Egyptian gods

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic

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Amun (also Amon (/???m?n/), Amen; Ancient Greek: ????? Ámm?n, ????? Hámm?n) was a major Egyptian deity and Berber deity. He was attested since the Old Kingdom together with his spouse Amaunet. With the 11th dynasty (c. 21st century BC), he rose to the position of patron deity of Thebes by replacing Monthu.

 

After the rebellion of Thebes against the Hyksos and with the rule of Ahmose I, Amun acquired national importance, expressed in his fusion with the Sun god, Ra, as Amun-Ra or Amun-Re.

 

Amun-Ra retained chief importance in the Egyptian pantheon throughout the New Kingdom (with the exception of the "Atenist heresy" under Akhenaten). Amun-Ra in this period (16th to 11th centuries BC) held the position of transcendental, self-created creator deity "par excellence", he was the champion of the poor or troubled and central to personal piety. His position as King of Gods developed to the point of virtual monotheism where other gods became manifestations of him. With Osiris, Amun-Ra is the most widely recorded of the Egyptian gods. As the chief deity of the Egyptian Empire, Amun-Ra also came to be worshipped outside of Egypt, in ancient Libya and Nubia, and as Zeus Ammon came to be identified with Zeus in ancient Greece.

 

Early history

Amun and Amaunet are mentioned in the Old Egyptian Pyramid Texts. Amun and Amaunet formed one quarter of the ancient Ogdoad of Hermopolis. The name Amun (written imn, pronounced Amana in ancient Egyptian) meant something like "the hidden one" or "invisible". It was thought that Amun created himself and then his surroundings.

 

The other members of the Ogdoad are Nu and Naunet; Kuk and Kauket; and Huh and Hauhet.

 

Amun rose to the position of tutelary deity of Thebes after the end of the First Intermediate Period, under the 11th dynasty. As the patron of Thebes, his spouse was Mut. In Thebes, Amun as father, Mut as mother and the Moon god Khonsu formed a divine family or "Theban Triad".

 

Temple at Karnak

The history of Amun as the patron god of Thebes begins in the 20th century BC, with the construction of the Precinct of Amun-Re at Karnak under Senusret I. The city of Thebes does not appear to have been of great significance before the 11th dynasty.

 

Major construction work in the Precinct of Amun-Re took place during the 18th dynasty when Thebes became the capital of the unified ancient Egypt. Construction of the Hypostyle Hall may have also begun during the 18th dynasty, though most building was undertaken under Seti I and Ramesses II. Merenptah commemorated his victories over the Sea Peoples on the walls of the Cachette Court, the start of the processional route to the Luxor Temple. This Great Inscription (which has now lost about a third of its content) shows the king's campaigns and eventual return with booty and prisoners. Next to this inscription is the Victory Stela, which is largely a copy of the more famous Israel Stela found in the West Bank funerary complex of Merenptah. Merenptah's son Seti II added 2 small obelisks in front of the Second Pylon, and a triple bark-shrine to the north of the processional avenue in the same area. This was constructed of sandstone, with a chapel to Amun flanked by those of Mut and Khonsu.

 

The last major change to the Precinct of Amun-Re's layout was the addition of the first pylon and the massive enclosure walls that surrounded the whole Precinct, both constructed by Nectanebo I.

 

New Kingdom

Identification with Min and Ra

When the army of the founder of the Eighteenth dynasty expelled the Hyksos rulers from Egypt, the victor's city of origin, Thebes, became the most important city in Egypt, the capital of a new dynasty. The local patron deity of Thebes, Amun, therefore became nationally important. The pharaohs of that new dynasty attributed all their successful enterprises to Amun, and they lavished much of their wealth and captured spoil on the construction of temples dedicated to Amun.

