Egyptian Myth and Legend
Amon, the God of Empire
Lunar Worship--The Great Mother of Darkness.--Anion as a Moon God--Fusion with Ra--Ptah a Form of the Theban Deity--Fenkhu--"and "Fenish" Artisans--Osiris and Amon--Veneration of Religious Pharaohs--Amon's Wife and Concubine--Conquests of Thothmes I--Rival Claimants to the Throne--Queen Hatshepsut--Her Famous Expedition--Rise of Thothmes III--A Great Strategist--His Conquests--The Egyptian Empire --Amon's Poetic Praise--The Emperor's Buildings and Obelisks.
THE moon god Ah comes into prominence during the Egyptian War of Independence. This ancient deity must have been closely associated with the Theban religious cult which Ra Apepa, the Hyksos king, singled out for attack, because the name of the queen mother, Ah-hotep, signifies "Ah is satisfied", and that of her victorious son Ah-mes, "born of Ah".
It is highly probable that Ah was the son of the great Mother deity Apet, who was identified with the female hippopotamus Taurt, "the mighty one", goddess of maternity, and "mother of the gods". At Thebes and Ombos, Osiris was regarded as the son of the sacred hippopotamus. As we have seen in the Introduction, he was, like Ah, identified with the moon spirit, which symbolized the male principle. The Apet hippopotamus was the animal incarnation of the Great Mother; as a water goddess, therefore, Apet links with Nut, who rose from the primordial deep and was "the waters above the firmament".
At the beginning there was naught save darkness and water. The spirit of the night was the Great Mother, and her first-born was the moon child. Life came from death and light from darkness. Such appears to have been the conception of the worshippers of the sky-and-water goddess and the lunar god.
On the other hand, the worshippers of the male earth spirit believed that the firmament was made of metal which was beaten out by the Great Father, Ptah, at the beginning. Ere metal came into use it may have been conceived that the sky was made of stone. Hathor, the sky goddess, was significantly enough "the lady of turquoise", and Ra, the sun god, was in the Fifth Dynasty symbolized by an obelisk.
Osiris, the human incarnation of primitive Nilotic deities, absorbed the attributes of the moon spirit and the male earth spirit. Isis, on the other hand, apparently absorbed those of Nut, the sky-and-water goddess, and of Neith, the earth goddess, who symbolized growth.
As moon worship was of greater antiquity in Egypt than sun worship, and was associated with agricultural rites, the Theban cult must have made popular appeal, and helped to rally the mass of the people to throw off the yoke of the Hyksos Ra and Sutekh worshippers. The political significance of Apepa's order to slay the hippopotami is therefore apparent.
When the influence of the southern conquerors extended to Hermopolis, Ah was merged with Thoth, who was originally a lunar deity. In fact, as we have shown in our Introduction, he was another form of Khonsu. With Mut, "the mother", who is indistinguishable from Apet, Khonsu and Thoth formed a Theban triad. In Nubia, where archaic Mediterranean beliefs appear to have been persistent, Thoth was the son of Tefnut, the
lioness-headed goddess, who was given arbitrary association with Shu, the atmosphere god, by the theorists of Heliopolis. Mut was also depicted at Thebes with the head of a lioness.
As we have already suggested, it is possible that Amon was originally the son of Mut-Apet. He may have developed as a symbolized attribute of Ah. Fragments of old hymns make reference to him as a lunar deity, and as a "traverser" of space like Khonsu-Thoth. Indeed, even in his hawk-headed form, he retains his early association with the moon, for he wears the solar disk with the lunar crescent. [*1]
Amon, like the sons of all the Great Mother deities, represented in his animal forms the "male principle" and the "fighting principle". He became "the husband of his mother" when the Great Father and Great Mother conceptions were fused. This process is illustrated in the triad formed by Ptah, the father, Mut, the mother, and Thoth, the son. Ptah's wife Sekhet, with the head of a lioness, is indistinguishable from Mut) Tefnut, and Bast.
