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The Gods Of Egypt
Amen (Amon) and Amen-Ra, King of the Gods


Amen (Amon) and Amen-Ra, King of the Gods | Forms of Amen-Ra | Osiris, Asar | Worship of Osiris | Isis | Anpu, or Anubis | Horus | Nephthys | Asar-Hapi, or Serapis | Nut | The Gods of Heliopolis | Egyptian Mythology | Hieroglyphics | Galery

Amen (Amon)

Among the gods who were known to the Egyptians in very early times were Amen and his consort Ament, and their names are found in the Pyramid Texts, e.g., Unas, line 558, where they are mentioned immediately after the pair of gods Nau and Nen, and in connection with the twin Lion-gods Shu and Tefnut, who are described as the two gods who made their own bodies, and with the goddess Temt, the female counterpart of Tem. It is evident that even in the remote period of the Vth Dynasty Amen and Ament were numbered among the primeval gods, if not as gods in chief certainly as subsidiary forms of some of them, and from the fact that they are mentioned immediately after the deities of primeval matter, Nau and Nen, who we may consider to be the equivalents of the watery abyss from which all things sprang, and immediately before Temt and Shu and Tefnut, it would seem that the writers or editors of the Pyramid Texts assigned great antiquity to their existence. Of the attributes ascribed to Amen in the Ancient Empire nothing is known, but, if we accept the meaning "hidden" which is usually given to his name, we must conclude that he was the personification of the hidden and unknown creative power which was associated with the primeval abyss, gods in the creation of the world, and all that is in it. The word or root amen, certainly means "what is hidden," "what is not seen," "what cannot be seen," and the like, and this fact is proved by scores of examples which may be collected from texts of all periods. In hymns to Amen we often read that he is "hidden to his children, "and "hidden to gods and men," and it has been stated that these expressions only refer to the "hiding," i.e., "setting" of the sun each evening, and that they are only to be understood in a physical sense, and to mean nothing more than the disappearance of the god Amen from the sight of men at the close of day. Now, not only is the god himself said to be "hidden," but his name also is "hidden," and his form, or similitude, is said to be "unknown;" these statements show that "hidden," when applied to Amen, the great god, has reference to something more than the "sun which has disappeared below the horizon," and that it indicates the god who cannot be seen with the mortal eyes, and who is invisible, as well as inscrutable, to gods as well as men. In the times approaching the Ptolemaic period the name Amen appears to have been connected with the root men, "to abide, to be permanent;" and one of the attributes which were applied to him was that of eternal. Amen is represented in five forms: 1. As a man, when he is seen seated on a throne, and holding in one hand the scepter, and in the other the symbol of "life." In this form he is one of the nine deities who compose the company of the gods of Amen-Ra, the other eight being Ament, Nu, Nut, Hehui, Hehet, Kekui, Keket, and Hathor. 2. As a man with the head of a frog, whilst his female counterpart Ament has the head of a uraeus. 3. As a man with the head of a uraeus, whilst his female counterpart has the head of a cat. 4. As an ape. 5. As a lion couching upon a pedestal.


Amen of Thebes

Of the early history of the worship of Amen we know nothing, but as far as the evidence before us goes it appears not to have been very general, and in fact, the only center of it of any importance was the city of Thebes. Under the XIIth Dynasty we find that a sanctuary and shrine were built in honor of Amen at Thebes in the northern quarter of the city which was called Apt. Later, from this word, with the addition of the feminine article T, the Copt's derived their name for the city Tape, and from it also comes the common name "Thebes." Over Apt the quarter of the city there which was called Apt, who was either the personification of it, or a mere local goddess to whom accident or design had given the same name as the quarter ; it is, however, most probable that the goddess was the spirit or personification of the place. In the reliefs on which she is represented we see her in the form of a woman holding the scepter, and :life", in her hands, and wearing upon her head the disk and horns, upon which rests the hieroglyphic which has for its phonetic value Apt, and stands for the name of the goddess of Thebes as a form of Hathor. Up to the time of the XIIth Dynasty Amen was a god of no more than local importance, but as soon as the princess of Thebes had conquered their rival claimants to the sovereignty of Egypt, and had succeeded in making their city a new capitol of the country their god Amen became a prominent god in Upper Egypt, and it was probably under that dynasty that the attempt was made to assign to him the proud position which was afterwards claimed for him of "king of the gods." His sanctuary at Karnak was at that time a comparatively small building, which consisted of a shrine, with a few small chambers grounded about it and a forecourt with a colonnade on two sides of it, and it remained, practically, in this form until the rise to power of the kings of the XVIIIth Dynasty. It is difficult to decide if the sanctuary of Amen at Thebes was a new foundation in that city by the kings of the Xiith Dynasty, or whether the site had been previously occupied by a temple to the god.


