of astronomical import. (Clem. Al. Strom. v. p. 567.) In the temples of Egypt be seems always to have been represented as the guard of other gods, and the place in the front of a temple (δρόμος) was particularly sacred to him. (Strab. xvii. p.805; Stat. Sylv. 3.2. 112.) For further particulars respecting the worship of Anubis the reader is referred to the works on Egyptian mythology, such as Jablonsky, Panth. Aegypt. v. 50.12, &c.; Champollion (le Jeune), Panthéon Egyptien, Paris, 1823; Pritchard, Egyptian Mythology. We only add a few remarks respecting the notions of the Greeks and Romans about Anubis, and his worship among them. The Greeks identified the Egyptian Anubis with their own Hermes. (Plut. Ibid. 11), and thus speak of Hermanuphis in the same manner as of Zeus Ammon. (Plut. 61.) His worship seems to have been introduced at Rome towards the end of the republic, as may be inferred from the manner in which Appian (App. BC 4.47; comp. V. Max. 7.3.8) describes the escape of the aedile M. Volusius. Under the empire the worship of Anubis became very widely spread both in Greece and at Rome. (Apulei. Met. xi. p. 262; Lamprid. Commod. 9; Spartian, Pescenn. Nig. 6, Anton. Carac. 9.)