I have always found the history of Egypt absolutely fascinating. The ancient Egyptians called their country Kemit, or "Black Land," after the dark soil along the banks of the Nile, annually renewed by rich organic material deposited during the river's flooding.
2772 BCE---The 365-day calendar is introduced.
2700 BCE---Djoser, whose power is absolute, founds the third dynasty. He will build the first known pyramid.
2560 BCE---Khufu builds the Great Pyramid of Cheops. It is 481 feet high and will remain the tallest monument in the world until the 19th century.
2050 BCE---The period of the Middle Kingdom begins with its capital at Thebes.
@2000 BCE---The Egyptians domesticate the cat for the purpose of catching snakes. Advances in astronomy enable Egyptians to predict the annual flooding of the Nile.
1990 BCE---The Twelfth Dynasty, the "golden" age, begins. Power is somewhat distributed through the social classes. Religion shifts from a wealth-based system to one based on proper conduct.
1786 BCE---The Hyksos from Syria and Palestine occupy Egypt. They introduce the horse and chariot in Egypt. Their position is strengthened by the internal problems in the Egyptian state. (see the Hyksos woman at the right with her child)
1600 BCE---A revolt against the Hyksos begins in Upper Egypt and spreads throughout the country.
1560 BCE---Ahmose defeats the Hyksos and establishes the XVIII Dynasty. The New Kingdom begins. Egypt becomes imperialistic, enabled by new modes of warfare introduced into Egypt by the Hyksos. Amhose is at the right - chisled in stone with the folded arms.
1500 BCE---The kingdom of Kush has been established to the south of Egypt. Egyptians begin using a shaduf for irrigating their crops.
1375 BCE---Amenhotep IV, who changes his name to Akhenaton, concerned about abuses in the Osiris cult, inaugurates a new monotheistic religion dedicated to the worship of the sun. He moves the capital from Thebes to El-Amarna. The new religion does not last long and is abolished under the reign of his successor, Tutankhamen, who moves the capital back to Thebes and returns to the old religion.
1304 BCE---Rameses II, "the Great," begins his rule. It lasts until 1237.
1250 BCE---Under the direction of Moses, the Israelites leave Egypt and head for the "promised land."
1182 BCE---Rameses III defeats the Sea People. Pharoah until 1151, he will build his temple place at Medinet. He is the last great pharoah to rule Egypt.
750 BCE---Kashta, the ruler of Kush, begins a campaign against Egypt. With the help of his son, Piankhy, he is successful, and Piankhy becomes pharoah in Egypt.
671 BCE---Egypt is conquered by the Assyrians.
661 BCE---The Assyrian Empire collapses and Egypt enjoys about a century of independence.
525 BCE---Egypt is conquered by the Persians, who will rule until 405.
400 BCE---Greek historian Herodotus travels in Egypt.
343 BCE---The Persians rule Egypt for a second time until 332.
332 BCE---Alexander the Great occupies Egypt and founds the city of Alexandria.
305 BCE---The Hellenistic Ptolemaic dynasty begins.
30 BCE---Cleopatra commits suicide on November 30th.
(Please continue scrolling down at left)
68 CE---Saint Mark is persecuted and slain by Roman soldiers on Easter Monday, May 8th.
@190 CE---Christian scholar Pantanaeus founds the Catechetical School of Alexandria, the oldest catechetical school in the world. It becomes the most important institution of religious learning in Christendom.
311 CE---The Arian controversy, a Christian theological dispute over the precise relationship between the members of the Trinity, threatens the unity of the Christian churches in the East.
327 CE---Saint Athanasius begins his 46-year reign as Pope of Alexandria.
530 CE---Saint Cyril, Pope of Alexandria, is the head of the Ecumenical Council, which is held in Ephesus.
THE RULERS OF ANCIENT EGYPT
Egyptian dating is expressed by ruling families--dynasties. An Egyptian priest named Manetho (270 BCE) wrote a history of Egypt titled Aegyptiaca. He recorded the country's rulers from the accession of Menes in 2950 BCE to the conquest of Alexander the Great in 332 BCE, giving the number of dynasties, the number of kings, their names and the length of each reign. Though his work survives only as excerpts in the writings of classical-era historians, Manetho remains an important source of information for dynastic chronologies.
The Old Kingdom
From the 1st Dynasty 3I00 2890 BCE to the 8th Dynasty 2181 - 2125 BCE
1st Dynasty 3I00 - 2890 BCE - Before the first dynasty, Egypt was in fact 2 lands. The unifier of these lands, in folk tales, was a fellow called Menes and known as the first mortal king of Egypt. The Greek historian Herodotus, records that this king founded the capital, Memphis, by damming the Nile to reclaim land for the city. During this time papyrus was invented and as a consequence writing was used as an administrative tool of government. This created the conditions for prosperity, which can be seen in the magnificent artifacts that have been found from this period.
2nd Dynasty 2890 - 2686 BCE - At the end of the 1st Dynasty there appears to have been rival claimants for the throne. The successful claimant's Horus name, Hetepsekhemwy, translates as "peaceful in respect of the two powers" this may be a reference to the opposing gods Horus and Seth, or an understanding reached between 2 rival factions. But the political rivalry was never fully resolved and in time the situation worsened into conflict. The 4th pharaoh, Peribsen, took the title of Seth instead of Horus and the last ruler of the dynasty, Khasekhemwy, took both titles. A Horus/Seth name meaning "arising in respect of the two powers," and "the two lords are at peace in him." Towards the end of this dynasty, however, there seems to have been more disorder and possibly civil war.
3rd Dynasty 2686 2613 BCE - One of the landmarks of human history, the 3rd Dynasty is a prosperous age in which the world's first great monumental building, the pyramid, appears. The artistic masterpieces in the tombs of the nobles reveal the material wealth of this time. The Step Pyramid at Saqqara is designed by Imhotep, the royal architect, for Djoser, one of the outstanding kings of Egypt. It is the first large stone building and the forerunner of later pyramids.
4th Dynasty 2613 2494 BCE - Egypt was able to accomplish the ambitious feat of the Giza pyramids because there had been a long period of peace and no threats of invasion. The 4th Dynasty came from Memphis and the 5th from the south in Elephantine. The transition from one ruling family to another appears to have been peaceful.
5th Dynasty 2494 2345 BCE - The first 2 kings of the 5th Dynasty were sons of the lady Khentkaues, who was a member of the 4th Dynasty royal family. There was an institutionalization of officialdom and high officials for the first time came from outside the royal family. The pyramids were smaller and less solidly constructed than those of the 4th Dynasty, but the carvings from the mortuary temples are well preserved and of the highest quality. There are surviving papyri from this period, which demonstrate well-developed methods of accounting and record keeping. They document the redistribution of goods between the royal residence, the temples, and officials.
6th Dynasty 2345-2181 BCE - Regional administrators have begun to usurp royal powers. There are many inscriptions from the 6th Dynasty, including records of trading expeditions to the south from the reigns of Pepi I. Pepi II. The pyramid of Pepi II at southern Saqqara is the last major monument of the Old Kingdom. None of the names of kings of the short-lived 7th Dynasty are known and the 8th Dynasty shows signs of political decay.
First Intermediate Period
7th and 8th Dynasties 2181- 2125 BCE
About this time the Old Kingdom state collapsed. Egypt simultaneously suffered political failure and environmental disaster with famine, civil disorder and a rise in the death rate. With the climate of Northeast Africa becoming dryer, combined with low inundations of the Nile and the cemeteries rapidly filling, this was not a good time for the Egyptians.
The years following the death of Pepi II are most obscure. The only person from this era to have left an impression on posterity is a woman called Nitokris who appears to have acted as king. There are no contemporary records but Herodotus wrote of her the she killed hundreds of Egyptians to avenge the king, her brother, whom his subjects had killed, and had forced her to succeed: She did this by constructing a huge underground chamber. Then invited to a banquet all those she knew to be responsible for her brother's death. When the banquet was underway, she let the river in on them, through a concealed pipe. After this fearful revenge, she flung herself into a room filled with embers, to escape her punishment.
For a time petty warlords ruled the provinces. Then from the city of Herakleopolis there emerged a ruling family led by one Khety who for a time held sway over the whole country. However, this was short lived and the country split into North, ruled from Herakleopolis and South, ruled from Thebes. The Theban dynasty was stable, but kings succeeded one another rapidly at Herakleopolis. There was continual conflict between the 2 lands, which was resolved in the 11th dynasty.