Priests of Amen

The Priests of Amen possessed a temple in Apt from the earliest times, and all that they did was to rebuild Amen's sanctuary. As soon as the Theban princes became kings of Egypt their priests at once began to declare that their god was not only another form of the great creative Sun-god who had been worshipped for centuries at Annu, or Heliopolis, in the North of Egypt, under the names of Ra, Temu, Khepera, and Heru-khuti, but all the attributes which were ascribed to them were contained in him, and that he was greater than they. And as Thebes had become the capitol instead of Memphis, it followed as a matter of course that all the attributes of all great gods of Memphis that were contained in Amen succeeded in making their god, both theologically and politically, the greatest of the gods in the country. Owning to the unsettled state of Egypt under the XIIth and XIVth Dynasties, and under the rule of the Hyksos, pretensions of this kind passed unchallenged , especially as they were supported by arms. By the end of the XVIIth dynasty Amen had attained to an almost unrivaled position among the gods of the land. HYMN TO AMEN-RA And when his royal devotees in this dynasty succeeded in expelling the Hyksos from the land, and their successors the kings of the XVIIIth Dynasty carried war and conquest into Palestine and founded Egyptian cities there, the power and the glory of Amen their god, who had enabled them to carry out this difficult work of successful invasion, become extraordinarily great. His priests began by asserting his equality with the other great gods of the old sanctuaries of Heliopolis, Memphis, Herakleopolis, and other ancient cities, and finally they satisfied, or, at all events, attempted to do so, all worshipers of every form of the Sun-god Ra by adding his name to that of Amen, and thus forming a great god who included within himself all the attributes of the primeval god Amen and of Ra. The highest conception of Amen-Ra under the XIXth and Xxth Dynasties was that of an invisible creative power which was the source of all life in heaven, and on earth, and in the great deep, and in the Underworld, and which made itself manifest under the form Ra. Nearly every attribute of deity with which we are made familiar by the hymns to Ra was ascribed to Amen after his union with Ra; but the priests of Amen were not content with claiming that their god was one of the greatest of the deities of Egypt, for they proceed to declare that there was no other god like him, and that he was the greatest of them all. The power and the might ascribed to Amen -Ra are well described in hymns which must be quoted in full. The first of these occurs in the Papyrus of Hu-nefer {Brit. Mus., No. 9,9901, sheet I.} where it follows immediately after a hymn to Ra ; this papyrus was written in the reign of Seti I., and it is interesting to observe that the two gods are addressed separately, and that the hymn to Ra precedes that to Amen-Ra. The text reads :-- "Homage to thee, "O Amen-Ra, who dost rest upon Matt ; as thou passest over the "heavens every face seeth thee. Thou dost wax great as thy "majesty doth advance, and thy rays {shine} upon all faces. "Thou art unknown, and no tongue hath power to declare thy "similitude : only thou thyself {canst do this}. Thou art One, "even as is he that bringeth the tena basket Men praise thee in "thy name, and swear by thee, for thou art lord over them. "Thou hearest with thine ears and thou seest with thine eyes."Millions of years have gone by over the world, and I cannot tell the 'number of those through which thou hast passed. Thy heart "hath decreed a day of happiness in thy name of Traveler.' "Thou dost past over and dost travel through untold spaces "{requiring} millions and hundreds of thousands of years {to pass over} ; thou passest through them in peace, and thou steerest {thy way across the watery abyss to the place which thou lovest ; "this thou doest in one little moment of time, and then thou dost "sink down and dost make an end of the hours." How far the attributes ascribed to Amen-Ra in this hymn represent those generally bestowed upon the god in the XIXth Dynasty is unknown, but the points chiefly dwelt upon are the unity, and the invisibility, and the long duration of the existence of the god ; nothing is said about Amen-Ra in this hymn represent those generally bestowed upon the god in the XIXth Dynasty is unknown, but the points chiefly dwelt upon are the unity, and the invisibility, and the long duration of the existence of the god ; nothing is said about Amen-Ra being self-begotten and self-born, or