As a Great Father deity, Amon, "husband of his mother" became "king of the gods", [*2] and lost his original lunar character. His fusion with the sun god of Heliopolis, which was accomplished for political purposes, made the change complete, for he became Amon-Ra, the great representative deity of Egypt, who combines the attributes of all other gods.
Amon-Ra was depicted as a great bearded man, clad in a sleeveless tunic suspended from his shoulders, with the tail of art animal hanging behind. His headdress of
high double plumes, with lunar and solar symbols, was coloured in sections red and blue, and red and green, as if to signify all association with the river flowing between its batiks and the growth of verdure. Sometimes he is shown with Min's ram's horns curving downwards round his ears, and sometimes with those of Khnumu spreading outward. [*1] He wore a collar and armlets and bracelets.
As a god of war he rose into great prominence during the Eighteenth Dynasty. The victorious kings, who became owners of all the land in Egypt, and returned with great spoils from many battlefields, were lavish in their gifts to his temple, and his priests became exceedingly wealthy and powerful. There never was in Egypt a more influential cult than that of Amon-Ra.
His solar attributes, however, were not so prominent in the Eighteenth as in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties. The influence of the moon cult remained for a considerable period. As much is suggested by the names of the kings. Ah-mes I, "born of Ah", was followed by four rulers called Amen-hotep, "Amon is satisfied", and four called Thoth-mes, "born of Thoth".
The influence of the Ra cult at Heliopolis was tempered by that of the Amon cult at Thebes, with the result that the old Egyptian lunar gods came into prominence. Nor were Ptah and other kindred deities excluded from the group of official gods as in the Fifth Dynasty. At Memphis Amon-Ra was worshipped as Ptah. In a hymn addressed to the great Theban deity it was declared--
Memphis receives thee in the form of Ptah-- He who is the first-born of all gods; He who was at the beginning. It would appear that the Memphites had combined
with the Thebans to drive the Hyksos out of Egypt. When Ahmes began the work of reconstructing the temples, the first gods he honoured were Amon and Ptah. In the limestone quarries near Cairo two tablets record that stone was excavated for the great temples at Memphis and Thebes. No reference is made to Heliopolis. It is of special interest to find that the workmen who were employed were of the Fenkhu, a Syrian tribe. There can be no doubt these quarriers were foreigners. In an Assouan inscription of Thothmes II it is stated that the boundary of the Egyptian empire on the north extended to the Syrian lakes, and that the Pharaoh's arms were "not repulsed from the land of the Fenkhu". A stele erected by Thothmes III at Wady Halfa records a victory during a Syrian campaign over "the Fenkhu". Ahmes must have obtained these skilled quarriers from the Fenkhu for the purpose of hastening on the work of restoring the temples in return for some favour conferred, for he did not wage war against the tribe, which remained powerful at the time of Thothmes III. It is impossible, however, to identify them with certainty. To this day the inhabitants of Palestine still credit all the surviving works of antiquity to the "Fenish", and although the reference is evidently to the Philistines and Phoenicians, as well as to the hewers of the great artificial caves, it is possible that the latter, who are referred to in the Bible as the Rephaim or Anakim, were originally the "Fenish" and the Egyptian "Fenkhu". Ahmes may have followed the example of his temple- and pyramid-building predecessors in drawing fresh supplies of skilled stoneworkers from southern Palestine.
Osiris worship was combined with that of Amon at Thebes, but, as we have seen, Osiris and Amon had much in common, for both gods had lunar attributes.
[paragraph continues] Osiris "hides his essence in the great shrine of Amon". [*1] The Amon ram was an animal incarnation of the corn spirit. It is significant to find, in this connection, that the priests of Amon for a long period sought sepulture at sacred Abydos, which had become closely associated with Osirian worship. But there was a strange fusion of beliefs regarding the other world. Men died believing that they would enter the bark of Ra and also reach the Osirian Paradise. Ultimately the Heliopolitan belief in the efficacy of magical formulae impaired the ethical character of the Ptah-Osirian creed.
