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Harpocrates was the deity of quiet, secrecy, and confidentiality in Ptolemaic Alexandria’s Hellenistic religion.

The Egyptian infant deity Horus, who stood in for the sun’s infancy and rose each day at dawn, served as the inspiration for the Greek hero Harpocrates. The hieroglyph meaning “child” is realized as Horus, a nude youngster with his finger to his lips. Later Greek and Roman poets misinterpreted this gesture and turned Harpocrates into the deity of quiet and concealment, following the lead of Marcus Terentius Varro, who stated in De language Latina of Caelum (Sky) and Terra (Earth):

These gods are the same as those who in Egypt are called Serapis and Isis, though Harpocrates with his finger makes a sign to me to be quiet. The same first gods were in Latium called Saturn and Ops.

Featured image: Harpocratic Eros, terracotta figurine made in Myrina, Greece, c. 100–50 B.C. (Louvre)




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