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Ancient Egyptian Myths Catherine Chambers

Ancient Egyptian Myths By Catherine Chambers

Ancient Egyptian Myths by Catherine Chambers

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Illustrated with 180 artworks and photographs, Ancient Egyptian Myths is an engaging and highly informative exploration of a rich mythology that still fascinates today.

Ancient Egyptian Myths Summary

Ancient Egyptian Myths: Gods and Pharoahs, Creation and the Afterlife by Catherine Chambers

The Great Sphinx of Giza, painted friezes in pyramid chambers, and symbolic paintings of the eye of Horus are familiar and breathtaking works of art. Yet behind them lies a deep cosmological tapestry in which the origins of the Earth and riches brought by the Nile flood are explained through deities. As pharaohs, kingdoms and dynasties rise and fall, so the roles of gods, goddesses and myths change, making Ancient Egypt's mythology a fascinating journey that reflects shifting power, fortune and influence in the lives of Egyptians. Ancient Egyptian Myths takes a broad approach to the cosmology of Ancient Egypt, describing the function of myth to both the powerful and the powerless. It includes internal and external political and economic influences on the status of deities and their myths. The book examines iconography and texts that transported Egyptians from practical stories explaining the world around them to the mystery and magic that led them into the realm of the dead. It explains the roles of priests and the exclusiveness of temples. Finally, it reveals influences of Egypt's myths on belief systems and the arts that continue to this day. Illustrated throughout with artworks and photographs, Ancient Egyptian Myths is an engaging and highly informative exploration of a rich mythology that still fascinates today.

About Catherine Chambers

Catherine Chambers is the General Editor of Treasures of Ancient Egypt and is the author of books on Ancient Egypt and other histories and mythologies for all ages. She has a degree in African History and Swahili from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Catherine was born in South Australia, educated in England and has lived in Northern Nigeria and southern Europe.

Table of Contents

Introduction The sources of Egyptian mythology over kingdoms and dynasties, from oral traditions in the Old Kingdom, through carved Coffin Texts and papyrus leaves of the Book of the Dead to the writings of Plutarch, and how they compare with those from other ancient civilisations, such as Mesopotamia. Explaining the purpose of texts: to guide, through spells attached to deities and the myths embodied in them, through death and into the afterlife. Unfolding the democratization of this process, which in the early Old Kingdom was the prerogative of the upper classes. 1. Creation myths and cosmology Explaining how, from the cosmic egg to the moulding of earth from a mud island rising out of a great sea, Ancient Egyptian creation myths explained how order was established out of chaos, the heavens linked with earth, and life with death and rebirth. Creator gods initially remained local to independent centres: Memphis, Heliopolis and Hermopolis until one, Atum, rose among them. Describing power struggles, the expansion of Egypt and the ensuing ascendancy of other creator gods such a Ptah and Amun, recounting the myths surrounding them. 2 Life, death and rebirth The myths and characteristics of the most powerful deities, especially Ancient Egypt's lifegivers, explaining the mythology that explained the annual Nile flood, the ensuing fertile soil, and the sun, which together fed and clothed the population and gave surplus for trade and expanding military forces. Recounting the myths through time of, among others, Ra, the sun god, at times attached to Atum and Amun. Also Osiris, whose epic tale of death and rebirth, explained not only the death and rebirth of humans but also the innundation and retreat of the Nile's waters. 3 The wider pantheon For all their power, creation gods and goddesses remained rather remote and mysterious, though through time some gained qualities and narratives that the masses could identify with. Including earthly manifestations of creator gods, such as Apis, the bull, who represented Ptah, a Memphis god. Explaining the pantheon as a fluid body, with gods and goddesses often taking on several identities and roles, which changed with time. Examples include Hathor, once the fierce lioness goddess of Nubia, and the myth that led to her metamorphosis into the Egyptian the goddess of pleasure and fertility, and a mother of pharaohs. Aspects of gods and myths that people could identify with, such as Thoth, the scribe and powerful Osiris, who was god of death and reincarnation but also of the Nile flood, corn, the moon and vegetation. 4 Priests, sects and power The priest class controlled sects for individual deities and were custodians of their myths, supervising day-to-day rituals honouring the gods in often lavish temple complexes, which were open only to priests, priestesses and pharaohs. The role of the pharaoh's High Priest through time; the relationship between wealthy, often powerful priests and pharaohs, and the changing nature of deities and the stories around them, as a consequence. 5 War, expansion and trade How, through trade, diplomacy and war, myths and deities from other lands became absorbed into Ancient Egypt's narrative and pantheon, from Nubia to the south, Libya to the west, to Palestine and Syria in the east. The ascendancy of Ancient Greece and Rome, and the absorption of Egyptian myths and deities into their pantheon. The spread of Ancient Egypt's cosmology further afield, such as the cult of Osiris, which fanned out westward to the Middle East, and eastward to the shores of the Rhine, to Rome and to England. 6 Celebrating gods, goddesses and myths Describing daily reminders of deities and myths manifested through art and architecture, not only in pyramids and temples, great painted friezes and statues, and the stunning jewellery of the wealthy, but also in the small statuettes or simple clay models and amulets of the masses. Festivals to honour deities and their powerful myths were organised through temples and enjoyed by the whole population. Processions involved dancing, singing and drumming towards the temple of a particular deity, or down to the Nile in the case of Hapi, who brought the life-giving flood. Describing instruments such as the sacred and powerful percussive sistrum, identified with goddess Hathor and often incorporating her cow horn symbol. 7 The legacy of Egyptian mythology Discussing ongoing fascination with the mythology of Ancient Egypt, and its symbolism, which can be found in many belief systems, cosmologies and organisations that have emerged since the end of the civilization, from astrology and alchemy to theosophy and freemasonry. From the 18th century, and especially after Champollion's decipherment of hierogyphs in 1822, Ancient Egypt 'fever' was high, the term Egyptology was born, and all things Ancient Egypt became apparent in design, especially jewellery. The mystique surrounding Egypt's mythology surfaced during Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon's archaeological excavations of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922, and has been revived in the entertainment world, through animation, and video and online games and movies such as the Tomb Raider series. Advances in science and technology could, through archaeology, reveal new facets to Egyptian mythology and a broader area of influence on them. Bibliography Index

Additional information

Ancient Egyptian Myths: Gods and Pharoahs, Creation and the Afterlife by Catherine Chambers
Amber Books Ltd
Book picture is for illustrative purposes only, actual binding, cover or edition may vary.
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