 

The victory accomplished by pharaohs who worshipped Amun against the "foreign rulers", brought him to be seen as a champion of the less fortunate, upholding the rights of justice for the poor. By aiding those who traveled in his name, he became the Protector of the road. Since he upheld Ma'at (truth, justice, and goodness), those who prayed to Amun were required first to demonstrate that they were worthy by confessing their sins. Votive stelae from the artisans' village at Deir el-Medina record:

 

"[Amun] who comes at the voice of the poor in distress, who gives breath to him who is wretched..You are Amun, the Lord of the silent, who comes at the voice of the poor; when I call to you in my distress You come and rescue me...Though the servant was disposed to do evil, the Lord is disposed to forgive. The Lord of Thebes spends not a whole day in anger; His wrath passes in a moment; none remains. His breath comes back to us in mercy..May your ka be kind; may you forgive; It shall not happen again."

 

Subsequently, when Egypt conquered Kush, they identified the chief deity of the Kushites as Amun. This Kush deity was depicted as ram-headed, more specifically a woolly ram with curved horns. Amun thus became associated with the ram arising from the aged appearance of the Kush ram deity. A solar deity in the form of a ram can be traced to the pre-literate Kerma culture in Nubia, contemporary to the Old Kingdom of Egypt. The later (Meroitic period) name of Nubian Amun was Amani, attested in numerous personal names such as Tanwetamani, Arkamani, Amanitore, Amanishakheto, Natakamani. Since rams were considered a symbol of virility, Amun also became thought of as a fertility deity, and so started to absorb the identity of Min, becoming Amun-Min. This association with virility led to Amun-Min gaining the epithet Kamutef, meaning Bull of his mother, in which form he was found depicted on the walls of Karnak, ithyphallic, and with a scourge, as Min was.

 

As the cult of Amun grew in importance, Amun became identified with the chief deity who was worshipped in other areas during that period, the sun god Ra. This identification led to another merger of identities, with Amun becoming Amun-Ra. In the Hymn to Amun-Ra he is described as

 

"Lord of truth, father of the gods, maker of men, creator of all animals, Lord of things that are, creator of the staff of life."

 

Atenist heresy

During the latter part of the eighteenth dynasty, the pharaoh Akhenaten (also known as Amenhotep IV) disliked the power of the temple of Amun and advanced the worship of the Aten, a deity whose power was manifested in the sun disk, both literally and symbolically. He defaced the symbols of many of the old deities, and based his religious practices upon the deity, the Aten. He moved his capital away from Thebes, but this abrupt change was very unpopular with the priests of Amun, who now found themselves without any of their former power. The religion of Egypt was inexorably tied to the leadership of the country, the pharaoh being the leader of both. The pharaoh was the highest priest in the temple of the capital, and the next lower level of religious leaders were important advisers to the pharaoh, many being administrators of the bureaucracy that ran the country.

 

The introduction of Atenism under Akhenaton constructed a monotheist worship of Aten in direct competition with that of Amun. Praises of Amun on stelae are strikingly similar in language to those later used, in particular the Hymn to the Aten:

 

"When thou crossest the sky, all faces behold thee, but when thou departest, thou are hidden from their faces ... When thou settest in the western mountain, then they sleep in the manner of death ... The fashioner of that which the soil produces, ... a mother of profit to gods and men; a patient craftsmen, greatly wearying himself as their maker..valiant herdsman, driving his cattle, their refuge and the making of their living..The sole Lord, who reaches the end of the lands every day, as one who sees them that tread thereon ... Every land chatters at his rising every day, in order to praise him."

 

When Akhenaten died, the priests of Amun-Ra reasserted themselves. His name was struck from Egyptian records, all of his religious and governmental changes were undone, and the capital was returned to Thebes. The return to the previous capital and its patron deity was accomplished so swiftly that it seemed this almost monotheistic cult and its governmental reforms had never existed. Worship of Aten ceased and worship of Amun-Ra was restored. The priests of Amun even persuaded his young son, Tutankhaten, whose name meant "the living image of Aten"—and who later would become a pharaoh—to change his name to Tutankhamun, "the living image of Amun".

 

Theology

In the New Kingdom, Amun became successively identified with all other Egyptian deities, to the point of virtual monotheism (which was then attacked by means of the "counter-monotheism" of Atenism). Primarily, the god of wind Amun came to be identified with the solar god Ra and the god of fertility and creation Min, so that Amun-Ra had the main characteristic of a solar god, creator god and fertility god. He also adopted the gid of thunder.


Submitted: June 24, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Brayden Jacobs. All rights reserved.

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