Would you like to know more about Amun-Râ? Do you want to discover the myths that surround it? Or would you like to know more about the two deities that make it up?
Then you've come to the right place! Our team of Egyptian mythology enthusiasts is here to answer all your questions.
Amun-Ra is the association of the two most important deities of the Egyptian pantheon: the gods Amun and Ra. Creator of the Universe, the Cosmos and the Earth according to the Egyptians, Amun-Ra is an emblematic figure of ancient Egypt.
In this article, you will discover:
- The myth of the god Amun-Ra
- The role of the god Amun in ancient Egypt
- The god Ra and the legends that surround him
The myth of Amun-Ra will soon have no more secrets for you.
I now invite you to immerse yourself in this fabulous tale!
1) Who is Amun-Râ?
Amun-Ra is one of the most popular deities of ancient Egypt. This extraordinary god is the combination of Amun (the invisible god of the creation of life) and Ra (the falcon god of the creation of the stars and the Earth), two of the most important deities of the Egyptian pantheon.
The original form of Amun-Ra is Amun. However, when the latter's popularity reached its peak, Amun's powers and attributes became confused with those of the god with the solar disc Ra.
Amun-Ra then becomes the creator of everything that exists: he is the creator of life (through the attributes of Amun) and the creator of the universe (through the attributes of Ra).
On the left, Amun and on the right, Ra. The association of these two deities gives Amun-Ra. Note that the representations of Amun-Ra take the form of the god Ra. Therefore, Amun-Ra has the head of a falcon.
According to Egyptian mythology, Amun-Ra created himself and then gave birth to life and the universe. Still according to Egyptian mythology, at the beginning of our era, there was only a vast infinite ocean and the original darkness. By responding spontaneously to the call of life, Amun-Ra sprang from the ocean and began his heavy task as a creator. It is he who is at the origin of the Universe, the Cosmos and the Earth.
The cult of Amun-Ra is present throughout Egypt. His main temple is that of Karnak, the richest place of worship in the country. Because of its popularity and its status as king of the gods, many pharaohs made it their symbol and placed themselves under its protection.
The temple of Karnak, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.
2) The god Amun
In this part, we are going to talk to you about Amun when he is not in his Amun-Ra form. In ancient Egypt, Amun is an inescapable god and is at the heart of the life of the inhabitants of the country of the Nile. The cults attributed to him are omnipresent in all parts of Egypt: he remains the god of gods, the founding father of life.
A) Presentation of Amun, the god of the invisible
Amun (translatable literally as "The Hidden One") is not really representable in the true sense of the word as he is invisible. However, many wall frescoes depict him by default with the appearance of a pharaoh wearing a crown made up of two long goose feathers or the pschent, the sacred headdress of the pharaohs.
These goose feathers refer to the animal into which Amun transformed himself to give life: mankind comes from the egg he laid in this form and then hatched to give birth to humanity.
The cult of Amun gained importance during the IXth dynasty of pharaohs from Thebes where Amun became their main god. His cult will take a national dimension under the XIth then the XIIth dynasty with the accession to power of the pharaohs of Thebes as well as with the rise of the dynasty of Amenemhat (meaning literally "under the responsibility of Amun") towards the high spheres of power.
Amun then became the most important god of ancient Egypt and was even baptised the "lord of the thrones of the double country" (in reference to the two regions of Upper and Lower Egypt).
B) Amun and Akhenaten's heresy
Amun knew how to cross the ages without ever being forgotten, which was not won under "Akhenaten's heresy". The heretical period of Akhenaten is a dark passage in the history of the cult of Amun, and we are going to tell it to you from this step.
Akhenaten, born under the name Amenophis IV, a name paying homage to Amun, is the son of Amenophis III (an important pharaoh of the 14th century BC). When he succeeded his father and came to power, the young Amenophis IV wanted to reform and modernise Egypt and especially its religion.
Statue of Akhenaten, who reigned from 1355 to 1338 BC.
On his accession to the throne of Egypt, he discovered a corrupt clergy of Amun, greedy for power and wealth. The preachers' offerings to the god only serve to maintain the luxury tastes and the great alcoholic feasts of the priests. The latter ensure their hold on the population by creating a climate of fear and divine terror based on superstition.