The Middle Kingdom: Peace, Prosperity, and Foreign Influence
From the 11th Dynasty 2125-1991 BCE to the 17th Dynasty 1650-1550 BCE
11th Dynasty 2125-1991 BCE - The Middle Kingdom began with the reunification of the country under Mentuhotep I. Centered in Thebes, the royal line began to assert its authority. Mentuhotep I ousted the kings of Herakleopolis. He assumed the Horus name Divine of the White Crown, implicitly claiming all of Upper Egypt. This was later changed to Uniter of the Two Lands. His remarkable mortuary complex at Dayr al-Bahri was the architectural inspiration for Hatshepsut's temple, which was built alongside it some 500 years later. But only Mentuhotep II was able to regain control of the entire country. His 50-year reign inaugurated a renaissance of Egyptian culture that continued through the next 2 dynasties. A new capital was established near Lisht.
12th Dynasty 1991-1782 BCE - Amenemhet I moved the capital back to the Memphis. There was a revival of Old Kingdom artistic styles. He later took his son Sesostris as his co-regent. During the 10 years of joint rule Sesostris undertook campaigns in Lower Nubia which led to its conquest. Amenemhet was murdered during Sesostris' absence on a campaign in Libya, but Sesostris was able to maintain his hold on the throne and consolidated his father's achievements. Sesostris III reorganized Egypt into 4 regions, the northern and southern halves of the Nile Valley and the eastern and western Delta. He and his successor Amememhet III left a striking artistic legacy in the form of statuary depicting them as aging, careworn rulers. It was during this period that the written language was regularized in its classical form of Middle Egyptian. The first body of literary texts was composed in this form, although several are ascribed to Old Kingdom authors. The most important of these is the "Instruction for Merikare," a discourse on kingship and moral responsibility. Queen Sobeknefru, the first female monarch marked the end of the dynastic line.
13th Dynasty 1782-1650 BCE - The true chronology of the 13th Dynasty is rather vague since there are few surviving monuments from this period. There were many kings who reigned for a short time, not of a single family and some born commoners. The last 50 years represents a gradual decline. With the decline of the 13th Dynasty, Egypt lost its military power as well. The military leaders and soldiers stationed in Nubia became more and more independent. Some of them may even have permanently settled in Nubia. The fortresses built along the eastern border were either abandoned, or control on who passed the borders was not as strict as it used to be. Palestinian nomads had free entrance into a country that they considered a country of wealth and abundance. Most of these Palestinians settled and became traders, farmers or craftsmen, but at least one of them, Khendjer, became a king. By the end of the 13th Dynasty, the Eastern Delta was mostly populated with Asians. It seems that after the death of Ay, the eastern Delta broke away under its own petty kings.
The Second Intermediate Period
The Middle Kingdom fell because of the weakness of its later kings, which led to Egypt being invaded by an Asiatic desert people, called the Hyksos. These invaders made themselves kings and held the country for more than 2 centuries, ruling from their capital, Avaris. The word Hyksos goes back to an Egyptian phrase meaning "ruler of foreign lands". The Jewish historian Josephus (1st century AD) mentions them. He depicts the new rulers as sacrilegious invaders who despoiled the land but with the exception of the title Hyksos they presented themselves as Egyptian kings and appear to have been accepted as such. They tolerated other lines of kings within the country, both those of the 17th Dynasty and the various minor Hyksos who made up the 16th Dynasty.
14th Dynasty - Asiatic immigration became widespread, the northeastern Delta being settled by successive waves of Palestinians. If there was a 14th Dynasty at all, it lasted for around 57 years. The rulers are thought to have controlled the Western part of the Delta. It is possible that several of the kings may never have existed.
15th Dynasty 1650-1550 BCE - During the early 2nd Intermediary Period, a group of Asians, known as the Hyksos, sometimes referred to as the Shepherd Kings or Desert Princes, established their own dynasties in Egypt. Little is known about their origins, or about the way they gained control over large parts of Egypt. It is commonly assumed that they invaded Egypt and overtook it by force. This theory may be supported by the name the Egyptians themselves gave to the Hyksos: "rulers of the foreign countries", which may indicate that the Hyksos ruled outside Egypt before invading it. The weakness of the Egyptians may have invited a military invasion. On the other hand, there is no real proof of military conflicts between the Egyptians and the Hyksos at the end of the Middle Kingdom. It is also possible that the Asian settlers who had been coming to Egypt for some generations had become so powerful that they were able to gain political control and establish their own dynasties without a military show of force. Some of them used Egyptian names and they did not try to integrate their own Asian heritage into the Egyptian culture. These facts lead scholars to suppose that the Hyksos had been living long enough in Egypt before they seized power to have adapted themselves to the Egyptian culture. The Hyksos are thought to have sacked the old capital of Memphis and built their capital at Avaris, in the Delta. The dynasty consisted of 5 or possibly 6 kings, the best-known being Apepi I, who reigned for up to 40 years.
16th Dynasty 1650-1550 BCE - The rule of the Hyksos brought many technical innovations to Egypt, from bronze working, pottery and looms to new musical instruments and musical styles. New breeds of animals and crops were introduced. But the most important changes was in the area of warfare; composite bows, new types of daggers and scimitars, and above all the horse and chariot. In many ways the Hyksos modernized Egypt and ultimately Egypt was to benefit from their rule.
17th Dynasty 1650-1550 BCE - While the Hyksos ruled northern Egypt a new line of native rulers was developing in Thebes. They controlled the area from Elephantine in the south, to Abydos in the middle of the country. The early rulers made no attempt to challenge the Hyksos but an uneasy truce existed between them. Around 1550, the 17th Dynasty first started opposing the dominion of the Hyksos kings. A New Kingdom tale relates how the Hyksos king Apophis sent a letter to the Theban king Seqenenre, complaining that the noise made by Seqenenre's hippopotamuses prevented him from sleeping. King Tao II, also known as Seqenenre, of course, would not take such an insult, but unfortunately, this is where the story breaks off. The mummy of Seqenenre, which shows that he died a violent death, perhaps on the battlefield, suggests that this story may have been based on fact. The first historically recorded traces of a war against the Hyksos are dated to the reign of Seqenenre's son, Kamose. 2 stelae commemorate Kamose's struggle against the Hyksos and their vassals. Against the advice of his council, Kamose started or continued the war, punishing all those who had collaborated with the foreigners. He almost succeeded in conquering Avaris, the capital of the Hyksos in the Delta, but he too may have fallen on the battlefield. It would be Kamose's younger brother and successor, Ahmose, who would finally succeed in overthrowing the Hyksos. With his reign, a new period of prosperity and wealth would begin in the New Kingdom.
Tao I (Senakhetenre)
Tao II (Seqenenre)
The New Kingdom: The Age of Empire
From the 18th Dynasty 1550 - 1295 BCE up to the 20th Dynasty 1186 - 1069 BCE
Egypt was reborn with the advent of the New Kingdom. The Theban kings expelled the Hyksos and the Egyptian army pushed beyond the traditional borders into Palestine and Syria. A huge empire was created which brought into Egypt not only material wealth but also new ideas. The bureaucratic administration of the country and empire gradually changed from one of family inheritance to a more dynamic system of royal appointments. Officials were now selected on merit and Egypt was about to change the known world.
18th Dynasty 1550-1295 BCE - Egypt attained its greatest heights with this dynasty. This family began a period of unprecedented success in international affairs for Egypt. There was a succession of extraordinary and able kings and queens who laid the foundations of a strong Egypt and bequeathed a prosperous economy to the kings of the 19th Dynasty. Ahmose expelled the Hyksos and rebuilt the economy, followed by Thutmose I's conquests in the Near East and Africa (to let the world know that Egypt was back). Queen Hatshepsut and Thutmose III made Egypt into a super power. The magnificent Amenhotep III began an artistic revolution. Akhenaton and Nefertiti began a religious revolution with the concept of one god. And finally, there was Tutankhamen.
Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten)
19th Dynasty 1295 -1186 BCE - Seti I's reign looked for its model to the mid-18th Dynasty and was a time of considerable prosperity. He restored countless monuments and his temple at Abydos exhibits some of the finest carved wall reliefs. His son Rameses II is the major figure of the dynasty. Around this time the Hittites had become a dominant Asiatic power. An uneasy balance of power developed between the 2 kingdoms, which was punctuated by wars and treaties. By now Egypt was an ethnically pluralistic society and this is reflected in a diversity of artistic expression. Unfortunately the tide of history was turning and Rameses' son, Merenptah had to struggle to maintain Egypt's prestige.
20th Dynasty 1186 - 1069 BCE - Setnakht ruled for only a few years but restored order after a period of chaos. His son Rameses III was the last great king, giving Egypt a final moment of glory by defeating the Sea Peoples who had utterly destroyed the Hittite Empire and swept all before them on their march south. After Rameses III, Egypt began to suffer economic problems and a breakdown in the fabric of society. She was unable to exploit the revolution of the Iron Age and there followed a succession of kings all called Rameses, perhaps a vain attempt to recapture past glories.
PERSONALITIES ON THE THRONE
According to tradition, Pepi II lived to the age of 100 years and ruled for 96 of them. The son of Pepi I and Ankhenesmerire I, he succeeded his half-brother Nemtimsaf I, who reigned for only a few years when he suddenly died. Pepi became the king while still a child. There are many surviving inscriptions from this period recording trading expeditions to the south. One of the most interesting concerns the caravan leader Harkhuf. He had made many journeys into Nubia (the Sudan), and on one occasion wrote 9-year-old Pepi II, describing a dancing dwarf he was bringing back to Egypt. The excitement of the little king is conspicuous in the letter he wrote to Harkhuf: "You have said in your letter that you have brought a dwarf of divine dances from the land of the horizon-dwellers. Like the dwarf whom the Treasurer of the God, Baurded, brought from Punt in the time of King Isesi. You say to my Majesty, Never before has one like him been brought by any other who has visited Yam .You must bring the dwarf, alive, sound and well to rejoice and gladden the heart of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt my Majesty desires to see this dwarf more than the all products of Sinai and Punt. If you arrive at the Court and the dwarf is with you, alive, and well, my Majesty will make you many excellent honours to be an ornament for the son of your son for ever. All the people will say when they hear what my Majesty does for you: "Is there anything like this which was done for the privy counsellor Harkhuf, when he came down from Yam." His mother and her brother, Djau, held the actual power in the beginning of his reign. An alabaster statue shows Ankhenesmerire I with the young but regal Pepi II on her lap, somewhat reminiscent of Isis with the young Horus. Another statue shows Pepi II as a naked child. Pepi II's long reign is marked by a gradual decline of the central government. His predecessors' policy to try and consolidate the position of the king was starting to fail, and this would become more obvious after Pepi II's death. It is often believed that the cause of this was his long reign because the aging king was no longer able to rule himself, which would have increased the power of his central administration and of the provincial governors. On the other hand, it must be noted that Pepi's funerary monument was built and decorated in a much poorer way than his predecessors', which may indicate a decline in welfare in general during his reign. This decline is likely to have been the result of the lower annual inundation of the Nile: with a lower annual inundation, harvests and crops were no longer abundant and agriculture, the backbone of Egyptian economy, began to decline. Pepi II's foreign policy too is marked by some problems. Several expedition leaders would find their deaths while campaigning in Nubia. The commercial relationship with Byblos appears to have continued, but many other commercial relationships with foreign countries were broken off. Pepi II built his funerary complex in Saqqara South, near the monument of Shepseskaf of the 4th Dynasty, at a kilometer distance from his father's and brother's. His 3 wives were buried in smaller pyramids next to his own.
Queen Hatshepsut was the first great woman in recorded history: the forerunner of such figures as Cleopatra, Catherine the Great and Elizabeth I. Her rise to power went against all the conventions of her time. She was the first wife and queen of Thutmose II and on his death proclaimed herself Pharaoh, denying the old king's son, her nephew, his inheritance. To support her cause she claimed the God Amon-Ra spoke, saying "welcome my sweet daughter, my favourite, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Maatkare, Hatshepsut. Thou art the King, taking possession of the Two Lands." She dressed as a king, even wearing a false beard and the Egyptian people seem to have accepted this unprecedented behavior. She remained in power for 20 years and during this time the Egyptian economy flourished, she expanded trading relations and built magnificent temples as well as restoring many others. Eventually her nephew grew into a man and took his rightful place as pharaoh. The circumstances of this event are unknown and what became of Hatshepsut is a mystery. Her successor became the greatest of all Pharaohs, Thutmose III, "the Napoleon of ancient Egypt." He had her name cut away from the temple walls, but the fact that she was able to contain the ambitions of this charismatic and wily fellow for so many years, hints at the qualities of her character.
Thutmose III possessed all the qualities of a great ruler. A brilliant general that never lost a battle, he also excelled as an administrator and statesman. He was an accomplished horseman, archer, athlete and discriminating patron of the arts. His reign, with the exception of the uncharacteristic spite against the memory of Hatshepsut, was notable for its lack of bad taste and brutality. Thutmose had no time for pompous, self-indulgent bombast and his records show him to be a sincere and fair-minded man. During Hatshepsut's reign there were no wars. Egypt's neighboring countries regularly paid tribute but as is often the case when a new king comes to the throne subject nations are inclined to test his resolve. Thutmose found himself faced with a coalition of the princes of Kadesh and Megiddo, who had mobilized a large army. Also the Mesopotamians and their kinsmen living in Syria refused to pay tribute and declared themselves free of Egypt. Not daunted, Thutmose immediately set out with his army and crossing the Sinai desert he marched to the city of Gaza, which had remained loyal to Egypt. The events of the campaign are well documented because Thutmose's private secretary, Tjaneni, kept a record, which as later copied and engraved onto the walls of the temple of Karnak. This first campaign revealed Thutmose to be a military genius, understanding the value of logistics and lines of supply, the necessity of rapid movement and sudden surprise attack. He led by example and was also probably the first person in history to really utilize sea power to support his campaigns. Thutmose III never lost a battle. He conducted 16 campaigns in Palestine, Syria and Nubia and his treatment of the conquered was always humane. He established a sort of Pax Egyptica over his empire. Syria and Palestine were obliged to keep the peace and the region as a whole experienced an unprecedented degree of prosperity. Thutmose III's impact upon Egyptian culture was profound. He was a national hero who was revered long after his time. Indeed his name was held in awe even to the last days of Egyptian history. Besides his military achievements he carried out many building works at Karnak. He also set up a number of obelisks in Egypt, some of which stand in London, New York's Central Park, Rome, and Istanbul.
Amenhotep III was an 18th Dynasty king who ruled at a time when Egypt was at the peak of her glory. He lived a life of pleasure, building huge temples and statues, but unlike his predecessors, encouraged realism in art. A rarity among Egyptian kings, he married Tiyi, a non-royal. Their son Akhenaten was an even more unusual character. He tried to change the Egyptian concept of godhead to one that was both monotheistic and abstract. He worshiped the sun (Aten) as the one true god and it is possible that the Hebrew prophets' concept of a universal God was derived in part from this cult. Akhenaten also introduced an entirely new and more intimate form of expression into Egyptian art. Among the surviving works of this period are the colossal statues of Akhenaten, the paintings from his private residence, the bust of his wife, Nefertiti and his mother Queen Tiyi. These works are unique in Egyptian art as they do not flatter the subjects but reveal the real people--they also demonstrate a sophistication and creative freedom which was certainly revolutionary in their time. This artistic renaissance was short lived, however. Akhenaten made himself unpopular by closing the temples and his lack of enthusiasm for the practical duties of kingship caused Egypt's imperial interests to suffer. Eventually his successor and son-in-law, the famous Tutankhamun, returned Egypt to its traditional values. Akhenaten's memory was officially erased and later Egyptian historians would only refer to him as the heretic king.
THE GODS & GODDESSES OF ANCIENT EGYPT
Unlike modern houses of worship where the faithful congregate, ancient Egyptian temples were the abode of the gods and admitted only the king and designated priests. Commoners prayed outside the temple and entered the outer courtyards to watch festival events. Royal gifts of land, accumulated through many reigns, supported a temple's staff and its activities. Peasants worked the fields to produce wheat and barley, stored in temple granaries until needed. Gardeners cultivated flowers and herbs, which the priests offered to the gods or used to make medicines.