Although Ahmes I was the liberator of Egypt, his memory was not revered so greatly as that of his son and successor Amenhotep I (Amenophis). The great Pharaohs of the records were the religious Pharaohs; if a monarch was assiduous in venerating the gods, and especially in erecting and endowing temples, his fame was assured; the grateful priests "kept his memory green". Amenhotep I and his wife Aahmes-Nefertari were, after their death, revered as deities; references are made to them as protectors and punishers of men in the Nineteenth Dynasty.
Nefertari was during her life "Amon's wife". She slept in the temple, and her children were reputed to be the sons and daughters of the god. The high priest's wife was "the concubine of Amon". It was Amenhotep I who founded the endowments of the Amon cult at Thebes which ultimately became so wealthy and powerful. He also began the erection of the magnificent buildings at Karnak, which were added to by his successors. His reign, which lasted for only about ten years, was
occupied chiefly in reorganizing the kingdom and in establishing the new national religion. Assisted by the veteran military nobles of El Kab, he waged war against the Libyans on the north and the Nubians on the south. He appears also to have penetrated Syria, but no records of the campaign survive. His successors, however, ere he invaded Asia, claimed to hold sway as far north as the Euphrates.
The next king, Thothmes I, came to the throne as the husband of a princess of the royal line. He found it necessary to invade Nubia. Ahmes of Ebana, who accompanied him, records in his tomb that a battle was fought between the second and third cataract. The Pharaoh slew the Nubian leader who opposed him, and, on his return, had the body suspended head downwards at the bow of the royal ship. Thothmes penetrated Nubia beyond the third cataract, and reached the island of Arko, where Sebekhotep had undertaken the erection of his great statues. A fortress was erected and garrisoned on the island of Tombos at the third cataract. Nubia thus became once again an Egyptian province.
A campaign of conquest was next waged in Syria, where Egyptian dominance was continually challenged by the rival powers in Asia Minor and Mesopotamia. "It was probably", write King and Hall, "with the Iranian kingdom of Mitanni, between Euphrates and Tigris, that the Dynasty carried on its struggle for Syria." No royal records of the campaign of Thothmes I survive, but we gather from the tomb inscriptions of Ahmes of Ebana and Ahmes of El Kab, that a great victory was won in Naharina, "the land of the rivers", which secured Egyptian supremacy. The king was afterwards able to boast that the northern boundary of the Empire extended "as far as the circuit of the sun"--
it was believed that: the world's edge was at the source of the Euphrates on the north and of that of the Nile on the south, and that both rivers flowed from the ocean, "the great Circle" surrounding the earth, in which lay the great serpent.
Thothmes I made an addition to the Karnak temple, and erected two great pylons on the thirtieth anniversary of his reign, when, at the Sed festival, he appears to have selected his successor. On one of the pylons he recorded that he had established peace in Egypt, ended lawlessness, and stamped out impiety, and that he had subdued the rebels in the Delta region. He also implored Amon to give the throne to his daughter Hatshepsut.
The closing period of the king's reign is obscure, and there is no agreement as to the events which occurred in connection with the family feud which ensued. Thothmes III dated his reign from the year preceding the death of Thothmes I. but in the interval Thothmes II and Hatshepsut sat on the throne.
The children of the royal princess who was the wife of Thothmes I included two sons and two daughters, but they all died young with the exception of the Princess Hatshepsut. Another wife was the mother of Thothmes II, while a concubine gave birth to Thothmes III.
Such is Breasted's reading of the problem, which is made difficult on account of the mutilation of inscriptions by the rival claimants. Other Egyptologists suggest that Thothmes III was the son of Thothmes II.
Thothmes III was a priest in the temple of Amon. He secured his succession by marrying either Hatshepsut or her daughter. According to Breasted, he superseded Thothmes I at a festival at which the Oracle of Amon proclaimed him as the Pharaoh. Thothmes III then began his reign, and. the old king lived in retirement.
After a time the usurping prince had to recognize the co-regency of Hatshepsut. But, ere long, he was thrust aside, and the queen reigned alone as "the female Horus". Thothmes II then seized the throne on his own and his father's behalf, and when Thothmes I died, Thothmes II allied himself with Thothmes III. When they had reigned about two years Thothmes II died, but Thothmes III was not able to retain his high position. Once again Hatshepsut, who had evidently won over a section of the priesthood, seized the reins of government, and Thothmes III was once again "relegated to the background". [*1] At the festivals he appeared as a priest.
