You are here

Lecture 4: The Sun-God and the Ennead

IN my last lecture, when speaking of the form under which the soul of man was pictured by the Egyptians, I mentioned that it was often represented by a hawk, the symbol of the sun-god. Why the hawk should have thus symbolised the sun is a question that has often been asked. The Egyptians did not know themselves; and Porphyry, in the dying days of the old Egyptian faith, gravely declares that it was because the hawk was a compound of blood and breath! One explanation has been that it was because the hawk pounces down from the sky like the rays of the sun, which, like the eagle, he can gaze at without blinking; and a passage in the Odyssey of Homer (xv. 525) has been invoked in favour of this view, where the hawk is called “the swift messenger of Apollo.” But if there is any connection between the Homeric passage and the Egyptian symbol, it would show only that the symbol had been borrowed by the Greek poet. Originally, moreover, it was only the sun-god of Upper Egypt who was represented even by the Egyptians under the form of a hawk.

This was Horus, often called in the later texts “Horus the elder” (Hor-ur, the Greek Aroêris), in order to distinguish him from a wholly different god, Horus the younger, the son of Isis. His symbol, the hawk, is found on the early Pharaonic monuments which recent excavations have brought to light. Sometimes the hawk stands on the so-called standard, which is really a perch, sometimes on the crenelated circle, which denoted a city in those primitive days. The standard is borne before the Pharaoh, representing at once his own title and the nome or principality over which he held rule; and its resemblance to the stone birds perched on similar supports, which Mr. Bent found in the ruins of Zimbabwe, suggests a connection between the prehistoric gold miners of Central Africa and the early inhabitants of Southern Egypt. On one of the early Egyptian monuments discovered at Abydos, two hawks stand above the wall of a city which seems to bear the name of “the city of the kings,”1 and a slate plaque found by Mr. Quibell at Kom el-Ahmar shows us on one side the Pharaoh of Nekhen inspecting the decapitated bodies of his enemies with two hawks on standards carried before him, while, on the other side, a hawk leads the bridled “North” to him under the guise of a prisoner, through whose lips a ring has been passed.2 In the first case, the hawks may represent the districts of which the god they symbolised was the protecting deity;3 in the second case, the god and the king must be identified together. It was as Horus, the hawk, that the Pharaoh had conquered the Egyptians of the north, and it was Horus, therefore, who had given them into his hand.

If Dr. Naville is right, Horus the hawk-god is again represented on the same plaque, with the symbol of “follower,” above a boat which is engraved over the bodies of the decapitated slain.4 Countenance is given to this view by a drawing on the rocks near El-Kab, in which the cartouches of two kings of the Fourth Dynasty, Sharu and Khufu, are carried in boats on the prows of which a hawk is perched, while above each name are two other hawks, standing on the hieroglyph of “gold,” and with the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt on their heads. The title “follower of Horus” would take us back to the earliest traditions of Egyptian history. The “followers of Horus,” according to the later texts, were the predecessors of Menes and the First Dynasty of united Egypt, the Pharaohs and princes of the southern kingdom whose very names were forgotten in after days. Nevertheless, it was remembered that they had founded the great sanctuaries of the country; thus an inscription at Dendera declares that in the reign of king Pepi of the Sixth Dynasty there was found in the wall of the palace a parchment on which was a plan of the temple drawn upon it in the time of “the followers of Horus.” The legends of Edfu told how these followers of Horus had been smiths, armed with weapons of iron, and how they had driven the enemies of their leader before them until they had possessed themselves of the whole of Egypt.5 But many hard-fought battles were needed before this could be accomplished. Again and again had the foe been crushed—at Zadmit near Thebes, at Neter-Khadu near Dendera, at Minia, at Behnesa and Ahnas on the frontier of the Fayyûm, and finally at Zaru on the Asiatic borders of the Delta. Even here, however, the struggle was not over. Horus and his followers had to take ship and pursue the enemy down the Red Sea, inflicting a final blow upon them near Berenicê, from whence he returned across the desert in triumph to Edfu.

In this legend, which in its present form is not older than the Ptolemaic period, echoes of the gradual conquest of Egypt by the first followers of the Pharaohs have probably been preserved, though they have been combined with a wholly different cycle of myths relating to the eternal struggle between Horus the son of Isis and his twin brother Set. But the confusion between the two Horuses must have arisen at an early time. Already a king of the Third Dynasty, whose remains have been found in the ruins of Nekhen, and who bore the title of him “who is glorified with the two sceptres, in whom the two Horus gods are united,” has above his name the crowned emblems of Horus and Set.6 The titles of the queens of the Memphite dynasties make it clear that by the two Horuses are meant the two kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt, and we must therefore see in Horus and Set the symbols of the South and North.7

In the rock drawing, south of El-Kab, to which I have alluded a few minutes ago, the two Horus hawks stand on the symbol of “gold,” the one wearing the crown of Southern Egypt, the other that of the North. The “Golden Horus” was, in fact, cue of the titles assumed by the Pharaoh at an early date. Whether the epithet applied to the god represented originally the golden colour of the wings of the sparrow-hawk, or whether, as is more probable, it denoted the Horus-hawk of gold who watched over the destinies of the kings of Upper Egypt in their ancient capital of Nekhen, it is now impossible to say.8 Later ages explained it as referring to the golden rays of the morning sun.

In the time of the Fourth Dynasty the title was attached indifferently to the Ka or death name given to the Pharaoh after his death, and to the living name given to him at his birth into this world. The Horus-hawk, without the symbol of “gold,” surmounted, so far as we know, only the Ka name. It was the double of the Pharaoh, rather than the Pharaoh himself, in whom the god had been incarnated. Horus brings the captive northener to the king, and presides over his kingdom; but it is only over the royal Ka that he actually watches.