Amen (Amon, Amun, Ammon, Amoun)
Amen's name means "The Hidden One." Amen was the patron deity of the city of Thebes from earliest times, and was viewed (along with his consort Amenet) as a primordial creation-deity. He is represented in 5 forms: (1) a man, enthroned; (2) a frog-headed man (as a primordial deity); (3) a cobra-headed man; (4) an ape; (5) a lion. His sacred animals were the goose and the ram, though he was not depicted as them. Up to Dynasty 12 Amen was unimportant except in Thebes; but when the Thebans had established their sovereignty in Egypt, Amen became a prominent deity, and by Dynasty 18 was termed the King of the Gods. His famous temple, Karnak, is the largest religious structure ever built by man. By Dynasty 19-20 Amen was thought of as "an invisible creative power which was the source of all life in heaven, and on the earth, and in the great deep, and in the Underworld, and which made itself manifest under the form of Ra." Amen was self-created, according to later traditions; according to the older Theban traditions, Thoth created Amen as one of the 8 primordial deities of creation (Amen, Amenet, Heq, Heqet, Nun, Naunet, Kau, Kauket). During the New Kingdom, Amen's consort was Mut, "Mother," who seems to have been the Egyptian equivalent of the "Great Mother" archetype. They formed a pair reminiscent of the God and Goddess of other traditions such as Wicca. See also Amen-Ra, Mut, Thoth.
A composite deity invented by the priests of Amen as an attempt to link New Kingdom (Dynasty 18-21) worship of Amen with the older solar cult of the god Ra. Part of the Karnak triad with Mut, and Khonsu. See also Amen, Ra.
Amset (Imsety, Mestha, Ameshet)
One of the Four Sons of Horus, Amset was represented as a mummified man. He was the protector of the liver of the deceased, and was protected by the goddess Isis. See also Four Sons of Horus, Isis.
Anubis (Anpu, Ano-Oobist)
Anubis (the Greek corruption of the Egyptian "Anpu") was the son of Nephthys: by some traditions, the father was Set; by others, Osiris. Anubis was depicted as a jackal, or as a jackal-headed man; in primitive times he was probably simply the jackal god. Owing to the jackal's tendency to prowl around tombs, he became associated with the dead, and by the Old Kingdom, Anubis was worshipped as the inventor of embalming, who had embalmed the dead Osiris, thus helping preserve him in order to live again. Anubis was also worshipped under the form "Wepuat" ("Opener of the Ways"), sometimes with a rabbit's head, who conducted the souls of the dead to their judgment, and who monitored the Scales of Truth to protect the dead from deception and eternal death. See also Nephthys, Osiris, Set.
A cat-goddess, worshiped in the Delta city of Bubastis, Bast was a protectress of cats and those who cared for cats. As a result, an important deity in the home (since cats were prized pets) and also important in the iconography (since the serpents which attack the sun god were usually represented in papyri as being killed by cats). She was also worshiped as the consort of Ptah-seker-ausar; and is joined with Sekhmet and Ra (a very unusual combination of male and female deities) to form Sekhmet-bast-ra, also worshiped as Ptah-seker-ausar's spouse, and viewed as a deity of the destructive, purifying power of the sun. Responsible for: joy, music, dancing, health and healing. Rituals honoring Bast included light-hearted barge processions and orgiastic ceremonies. She also protected humans against contagious diseases and evil spirits. Her cult can be traced back to about 3200 BCE, and she became a national deity when Bubastis became the capital of Egypt in about 950 BCE. A priestess of Bast, like the goddess herself, was known as "the Lady with the Red Clothes." See also Ptah, Ra, Sekhmet.
A deity of either African or Semitic origin; came to Egypt by Dynasty 12. Depicted as a bearded, savage-looking yet comical dwarf, shown full-face in images (highly unusual by Egyptian artistic conventions). Revered as a deity of household pleasures such as music, good food, and relaxation. Also a protector and entertainer of children. However, many texts point to the idea that Bes was a terrible, avenging deity, who was as swift to punish the wicked as he was to amuse and delight the righteous.
Duamutef (Thmoomathph, Tuamutef)
One of the Four Sons of Horus, Duamutef was represented as a mummified man with the head of a jackal. He was the protector of the stomach of the deceased, and was protected by the goddess Neith. See also Four Sons of Horus, Neith.
Four Sons of Horus
The four sons of Horus were the protectors of the parts of the body of Osiris, and from this, became the protectors of the body of the deceased. They were Amset, Hapi, Duamutef, and Qebhsenuef. The goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Serket protected them in turn. See also Amset, Duamutef, Hapi, Isis, Neith, Nephthys, Qebhsenuef, and Serket.
He was the god of the earth, son of Shu and Tefnut, brother and husband of Nuit, and father of Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nephthys. In the earliest stages of Egyptian history his name was Geb; in later forms of the language it became Seb, but the old pronunciation has become so common in popular works on the subject that it is used herein. His sacred animal was the goose, and he was often referred to as the "Great Cackler". He is generally represented as a man with green or black skin, the color of living things, and the color of the fertile Nile mud, respectively. It was said that Seb would hold imprisoned the souls of the wicked, that they might not ascend to heaven.
One of the Four Sons of Horus, Hapi was represented as a mummified man with the head of a baboon. He was the protector of the lungs of the deceased, and was protected by the goddess Nephthys. The name Hapi is also the name of the god who was the personification of the River Nile, depicted as a corpulent man (fat signifying abundance) with a crown of lilies or papyrus stems. See also Four Sons of Horus, Nephthys.
Hathor (Het-heru, Het-Hert)
She was a very old goddess of Egypt, worshiped as a cow-deity from earliest times. The name "Hathor" is the Greek corruption of the variants Het-Hert ("the House Above") and Het-Heru ("the House of Horus"). Both terms refer to her as a sky goddess. The priests of Heliopolis often referred to her as Ra's consort, the mother of Shu and Tefnut. Like Isis, Hathor was considered by many to be the goddess par excellence and held the attributes of most of the other goddesses at one time or another. Like Isis and Mut, Hathor was a manifestation of the "Great Mother" archetype; a sort of cosmic Yin. She had so very many manifestations that eventually 7 important ones were selected and widely worshiped as the "Seven Hathors": Hathor of Thebes, Heliopolis, Aphroditopolis, Sinai, Momemphis, Herakleopolis, and Keset. The Greeks identified her with Aphrodite as she represented everything true, good, and beautiful in all forms of woman; mother, wife, sister, and daughter; also the patron of artists of every kind, and of joyful things, festivals, and happiness. Responsible for: music, dancing, drunkenness, underworld, women, joy, childbirth, motherhood, love, lighthearted pleasure, and justice. The star Sirius (called by the Egyptians Sepdet) was sacred to her. Sinai miners seeking turquoise venerated her as "The Lady of Turquoise." See also Isis, Mut, Ra, Shu, Tefnut.
Heru-ra-ha is a composite deity in Crowley's quasi-Egyptian mythology, composed of Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Hoor-par-kraat. This is apparently without basis in historical Egyptian mythology, but the name, translated into Egyptian, means something approximating "Horus and Ra be Praised!" See also Ra-Hoor-Khuit, Hoor-pa-kraat.
"Horus of (or in) the Horizons," one of the most common titles of Horus, especially when in his function as a solar deity, emphasizing his reign stretching from one horizon to the other. See also Horus, Ra, Ra-Hoor-Khuit.
A form of Horus worshipped in the city of Behdet, shown in the well-known form of a solar disk with a great pair of wings, usually seen hovering above important scenes in Egyptian religious art. The god was seen almost everywhere, yet at the same time small and out-of-the-way. See also Horus.
Hor-pa-kraat (Horus the Child, Hoor-par-kraat)
Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, distinguished from Horus the Elder, who was the old patron deity of Upper Egypt; but the worship of the 2 gods became confused early in Egyptian history and they essentially merged. Represented as a young boy with a child's sidelock of hair, sucking his finger. The Golden Dawn attributed Silence to him, presumably because the sucking of the finger is suggestive of the common "shhh" gesture. See also Horus.
