Would you like to know more about Amun? Do you want to discover the myths that surround it? Or to find out how this god influenced the course of history?
As enthusiasts of ancient Egypt, we are here to answer all your questions!
Creator of the earth and at the origin of all the gods, Amun is an inescapable deity of Egyptian mythology. God both adored and controversial depending on the era, Amun is present in many Egyptian myths.
In this article, you will discover:
- The myth of the god Amun
- The total oblivion of Amun during Akhenaten's heresy
- The importance of Amun in the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great
The myth of the god Amun will soon have no more secrets for you.
I now invite you to follow us in this fabulous tale!
1) The god Amun
A) Who is Amun?
Amun is an essential deity of the Egyptian pantheon and is considered the god of gods. According to ancient Egyptian texts, he is the one who is at the origin of the world and the creation of life. In the beginning, there was only an infinite ocean and the depths of the original darkness. From these two elements Amun springs forth, spontaneously responding to the call of life.
Before Amun, there was only a vast empty ocean according to the Egyptians.
In order to create life, Amun first took the shape of a goose to lay the primordial egg that gave birth to life. He then transformed into a snake, which allowed him to hatch this egg and thus give birth to humans, animals and all the forms of life present in nature that we know today.
Amun literally translates as "the Hidden One" because he is not representable. Therefore, ancient representations give him the appearance by default: that of a pharaoh wearing a crown made up of two high vertical feathers. These feathers are reminiscent of the goose into which Amun transformed himself to give birth to humanity. He can also be recognised by his blue skin in reference to the lapis lazuli, a stone sacred at the time of the pharaohs.
Amun is associated with many representations of animals. As we have seen, when the world was created, he took the form of a goose and a snake, which makes these two animals the ones that represent him by default. Nevertheless, Amun is also very often represented in the form of a ram. The ram is associated with him because of its symbolism as a protective animal and leader of his herd.
Above, Amun wearing his crown with two goose feathers (the most attentive will notice that Amun is not represented here with his blue skin colour as mentioned above).
The cult of Amun is very present in ancient Egypt. It gained importance during the IXth dynasty of pharaohs originating from Thebes and became in this region the protective divinity of the pharaohs par excellence.
But it is really under the XIth and XIIth dynasties of the pharaohs that the cult of Amun will take a national dimension. With the ascension of the kings of Thebes to the high spheres of power and the accession to the throne of the Amenemhat (literally translated by "under the responsibility of Amun"), Amun grew in stature and became the "lords of the thrones of the Double Country" (in reference to the two regions of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt).
During the 13th dynasty, he became the most important deity of the country and his cult was omnipresent throughout Egypt. Pharaoh Ahmosis (founder of the 13th dynasty) attributed his victory to him against the Hyksos (enemy people in the country of the Nile coming from South-West Asia) and raised him to the rank of "unifier of Upper and Lower Egypt".
The first of the gods will be a little later associated with Ra (the Sun Falcon god) in the form of Amun-Ra, which we will detail in the rest of the story.
B) The Amun-Ra form of the god
First of all, we would like to remind you that Amun is the true form of Amun-Ra. However, when he is at the height of his popularity, he merges with Ra (the falcon-sun god creator of the Earth and the stars) to become Amun-Ra. He then became the most important god in Egyptian mythology.
Amun-Ra thus combines two forces: the creative power of Amun's life and the creative power of Ra's celestial bodies.
2) Amun-Ra replaced by Aten during Akhenaten's heresy
Akhenaten is the son of Amenophis III, an important pharaoh of the 14th century BC. His father gave him his name, Amenophis IV, to pay homage to the all-powerful god of that time, Amun.
When he succeeded his father to the throne of Egypt, the young Amenophis IV quickly became familiar with the mysteries of power. An idealist by nature, the future Akhenaten wanted to reform the country and bring it a wind of modernity.
A sculpture of Akhenaten, the so-called "heretic" pharaoh who reigned from 1355 to 1338 B.C. and tried to make the whole of Egypt forget the existence of Amun.