At Nekhen, the Horus-hawk, to whom the city was dedicated, was represented under the form of a mummy. It was here, perhaps, that the natron of El-Kab was first employed to preserve the dead body from decay, and that Horus was supposed to be entombed, like Osiris at Abydos. At any rate, there is clearly a connection between the dead and mummified Horus and the Horus who stands above the name of the Pharaoh's double. It is probable, therefore, that the identification of Horus with the kings of Upper Egypt originated at Nekhen. The Horus-hawk was the token under which they fought and ruled; it was Horus who had led them to victory, and in whose name the Pharaonic Egyptians, with their weapons of metal, overcame the neolithic population of the Nile

That Horus, accordingly, in one shape or another, should have become the patron god of so many principalities in Southern Egypt, is in no way astonishing.9 He represented the Pharaonic Egyptians; and as they moved northward, subduing the older inhabitants of the country, they carried his worship with them. At Heliopolis he was adored as Horem-Khuti or Harmakhis, “Horus issuing from the two horizons,” and identified with Ra, the sun-god, the patron of the city. His image may still be seen in the sphinx of Giza, with its human head and lion's body. At Edfu, where the Pharaonic invaders appear to have first established themselves, he was worshipped as Hor-beḥudet under the form of a winged solar disc, a combination of the orb of the sun with the wings of the hawk.10 A legend inscribed on the walls of the temple, which is a curious mixture of folklore and false etymologising, worked up after the fashion of Lemprière by the priests of the Ptolemaic period, knows exactly when it was that this emblem of the god came into existence. It was in the three hundred and sixty-third year of the reign of Ra-Harmakhis on earth, when he fled from the rebels who had risen against him in Nubia and had landed at Edfu. Here Hor-beḥudet, the local deity, paid homage to his suzerain and undertook to destroy his enemies. But first, he flew up to the sun “as a great winged disc,” in order that he might discover where they were. Then in his new form he returned to the boat of Harmakhis, and there Thoth addressed Ra, saying: “O lord of the gods, the god of Edfu (Beḥudet) came in the shape of a great winged disc: from henceforth he shall be called Hor-beḥudet.” It was after this that Horus of Edfu and his followers, “the smiths,” smote the foe from the southern to the northern border of Egypt.

The legend, or rather the prosaic fiction in which it has been embodied, has been composed when the original character of Horus had long been forgotten, and when the sun-god of Heliopolis had become the dominant god of Egypt. It belongs to the age of theological syncretism, when the gods of Egypt were resolved one into the other like the colours in a kaleidoscope, and made intangible and ever-shifting forms of Ra. But it bears witness to one fact,—the antiquity of the worship of Horus of Edfu and of the emblem which was associated with him. The winged solar disc forms part of his earliest history.

The fact is difficult to reconcile with the view of Professor Maspero, that Horus was originally the sky, and is in favour of the general belief of Egyptologists, that he was from the outset the sun-god. Such, at all events, was the opinion of the Egyptians themselves in the later period of their history. In the Pyramid texts Horus already appears as a solar deity, and it is only as the sun-god that his identification with the Pharaohs can be explained. It was not the sky but the sun who watched over the names of their doubles. It is true that the two eyes of Horus were said to be the sun and the moon, and that a punning etymology, which connected his name with the word her or “face,” caused him to be depicted as the face of the sky, the four locks of hair of which were the four cardinal points. But the etymology is late, and there is no more difficulty in understanding how the solar and lunar discs can be called the eyes of the sun-god, than there is in understanding how the winged disc was distinguished from him, or how even in modern phrase the “eye” may be used as a synonym of the whole man. When we speak of “the eye of God,” we mean God Himself.11

There is, however, one newly-discovered monument which may be claimed in support of Professor Maspero's theory. Above the Horus-hawk which surmounts the name of the Third Dynasty king found at Nekhen, is the hieroglyph of the sky. But the explanation of this is not difficult to find. On the one hand, the hieroglyph embraces the hawk as the sky does the sun; on the other hand, it gives the pronunciation of the name of Horus, the sky in Egyptian being her or hor, “the high” and uplifted. And the name of Hor-em-Khuti or Harmakhis, “the Horus who issues from the two horizons,” must be quite as old as the monument of Nekhen. What the two horizons were is shown us by the hieroglyph which depicts them. They were the twin mountains between which the sun came forth at dawn, and between which he again passes at sunset.

The hieroglyph belongs to the very beginning of Pharaonic Egyptian history. It may have been brought by the Pharaonic immigrants from their old home in the East. It is at least noticeable that in the Sumerian language of primitive Babylonia the horizon was called kharra or khurra, a word which corresponds letter for letter with the name of Horus. The fact may, of course, be accidental, and the name of the Egyptian god may really be derived from the same root as that from which the word for “heaven” has come, and which means “to be high.” But the conception of the twin-mountains between which the sun-god comes forth every morning, and between which he passes again at nightfall, is of Babylonian origin. On early Babylonian seal-cylinders we see him stepping through the door, the two leaves of which have been flung back by its warders on either side of the mountains, while rays of glory shoot upward from his shoulders. The mountains were called Mas, “the twins,” in Sumerian; and the great Epic of Chaldæa narrated how the hero Gilgames made his way to them across the desert, to a land of darkness, where scorpionmen, whose heads rise to heaven while their breasts descend to hell, watched over the rising and the setting of the sun. It is difficult to believe that such a conception of the horizon could ever have arisen in Egypt. There the Delta is a flat plain with no hills even in sight, while in the valley of Upper Egypt there are neither high mountains nor twin peaks.