One of the most important deities of Egypt, Horus as now conceived is a mixture of the original deities known as "Horus the Child" and "Horus the Elder". As the Child, Horus is the son of Osiris and Isis, who, upon reaching adulthood, becomes known as Her-nedj-tef-ef ("Horus, Avenger of His Father") by avenging his father's death, by defeating and casting out his evil uncle Set. He then became the divine prototype of the Pharaoh. As Horus the Elder, he was also the patron deity of Upper (Southern) Egypt from the earliest times. He was initially viewed as the twin brother of Set (the patron of Lower Egypt), but he became the conqueror of Set (c. 3000 BCE) when Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt and formed the unified kingdom of Egypt. See also Hor-pa-kraat, Horus the Elder, Isis, Osiris, Set.
The Eye of Horus
Horus the Elder (Her-ur, Aroueris)
Horus, the patron god of Upper Egypt from time immemorial; distinguished from Horus the Child (Hor-pa-kraat), who was the son of Isis and Osiris; but the 2 gods merged early in Egyptian history and became the one Horus, uniting the attributes of both. See also Hor-pa-kraat, Horus.
Isis (Auset, Eset)
Perhaps the most important goddess of all Egyptian mythology, Isis assumed, during the course of Egyptian history, the attributes and functions of virtually every other important goddess in the land. Her most important functions, however, were those of motherhood, marital devotion, healing the sick, and the working of magical spells and charms. She was also responsible for love, sexuality, ceremonies, immortality, and the liver. Also called the Great Enchantress, she was believed to be the most powerful magician in the universe, owing to the fact that she had learned the Secret Name of Ra from the god himself. She was the sister and wife of Osiris, sister of Set, and twin sister of Nephthys. She was the mother of Horus the Child (Hor-pa-kraat), and was the protective goddess of Horus's son Amset, protector of the liver of the deceased. Isis was responsible for protecting Horus from Set during his infancy; for helping Osiris to return to life; and for assisting her husband to rule in the land of the Dead. Her cult seems to have originally centered, like her husband's, at Abydos near the Delta in the North (Lower Egypt). She was adopted into the family of Ra early in Egyptian history by the priests of Heliopolis, but from the New Kingdom onwards (c. 1500 BCE) her worship no longer had any particular identifiable center, and she became more or less universally worshiped, as her husband was. Egyptians addressed her as "Thou Lady of the Red Apparel." See also Amset, Hor-pa-kraat, Horus, Nephthys, Osiris, Ra, Set.
According to early Heliopolitan cosmology, Khephra was the creator-god, considered a form of Ra. The Egyptian root "kheper" signifies several things, according to context, most notably the verb "to create" or "to transform", and also the word for "scarab beetle". The scarab, or dung beetle, was considered symbolic of the sun since it rolled a ball of dung in which it laid its eggs around with it. This was considered symbolic of the sun god propelling the sphere of the sun through the sky. In later Heliopolitan belief, which named the sun variously according to the time of the day, Khephra was the nighttime form of the sun. See also Ra.
The third member (with his parents Amen and Mut) of the great triad of Thebes. Khonsu was the god of the moon. The best-known story about him tells of him playing the ancient game Senet ("passage") against Thoth, and wagered a portion of his light. Thoth won, and because of losing some of his light, Khonsu cannot show his whole glory for the entire month, but must wax and wane. Part of the Karnak triad with Amen-Re and Mut. See also Amen, Mut, Thoth.
The wife of Thoth, Ma'at's name means "Truth", "Justice", and perhaps even "Tao". It cannot readily be rendered into English but "truth" is perhaps a satisfactory translation. Ma'at was represented as a tall woman with an ostrich feather in her hair. She was present at the judgment of the dead; her feather was balanced against the heart of the deceased to determine whether he had led a pure and honest life. All civil laws in Egypt were held up to the "Law of Ma'at", which essentially was a series of old conceptions and morals dating to the earliest times in Egypt. A law contrary to the Law of Ma'at would not have been considered valid in Egypt. The red plume of Ma'at itself became a hieroglyph for "truth." She was responsible for justice, law and order, immortality, and primordial being. See also Thoth.
Min (Menu, Amsu)
A form of Amen depicted holding a flail (thought to represent a thunderbolt in Egyptian art) and with an erect penis; his full name was often given as Menu-ka-mut-ef ("Min, Bull of his Mother"). Min was worshiped as the god of virility; lettuces were offered as sacrifice to him and then eaten in hopes of procuring manhood; and he was worshiped as the husband of the goddess Qetesh, goddess of love and femininity. See also Amen, Qetesh.
She was the wife of Amen in Theban tradition; seen as the mother, the loving, receptive, nurturing force (similar to Yin) behind all things, even as her husband was the great energy, the creative force (similar to Yang). The word "mut" in Ancient Egyptian means "mother." She was also the mother of Khonsu, the moon god. Part of the Karnak triad with Amen-Ra and Khonsu. See also Amen, Khonsu.
Neith (Net, Neit, Thoum-aesh-neith)
A very ancient goddess worshiped in the Delta; revered as a goddess of wisdom, often identified with Ma'at; in later traditions, the sister of Isis, Nephthys, and Serket, and protectress of Duamutef, the god of the stomach of the deceased. See also Duamutef, Ma'at.
She is usually represented in Egyptian art as a vulture or a woman with the head of a vulture, but sometimes she is depicted as a woman wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt. She was closely associated with her sister Uadjet, the cobra goddess, and together they were known as the Nebti. As a pair, they represented cycles of birth and death, beginning and ending. Nekhebet spent much time at the palace, where she suckled the royal children, including the pharoah. When the pharoah was grown, she accompanied him in battle, hovering over his head in the form of a vulture. She was responsible for wild birds, creator of life, death and rebirth.
The sister and wife of Set, and sister of Isis and Osiris; also the mother (variantly by Set or by Osiris) of Anubis. She abandoned Set when he killed Osiris, and assisted Isis in the care of Horus and the resurrection of Osiris. She was, along with her sister, considered the special protectress of the dead, and she was the guardian of Hapi, the protector of the lungs of the deceased. She was responsible for immortality, justice, water, weather, wild birds, moon and night, the underworld, and the lungs. See also Hapi, Horus, Isis, Osiris, and Set.
Nuit was the goddess of the sky, daughter of Shu and Tefnut, sister and wife of Geb, mother of Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nephthys. Nuit was generally depicted as a woman with blue skin, and her body covered with stars, standing on all fours, leaning over her husband, representing the sky arched over the earth. 4 gods steadied her legs and Shu held up her belly. These gods became the 4 pillars of the sky and Nuit's body became the firmament, to which Ra attached stars. She was responsible for the sky and heavens, mothers and guardians, demi-animals, immortality, and physical prowess. See also Geb, Hor-behedet (Hadit), and Shu.
Osiris was the god of the dead, and the god of the resurrection into eternal life, ruler, protector, and judge of the deceased, and his prototype (the deceased was in historical times usually referred to as "the Osiris"). His cult originated in Abydos, where his actual tomb was said to be located. Osiris was the first child of Nut and Geb, thus the brother of Set, Nephthys, and Isis, who was also his wife. By Isis he fathered Horus, and according to some stories, Nephthys assumed the form of Isis, seduced him, and from their union was born Anubis. Osiris ruled the world of men in the beginning, after Ra had abandoned the world to rule the skies, but his brother Set murdered him. Through the magic of Isis, he was made to live again. Being the first living thing to die, he subsequently became lord of the dead. His death was avenged by his son Horus, who defeated Set and cast him out into the desert to the West of Egypt (the Sahara). Prayers and spells were addressed to Osiris throughout Egyptian history, in hopes of securing his blessing and entering the afterlife, which he ruled; but his popularity steadily increased through the Middle Kingdom. By Dynasty 18 he was probably the most widely worshiped god in Egypt. His popularity endured until the latest phases of Egyptian history. Reliefs still exist of Roman emperors, conquerors of Egypt, dressed in the traditional garb of the Pharaohs, making offerings to him in the temples. See also Anubis, Geb, Horus, Isis, Nephthys, Ra, and Set.
Pharaoh (deified kings)
From earliest times in Egypt the pharaohs were worshipped as gods: the son of Ra, the son of Horus, the son of Amen, etc. depending upon what period of Egyptian history and what part of the country is being considered. It should be noted that prayers, sacrifices, etc. to the pharaohs were extremely rare, if they occurred at all, there seems to be little or no evidence to support an actual cult of the pharaoh. The pharaoh was looked upon as being chosen by and favored by the gods, his fathers. The pharaoh was never regarded as the son of any goddesses, but rather as the son of the Queen his mother, fathered by the god, incarnate as his earthly father. (A few seeming exceptions to this include a sculpture of Pharaoh Tutankhamen being embraced by his "parents" Amen and Mut, but the intent here seems to be to compare the king with their son Khonsu, rather than to actually claim that Mut was his mother.) See also Amen, Khonsu, and Mut.