of his great creative powers, or of his defeat of the serpent-fiend Nak, and it is quite clear that Hu-nefer drew a sharp distinction between the two attributes of the two gods. The following hymn, which was probably written under the Xxth or XXIst Dynasty, well illustrates the growth of the power both of Amen-Ra , and his priests :-- "praise be to Amen-Ra, the "Bull in Annu, the chief of all the gods the beautiful god, "the beloved one, the giver of the life of all warmth to all beautiful "cattle. Homage to thee, O Amen-Ra , lord of the thrones of the two lands, the governor of the Apts {i.e., Thebes, north and south}, "thou Bull of thy mother, who art chief in thy fields, whose steps are "long, who art lord of the land of the South, who art lord of the "Matchau peoples, and prince of Punt, and king of heaven , and first- "born god of earth, and lord of things which exist, and stabilizer of "creation, yea, establisher of all creation. Thou art One among the "gods by reason of his seasons. Thou art the beautiful Bull of the "company of the gods, thou art the chief of all gods, thou art "the lord of Maat, and the father of the gods, and the creator of "men and women, and the maker of animals and the lord of "things that exist, and the producer of the staff of life {i.e,"wheat and barley}, and the maker of the herb of the field which "giveth life into cattle. Thou art the beautiful Sekhem who wast "made {i.e., begotten} by Ptah, and the beautiful Child who art "beloved. The gods acclaim thee, O thou who art the maker of "things which are below and of things which are above. Thou "illuminest the two lands, and thou sailist over the sky in peace, "O king of the South and North, Ra, whose word hath infailing "effect, who art over the two lands, thou mighty one of two-fold "strength, thou lord of terror, thou Being above who makest the "earth according to thine own designs. Thy devices are greater "and more numerous than those of any other god. The gods "rejoice in the beauties, and they ascribe praise unto thee in the "great double house, and thy risings in {or, from} the double house "of flame. The gods love the smell of thee when thou comest from"Punt {i.e., the spice land}, thou eldest born of the dew, Who "comest from the land of the Matchau peoples, thou Beautiful "Face, who comest from the Divine Land {Neter-ta}. The gods "tremble at thy feet when they recognize thy majesty as their "lord, thou lord who art feared, thou Being of whom awe is great, "thou Being whose souls are mighty, who hast possession of "crowns, who dost make offerings to be abundant, and who dost make offerings to be abundant, and who dost "make divine food{tchefau} "Adorations be to thee, O thou creator of the gods, who hast "stretched out the heavens and made solid the earth. Thou art the untiring watcher , O Amsu-Amen {or Min-Amen, the lord of "eternity, and the maker of everlastingness, and to thee adorations are paid as the Governor of the Apts. Thou hast two horns "which endure, and thine aspects are beautiful, and thou art the "lord of the ureret crown, and thy double plumes are lofty, thy tiara is one of beauty, and thy White Crown is lofty. The goddess Mehen, and the Uatcheti "goddess, {i.e., Nekhebet and Uatchet}, are about "thy face, and the crowns of the South and North ; "thou receivest the crowns of the South and the North, and thou "receivest the amesu scepter, and thou art the lord of the makes scepter, and the whip {or flail,}. Thou art "the beautiful Prince, who rises like the sun with the White "Crown, and thou art the lord of radiant light and the creator of "brilliant rays. The gods ascribe praises unto thee, and he who loveth thee stretcheth out his two hands to thee. Thy flame maketh "thine enemies to fall, and thine Eye overthroweth the Sebau fiends, "and it driveth its spear through the sky into the serpent-fiends, "and it driveth its spear through the sky into the serpent-fiend "nak and maketh it to vomit that which it hath swallowed. "Homage to thee, O Ra, thou lord of Maat, whose shrine is hidden, thou lord of gods ; thou art Khepera in thy boat, "and when thou didst speak the word the gods sprang into being. "thou art Temu, who didst create beings endowed with reason ; "thou makest the colour of the skin of one race to be different "from that of another, but, however many may be the varieties of "mankind, it is thou that makest them all to live. Thou hearest "the prayer of him that is oppressed, thou art kind of heart unto him that is afraid "from him that is violent of heart, and thou art judgest between the "strong and the week. Thou art the lord