Amenophis IV ordered the abandonment of Amun and all the other gods he thought to be soiled by the vices of his time. He decided to place himself under the protection of a single god and thus began the monotheistic cult of Aten (the god of heat, the personification of the Sun). Amenophis then became Akhenaten (changing his name in reference to Aten).
During the reign of Akhenaten, all cults different from that of Aten are formally forbidden. Many temples were closed and the statues with the effigy of the other deities were destroyed. This would later earn him the nickname of "heretic king" and his successors would seek to erase his memory forever from Egyptian history.
C) Alexander the Great, "son of Amun"
Amun is a god who has greatly marked history through his association with important historical figures such as Alexander the Great. We are now going to tell you about the link that unites them...
Alexander the Great is an essential figure of Antiquity. His name is engraved in history for his conquests in the Middle East and Asia as well as for the immense empire he built. Alexander the Great is often compared to Achilles (a Greek hero who shone in the Trojan War) for their shared authority and warrior abilities.
Alexander is the son of Philip II King of Macedonia. He had already distinguished himself in his father's army as commander of the cavalry. Alexander achieved his first great success in Thebes by defeating the "Sacred Battalion" (an elite unit of the Theban army).
Following the death of Philip II, Alexander inherited the title of king as well as his father's powerful army. He then set out to conquer the Persian Empire, a long-standing enemy of the Macedonians.
Mural representation of Alexander the Great and his horse Bucephalus.
After creating a coalition with many Greek cities and succeeding in getting his army of more than 35,000 soldiers across the Hellespont (a strait separating Greece from Persia), Alexander was finally able to quench his thirst for conquest.
In order to conquer the immense Persian Empire, Alexander proceeded methodically. His first aim was to conquer the entire west coast of the empire, which linked Persia to the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, the Persians would no longer be able to obtain supplies or bring in reinforcements from the other side of their territory.
While sailing along the Persian coasts, Alexander quickly encountered the armies of his opponents who came to halt his advance. But his army crushes everything in its path, notably at the battle of Granicus, where Alexander defeats a coalition composed of many Persian governors.
He then went as far as Isos, the stronghold of the Persian emperor Darius III. After many days of fighting, he succeeded in capturing the city and the imperial family. Unfortunately for Alexander, Darius managed to escape. Nevertheless, Alexander now holds a strong means of pressure against the emperor. His journey continued in Egypt, the last seafront of the Persian Empire.
Alexander is welcomed by the Egyptian people as the liberator from Persian oppression. His popularity is such that he becomes very influential and quickly gains the confidence of the high echelons of Egyptian power.
He goes to the oasis of Siwa to meet the oracle of Amun. The latter tells Alexander that he is the son of Amun, the god of the Egyptian gods.
Alexander was then proclaimed "son of Amun", the legitimate heir to the Egyptian throne. His ancestry gave him not only power over Egypt but also the status of pharaoh. For the Egyptians, his arrival was the result of the will of the gods and no one could contest his reign. He was then officially crowned in Memphis (capital of Lower Egypt) in the temple of Ptah.
Alexander the Great's passage into Egypt did not go unnoticed: he modernised the country and brought his military and technological knowledge to it. He also built one of the most famous cities of Antiquity: Alexandria.
The conquest of Egypt was quick and easy. This allowed Alexander to fill up his troops and refine his strategy. His army was then never so powerful: he was ready to set off again to overthrow Darius III and continue his conquest of the East.
After many failed attempts at negotiations by Darius III to end the conflict and recover his family, the armies of the two rivals face each other for a final battle: the battle of Gaugamèles.
On this mural: Darius III, Persian king from 336 to 330 BC.
The Battle of Gaugamela resulted in the overwhelming victory of the Macedonian troops and marked the end of the Persian Empire.
Darius III was finally assassinated by his own generals who sought to win Alexander's favour when his victory became inevitable.
Alexander the Great, "son of Amun" and Pharaoh of Egypt, then proclaimed himself king of Asia.
3) Ra, the Sun God
Now that we know more about who Amun was, we invite you to discover the myths surrounding Ra in order to understand why these two deities merged to form Amun-Ra.
A) Presentation of Ra
Ra, like Amun, is one of the most influential gods in the Egyptian pantheon. God of the sun, he is the god who created everything mineral (unlike Amun who created everything vegetable and animal).