Worshiped in Memphis from the earliest dynastic times (c.3000 BCE), Ptah was seen as the creator of the universe in the Memphite cosmology. He fashioned the bodies in which dwelt the souls of men in the afterlife. Other versions of the myths state that he worked under Thoth's orders, creating the heavens and the earth according to Thoth's specifications. Ptah is depicted as a bearded man wearing a skullcap, shrouded much like a mummy, with his hands emerging from the wrappings in front and holding the Uas (phoenix-headed) scepter, an Ankh, and a Djed (sign of stability). He was often worshiped in conjunction with the gods Seker and Osiris, and worshiped under the name Ptah-seker-ausar. See also Osiris, Seker, and Thoth.
Qebhsenuef (Kabexnuf, Qebsneuef)
One of the Four Sons of Horus, Qebhsenuef was represented as a mummified man with the head of a falcon. He was the protector of the intestines of the deceased, and was protected by the goddess Serket. See also Four Sons of Horus, Serket.
Originally believed to be a Syrian deity, Qetesh was an important form of Hathor, specifically referred to in the latter's function as goddess of love and beauty. Qetesh was depicted as a beautiful nude woman, standing or riding upon a lion, holding flowers, a mirror, or serpents. She is generally shown full-face (unusual in Egyptian artistic convention). She was also considered the consort of the god Min, the god of virility. See also Hathor, Min.
Ra was the god of the sun during dynastic Egypt; the name is thought to have meant "creative power", and as a proper name "Creator", similar to English Christian usage of the term "Creator" to signify the "almighty God." Very early in Egyptian history Ra was identified with Horus, who as a hawk or falcon-god represented the loftiness of the skies. Ra is represented either as a hawk-headed man or as a hawk. Owing to the fact that the sun was a fire, the Egyptians realized that in order to travel through the waters of Heaven and the Underworld, it required a boat, and so Ra was depicted as traveling in a boat. During the day the boat was a great galley called Madjet ("becoming strong") and during the night, a small barge called Semektet ("becoming weak"). During dynastic Egypt Ra's cult center was Annu (Hebrew "On", Greek "Heliopolis", modern-day "Cairo"). In Dynasty V, the first king, Userkaf, was also Ra's high priest, and he added the term "Sa-Ra (Son of Ra)" to the titulary of the pharaohs. Ra was father of Shu and Tefnut, grandfather of Nut and Geb, great-grandfather of Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nephthys, and great-great-grandfather to Horus. In later periods (about Dynasty 18 on) Osiris and Isis superseded him in popularity, but he remained "Ra netjer-aa neb-pet" ("Ra, the great God, Lord of Heaven") whether worshiped in his own right or, in later times, as half of the Lord of the Universe, Amen-Ra. See also Amen, Amen-Ra, Geb, Horus, Isis, Nephthys, Nut, Osiris, Set, Shu, Tefnut.
"Ra, who is Horus of the Horizons." This appellation of Ra, identifying him with Horus, shows the 2 as manifestations of the singular Solar Force. Aleister Crowley popularized the spelling "Ra-Hoor-Khuit", first in the Book of the Law. See also Hor-akhuti, Horus, and Ra.
The crocodile-god, worshipped at the city of Arsinoe, called Crocodilopolis by the Greeks. Sebek was worshipped to appease him and his animals. According to some evidence, Sebek was considered a fourfold deity who represented the four elemental gods (Ra of fire, Shu of air, Geb of earth, and Osiris of water). In the Book of the Dead, Sebek assists in the birth of Horus; he fetches Isis and Nephthys to protect the deceased; and he aids in the destruction of Set.
A god of light, protector of the spirits of the dead passing through the Underworld en route to the afterlife. Seker was worshiped in Memphis as a form of Ptah or as part of the compound deities Ptah-seker or Ptah-seker-ausar. Seker was usually depicted as having the head of a hawk, and shrouded as a mummy, similar to Ptah. See also Ptah.
A lioness-goddess, worshiped in Memphis as the wife of Ptah; created by Ra from the fire of his eyes as a creature of vengeance to punish mankind for his sins; later, became a peaceful protectress of the righteous. She was worshiped with Bast and Ra as a compound deity, Sekhmet-bast-ra, and was considered the consort of Ptah-seker-ausar. She was responsible for fire, heat, war, vengeance, enchantments, mummification, hunting and wild animals, and courage. See also Bast, Ptah, Ra, and Seker.
Serket (Serqet, Selket)
A scorpion-goddess, shown as a beautiful woman with a scorpion poised on her head; her creature struck death to the wicked. Egyptians also prayer to her to save the lives of innocent people stung by scorpions; she was also viewed as a helper of women in childbirth. She is also depicted as binding up demons that would otherwise threaten Ra, and she sent seven of her scorpions to protect Isis from Set. She was the protectress of Qebhsenuef, the son of Horus who guarded the intestines of the deceased. She was responsible for fertility, the underworld, family and tribes, insects, and the protector of marriage. Her statue from Tutankhamen's tomb made her famous when it was part of the collection which toured the U.S. in the 1970s. See also Isis, Qebhsenuef, Ra, and Set.
Originally, in earliest times, Set was the patron deity of Lower (North) Egypt, and represented the fierce storms of the desert that the Lower Egyptians sought to appease. However, when Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt and ushered in the First Dynasty, Set became known as the evil enemy of Horus (Upper Egypt's dynastic god). Set was the brother of Osiris, Isis, and Nephthys, and husband of the latter. According to some versions of the myths he is also father of Anubis. Set is best known for murdering his brother and attempting to kill his nephew Horus; Horus, however, managed to survive and grew up to avenge his father's death by establishing his rule over all Egypt and casting Set out into the lonely desert for eternity. In the 19th Dynasty there began a resurgence of respect for Set, and he was seen as a great god once more, the god who benevolently restrained the forces of the desert. This, however, was short-lived and by around Dynasty 20 or 21, Set became once more dreaded as the god of evil. See also Anubis, Horus, Isis, Osiris, and Nephthys.
The god of the atmosphere and of dry winds, son of Ra, brother and husband of Tefnut, father of Geb and Nuit. Represented in hieroglyphs by an ostrich feather (similar to Ma'at's), which symbol he is usually shown wearing on his head. He is generally shown standing on the recumbent Geb, holding aloft his daughter Nuit, separating them. It was said that if he ever ceased to interpose himself between earth and sky, life would cease to be on our world--a very accurate assessment, it would seem. The name "Shu" appears to be related to the root "shu" meaning "dry, empty." Shu also seems to be a personification of the sun's light. Shu and Tefnut were also said to be but 2 halves of one soul, perhaps the earliest recorded example of "soulmates." See also Geb, Nuit, Ra, and Tefnut.
In childbirth, Taweret suckled and protected the newborn. In the underworld, she carried the deceased toward a new destiny. In art, Taweret appeared as a hippopotamus standing on her hind legs with pendant breasts, sometimes with the back of a crocodile and the feet of a lion. In her role as an avenging deity, Taweret had the head of a lion and the body of a hippopotamus, brandishing a dagger and sometimes carrying a crocodile on her shoulders. She was responsible for fertility, birth, the underworld, and vengeance.
She was the goddess of moisture and clouds, daughter of Ra, sister and wife of Shu, mother of Geb and Nuit. Depicted as a woman with the head of a lioness, which was her sacred animal. The name "Tefnut" probably derives from the root "teftef", signifying "to spit, to moisten" and the root "nu" meaning "waters, sky." She was responsible for order, justice, time, heaven and hell, and the weather. See also Geb, Nuit, Ra, and Shu.
The god of wisdom (Thoth is the Greek corruption of the original Egyptian Tahuti), Thoth was said to be self-created at the beginning of time, along with his consort Ma'at (truth). They produced 8 children, of which the most important was Amen, the hidden one, who was worshiped in Thebes as the Lord of the Universe. Thoth was depicted as a man with the head of an ibis bird, and carried a pen and scrolls upon which he recorded all things. He was shown as attendant in almost all major scenes involving the gods, but especially at the judgment of the deceased. It was widely believed that Thoth invented the magical and hermetic arts, and thus the Tarot deck, especially its revision by Aleister Crowley, is often referred to as the "Book of Thoth". See also Amen, Ma'at.