Horus himself is, I believe, to be found in the Babylonian inscriptions. Mention is occasionally made in them of a god Khar or Khur, and in contracts of the time of Khammurabi (B.C. 2200) we find the name of Abi-Khar, “my father is Khar.” But the age of Khammurabi was one of intercourse between Babylonia and Egypt, and the god Khar or Horus is therefore probably borrowed from Egypt, just as a seal-cylinder informs us was the case with Anupu or Anubis.12

But though the name of Khar or Khur is and must remain Egyptian, Horus has much in common with the Babylonian sun-god Nin-ip. They are both warrior-gods; and just as the followers of Horus were workers in iron, so Nin-ip also was the god of iron. One of his titles, moreover, is that of “the southern sun”; and on a boundary-stone the eagle standing on a perch is stated to be “the symbol of the southern sun.”13

The goddess with whom Horus of Nekhen was associated was Nekheb with the vulture's head. Her temple stood opposite Nekhen at El-Kab on the eastern bank of the Nile, and at the end of the long road which led across the desert from the Red Sea. It was at once a sanctuary and a fortress defending Nekhen on the east. But Nekheb was the goddess not only of Nekhen, but of all Southern Egypt. We find her in the earliest inscriptions on the sacred island of Sehêl in the Cataract, where she is identified with the local goddess Sati. We find, her again at Thebes under the name of Mut, “the mother.” Her supremacy, in fact, went back to the days when Nekhen was the capital of the south, and its goddess accordingly shared with it the privileges of domination. When Nekhen fell back into the position of a small provincial town, Nekheb also participated in its decline. Under the Theban dynasties, it is true, the name of Mut of Karnak became honoured throughout Egypt, but her origin by that time had been forgotten. The Egyptian who brought his offering to Mut never realised that behind the mask of Mut lay the features of Nekheb of Nekhen.

Mut, however, continued to wear the vulture form, and the titles assumed by the king still preserved a recollection of the time when Nekheb was the presiding goddess of the kingdom of the south. From the days of Menes onward, in the title of “king of Upper and Lower Egypt,” while the serpent of Uazit symbolised the north, the vulture of Nekheb symbolised the south. At times, indeed, the uræus of Uazit is transferred to Nekheb; but that was at an epoch when it had come to signify “goddess,” as the Horus-hawk signified “god.” From the earliest ages, however, the plant which denoted the south, and formed part of the royal title, was used in writing her name. She was emphatically “the southerner,” the mistress of the south, just as her consort, the mummified Horus, was its lord.

The euhemerising legends of Edfu made Horus the faithful vassal of his liege lord Ra Harmakhis of Heliopolis. But from a historical point of view the relations between the two gods ought to have been reversed, and the legends themselves contained a reminiscence that such was the case. In describing the victorious march of Horus and his followers towards the north, they tell us how he made his way past Heliopolis into the Delta, and even established one of his “forges” on its eastern-most borders. The Horus kings of Upper Egypt made themselves masters of the northern kingdom, introducing into it the divine hawk they worshipped and the Horus title over their names.

The sun-god of Heliopolis was represented, like the gods of Babylonia, as a man and not as a hawk. He was known as Tum or Atmu, who, in the later days of religious syncretism, was distinguished from the other forms of the sun-god as representing the setting sun. But Tum was the personal name of the sun-god; the sun itself was called Ra. As time went on, the attributes of the god were transferred to the sun; Ra, too, became divine, and, after being first a synonym of Tum, ended by becoming an independent deity. While Tum was peculiarly the setting sun, Ra denoted the sun-god in all his forms and under all his manifestations. He was thus fitted to be the common god of all Egypt, with whom the various local sun-gods could be identified, and lose in him their individuality, Ra was a word which meant “the sun” in all the dialects of the country, and its very want of theological associations made it the starting-point of a new phase of religious thought.

It was not until the rise of the Twelfth Dynasty that a special temple was built to Ra in Heliopolis.14 Up to that time Ra had been content to share with Tum the ancient temple of the city, or rather had absorbed Tum into himself and thus become its virtual possessor. But his religious importance goes back to prehistoric times. The temple of Heliopolis became the centre of a theological school which exercised a great influence on the official religion of Egypt. It was here that the sun-worship was organised, and the doctrine of creation by generation or emanation first developed; it was here, too, that the chief gods of the State religion were formed into groups of nine.15

The doctrine of these Enneads or groups of nine was destined to play an important part in the official creed. From Heliopolis it spread to other parts of Egypt, and eventually each of the great sanctuaries had its own Ennead, formed on the model of that of Heliopolis. At Heliopolis the cycle of the nine supreme gods contained Shu and Tefnut, Seb and Mut, Osiris and Isis, Set and Nebhât, the four pairs who had descended by successive acts of generation from Tum, the original god of the nome. We owe the explanation and analysis of the Ennead to Professor Maspero, who has for the first time made the origin of it clear.16

Tum, who is always represented in human form, was the ancient sun-god and tutelary deity of Heliopolis. To him was ascribed the creation of the world, just as it was ascribed by each of the other nomes to their chief god. But whereas at the Cataract the creator was a potter who had made things from clay, or at Memphis an artist who had carved them out of stone, so it was as a father and generator that Tum had called the universe into being. In the Book of the Dead it is said of him that he is “the creator of the heavens, the maker of (all) existences, who has begotten all that there is, who gave birth to the gods, who created himself, the lord of life who bestows upon the gods the strength of youth.” An origin, however, was found for him in Nu, the primeval abyss of waters, though it is possible that Professor Maspero may be right in thinking that Nu really owes his existence to the goddess Nut, and that he was introduced into the cosmogony of Heliopolis under the influence of Asiatic ideas. However this may be, Shu and Tefnut, who immediately emanated from him, apparently represented the air. Later art pictured them in Asiatic style as twin lions sitting back to back and supporting between them the rising or setting sun.17 But an old legend described Shu as having raised the heavens above the earth, where he still keeps them suspended above him like the Greek Atlas. A text at Esna, which identifies him with Khnum, describes him as sustaining “the floor of the sky upon its four supports” or cardinal points; “he raised Nut, and put himself under her like a great column of air.” Tefnut, his twin sister, was the north wind, which gives freshness and vigour to the world.