He is most often depicted with a falcon's head wearing a sun disk surrounded by a snake (the cobra Uræus). The cult of Ra is very present in ancient Egypt. There are many temples with the effigy of the god and a whole city is even placed under his protection: it is the city of Heliopolis.
The city of Heliopolis, located in the Nile Delta, its name literally means "the Sun City" in ancient Egyptian.
In Egyptian mythology, Ra is the father of Geb and Nut who gave birth to four famous Egyptian deities: Set, Osiris, Nephthys and Isis. Later, Osiris married his sister Isis and Set took Nephthys as his wife.
Ra placed Osiris, considered by all as the perfect being, at the head of Egypt. Osiris, the first Pharaoh of Egypt, ruled the country with a masterly hand. He was just and good and brought justice to all of Upper and Lower Egypt.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end: his brother Set, jealous of Osiris' influence and charisma, assassinated him and then cut him into 14 separate pieces before taking the throne.
Set is now king of Egypt, the land of the Nile, which is experiencing the darkest period in its history. He brought terror, famine and war to the Egyptians. During his reign, men violated the 42 supreme rules dictated by Maat, the goddess of justice.
To punish men for this affront to the gods, Ra decided to send Sekhmet (the Egyptian lion goddess) to Earth.
This goddess is the animal form of Ra's left eye. According to the legend, the eye of Ra came out of its orbit to transform itself into Sekhmet, a fearsome weapon of destruction. Its mission was to eradicate all men who failed to respect Maat's rules and thus to show Ra's omnipotence on Earth.
The goddess Sekhmet is the personification of the eye of Ra. Beginning his mission of extermination without zeal, Sekhmet will end up taking his mission very (too!) much to heart.
Sekhmet will soon get a taste for the destruction of mankind and will be nothing more than a monster greedy for blood and destruction.
It was then that Ra, observing the carnage taking place on Earth, decided to put an end to this genocide. In the end, he no longer wished to eradicate those he had lovingly created. He then called Sekhmet back to heaven: humanity was certainly weakened, but it was saved!
B) The legend of Ra against the evil Apep
According to Egyptian mythology, it is Ra who governs the seasons, years, months and hours aboard his solar boat. During the day, he travels the world of the living to illuminate the Earth with his light. At night, he accompanies the dead to the kingdom of the dead. In this way, he gives an explanation as to why the Sun disappears at dusk and reappears at dawn.
While his mission by day may seem like a formality for a god of his stature, his task in the kingdom of darkness is of a completely different nature.
On his journey through the shallows of the world of the dead, many creatures, each more evil than the next, seek to eat the sun god.
One of these creatures is particularly feared by Ra: Apep, the fearsome giant snake. Apep is the most dangerous creature in Egyptian mythology and is the true incarnation of evil. His goal is none other than to devour Ra so that darkness may invade the world of the living forever.
The giant serpent Apep, Ra's main enemy during his journey through the kingdom of the dead aboard the solar boat.
In his expedition, Ra can nevertheless count on several deities to ensure his protection. His team is not the least and is composed of other Egyptian gods:
- Set (the god of repented Chaos), in charge of facing and repelling Apep in person.
- Isis (the goddess of magic), who thanks to her powers can repel hordes of weak enemies.
- Sobek (the crocodile god of strength), who with his crocodile fangs can pierce the stomach of Apep to retrieve Ra if the latter is swallowed by the giant snake.
- Thot (the god of knowledge), who elaborates every night a new plan to surprise Apep.
- Maat (the goddess of justice), who possesses healing powers that are indispensable to the rest of the team.
This is how the perpetual cycle of the days is ensured. Ra's mission is thus eternal.
Amun-Ra, a god engraved in our history forever!
Now you know everything you need to know about the Egyptian god of gods. You are now able to explain :
- Who is this inescapable god of Egyptian mythology
- What was the role of Amun, the god of the invisible, in the course of history
- What are the legends surrounding Ra, the Sun God
When this story is over, if you too think that ancient Egypt is a great and majestic era: you must absolutely visit our Egyptian collections!!
We invite you to keep this myth alive and to consult our large collection of Egyptian necklaces, rings and bracelets expertly inspired by the legends of the land of the pharaohs!
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