Αὐτῶν δὲ δὴ Αἰγυπτίων οἳ μὲν περὶ τὴν σπειρομένην Αἴγυπτον οἰκέουσι, μνήμην ἀνθρώπων πάντων ἐπασκέοντες μάλιστα λογιώτατοι εἰσὶ μακρῷ τῶν ἐγὼ ἐς διάπειραν ἀπικόμην, τρόπῳ δὲ ζόης τοιῷδε διαχρέωνται· συρμαΐζουσι τρεῖς ἡμέρας ἐπεξῆς μηνὸς ἑκάστου, ἐμέτοισι θηρώμενοι τὴν ὑγιείην καὶ κλύσμασι, νομίζοντες ἀπὸ τῶν τρεφόντων σιτίων πάσας τὰς νούσους τοῖσι ἀνθρώποισι γίνεσθαι. εἰσὶ μὲν γὰρ καὶ ἄλλως Αἰγύπτιοι μετὰ Λίβυας ὑγιηρέστατοι πάντων ἀνθρώπων τῶν ὡρέων δοκέειν ἐμοὶ εἵνεκα, ὅτι οὐ μεταλλάσσουσι αἱ ὧραι· ἐν γὰρ τῇσι μεταβολῇσι τοῖσι ἀνθρώποισι αἱ νοῦσοι μάλιστα γίνονται τῶν τε ἄλλων πάντων καὶ δὴ καὶ τῶν ὡρέων μάλιστα. ἀρτοφαγέουσι δὲ ἐκ τῶν ὀλυρέων ποιεῦντες ἄρτους, τοὺς ἐκεῖνοι κυλλήστις ὀνομάζουσι. οἴνῳ δὲ ἐκ κριθέων πεποιημένῳ διαχρέωνται· οὐ γάρ σφι εἰσὶ ἐν τῇ χώρῃ ἄμπελοι. ἰχθύων δὲ τοὺς μὲν πρὸς ἥλιον αὐήναντες ὠμοὺς σιτέονται, τοὺς δὲ ἐξ ἅλμης τεταριχευμένους. ὀρνίθων δὲ τούς τε ὄρτυγας καὶ τὰς νήσσας καὶ τὰ μικρὰ τῶν ὀρνίθων ὠμὰ σιτέονται προταριχεύσαντες. τὰ δὲ ἄλλα ὅσα ἢ ὀρνίθων ἢ ἰχθύων σφι ἐστὶ ἐχόμενα, χωρὶς ἢ ὁκόσοι σφι ἱροὶ ἀποδεδέχαται, τοὺς λοιποὺς ὀπτοὺς καὶ ἑφθοὺς σιτέονται. ἐν δὲ τῇσι συνουσίῃσι τοῖσι εὐδαίμοσι αὐτῶν, ἐπεὰν ἀπὸ δείπνου γένωνται, περιφέρει ἀνὴρ νεκρὸν ἐν σορῷ ξύλινον πεποιημένον, μεμιμημένον ἐς τὰ μάλιστα καὶ γραφῇ καὶ ἔργῳ, μέγαθος ὅσον τε πηχυαῖον ἢ δίπηχυν, δεικνὺς δὲ ἑκάστῳ τῶν συμποτέων λέγει “ἐς τοῦτον ὁρέων πῖνέ τε καὶ τέρπευ· ἔσεαι γὰρ ἀποθανὼν τοιοῦτος.” ταῦτα μὲν παρὰ τὰ συμπόσια ποιεῦσι.
(Herodotus, Hist. 2.77-78)
As for the actual people of Egypt, those who live in the cultivated part of the country make a particular practice of recording the history of all peoples, and are consequently by far the most learned people I have ever come across and questioned. Here are some aspects of their lifestyle. They purge themselves for three consecutive days of every month; they make emetics and douches their means of pursuing health, because they believe that all human illness is due to food causing colic. In fact, the Egyptians are, after the Libyans, the most healthy people in the world, which in my opinion is due to the fact that the climate is very stable there. I mean, we generally get ill when things change— and by ‘things’ here I mean especially, but not exclusively, the seasons. The loaves they eat—which are called kyllestis in their language—are made out of emmer wheat. They have no vines in their country, so they drink an ale made out of barley. They eat raw sun-dried fish as well as salted fish. As for birds, they eat quail, duck, and raw salted young birds. In general, however, they first bake or boil any species of bird or fish their country provides, except for those which have been consecrated, before eating them. After the meal at a party of well-to-do Egyptians, a man carries round the room in a coffin a corpse made of wood, which has been painted and carved so as to be as lifelike as possible, and whose length is about a cubit or two. The man shows the corpse to all the guests, one by one, while saying: “Look on this while you drink, for this will be your lot when you are dead.’ That is what happens at their parties. (tr. Robin Waterfield)