The next pair in the Ennead of Heliopolis were Seb and Nut, the earth and the firmament, who issued from Shu and Tefnut. Then came Osiris and Isis, the children of the earth and sky, and lastly Set and Nebhât, the one the representative of the desert land in which the Asiatic nomads pitched their tents, the other of the civilised Egyptian family at whose head stood Neb-hât, “the lady of the house.” Upon the model of this Ennead two other minor Enneads were afterwards formed.

But it was only its first father and generator who was the god of the nome in which the temple of Heliopolis stood. The deities who were derived from him in the priestly cosmogony were fetched from elsewhere. They were either elementary deities like Shu and Seb, or else deities whose worship had already extended all over Egypt, like Osiris and Isis. The goddess Nebhât seems to have been invented for the purpose of providing Set with a sister and a consort; perhaps Tefnut, too, had originally come into existence for the same reason.

The Ennead, once created, was readily adopted by the other nomes of Egypt. It provided an easy answer to that first question of primitive humanity: what is the origin of the world into which we are born? The answer was derived from the experience of man himself; as he had been born into the world, so, too, it was natural to suppose that the world itself had been born. The creator must have been a father, and, in a land where the woman held a high place in the family, a mother as well. Though Tum continued to be pictured as a man, no wife was assigned him; father and mother in him were one.

It is impossible not to he reminded of similar supreme gods in the Semitic kingdoms of Asia. Asshur of Assyria was wifeless;18 so also was Chemosh of Moab. Nor does the analogy end here. Creation by generation was a peculiarly Semitic or rather Babylonian doctrine. The Babylonian Epic of the Creation begins by describing the generation of the world out of Mummu or Chaos. And the generation is by pairs as in the Ennead of Holiopolis. First, Mummu, the one primeval source of all things; then Lakhmu and Lakhamu, who correspond with Shu and Tefnut; next, Ansar and Kisar, the firmament and the earth; and lastly, the three great gods who rule the present world. Of one of these, Ea, the ruler of the deep, Bel-Merodach the sun-god was born.

Between the Babylonian and the Egyptian schemes the differences are slight. In the Ennead of Heliopolis, Tum, the offspring of Nu, takes the place of Mummu, the watery chaos; but this was because he was the god of the State, and had therefore to be made the creator and placed at the head of the gods. It merely interposes another link in the chain of generation, separating Nu from the two elemental deities which in the Babylonian scheme proceeded immediately from it. For Nu was the exact equivalent of the Babylonian Mummu. Both denote that watery chaos out of which, it was believed, all things have come. And what makes the fact the more remarkable is, that though the conception of a primeval watery chaos was natural in Babylonia, it was not so in Egypt. Babylonia was washed by the waters of the Persian Gulf, out of which Ea, the god of the deep, had arisen, bringing with him the elements of culture, and the waves of which at times raged angrily and submerged the shore. But the Egyptians of history lived on the banks of a river and not by the sea; it was a river, too, whose movements were regular and calculable, and which bestowed on them all the blessings they enjoyed. So far from being an emblem of chaos and confusion, the Nile was to them the author of all good. I do not see how we can avoid the conclusion that between the Ennead of Heliopolis with its theory of cosmology, and the cosmological doctrines of Babylonia, a connection of some sort must have existed.19

Indeed, the native name of Heliopolis is suggestive of Asiatic relations. It is the On of the Old Testament, and was called On of the north to distinguish it from another On, the modern Erment, in the south. It was symbolised by a fluted and painted column of wood,20 in which some have seen an emblem of the sun-god, like the sun-pillars of Semitic faith. But the name of On was not confined to Egypt. There was another Heliopolis in Syria, called On of the Beka'a by Amos (i. 5), where the sun-god was worshipped under the form of a stone. And in Palestine itself Beth-el, “the house of God,” was known in earlier ages as Beth-On. It is true that the name of On may have been carried into Asia in the days when the Hyksos dynasties ruled over Egypt, but it is more probable that both Beth-On and the On near Damascus go back to an older date. In any case they testify to some kind of contact between the sun-worship of Heliopolis in Egypt and that of Syria and Palestine.21

Between Tum, the sun-god of Northern Egypt, and Horus, the sun-god of the South, there was one notable difference. While Horus was a hawk, Tum was a man. In this respect, again, he resembled the gods of Babylonia, who are always depicted in human form. It is difficult to find any other Egyptian deity who was similarly fortunate. Osiris, indeed, was originally a man, but at an early date he became confounded with his symbol, the ram, in his title of “lord of Daddu.” Professor Maspero thinks that Khnum at the Cataract may also have been originally a man; but if so, he too became a ram before the beginning of history. Ptaḥ of Memphis and Anher of This are the only other gods who appear consistently in human shape, and Ptaḥ is a mummy, while Anher, like Tum, was the sun.22

With the adoption of the Ennead and the cosmological ideas it embodied, a new element entered into the theology of the Egyptian temples. This was the identification of one god with another, or, to speak more exactly, the loss of their individuality on the part of the gods. The process was begun when the priests of Heliopolis took such of the divinities as were recognised throughout Egypt, and transmuted them into successive phases in the creative action of their local god. It was completed when other religious centres followed the example of Heliopolis, and formed Enneads of their own. In each case the local god stood of necessity at the head of the Ennead, and in each case also he was assimilated to Tum. Whatever may have previously been his attributes, he thus became a form of the sun-god. A dual personality was created, which soon melted into one.

But it was not as Tum that the sun-god of Heliopolis thus made his way victoriously through the land of Egypt. It was under the more general and undefined name of Ra that he was accepted in the Egyptian sanctuaries. Tum remained the local god of Heliopolis, or else formed part of a solar trinity in which he represented the setting sun. But Ra became a divine Pharaoh, in whom the world of the gods was unified.

