Harpocrates – God of Silence
By H Dominic W Stiles, on 16 August 2013
Gisbert Cuper, or Gisbertus Cuperus as his name appears in the Latin in which he published, was a Dutch antiquarian and philologist (1644-1716). The book of his we have in the library, bound with Antonius Borremansius’s Variarum Lectionum Liber, is called simply Harpocrates. Harpocrates was the Greek and Roman God of Silence, adapted from the Egyptian Har-pa-khered in the Hellenistic period. He was the child version of Horus, the newborn sun, depicted in statues as a child with a finger to his mouth. This, representing a child, was misinterpreted by Greeks as meaning silence, and we see a depiction of that on the title page of the book here:
Throughout, our copy is heavily annotated in ink by a previous owner, but in a hand I cannot decipher. I find the illustrations charming! I confess I wondered if Harpo Marx got his name in any way from this god, being the brother who never spoke on screen, but although his brother Groucho joked that he had, he was named after his harp playing.