Uadjet (Wadjet, Wazit, Ua Zit)
Uadjet's original home and chief cult center was in the Delta marshes. Her sister was Nekhebet and together they were known as the Nebti. As a pair, they represented cycles of birth and death, beginning and ending. She appeared as a cobra, sometimes winged and crowned, and sometimes as a snake with the face of a woman. She was responsible for justice, time, heaven and hell. See also Nekhebet.
In 391 the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I closed all pagan temples throughout the empire. This action terminated a 4,000-year-old tradition and the message of the ancient Egyptian language was lost for 1500 years. It was not until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone and the work of Jean-Francois Champollion 1790-1832) that the Ancient Egyptians awoke from their long slumber. Today, by virtue of the vast quantity of their literature, we know more about Egyptian society than most other ancient cultures.
The script was developed about 4,000 years before Christ and there was also a decimal system of numeration up to a million. Unlike other cultures the early picture forms were never discarded or simplified probably because they are so very lovely to look at. Hieroglyphs were called by the Egyptians "the words of God" and were used mainly by the priests. These painstakingly drawn symbols were great for decorating the walls of temples but for conducting day to day business there was another script, known as hieratic This was a handwriting in which the picture signs were abbreviated to the point of abstraction.
Hieroglyphs are written in rows or columns and can be read from left to right or from right to left. You can distinguish the direction in which the text is to be read because the human or animal figures always face towards the beginning of the line. Also the upper symbols are read before lower.
Hieroglyphic signs are divided into 4 categories:
1. Alphabetic signs represent a single sound. Unfortunately the Egyptians took most vowels for granted and did not represent them. So we may never know how the words were formed.
2. Syllabic signs represent a combination of 2 or 3 consonants.
3. Word-signs are pictures of objects used as the words for those objects. They are followed by an upright stroke, to indicate that the word is complete in one sign.
4. A determinative is a picture of an object that helps the reader. For example; if a word expressed an abstract idea, a picture of a roll of papyrus tied up and sealed was included to show that the meaning of the word could be expressed in writing although not pictorially.
Hieroglyphs did phonetically "spell out" the ancient Egyptians' spoken language, combining alphabet-like symbols with the pictures. The symbols appear to have represented only consonants, not vowels, so we don't know how it sounded. The language itself was a mixture of Cushitic and Berber languages from northern Africa and words taken from the Semitic tongues spoken in nearby Asia.
MATHEMATICS & SCIENCE
The ancient Egyptians were possibly the first civilization to practice the scientific arts. Indeed, the word chemistry is derived from the word Alchemy which is the ancient name for Egypt.
Where the Egyptians really excelled was in medicine and applied mathematics. But although there is a large body of papyrus literature describing their achievements in medicine, there is no record of how they reached their mathematical conclusions. Of course they must have had an advanced understanding of the subject because their exploits in engineering, astronomy and administration would not have been possible without it.
The Egyptians had a decimal system using seven different symbols. 1 is shown by a single stroke. 10 is shown by a drawing of a hobble for cattle. 100 is represented by a coil of rope. 1,000 is a drawing of a lotus plant. 10,000 is represented by a finger. 100,000 by a tadpole or frog 1,000,000 is the figure of a god with arms raised above his head.
The conventions for reading and writing numbers is quite simple; the higher number is always written in front of the lower number and where there is more than one row of numbers the reader should start at the top.
Flooding was so predictable that the Egyptians named the July-to-October season Akhet or "inundation." Once the annual flood receded, farmers planted the newly fertilized earth flanking the Nile, a floodplain never more than 13 miles long.
Looking at the sky without telescopes, the Egyptians saw only an undifferentiated background of blue by day, or black by night--the same qualities visible in the river Nile. Therefore, they concluded that the sky, like the Nile, was composed of water.
Quarrying was a state monopoly overseen by the king, who was ultimately responsible for procuring the materials to build temples and tombs. Fine white limestone came from sites near Memphis, Amarna, and Abydos; granite, diorite, and sandstone were mined primarily around Aswan.
Gold--or nub in Egyptian--may have given Nubia its name. The region also provided Egypt with ebony, ivory, leopard skins, and incense.
Egypt governed 5 Western Desert oases: Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla, Siwa, and Kharga.
Over the course of his 9 decades, Rameses the Great wore his teeth down to stumps. The bread he (and all the other Egyptians) ate contained grit from stone grinders. He doubtless suffered great pain from toothaches, compounded by gum abscesses.
Lettuce was first domesticated and grown as a food crop in ancient Egypt. Paintings and carvings inside ancient tombs depict lettuce plants associated with Min, the god of vegetation and procreation.
Watermelon juice mixed with wine was consumed to excise evil spirits in early Egypt.
The ancient Egyptians carried on the tradition of beer brewing begun by the Sumerians and the Babylonians. They continued to use unbaked bread dough for making beer and added dates to improve the taste. Beer was so important that Egyptian scribes created an extra hieroglyph for "brewer".
Babies were sometimes given fried mice to chew on while teething.
Egyptians believed that the sun helped make teeth even stronger. They threw lost teeth toward the sun saying, "Give me a better one for it."
Childrens heads were often shaved except for one lock of hair worn over the right ear. And they didnt have to worry about getting their clothes dirty because they didnt wear any.
The ancient Egyptians kept many pets, including monkeys, cats, dogs and birds. Records from ancient Egypt suggest that bonds between cats and people date at least as far back as 5,500 years ago when Egyptians began domesticating wild cats. The animals quickly became treasured pets and were honored in artwork for their snake- and mice-hunting skills. By 1500 B.C., Egyptians began regarding cats as sacred and it became a crime, punishable by death, to kill one.
Scribes practiced writing on small stones, called ostracons, which were like scratch paper.
The ancient Egyptians loved sweets. Archeologists once found a 3,300-year-old jar of honey in a tomb.
Early Egyptians wore sandals made from woven papyrus leaves.
Checkers was invented in Egypt, where the aristocracy played it as early as 2,000 BCE.
During the Middle Ages, European and Middle Eastern doctors believed that mummies had medicinal value. They ground up thousands of Egyptian mummies--bandages, bones, and all--and put them in expensive medicines for their patients.
In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border.
When you conquer Egypt, be kind to the Copts for they are your protégés and kith and kin.
--the Prophet of Islam, who had an Egyptian wife
Man fears time, but time itself fears the Pyramids.
It flows through old hushed Egypt and its sands,
Like some grave mighty thought threading a dream,
And times and things, as in that vision, seem
Keeping along it their eternal stands
--Leigh Hunt, composing a sonnet on the subject of the Nile, February 4, 1818
The Nile River was the Interstate 80 of ancient Egypt.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Electrum - An amber-colored alloy of gold and silver used in ancient times.
Fetish - Any object that is believed to have magical powers.
Mastaba - An Arabic word meaning bench. When local Egyptians who worked for the early archaeologists first saw these rectangular tombs with their flat roofs and sloping sides, they were reminded of the plastered, mud brick benches outside their own homes, where they sat in the cool of the evening, chatting with friends and smoking water pipes, so they called them mastabas.
Papyri - The plural of papyrus, a tall water plant that grows along the Nile. The ancients cut thin slices from the center of the plants stem and then soaked, pressed, and dried them crosswise to make a form of paper.
Rosetta Stone - A stone tablet found in 1799 near Rosetta in northern Egypt in the Nile River delta. Dated March 196 BCE, the tablet has the same message written in 2 languages (Egyptian and Greek) using 3 different scripts (hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek). It is the most important key to the secrets of Egyptian culture ever discovered. When the British defeated Napoleon at Alexandria in 1801, they also won all the art that the French had found during their occupation of Egypt. But when the French fled the country, they attempted to smuggle the Rosetta Stone out of Egypt for display in their own national museum. Realizing its great value, the British discovered where the Stone was hidden and demanded its return. The Rosetta Stone came to the British Museum the next year. And since Britain had a military hold over Egypt, that meant that they could continue to excavate and bring great monuments back to England. The Rosetta Stone's importance, along with its large collection of Egyptian artifacts, quickly made the British Museum the world center of Egyptology.