The kings of the Fifth Dynasty called themselves his sons. Hitherto the Pharaohs had been incarnations of the sun-god, like the earlier monarchs of Babylonia; henceforward the title of Horus was restricted to their doubles in the other world, while that of “Son of the Sun” was prefixed to the birth-name which they bore on earth. The same change took place also in Babylonia. There it was due to the invasion of foreign barbarians, and the establishment of a foreign dynasty at Babylon, where the priests refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of a king who had not been adopted as son by the sun-god Bel-Merodach. Perhaps a similar cause was at work in Egypt. The Fifth Dynasty came from Elephantinê, an island which was not only on the extreme frontier of Egypt, but was inhabited then as now by a non-Egyptian race; it may be that the price of their acknowledgment by the priests and princes of Memphis was their acceptance of the title of “Son of Ra.” It narrowed their pretensions to divinity, and at the same time implied their submission to the god of the great sanctuary which stood in such close relations with Memphis. As we have seen, the first monument on which the winged solar disc is found is that of a king of the Fifth Dynasty; it there overshadows his figure and his two names; but though the hawk of Horus stands above the name of his double, his birth-name is without the title of “Son of Ra.”

When once the principle had been adopted that the leading gods of Egypt were but varying forms of the sun-god, it was easy to construct Enneads, whatever might be the number of the deities it was wished to bring into them. Thus at Heliopolis itself Horus the son of Isis was introduced, his confusion with the sun-god Horus facilitating the process. At This, Anher was identified with Shu; at Thebes, Amon was made one with Tum and Ra, with Mentu and Mut. Where a goddess was at the head of the local Pantheon the process was the same; she interchanged with the other goddesses of the country, and even with Tum himself. At all events, Horapollo (i. 12) states that Nit of Sais was at once male and female.

One result of all this kaleidoscopic interchange was the growth of trinities in which the same god appears under three separate forms. At Heliopolis, for example, Harmakhis became identified with Tum, and the trinity of Tum, Ra, and Harmakhis grew up, in which Harmakhis was the sun of the morning and Tum of the evening, while Ra embodied them both. From one point of view, in fact, Harmakhis and Tum were but different aspects under which Ra could be envisaged; from another point. Ra, Tum, and Harmakhis were three persons in one god.

I believe that Professor Maspero is right in holding that the Egyptian trinity is of comparatively late origin and of artificial character.23 He points out that it presupposes the Ennead, and in some cases, at least, can be shown to have been formed by the union of foreign elements. Thus at Memphis the triad was created by borrowing Nefer-Tum from Heliopolis and Sekhet from Latopolis, and making the one the son of the local god Ptaḥ, and the other his wife. The famous trinity of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, which became a pattern for the rest of Egypt, was formed by transferring Nebhât and Anubis, the allies of Osiris, to his enemy Set, and so throwing the whole of the Osirian legend into confusion. The trinity of Thebes is confessedly modern; it owed its origin to the rise of the Theban dynasties, when Thebes became the capital of Egypt, and its god Amon necessarily followed the fortunes of the local prince. Mut, “the mother,” a mere title of the goddess of Southern Egypt, was associated with him, and the triad was completed by embodying in it Ptaḥ of Memphis, who had been the chief god of Egypt when Thebes was still a small provincial town. At a subsequent date, Khonsu, the moon-god, took the place of Ptaḥ.24

We can thus trace the growth of the Egyptian trinity and the ideas and tendencies which lay behind it. It was the culminating stage in the evolution of the religious system which took its first start among the priests of Heliopolis. First creation by means of generation, then the Ennead, and lastly the triad and the trinity—such were the stages in the gradual process of development. And the doctrine of the trinity itself reached its highest point of perfection in that worship of Osiris of which I shall speak in a future lecture.

But the Ennead had other results besides the Egyptian doctrine of the trinity. Generation in the case of a god could not be the same as in the case of a man. The very fact that Tum was wifeless proved this. It was inevitable, therefore, that it should come to be conceived of as symbolical like the generation of thought, all the more since the deities who had proceeded from Tum were all of them symbols representing the phenomena of the visible world. Hence the idea of generation passed naturally into that of emanation, one divine being emanating from another as thought emanates from thought. And to the Egyptian, with his love of symbolism and disinclination for abstract thought, the expression of an idea meant a concrete form. Seb and Nut were the divine ideas which underlay the earth and the firmament and kept them in existence, but they were at the same time the earth and the firmament themselves. They represented thought in a concrete form, if we may borrow a phrase from the Hegelian philosophy.

The principle of emanation was eagerly seized upon by Greek thinkers in the days when Alexandria was the meeting-place of the old world and the new. It afforded an explanation not only of creation, but also of the origin of evil, and had, moreover, behind it the venerable shadow of Egyptian antiquity. It became the basis and sheet-anchor of most of the Gnostic systems, and through them made its way into Christian thought. From another point of view it may be regarded as an anticipation of the doctrine of evolution.

The work of the priestly college of Heliopolis was accomplished long before the Pyramid texts were written under the kings of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties. The Ennead appears in them as a long established doctrine, with all its consequences. The solar faith had laid firm hold of Egyptian religion, and gained a position from which it was never to be dislodged. Henceforward Egyptian religion was permeated by the ideas and beliefs which flowed from it, and the gods and goddesses of the land assumed a solar dress. Under the Nineteenth Dynasty, if not before, a new view of the future life obtained official sanction, which substituted the sun-god for Osiris and the solar bark for the Osirian paradise. But I must leave an account of it to another occasion, and confine myself at present to the last and most noteworthy development of solar worship in Egypt.

It is perhaps hardly correct to apply to it the term development. It was rather a break in the religious tradition of Egypt, an interruption in the normal evolution of the Egyptian creed, which accordingly made but little permanent impression on the religious history of the nation. But in the religious history of mankind it is one of the most interesting of episodes. Like Mosaism in Israel, it preached the doctrine of monotheism in Egypt; but unlike Mosaism, its success was only temporary. Unlike Mosaism, moreover, it was a pantheistic monotheism, and it failed accordingly in its struggle with the nebulous polytheism of Egypt.