Hatshepsut must have been a woman of great ability and force of character to have displaced such a man as Thothmes III. For about fourteen years she ruled alone, and engaged herself chiefly in restoring the religious buildings which had either been demolished or had fallen into disrepair during the Hyksos period. She completed the great mortuary temple at Der-el-Bahari, which had been begun under Thothmes II. It was modelled on the smaller temple of Mentuhotep, and is still magnificent in ruin. Situated against the western cliffs at Thebes, it was constructed in three terraces with sublime colonnades finely proportioned and exquisitely wrought. An inner chamber was excavated from the rock. On the temple walls the mythical scenes in connection with the birth of the queen were sculptured in low relief, and to get over the difficulty of being recognized as a "son of the sun", Hatshepsut was depicted in company of her male "double". On state occasions she wore a false beard.
The queen's most famous undertaking was to send an
Mut "the Mother" Hapi, God of the Nile Amon-Ra, King of the Gods
DEITIES OF THE EMPIRE PERIOD
RUINS OF THE TEMPLE OF DER-EL-BAHARI, THEBES
expedition of eight ships to the land of Punt to obtain myrrh trees, incense, rare woods, and sacred animals for the temple. It was her pious wish that Amon should have a garden to walk in.
To celebrate her jubilee Hatshepsut had erected two magnificent obelisks, nearly a hundred feet high, in front of the Karnak temple in which Thothmes III was a priest. One of these still stands erect, and is greatly admired by visitors. The obelisks, like the temple, were designed by the much-favoured architect Senmut, an accomplished artist and scheming statesman, who was a prominent figure in the party which supported the queen.
But so deeply was Hatshepsut concerned in devoting the revenues of the State to religious purposes that the affairs of empire were neglected. The flame of revolt was spreading through Syria, where the tribal chiefs scorned to owe allegiance to a woman, especially as she neglected to enforce her will at the point of the sword. Apparently, too, the Mitanni power had recovered from the blows dealt by the military Pharaohs of a previous generation and had again become aggressive. Then Hatshepsut died. She may have fallen a victim of a palace revolt of which no record survives. Her mummy has never been discovered. When the deep tunnel which she had constructed for her tomb was entered, it was found to have been despoiled. It may be that her body was never deposited there. After her death no more is heard of her favourite Senmut, or her daughter, whom she had selected as her successor. Her name was ruthlessly erased from her monuments. All the indications point to a military revolt, supported by a section of the priesthood, at a time of national peril.
Thothmes III, who immediately came to the throne, lost no time in raising an army and pressing northward
to subdue the Syrian rebellion. Although he has been referred to as "this little man with coarse features, as we know from his mummy", it would be a mistake to retain the impression that he was of repulsive aspect. He died when he was an old man; his jaw was not tied up before embalmment, which was not highly successful, for his nose was disfigured, and has partly crumbled away. The statues of the king present the striking face of a vigorous and self-contained man; in one he has a nose which rivals that of Wellington, and an air of dignity and refinement which accords with what we know of his character; for not only was he a great leader who, as his grand vizier has informed the ages, knew all that happened and never failed to carry out a matter he took in hand, he was also a man of artistic ability, accustomed, as Breasted informs us, to spend his leisure time "designing exquisite vases".
The hour had come and the man! With a well-organized army, in which he had placed the most capable men in command, he swept his victorious way through Syria and struck terror to the hearts of the rebels. His name--Manakhpirria (Men-kheper-ra) Thothmes--was dreaded long after his death, and may have originated the Semitic title "Pharaoh", which was never used by the native kings of Egypt.
The greatest triumph of the various Syrian campaigns conducted by Thothmes III was the capture of Megiddo, in the Hebrew tribal area of Issachar. That fortified stronghold, situated on the plain of Jezreel, was a point of great strategic importance--"the Key", indeed, of northern Palestine. It had to be approached over the ridge of Carmel, and was partly surrounded by the tributary known as "the brook Kina", which flows into the Kishon River. Two highways leading to Megiddo lay
before the Egyptian army, like the legs of inward curving calipers, and between these a narrow mountain pass cut in an almost straight and direct line into the town.
