Leo, Aegyptius

Leo, Aegyptius or THE EGYPTIAN. The early Christian writers, in their controversy with the heathen, refer not unfrequently to a Leo or Leon as having admitted that the deities of the ancient Gentile nation had originally been men, agreeing in this respect with Evemerus, with whom he was contemporary, if not perhaps rather earlier. Augustine (De Consensu Evangel. 1:33, and De Civ. Dei, 8:5), who is most explicit in his notice of him, says he was an Egyptian priest of high rank, "magnus antistes," and that he expounded the popular mythology to Alexander the Great in a manner which, though differing from those rationalistic explanations received in Greece, accorded with them in making the gods (including even the Dii majorum gentium) to have originally been men. Augustine refers to an account of the statements of Leo contained in a letter of Alexander to his mother. It is to be observed, though Leo was high in his priestly rank at the time when Alexander was in Egypt (B. C. 332-331), his name is Greek; and Arnobius (adv. Gentes, 4:29) calls him Leo Pellceus, or Leo of Pella, an epithet which Fabricius does not satisfactorily explain. Worth (Not. ad Tatian. p. 96, ed. Oxford, 1700) would identify our Leo with Leo of Lampsacus, the husband of Themista or Themisto, the female Epicurean (Diog. Laert. 10:5, 25); but the husband of Themista was more correctly called Leonteus, while the Egyptian is never called by any other name than Leo. Arnobius speaks in such a way as to lead us to think that in his day the writings of Leon on the human origin of the gods were extant and accessible, but it is possible he refers, like Augustine, to Alexander's letter. The reference to Leon in Clemens Alexandrinus is not more explicit (Stromata, 1:21, § 106, 1. 139, Sylburg; p. 382, edit. Pott; 2:75, edit. Klotz, Lipsiae, 1831, 12mo). But Tatian's distinct mention of the ῾Υπομνήματα, or Commentaries of Leo, shows that tI is system had been committed to writing by himself; and Tertullian (De Corona, 100:7) directs his readers "to unroll the writings of Leo the Egyptian." Hyginus (Poeticon Astronomicon, 100:20) refers to Leon as though he wrote a history of Egypt ("Quires AEgyptiacus scripsit"); and the scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius (4:262) gives a reference here to what Leon had said respecting the antiquity of the Egyptians, probably depending upon the statements of Alexander. See Fabricius, Bibl. Graeca, 7:713, 719; 11:664; Voss, De Hist. Graec. libri 3, p. 179, edit. Amsterdam, 1699. — Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog. 2:742.

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