Sistrum - A rattlelike instrument that was used in rituals and ceremonies honoring Hathor. The sistrum was made of wood or metal bent into a shape resembling the ankh, the symbol of life. Its metal disks, strung on wire between the 2 sides of the loop, made a soft rustling sound like the wind blowing through papyrus flowers.
Find out how the Egyptians counted. Use the Egyptians numerals from 1 to 10 to create simple math facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with this number system. Make a math-facts book or a set of flash cards or a math game with the new number system.
Create a mural to show how Egyptian farmers prepared the soil for planting, planted the crops, and reaped the harvest. The picture should show what crops the Egyptians grew and what farm tools they used.
Investigate the location of the earliest settlements in ancient Egypt and the part played by the Nile.
Investigate what was known of the Egyptian lands in Old Testament times. Look for incidents such as the parting of the Red Sea and Moses in the bulrushes along the Nile. What other references are made to Egyptian geography in the Bible or other religious books?
Find out about Cleopatra and then prepare a playscript or reader's theater production to show others what you have learned. Enlist some friends to put on the production.
The Nile River is the largest river in the world. How did the ancient Egyptians travel on the Nile? Make models of the types of boats they used to get around.
Was the expense of time, manpower, and materials worth the cost of erecting the pyramids? Prepare to defend or attack the building of the pyramids in a 3-person debate.
Create a picture book for 5 and 6-year-olds in which you present 3-dimensional geographic shapes and show where they exist around us. At the end of the book, include ideas for constructing shapes like houses, igloos, and pyramids. Share the book with students in kindergarten.
Compose a hymn of praise honoring one of the ancient pharaohs. Use an existing tune for your lyrics or compose an original one.
What foods did the ancient Egyptians eat? How does this compare with their diet today?
What did the ancient Egyptians use to build their homes? Compare these homes with those the Native Americans and early white settlers built in various parts of the U.S. Show how each group used the available resources in their environment to meet the climate demands of the area where they were living.
Write a diary entry for a typical day for a pharoah and a peasant. Read The Prince and the Pauper and then create a story in which the pharoah and peasant switch roles.
Create a chart to show the various Egyptian gods, where they stood in importance, and the function served by each of them. Compare this information to that of Norse, Roman, and Greek gods. Make a comparison chart.
Look at pictures of jewelry found in tombs. Use this knowledge to design a piece of jewelry fit for a king! Make a sketch of it or create a model from salt and flour or other modeling materials.
Construct a model of a tomb, showing as much information about tombs as possible.
Find out what Egyptian artifacts have been uncovered and how they were preserved. How do archeologists reconstruct artifacts when they find only pieces? Share this information with the class in an interesting way.
Choose a pharoah you would like to interview. Create interview questions you would like to ask him/her. Make up answers you think might be given.
Make an outline map of Egypt, showing where the pyramids were built. Include a key that tells about each pyramid.
Investigate the process of mummification. Find out why they are called "mummies." Make an outline of the mummification process. Compare mummification to the process of embalming.
Make up a skit for role playing a temple ceremony.
Find out what factors contributed to the decline in Egyptian power.
Create and illustrate an imaginary god or goddess of the dead.
Create a dictionary of special words related to the study of ancient Egypt. Be sure you include Amarna, dynasty, hieroglyphics, pharoah, papyrus, sarcophagus, sphinx, pyramid, Nefertiti, Nile, and the names of the ancient gods.
Make and decorate a papiér-mâché sarcophagus.
Find out the steps in making papyrus. Create a step-by-step pamphlet on the making of papyrus.
Find out what the early Egyptians knew about construction, math, and science and then write a nonfiction piece about an innovation of your own, such as a new medicine.
Prepare a report contrasting the ceremonies surrounding death in ancient Egypt with those today in Egypt or in another country you choose.
This and the other photographs above are of the ancient Egypt display we constructed in the IMC. We used transparencies of the gods and goddesses to make the adult-sized deities and designed the lettering from an advertisement of an historical computer game. This handout and another on triangles were provided with a display of our Egypt books, maps, cartoons, etc.
RESOURCES ON ANCIENT EGYPT
Adinolfi, JoAnn. The Egyptian Polar Bear.
Anderson, Scoular. A Puzzling Day in the Land of the Pharoahs.
Appleseeds. February 1999. [entire issue on science and medicine in ancient Egypt]
Bower, Tamara. The Shipwrecked Sailor : An Egyptian Tale With Hieroglyphs.
Broida, Marian. Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors : An Activity Guide.
Brooks, Polly Schoyer. Cleopatra : Goddess of Egypt, Enemy of Rome.
Budge, E.A. Wallis. The Gods of the Egyptians; or, Studies in Egyptian Mythology
Bunting, Eve. I am the Mummy Heb-Nefert.
Calliope. September 1997. [entire issue on science and medicine in ancient Egypt]
Calliope. September 2001. [entire issue on the pyramids and Egypt's Old Kingdom]
Climo, Shirley. The Egyptian Cinderella.
Cole, Joanna. Ms. Frizzle's Adventures : Ancient Egypt.
Coote, Roger. The Egyptians.
David, Rosalie. Growing Up in Ancient Egypt.
Davies, Vivian. Egypt Uncovered.
Deem, James M. How to Make a Mummy Talk.
Dicks, Ian. Unwrap the Mummy.
Donoughue, Carol. The Mystery of Hieroglyphs : The Story of the Rosetta Stone and the Race to Decipher Egyptian Hieroglyphs.
Fletcher, Joann. The Egyptian Book of Living and Dying : The Illustrated Guide to Ancient Egyptian Wisdom.
Ford, Barbara. Howard Carter : Searching for King Tut.
Foreman, Laura. Cleopatras Palace : In Search of Legend.
Gerrard, Roy. Croco'Nile.
Grant, Neil. The Egyptians.
Harris, Geraldine. Gods & Pharoahs from Egyptian Mythology.
Hornung, Erik. Akhenaten and the Religion of Light.
Ions, Veronica. Egyptian Mythology.
Jordan, Paul. Riddles of the Sphinx.
Katan, Norma J. Hieroglyphs, the Writing of Ancient Egypt.
Koenig, Viviane. The Ancient Egyptians : Life in the Nile Valley.
Magnusson, Magnus. Tutankhamun & the Discovery of the Tomb.
Malam, John. Ancient Egyptian Jobs.
Manning, Ruth. Ancient Egyptian Women.
Marston, Elsa. The Ancient Egyptians.
McGraw, Eloise Jarvis. The Golden Goblet.
McMullan, Kate. Under the Mummys Spell.
Millard, Anne. Mysteries of the Pyramids.
Millard, Anne. Pyramids.
Montavon, Jay. The Curse of King Tuts Tomb.
Morley, Jacqueline. An Egyptian Pyramid.
Morley, Jacqueline. First Facts About the Ancient Egyptians.
Morley, Jacqueline. How Would You Survive as an Ancient Egyptian?
ONeal, Michael. Pyramids.
Rubalcaba, Jill. A Place In the Sun.
Rumford, James. Seeker of Knowledge : The Man Who Deciphered Egyptian Hieroglyphs.
Silverman, David P., ed. Ancient Egypt.
Smith, Brenda. Egypt of the Pharoahs.
Stanley, Diane. Cleopatra.
Stedman, Scott. Ancient Egypt.
Steele, Philip. I Wonder Why Pyramids Were Built and Other Questions About Ancient Egypt.
Tyldesley, Joyce. Nefertiti : Egypts Sun Queen.
Vercoutter, Jean. The Search for Ancient Egypt.
Walsh, Jill Paton. Pepi and the Secret Names.
Watson, Philip J. Costume of Ancient Egypt.
Woods, Geraldine. Science in Ancient Egypt.
At the Tomb of Tutankhamun (the 1923 issue, updated)
Daily Life in Ancient Egypt.
Egypt Beyond the Pyramids.
The History of Ancient Egypt.
Mummies--The Great Cover Up.
Online Theme Unit : Egypt.
Rigby's World of Egypt
--Some ideas from Shawn C. Knight, Gail K. Lennon, Linda Dyer, Martha Guin, Michele Converse Baerns, Charles J. Wohl, Amanda Onion, and James Falls.
Last revised 5-14-03.