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Horapollon ( Greek Ὡραπόλλων Hōrapóllōn , Latinized Horapollo , from Horus and Apollon ) was a late antique philosopher . He lived in the late 5th and early 6th centuries. The same name is also used for the author of a work on Egyptian hieroglyphs , which has come down to us as a Greek translation of a Philippus, with the name Hieroglyphica , and which is dated to the 5th century.


Horapollon came from Egypt, probably from the Thebais , and was the son of an Asklepiades, who also taught him; his grandfather was probably the grammarian Horapollon, who taught in Constantinople . Horapollon also taught grammar in Alexandria , but also philosophy. As he adhered to the pagan religion, he became a victim of the anti-pagan measures of Emperor Zenon : in 484 there were attacks, which in Alexandria led to a split in the philosophical school there. Several pagan philosophers converted to Christianity and betrayed pagan places of worship, and there was even fighting.

However, regardless of these attacks, many conversions were apparently voluntary, such as that of Paralios, a pupil of Horapollon, who only converted after some deliberation after he had questioned the pagan cult activities. In the following years he was particularly committed to Christianity. When he openly professed Christianity, he was beaten down by pagan classmates.

Horapollon was also drawn into the dispute, and his uncle Heraiskos was even murdered. Horapollon was insulted by Christians as psychapollon (soul destroyer), he was arrested and tortured. Several of his students turned away from him. In 485 he moved to Constantinople, where he continued to teach and converted to Christianity. The background was rather profane: Horapollon's wife had left him for her lover and took most of his fortune with her. Preserved papyri prove that Horapollon wanted to seek redress. Deeply disappointed, Horapollon finally turned to Christianity, which Heraiskos is said to have prophesied beforehand.

Horapollon lived in Constantinople at the time of Emperor Anastasios I. He is often ascribed the authorship of the hieroglyphics , but this is not certain.


The text of the hieroglyphics consists of two books with a total of 189 explanations of the hieroglyphs . The work with the Greek title "Des Niloten Horapollon Hieroglyphika" was only discovered in 1419 on the Greek island of Andros , brought to Florence by the Italian merchant Cristoforo Buondelmonti in 1422 and published in the original text - together with the fables of Aesops - in 1505 (today in the Biblioteca Laurenziana , Plut. 69,27). At the end of the 15th century the text became very popular among humanists. The authenticity of the work has been questioned since the 18th century, but at least the first book shows a certain knowledge of hieroglyphics , albeit often mixed with extravagant explanations and misleading symbolism. So it seems very plausible to attribute this work to the ancient priesthood of Egypt of the 5th century, which was largely alienated from its authentic cultural sources. The first Greek edition was produced by Aldo Manuzio (Venice 1505). It was followed by a Latin translation by Willibald Pirckheimer in 1512, for which Albrecht Dürer provided illustrations. Up to the 18th century there were numerous editions and translations, of which the bilingual Greek-French von Kerver (Paris 1543) is outstanding because of its illustrations with which the hieroglyphs are reproduced according to modern imagination in the style of the Renaissance woodcut.

Horapollo's symbolic explanations of hieroglyphics (many of which were actually simple phonetic signs) were common in Hellenism . Encouraged by this, the humanists up to their most famous hieroglyph theorist Athanasius Kircher adopted the view that the writing of ancient Egypt was a magical, symbolic picture writing, so that it took until the Rosetta Stone was found, with whose help Jean-François Champollion deciphered the hieroglyphs could.

In their 1943 edition, Badouin Van de Walle and Joseph Vergote were able to provide evidence that Horapollo had handed down a large number of real hieroglyphs, even if their symbolic interpretation ignored the semiotic peculiarity of most of the hieroglyphs he portrayed.

The second part of the second book deals with animal symbolism and allegories derived from Aristotle , Alian , Pliny and Artemidor , and are probably an appendage of the Greek author Philippos , who claims in the introduction that this work was translated from Egyptian ( i.e. Coptic ) into Greek to have translated.

