OSIRIS, one of the principal Egyptian deities, was the brother of Isis and the father of Horus, and is said by many writers to have been the first king of Egypt. His history is given in the first book of Diodorus, and in toe treatise of Plutarch, ' On Isis and Osiris;' but it is not improbable that the genuine Egyptian traditions respecting this deity had been considerably corrupted at the time of these writers. According to their accounts however, Osiris was the first who reclaimed the Egyptians from a stale of barbarism, and taught them agriculture and the various arts and sciences. After he had introduced civilization among his own subjects, he resolved to visit the other nations of the world, and confer on them the same blessing. He accordingly committed the administration of his kingdom to Isis, and gave her Hermes to assist her in council and Hercules to command her troops. Having collected a lareeanny himself, he visited in succession Ethiopia. Arabia, and Indra, and thence marched through central Asia into Europe, instructing the nations in agriculture and the arts and sciences. He left his son Macedon in Thrace and Macedonia, and committed the cultivation of the land of Attica lo Tnptolemus. After visiting all parts of the inhabited world, he returned to Egypt, where he was murdered «on after his arrival by his brother Typhon, who cut up his body into twenty-six parts, and divided it among the conspirators who assisted him in the murder of his brother, tl.e-e parts were afterwards, with one exception, discovered I'V his. who enclosed each of them in a stalue of wax, made to resemble Osiris, and distributed them through different farts of Ezvpt. This myth appears to allude to the fact P. CJ. No. 1045. mentioned by Herodotus, that Osiris was the origin of the mummy form.* Both antient and modern writers have differed considerably respecting the peculiar attributes and powers of this deity. Many of the antients believed that he represented the Sun or the Nile; while his discovery of the vine and his expedition to India led oihers to identify him with Dionysus. (Herod., ii. 144.) Herodotus informs us (ii. 48) that the festival of Osiris was celebrated in almost the same manner as that of Dionysus. It appears however not improbable that the worship of Osiris was introduced into Egypt, in common with the arts and sciences, from the Ethiopian Meroe. We learn from Herodotus (ii. 29) that Zeus (Amnion) and Dionysus (Osiris) were the national deities of Meroe; and we are told by Diodorus (iii. 3) that Osiris led a colony from Ethiopia into Egypt. Osiris was venerated under the form of the sacred bulls Apis and Mnevis (Diod., i. 21); and as it is usual in the Egyptian symbolical language to represent their deities with human forms and with the heads of the animals which were their representatives, we find statues of Osiris represented with the horns of a bull. (Egyptian Antiquities, vol. ii., p. 295, 12mo., 1836.) Osiris, in common with Isis, presided over the world below; and it is not uncommon to find him represented on rolls of papyrus as sitting in judgment on departed spirits. His usual attributes are the high cap, the flail or whip, and the crosier. He is also frequently represented with an artificial beard.
Note - this article incorporates content from The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1840)