A Handbook of Egyptian Religion

By Adolf Erman; A. S. Griffith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII

RELIGION OF THE LATE PERIOD

THE New Kingdom was followed by a period of political confusion in Egypt. During the eleventh and tenth centuries B.C. Egypt was divided into a number of small and feeble states. The high priests of Amon reigned at Thebes, a king reigned at Tanis in the northern Delta, and there were also other rulers, most of whom were probably leaders of Libyan soldiery. Finally, about 950 B.C., one of these Libyan rulers, the powerful Sheshonk, whose capital was at Bubastis in the Delta, acquired the supremacy, and his family continued some time in power. In consequence of this, the cat-headed Bast, goddess of Bubastis, rose to be the official deity of the kingdom and the other gods of the Delta also profited by the favour of the monarch.

But, on the other hand, the glory of the former capital of Upper Egypt and of its god had by no means disappeared, and the Bubastite rulers gave proof of their devotion for Amon: they once more resumed work at the colossal buildings of Karnak and thereby showed that they also were adherents of Amon. In doing this they must have been influenced by practical considerations, for Thebes was a site that rewarded any trouble expended on it. It is true that none of the royal houses of the later period took formal possession of Thebes, for a remarkable fiction had arisen during these centuries to which they all were forced to submit. Thebes could never again be the property of any earthly prince, for it had a divine ruler, Amon; and his representative in the government on earth was not, as we should naturally suppose, his high priest, but his divine wife, the mortal bride of the god (p. 72). Thus Thebes had become a sort of spiritual principality, governed by a lady of high

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