Early modern editions and translations:

  • Aldus Manutius , Venice 1505
  • a Latin version was started by Willibald Pirckheimer in 1512 at the instigation of Emperor Maximilian I. (MS. Vienna, National Library, ed.Karl Giehlow 1915)
  • Bernardino Trebazio, Augsburg 1515 (first Latin edition), Reprint Basel 1518, Paris 1530, Basel 1534, Venice 1538, Lyon 1542, Lyon 1626
  • Pierre Vidoue, Paris 1521
  • Filippo Fasianino, Bologna 1517 (2nd Latin translation)
  • Manuscript by Nostradamus , 1540, ed. Pierre Rollet 1968
  • Kerver, Paris 1543 (first French and first illustrated version), digitized
  • Gabriele Giolito de 'Ferrari , Venice 1547 (first Italian translation)
  • Jacques Kerver, Paris 1548 (Greek with Latin version by Jean Mercier), new edition by Mercier in 1551
  • Jacques Kerver, Paris 1553 (Mercier's Latin translation of 1548 with French edition)
  • Heinrich Petri, Basel 1554 (first German translation)
  • Antonio Sanahuja, Valencia 1556
  • Galliot du Pré, Paris 1574
  • David Höschel, Augsburg 1595 (based on the manuscript Monacense graec. 419 from Augsburg) Reissued in Augsburg 1606, as part of a work by Pierio Valeriano ( Hieroglyphica, sive de sacris Aegyptiorum aliarumque gentium literis commentarii ) in Frankfurt 1614 ( digitized , University of Heidelberg) , Leipzig 1626 (Latin), Cologne 1631, Frankfurt 1678 ( digitized , University of Mannheim)
  • Aloisii Zanetti, Rome 1597
  • Nicolas Caussin, Paris 1618: Electorum symbolorum et parabolarum historicarum syntagmata , Greek and Latin., Reprinted as De symbolica Aegyptiorum sapientiae Cologne 1622, 1631, 1654, Paris 1634, 1647.
  • ML Charlois, Utrecht 1727
  • Musier, Amsterdam, Paris 1779 (French translation by Martin Requier)

Editions and translations

  • Francesco Sbordone, Naples 1940
  • Badouin Van de Walle and Joseph Vergote, Brussels 1943 (French)
  • Franz Boas, New York 1950 (English), reprint 1993
  • Rizzoli, Milan 1996
  • Heinz Josef Thissen: The Niloten Horapollon hieroglyphic book. KGSaur, Munich 2001.
  • Helge Weingärtner: Horapollo. Two books on hieroglyphics. In the Latin translation by Jean Mercier from the Paris 1548 edition . Ed. Thomas Specht. Small series for art, art history and culture. Vol. 3. Specht, Erlangen 2005. ISBN 3-925325-08-5


Overview representations

  • Richard Goulet: Horapollon. In: Richard Goulet (ed.): Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques . Volume 3, CNRS Éditions, Paris 2000, ISBN 2-271-05748-5 , pp. 804-806
  • John Martindale, John Morris: The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire . Vol. 2. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1980, pp. 569 f.


  • Christopher Haas: Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict . Hopkins, Baltimore 1997. ISBN 0-8018-5377-X
  • Frank R. Trombley: Hellenic Religion and Christianization, c . 370-529 . Vol. 2. Brill, Leiden 1993. ISBN 90-04-09692-2

Web links


  1. ^ Zacharias of Mytilene : Vita Severi.
  2. ^ FR Trombley: Hellenic Religion and Christianization, C. 370-529. Vol. 2, Leiden 1993, p. 3ff.
  3. ^ C. Haas: Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict. Baltimore 1997, p. 328.
  4. ^ Heinrich Schlange-Schöningen : Empire and education in late antique Constantinople . Steiner, Stuttgart 1995, p. 153. ISBN 3-515-06760-4 - The philosopher Damaskios criticized Horapollon's conversion to Christianity as completely unnecessary ( Vita Isidori , frg. 317).