"Oxyrhynchus" fish (depiction of a Mormyrus sp.), Oxyrhynchus Egypt, Late Dynastic Period, 6th or 7th Century B.C.E.

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Photograph
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"Oxyrhynchus" fish, Egyptian Late Dynastic Period, 6th or 7th Century B.C.E.

The ancient Upper Egyptian town Per-Medjed (modern el-Bahnasa) was the capital of the 19th Upper Egyptian nome. It was called Oxyrhynchos Polis by the Greeks, which means "Town of the sharp-snouted fish". This refers to a species of fish that lived in the Nile and that, according to mythology, ate the penis / phallus of Osiris after the dismemberment of this god by his brother Seth. It has been debated which species of fish it is, and there is some consensus that it is a species of mormyrus.

According to Greek historian Plutarch (1st-2nd century C.E.) the inhabitants of Oxyrhynchos and those of a neighbouring town called Kynopolis ("Town of the Dog") were engaged in hostilities because a person from the latter town ate a sacred fish, after which the inhabitants of Oxyrhynchos started catching and eating dogs; this resulted in a civil war which had to be ended by the Romans (De Iside et Osiride, 72).

World Region: 
Africa
Country: 
Egypt
African countries / Pays de l'Afrique: 

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