One of the last Pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty was Amon-hotep IV. Since the conquest of Syria by his ancestor Thothmes III., and the establishment of an empire which extended to the banks of the Euphrates, Asiatic manners and customs had poured into Egypt in an ever-increasing flood, and with them the ideas and religious beliefs of the Semitic East. Amon-hotep III., the father of Amon-hotep IV. had maintained the older traditions of the Egyptian court, so far at least as religion was concerned, though his mother and wife had alike been foreigners. But his son appears to have been young at the time of his father's death. He was accordingly brought up under the eye and influence of his mother Teie, and his temperament seems to have seconded the teaching he received from her. His features are those of a philosophic visionary rather than of a man of action, of a religious reformer rather than of a king. He flung himself eagerly into a religious movement of which he was the mainspring and centre, and for the first time in history there was persecution for religion's sake.

For numberless centuries the Egyptian had applied the title of “the one god” to the divinity he was adoring at the moment, or who presided over the fortunes of his city or nome. But he did not mean to exclude by it the existence of other deities. The “one god” was unique only to the worshipper, and to the worshipper only in so far as his worship for the moment was addressed to this “one god” alone. When with the growth of the solar theory the deities of Egypt began to be resolved into one another, the title came to signify that attribute of divinity which unified all the rest. But to the Egyptian, it must be remembered, the attribute was a concrete thing; and though in one sense Amon and Khnum and Horus denoted the attributes of Ra, in another sense they were distinct personalities with a distinct history behind them. The result was what I have called a nebulous polytheism, in which the individual deities of the Egyptian Pantheon had melted like clouds into one another; they had lost their several individualities, but had not gained a new individuality in return. The conservative spirit, which forbade the Egyptian to break with the traditions of the past and throw aside any part of his heritage, prevented him from taking the final step, and passing out of polytheism into monotheism.

It was just this step, however, that was taken by Amon-hotep IV. and his followers, and which at once stamps the non-Egyptian character of his religious reformation. Henceforward there was to be but one God in Egypt, a God who was omnipresent and omniscient, existing everywhere and in everything, and who would brook no rival at his side. He was not, indeed, a new god, for he had already revealed himself to the generations of the past under the form of Ra, and his visible symbol was the solar disc. But Ra had been ignorantly worshipped; unworthy language had been used of him, and he had been confounded with gods who were no gods at all. The new and purified conception of the supreme divinity needed a new name under which it could be expressed, and this was found in Aten, “the solar disc,” or Aten-Ra, “the disc of the sun.”

It was not probable that Amon of Thebes and his worshippers would bow their heads to the new faith without a struggle. It was Amon who had led the fathers of Amon-hotep IV. to victory, who had given them their empire over the world, and upon whose city of Thebes the spoils of Asia had been lavished A fierce contest broke out between the Theban priesthood and the heretical king. The worship of Amon was proscribed, his very name was erased from the monuments on which it was engraved, and a shrine of the rival deity was erected at the very gates of his ancient temple. The Pharaoh changed his own name to that of Khu-n-Aten, “the glory of the solar disc,” and thereby publicly proclaimed his renunciation of the religion of which he was the official head.

But in the end the priests of Amon prevailed. Khu-n-Aten was forced to leave the capital of his fathers, and, carrying with him the State archives and the adherents of the new faith, he built a new city for himself midway between Minia and Siût, where the mounds of Tel el-Amarna now mark its site. Here, surrounded by a court which was more than half Asiatic in blood and belief, he raised a temple to the new God of Egypt, and hard by it a palace for himself. The new creed was accompanied by a new style of art; the old traditions of Egyptian art were thrown aside, and a naturalistic realism, sometimes of an exaggerated character, took their place. The palace and temple were alike made glorious with brilliant painting and carved stone, with frescoed floors and walls, with columns and friezes inlaid with gold and precious stones, with panels of pictured porcelain, and with statuary which reminds us of that of later Greece.25 Gardens were planted by the edge of the Nile, and carriage roads constructed in the desert, along which the king and his court took their morning drives. Then, returning to his palace, the Pharaoh would preach or lecture on the principles and doctrines of the new faith.

It was officially called “the doctrine,” which, as Professor Erman remarks, shows that it possessed a dogmatically-formulated creed. Its teachings are embodied in the hymns inscribed on the walls of the tombs of Tel el-Amarna. The God, whose visible symbol is the solar disc, is He, as we learn from them, who has created all things, “the far-off heavens, mankind, the animals and the birds; our eyes are strengthened by his beams, and when he reveals himself all flowers grow and live; at his rising the pastures bring forth, they are intoxicated before his face; all the cattle skip on their feet, and the birds in the marshes flutter with joy.” It is he “who brings in the years, creates the months, makes the days, reckons the hours; he is lord of time, according to whom men reckon.”26 Beside Him, “there is no other” God.

“Beautiful is thy setting,” begins another hymn, “O living Aten, thou lord of lords and king of the two worlds! When thou unitest thyself with the heaven at thy setting, mortals rejoice before thy countenance, and give honour to him who has created them, and pray to him who has formed them in the presence of Khu-n-Aten, thy son, whom thou lovest, the king of Egypt who liveth in truth. All Egypt and all lands within the circle that thou treadest in thy glory, praise thee at thy rising and at thy setting. O God, who in truth art the living one, who standest before our eyes, thou createst that which was not, thou formest it all; we also have come into being through the word of thy mouth.”27

The solar disc was thus, as it were, the mask through which the supreme Creator revealed himself. And this Creator was the one true living God, living eternally, brooking the worship of no other god at his side, and, in fact, the only God who existed in truth. All other gods were false, and the followers of Aten-Ra were accordingly called upon to overthrow their worship and convert their worshippers. At the same time, Aten was the father of all things; he had called all things into existence by the word of his mouth, men equally with the beasts and birds, the flowers and the far-off heaven itself. If, therefore, men refused to worship him, it was because they had been led astray by falsehood and ignorance, or else were wilfully blind.