The Egyptian generals intended to advance along the northern curving highway, but Thothmes III was, like Nelson, a great strategist who ever did the unexpected. He decided to push through the pass, although along the greater part of it his horsemen would have to advance in Indian file. To inspire his followers with his own great courage, the fearless monarch rode in front. His daring manoeuvre was a complete success. Ere it was comprehended by the enemy, his army was pouring down upon the plain.
He completely upset the plans of the Asiatic allies, who had divided their forces to await the advance of the Egyptians by the north and the south, occupying the while, no doubt, strong positions.
The battle took place next day on the river bank. Thothmes led on a victorious charge, and scattered the enemy so that they retreated in confusion and took refuge in the city. Had the Egyptians not been too eager to secure the spoils of victory, they might have captured Megiddo, as Thothmes informed them afterwards. A long siege followed, but at length the town was starved into submission, and the princes came forth to swear allegiance to the Pharaoh. They also made payment of the tribute which they had withheld during the closing years of Hatshepsut's reign. Thothmes took the eldest sons of the various revolting princes as hostages, and deported them to Thebes. The spoils of victory included over goo chariots and 200 coats of mail and much gold and silver. Ere he returned home he captured three towns in Lebanon, and reorganized the administration of northern Palestine.
Other campaigns followed. On one of these Thothmes made swift attack upon some revolting princes by crossing the sea and landing on the Phoenician coast. The Hittites gave trouble on the north, and he pushed on to Carchemish, their southern capital, and captured it. At Kadesh, on the Orontes, he also dealt a shattering blow against the Hittites and their allies from Mitanni. He had previously subdued the Libyans, and conducted a successful campaign into Nubia. Thus he built up a great empire, and made Egypt the foremost power in the world. Tribute poured into the royal exchequer from the various subject states, and peace offerings were made by the Hittites and even by the rulers of Cyprus and Crete. Both Assyria and Babylonia cultivated friendly relations with Thothmes III, who appears to have been as distinguished a diplomatist as he was a conqueror.
The priests of Amon composed a great hymn in his honour, which, they pretended, had been recited by their god.
I have come, I have given to thee to smite the land of the Syrians Under thy feet they lie through the length and breadth of the god's land; I have made them see thy might like to a star revolving When it sheds its burning beams and drops its dew on the meadows. I have come, I have given to thee to vanquish the Western peoples Crete is stricken with fear, terror is reigning in Cyprus; Like to a great young bull, I have made them behold thy power, Fearless and quick to strike, none is so bold to resist thee. I have come, I have given to thee to conquer the folk of the marshes, The terror of thee has fallen over the lands of Mitanni; Like to a crocodile fierce they have beheld thee in glory; O monarch of fear at sea, none is so bold to approach thee. [p. 293]
The chief buildings of Thothmes III were erected to Amon at Thebes, but he did not fail to honour Ra at Heliopolis, Ptah at Memphis, and Hathor at Dendera. One of his jubilee obelisks, which he erected at Thebes., now stands in Constantinople; another is in Rome; the pair set up at Heliopolis have been given prominent sites on either side of the Atlantic Ocean--one in New York and the other on the Thames Embankment, London. His reign, which he dated from his first accession prior to the death of Thothmes I, extended over a period of fifty-four years. He died on 17 March, 1447, B.C., and was buried in the lonely "Valley of Kings' Tombs".
^282:1 In an Amon-Ra hymn the deity is called "maker of men, former of the flocks, lord of corn" (Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, Wiedemann, p. 116).
^282:2 "The gods gather as dogs round his feet."--Hymn to Amon-re.
^283:1 "Amon of the two horns."
^285:1 That is, the soul of Osiris is in Amon, as the soul of the giant is in the egg, the ram, &c., "doubly hidden". Amon-Ra is addressed in a temple chant: "Hidden is thy abode, lord of the gods".
^288:1 A History of Egypt, James Henry Breasted, London, 1906.