of intelligence, and "knowledge is that which proceedeth from thy mouth. The Nile "cometh at thy will, and thou art the greatly beloved lord of the "palm tree who makest mortals to live. Thou makest every work "to proceed, thou workest in the sky, and thou makest to come "into being the beauties, and their hearts live when they see thee. Hail, Ra, "who art adored in the Apts, thou mighty one who risest in the "shrine : O Ani, thou lord of the festival of the new "moon, who makest the six days festival and the festival of the "last quarter of the moon. Hail, Prince, life, health, and strength, "thou lord of all the gods, whose appearance are in the horizon, "thou Governor of the ancestors of Aukert {i.e., the underworld}, "thy name is hidden from thy children in thy name 'Amen.' "Hail to thee, O thou art in peace, thou lord of joy of "heart, thou crowned form, thou lord of the ureret crown, whose "plumes are exalted, whose tiara is beautiful, whose White Crown "is lofty, the gods love to look upon thee ; the crowns of the "South and North are established upon thy brow. Beloved art "thou as thou passest through the two lands, as thou sendest "forth rays from thy two beautiful eyes. the dead are rapturous "with delight when thou shinest. the cattle become languid "when thou shinest in full strength ; beloved art thou when thou "art in the southern sky, and thou art esteemed lovely when thou "art in the northern sky. Thy beauties take possession of and "carry away all hearts, and love for thee maketh all arms to relax, "thy beautiful form maketh the hands to tremble, and all hearts "melt at the sight of thee. "Hail thou Form who art One, thou creator of all things ; "hail, thou Only One, thou maker of things which exists. Men "came forth from thy two eyes, and the gods sprang into their being "at the issue of thy mouth. Thou makest the green herbs whereby "cattle live, and the staff of life for the use of man. Thou makest "the fish live, and the likewise the reptiles that "creep and fly ; thou causest the rats to live in their holes, and "the birds that are on every green tree. Hail to thee, O thou "who hast made all these things, thou Only One; thy might hath forms. Thou watchest all men as they sleep, and "thou seest the good of thy brute creation. Hail, Amen, who dost establish all things, and who art Atmu and Harmachis, all "people adore thee, saying, 'Praise be to thee because of thy " 'resting among us ; homage to thee '! and all lands praise "thee ; from the height of the sky, to the breadth of the earth, "and to the depths of the sea thou art praised. The gods bow "down before thy majesty to exalt the Will of their Creator ; they "rejoice when they meet their begetter, and say to thee, "Come "'in peace, O father of the fathers of all the gods, who hast spread " ' out the sky, and hast founded the earth, maker of things which " ' are, creator of things which exist, thou Prince {life, health, and " 'strength {to thee !}, thou Governor of the gods. We adore thy " ' Will {or, souls} for thou hast made us ; thou hast made us and " ' hast given us birth.' "Hail to thee,maker of all things, lord of Maat, father of the "gods, maker of men, creator of animals, lord of grain, who "makest to live the cattle on the hills. Hail, Amen, bull, "beautiful of face, beloved in the Apts, mighty of rising in the "shrine, who art doubly crowned in Heliopolis ; thou art the "judge of Horus and Set in the Great Hall. Thou art the head "of the company of the gods, Only One, who hast no second, "thou governor of the apts, Ani at the head of the company of the "gods, living in Maat daily, thou Horus of the East of the double "horizon. Thou hast created the mountain, and the silver, and "real lapis-lazuli at thy will. Increase and fresh anti are prepared "for thy nostrils, O beautiful Face, who comest froth from the "land of the matchau, Amen-Ra, lord of the thrones of the two "lands, at the head of the Apts, Ani, the chief of thy shrine, "Thou king who art One among the gods, thy names are manifold, and how many are they are is unknown ; thou shinest in the eastern "and western horizon, and overthrowest thy enemies at thy birth "daily. Thoth exalted thy two eyes, an maketh thee to set in "splendour ; the gods rejoice in thy beauties which those who are "in the {following} exalt. Thou art the lord of the Sektet Boat "and the Atet Boat, which travel over the sky for thee in "peace. Thy sailors rejoice when they see Nak overthrown, "and his limbs stabbed with the knife, and the fire devouring "him, and filthy soul beaten out of his filthy body, and his "feet carried away. The gods rejoice, Ra is content, and Annu "{Heliopolis} is glad because the enemies of Aymu are over- "thrown, and the heart of Nebt-Ankh {i.e., Isis} is happy because "the enemies of her lord are overthrown. The gods of Kher-aha "rejoice, and those who dwell on the shrine are making obeisance "when they see thee mighty in thy strength. Thou art the Sekem {i.e., Power} of the gods, an Maat of the Apts in thy "name of "Maker of Maat. Thou art the lord of tchefau food, "the bull of offerings {?