The officially recognized gods of a culture -- its pantheon (Greek pan-theon, all gods) -- reflect that culture's value system and view of itself. The Egyptian pantheon speaks directly to that culture's obsession with death and resurrection, which may have arisen from its constant confrontation with the processes of and effects of the passage of the sun and the flooding of the Nile. The Hebrew development of a single patriarchal God concerned with the actions of a "chosen people" suggests a culture with a sense of exclusive identity and mission. The Greek immortal family on Mount Olympos, a family preoccupied with both its own pleasures and the actions of mortals, personifies a realistic if somewhat skeptical view of human nature and the dilemma of a species that revels in life even as it is defined by death.
All pantheons are ontological and teleological; that is, they are metaphors for the human attempt to make sense of existence itself and to assign ultimate cause. To "read" a pantheon is to read a culture's sense of itself and of the nature of the cosmos.
The Egyptian pantheon is marked by a struggle for supremacy among various gods, a struggle that mirrors conflicts among ruling religious and political factions in various parts of Egypt beginning as early as 4000 B.C.E. At one moment in Egyptian history the pantheon of Heliopolis, led by Atum or Re, predominates. At another time Amun in Thebes reigns supreme. The pharaoh Akhenaton even introduced a form of sun god monotheism in the fourteenth century B.C.E. Because of this struggle for religious supremacy and because of the existence of distinct cultural centers,