Porphyry and the Abstinence of Food

I was talking with a friend of mine about my dietary restrictions. Then she said something that really stuck with me. “So no fish and no pork or beef. So no four-hoofed animals?”

That was interesting. I hadn’t thought of that. So today, I found this reference to some food that some Ancient Egyptian Priests did not eat. We don’t have too much on this topic from the ancient Egyptians themselves. And Porphyry was a Roman philosopher who was a vegetarian and his work came from from a much later time period, but this is what we have.

As an aside, Aset has asked me to look at the Roman material to fill in what I’m missing from I’m guessing the ancient Egyptian and Greek material. And this would be one of those gaps.

So here it is:

But they abstained from all the fish that was caught in Egypt, and from such quadrupeds as had solid, or many-fissured hoofs, and from such as were not horned; and likewise from all such birds as were carnivorous. Many of them, however, entirely abstained from all animals; and in purifications this abstinence was adopted by all of them, for then they did not even eat an egg. (Porphory. On Abstinence, 4.7)(1).

Sources

(1) Porphyry. On Abstinence from Animal Food. translated by Thomas Taylor. 1823. Pages 110-128. Found here: On Abstinence from Animal Food: Book 4

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2 thoughts on “Porphyry and the Abstinence of Food

  1. Porphyry lived under the Roman Empire, but he was from Tyre, so probably had a fair amount of contact with Egyptians all his life. On the issue of Egyptian dietary restrictions, it’s perhaps worth noting that modern Coptic and Ethiopian Christians observe frequent “fasts” around holy days that consist, not in abstaining from all food, but only from animal-based foods. As this comes from nothing peculiar to Christianity, it could be argued that it derives from ancient Egyptian practice.

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