In late Greek mythology as developed in Ptolemaic Alexandria, Harpocrates is the god of silence. Harpocrates was adapted by the Greeks from the Egyptian child god Horus. To the ancient Egyptians, Horus represented the new-born Sun, rising each day at dawn. When the Greeks conquered Egypt under Alexander the Great, they transformed the Egyptian Horus into their Hellenistic god known as Harpocrates, a rendering from Egyptian Har-pa-khered or Heru-pa-khered (meaning "Har, the Child").
In Egyptian mythology, Horus was conceived by Isis, the mother goddess, from Osiris, the original god-king of Egypt, who had been murdered by his brother Set, and thus became the god of the underworld. The Greeks melded Osiris with their underworld god, Hades, to produce the essentially Alexandrian syncretism, Serapis.
Among the Egyptians the full-grown Horus was considered the victorious god of the Sun who each day overcomes darkness. He is often represented with the head of a sparrowhawk, which was sacred to him, as the hawk flies high above the Earth. Horus fought battles against Set, until he finally achieved victory and became the ruler of Egypt. All the Pharaohs of Egypt were seen as reincarnations of the victorious Horus.
Stelae depicting Heru-pa-Khered standing on the back of a crocodile, holding snakes in his outstretched hands were erected in Egyptian temple courtyards, where they would be immersed or lustrated in water; the water was then used for blessing and healing purposes as the name of Heru-pa-Khered was itself attributed with many protective and healing powers.
In the Alexandrian and Roman renewed vogue for mystery cults at the turn of the millennium — mystery cults had already existed for almost a millennium — the worship of Horus became widely extended, linked with Isis (his mother) and Serapis (Osiris, his father).
In this way Harpocrates, the child Horus, personifies the newborn sun each day, the first strength of the winter sun, and also the image of early vegetation. Egyptian statues represent the child Horus, pictured as a naked boy with his finger on his mouth, a realization of the hieroglyph for "child" that is unrelated to the Greco-Roman and modern gesture for "silence". Misunderstanding this sign, the later Greeks and Roman poets made Harpocrates the god of Silence and Secrecy, taking their cue from Marcus Terentius Varro, who asserted in De lingua Latina of Caelum (Sky) and Terra (Earth)
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