Ancient Man and His First Civilizations


Black Cippus


Late Period, 600-300 B.C.


Cippi (a type of stelae) were popular from the sixth century B.C. onwards. They were intended to prevent as well as cure snake bites and scorpion stings. Horus the child (Harpokrates) is shown here in three dimensions, standing on crocodiles and holding dangerous animals.

According to myth, Horus and his mother, Isis, were attacked while hiding in the marshes of the Delta. Thoth, the god of medicine, cured Horus and granted him power over dangerous creatures. On this cippus, the symbol for Isis in the marshes can be seen to the right of Horus' head. She kneels on a mat surrounded by vegetation, with a canopy formed by two protective cobras resting on scorpions. Other gods are also shown, such as Bes above Horus' head and Selkis, the scorpion goddess which is on the left side towards the bottom.

Snakes and scorpions were not a great danger to the average person. Snakes lived in fields and marshes, and only attacked when provoked. Records show that tomb workers were often stung by desert dwelling scorpions but they were not off work for long. These animals were, however, regarded as representatives of the forces of chaos, which constantly threatened the ordered world.