} in thy name, Amen, Bull of his mother.' "Thou art the fashioner of mortals, the creator, the maker of all "things which are in the name of Temu-Khepera. Thou art the "Great Hawk which gladdeneth the body ; the Beautiful Face "which gladdeneth the breast. Thou art the form of {many} "forms, with a lofty crown ; the Uatcheti goddesses {i.e., Nekhebet "and Uatchet} fly before his face. The hearts of the dead {?} go "out to meet him, and the denizens of heaven turn to him ; his "appearances rejoice the two lands ; thy city loveth thy radiant "light." The chief point of interest in connection with this hymn is the proof it affords of the completeness with which Amen had absorbed all the attributes of Ra and of every other ancient form of the Sun-god, and how in the course of about one hundred years he had risen from the position of a mere local god to that of the "king of the gods" of Egypt. In the XVIIIth and XIXth Dynasties the wealth of his priest hood must have been enormous, and the religious and social powers which they possessed made them, in many respects, as powerful as the reigning family. Thebes, the capitol of Egypt and the center of the worship of Amen-Ra, was rightly called the "city of Amen,"{the No-Amon of Nahum iii.8}, and there is reason to think that many of the Egyptian raids in Syria and Nubia were made as much for the purpose of supplying funds for the maintenance of the temples, and services, and priests of Amen-Ra as for the glory and prestige of Egypt the slavish homage which the Thothmes kings, and the Amen-heteps, and the Rammessids paid to Amen-Ra, and their ravish gifts to his sanctuaries suggest that it was his priests who were, in reality, the makers of war and peace. Under the XXth Dynasty their power was still very great, and the list of the gifts which Rameses III made to their order illustrates their influence over the monarch. Towards the close of this dynasty we find that they had succeeded in obtaining authority from the feeble and incapable successors of Rameses III. to levy taxes on the people of Thebes , and to appropriate to the use of their order certain of the revenues of the city ; this was only what was to be expected , for, since the treasury of the god was no longer supplied by expeditions into Syria, the priests found poverty staring them in the face. When the last Rameses was dead the high-priest of Amen-Ra became king of Egypt almost as matter of course, and he and his immediate successors formed the XXIst Dynasty, or the Dynasty of priest-kings of Egypt. Their chief aim was to maintain the power of their god and of their own order, and for some years they succeeded in doing so ; but they were priests and not warriors, and their want of funds became more and more pressing, for the simple reason that they had no means of enforcing the payment of tribute by the peoples and tribes who, even under the later of the kings bearing the name of Rameses, acknowledged the sovereignty of Egypt. Meanwhile the poverty of the inhabitants of Thebes increased rapidly, and they were not only unable to contribute to the maintenance of the acres of temple buildings and to the services of the god, but found it difficult to obtain a living. These facts are proved by many considerations, but chiefly by the robberies which are described or referred in several papyri of the royal tombs in the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings at Thebes ; and the discoveries of the royal mummies at Dier al-Bahari shows that the Government of the period was unable either to protect the royal tombs or to suppress the gang of robbers who systematically pillaged them. The robberies were carried out with the connivance of several high officials, and it was to the interests of large numbers of the inhabitants of Thebes to make abortive the legal proceedings which were taken by the Government against them. Notwithstanding their growing poverty and waning influence the priests in no way abated the pretensions of their god themselves, and they continued to proclaim the glory and power of Amen-Ra in spite of the increasing power of the Libyans in the Delta.