Whatever measure of success the reforms of Khu-n-Aten attained among the natives of Egypt, they must have possessed in so far as they represented a reformation, and not the introduction of a new and foreign cult. There must have been a section of the people, more especially among the educated classes, whose religious ideas were already tending in that direction, and who were therefore prepared to accept the new “doctrine.” The language often used of the gods, if strictly interpreted, implied a more or less modified form of monotheism; the Egyptian deities, as we have seen, had come to be resolved into manifestations of the sun-god, and the symbol of the new faith enabled it to be connected with the ancient worship of Ra. The old sun-worship of Heliopolis formed a bridge which spanned the gulf between Amon and Aten. Indeed, the worship of the solar disc itself was not absolutely strange. An Egyptian, for instance, who was buried at Kom el-Aḥmar, opposite El-Kab, in the reign of Thothmes III., speaks of being “beloved by the beams of the solar disc” (Aten-Ra); and though no determinative of divinity is attached to the words, it was but a step forward to make the disc the equivalent of the sun-god.

Nevertheless, between the “doctrine” of Khu-n-Aten and the older Egyptian ideas of the sun-god there was a vast, if not impassable, distance. The “doctrine” was no result of a normal religious evolution. That is proved not only by the opposition with which it met and the violent measures that were taken to enforce it, but still more by its rapid and utter disappearance or extermination after the death of its royal patron. It came from Asia, and, like the Asiatic officials, was banished from Egypt in the national reaction which ended in the rise of the Nineteenth Dynasty.

The god of Khu-n-Aten, in fact, has much in common with the Semitic Baal. Like Baal, he is the “lord of lords,” whose visible symbol is the solar orb. Like Baal, too, he is a jealous god, and the father of mankind. It is true that Baal was accompanied by the shadowy Baalat; but Baalat, after all, was but his pale reflection, necessitated by the genders of Semitic grammar; and in some parts of the Semitic world even this pale reflection was wanting. Chemosh of Moab, for instance, and Asshur of Assyria were alike wifeless.

On the other hand, between Aten and the Semitic Baal there was a wide and essential difference. The monotheism of Khu-n-Aten was pantheistic, and as a result of this the god he worshipped was the god of the whole universe. The character and attributes of the Semitic Baal were clearly and sharply defined. He stood outside the creatures he had made or the children of whom he was the father. His kingdom was strictly limited, his power itself was circumscribed. He was the “lord of heaven,” separate from the world and from the matter of which it was composed.

But Aten was in the things which he had created; he was the living one in whom all life is contained, and at whose command they spring into existence. There was no chaos of matter outside and before him; he had created “that which was not,” and had formed it all. He was not, therefore, a national or tribal god, whose power and protection did not extend beyond the locality in which he was acknowledged and the territory on which his high places stood; on the contrary, he was the God of the whole universe; not only Egypt, but “all lands” and all peoples are called upon to adore him, and even the birds and the flowers grow and live through him. For the first time in history, so far as we know, the doctrine was proclaimed that the Supreme Being was the God of all mankind.

The fact is remarkable from whatever point of view it may be regarded. The date of Khu-n-Aten is about 1400 B.C., a century before the Exodus and the rise of Mosaism. More than once it has been suggested that between Mosaism and the “doctrine” of Aten there may have been a connection. But in Mosaism we look in vain for any traces of pantheism. The Yahveh of the Commandments stands as much outside His creation as the man whom He had made in His own image; His outlines are sharply defined, and He is the God of the Hebrews rather than of the rest of the world. The first Commandment bears the fact on its forefront: other nations have their gods whose existence is admitted, but Yahveh is the God of Israel, and therefore Him only may Israel serve.

  • 1.

    De Morgan, Recherches sur les Origines de l' Égypte, ii. pl. iii. line 2.

  • 2.

    Zeitschrift für Aegyptische Sprache, xxxvi. pls. xii. and xiii.; Quibell, Hierakonpolis, pt. i. pl. xxix.

  • 3.

    Professor Maspero, however, proposes to see in them a symbol of the king of Upper Egypt destroying a hostile city.

  • 4.

    Recueil de Travaux, xxi. pp. 116, 117. Dr. Naville points out that on the Palermo Stela the festival of the Shesh-Hor, with the determinative of a sacred bark, occurs repeatedly in that part of the inscription which relates to the festivals of the kings of the first two dynasties. Professor Petrie has found the same festival mentioned on two ivory tablets from the tomb of a king of the First Dynasty at Abydos (Petrie, The Royal Tombs of the First Dynasty, pt. i. pl. xvii.); and it may be added that in the Pyramid texts (Pepi 670; Recueil de Travaux, viii, p. 105) the Mât or Mâdit bark of the sun-god is identified with the bark of the Shesh-Hor, while the Semkett or bark in which the sun-god voyages at night becomes a bark in which the place of the hawk is taken by a picture of the ben or tomb of Osiris—here identified with that of Akhem the mummified hawk, which forms part of the symbol for the Thinite nome. Elsewhere it is the Semkett or day-bark of the sun which is identified with the festival of the Shesh-Hor (Recueil de Travaux, iii. p. 205).

  • 5.

    On the mesnitiu or “blacksmiths” of Horus, see Maspero, Études de Mythologie, ii. p. 313 and sqq. The Mesnit or “Forge” was the name given to the passage opening into the shrine of the temple of Edfu.

  • 6.

    Quibell, Hierakonpolis, pt. i. pl. ii.

  • 7.

    See de Rougé, Recherches sur les Monuments qu'on peut attribuer aux six premieres dynasties, pp. 44, 45.

  • 8.

    Mr. Quibell found a large bronze hawk with a head of solid gold and eyes of obsidian along with two bronze figures of Pepi, in the foundation of the temple of Nekhen (Kom el-Ahmar); see Quibell, Hierakonpolis, pt. i. pl. xlii. Hor-nubi, “the golden Horus,” was the god of the Antæopolite nome.

  • 9.

    The 1st (Ombite) and 2nd (Apollinopolite) nomes, the 3rd nome (originally) with its capital Nekhen, the nomes of the “Eastern and Western Horus” (Tuphium and Asphynis), Qus “the city of Horus the elder,” the 5th (Coptite) nome, the 6th nome of Dendera in so far as Hathor was daughter and husband of Horus, the 10th (Antæopolite) and 12th (Hierakopolite) nomes, and finally the 15th, 18th, and 20th (Hera-kleopolite) nomes. In the Delta also Horus was god of the 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 19th, 25th, 27th, and 30th nomes, of which the 7th and 8th were close to the Asiatic frontier.

  • 10.

    When this emblem was first invented we do not know; it probably goes back to the præ-Menic period, like the composite animals on the early monuments of Nekhen and Abydos. Its first dateable occurrence is on a boulder of granite in the island of Elephantinê above the name and figure of Unas of the Fifth Dynasty. It is also engraved above the double figure of an Old Empire king on a great isolated rock near El-Kab, which is probably of the same date. The tablet on which it is engraved faces south-east.

  • 11.

    Hor-merti, “Horus of the two eyes,” was worshipped at Shedennu in the Pharbæthite nome of the Delta. Grébaut's view, that the two eyes originally represented the light, seems to me too abstract a conception for an early period (Recueil de Travaux, pp. 72–87, 112–131). In the Pyramid texts (Rec. iv. p. 42), mention is made of Horus with “the blue eyes.”

  • 12.

    Cf. Sayce, TSBA., Nov. 1898. In one case the name of the god is written Kha-ar. In WAI. ii. 55. 36, Khur-galzu, “Horus, thou art great!” is given as the name of a Sumerian goddess.

  • 13.

    Nin-ip was identified with the planet Saturn, like “Horus the bull.”

  • 14.

    It was then that the two obelisks were erected in front of the temple by Usertesen I., which caused it to he known as Hât-Benbeni, “the house of the two obelisks.”

  • 15.

    The members of the Ennead of Heliopolis or On are named in the Pyramid texts (Pepi ii. 666) Tum, Shu, Tefnut, Seb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nebhât.

  • 16.

    See his Études de Mythologie et d' Archéologie egyptiennes, ii. p. 337 sqq.

  • 17.

    Similarly, on early Babylonian seal-cylinders the leaves of the folding doors through which the sun-god comes forth at daybreak are surmounted by lions. See the illustration in King, Babylonian Religion and Mythologie, p. 32. (The genuineness of this cylinder has been questioned without good reason.)

  • 18.

    The wife occasionally provided for Asshur by the scribes was a mere grammatical abstraction, like Tumt, the feminine of Tum, whose name is now and then met with in late Egyptian texts.

  • 19.

    One of the old formulæ embedded in the Pyramid texts (Teta 86) reads like a passage from a Sumerian hymn: “Hail to thee, great deep (ageb), moulder of the gods, creator of men.” It belongs to Babylonia rather than to Egypt, where the “great deep” could have been a matter only of tradition.

  • 20.

    See Petrie, Medum, p. 30.

  • 21.

    The existence of other cities of the name in Upper Egypt, “On of the south,” now Erment, and On, now Dendera, shows that it must go back to the earliest epoch of Pharaonic Egypt. I believe that it is the Sumerian unu, “city,” and that the column which represented it hieroglyphically denoted “a foundation” or “settlement.”

  • 22.

    It will be shown in a future lecture that Osiris was the mummified Anher. One is tempted to ask whether Ptaḥ is not similarly the mummified Tum?

  • 23.

    Études de Mythtologie et d' Archéologie égyptiennes, ii. p. 270 sqq.

  • 24.

    This has been proved by a stela of Antef IV. of the Eleventh Dynasty, discovered by M. Legrain in 1900, in the temple of Ptaḥ. Khonsu was a mere epithet of the moon-god, meaning “wanderer.” In a later age Khonsu was himself superseded by Mentu.

  • 25.

    For the architectural plan of the temple, see Erman, Life in Ancient Egypt, Eng. tr., p. 287.

  • 26.

    Erman, Life in Ancient Egypt, Eng. tr., p. 262.

  • 27.

    Another strophe of the Hymn to Aten, as translated by Professor Breasted (De Hymnis in Solem sub rege Amenophide IV. conceptis, p. 47), is equally explicit: “Thou hast created the earth according to thy pleasure, when thou wast alone, both all men and the cattle great and small; all who walk upon the earth, those on high who fly with wings; the foreign lands of Syria (Khar) and Cush as well as the land of Egypt; each in its place thou appointest, thou providest them with all that they need; each has his granary, his stores of grain are counted. Diverse are the languages of men, more different than their shape is the colour of their skin, (for) thou hast distinguished the nations of the world (one from the other).” In the succeeding strophe the monotheism of the worshipper of Aten, in whose eyes even the sacred Nile was the creature of the one true God, appears in striking contrast to the ordinary polytheism of Egypt (Breasted, l. c. p. 53): “Thou createst the Nile in the other world, thou bringest it at thy pleasure to give life to mankind; for thou hast made them for thyself, O lord of them all who art ever with them, O lord of all the earth who risest for them, O sun of day (the mighty one in?) the remotest lands, thou givest them their life, thou sendest forth the Nile in heaven, that it may descend for them; it raises its waves mountain high like the sea, it waters the fields of their cities. How glorious are thy counsels! O lord of eternity, thou art a Nile in heaven for foreign men and cattle throughout all the earth! They walk on their feet, (and) the Nile cometh to Egypt from the other world.”