The most important revolution of his reign was religious. On coming to power, he discovered a corrupt and wealth-hungry clergy of Amun-Ra. He realises that the offerings made to the gods only serve to maintain the unacceptable lifestyle of the priests. Every day, the clergy strengthens its power through fear and thus asserts its psychological hold on the Egyptian people.
Aten is the personification of the Sun. He is represented in the form of a sphere with long hands that bathe the world in light. In some of them he holds an ânkh cross, symbol of life.
Placed under the protection of Aten, Amenophis IV then became the famous Akhenaten. During his reign, all other cults were forbidden: the temples of the gods other than Aten were closed and the statues with effigies of these other gods were destroyed. This specificity of his reign would later earn him the nickname of "heretic king": his memory would be erased from Egyptian history.
3) Alexander the Great, the "son of Amun"
Before we begin this new part of the story, we will briefly introduce Alexander the Great. We will then discover together under what circumstances he was named "son of Amun" in 333 BC, about 1200 years after the heresy of Akhenaten.
A) Who is Alexander the Great?
Alexander the Great is an emblematic figure of antiquity: his name is engraved in history for his conquests and the immense empire he built. Through his charisma and his appetite for combat, he is often associated with Achilles, the famous demigod and hero of the Trojan War.
Mural representation of Alexander the Great riding his faithful steed, Bucephalus.
Alexander's first successes took place in Greece. He was then commander of a cavalry corps in the army of his father, Philip II, King of Macedonia. He distinguished himself particularly in Athens and especially in Thebes by destroying the "Sacred Battalion" (a unit of the best warriors of the Theban army).
It was in 336 BC that Alexander in turn became King of Macedonia. He succeeded his father when the latter was murdered during a wedding ceremony. He then inherited a powerful and experienced army that would enable him to satisfy his thirst for conquest. After gathering a coalition of several Greek cities, Alexander went to war against the immense Persian Empire, the historical enemy of the Greeks.
In 334 B.C., he crossed the Hellespont (today called the Dardanelles Strait) with his army of more than 35,000 soldiers. Having arrived in Persia, his ambition was to control the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea in order to prevent the Persians from being able to bring in reinforcements from this side of their territory. It was at the Battle of Granicus that Alexander won his first victory against the Persian governors.
In 333 BC, he defeated the army commanded by the Persian Emperor Darius III at Issos, where he also succeeded in capturing his family. He then continued his journey southwards, conquering the entire Phoenician basin. He descended as far as Tyre, where he seized the city after a long siege. He continued his ascent as far as Egypt, passing through Jerusalem and Gaza.
His arrival in Egypt leads us to the rest of this story...
B) Alexander the Great, descendant of the Egyptian god Amun
When Alexander entered Egypt, he was welcomed as a liberator. He went to Siwa, an oasis in the west of Egypt near the border with present-day Libya.
There, Alexander meets the oracle of Amun, who confirms his hereditary link with the most powerful of the Egyptian deities. It becomes clear that Amun was incarnated in his father Philip II of Macedonia at the time of his conception. Thus, his accession to power results from the will of the gods according to the Egyptians: no one can contest his reign.
The Siwa oasis, which shelters in its heart the temple of Amun.
He then went to Memphis (capital of Lower Egypt) to be officially crowned in the temple of Ptah (of the god Ptah). Alexander the Great then became pharaoh of Egypt and was placed under the protection of the god Amun, like all his predecessors. He then built one of the most famous ancient cities bearing his name: Alexandria.
The famous lighthouse of Alexandria, considered in ancient times as the seventh wonder of the world.
As you have seen, the conquest of Egypt was easy, quick and inexpensive for mankind. Egypt was the last seafront that linked the Persians to the Mediterranean Sea. After reorganising and modernising the country, Alexander left Egypt in 331 BC to continue his conquest of the East.
After many attempts at negotiations initiated by Darius III with the aim of ending the war (and recovering his family members) had failed, the two rivals met for a final battle: the Battle of Arbela. Also known as the Battle of Gaugamela, this battle was decisive in Alexander the Great's invasion of the Persian Empire. This battle resulted in the overwhelming victory of the Macedonian army.
Nevertheless, Darius III managed to escape. He was then killed by his generals (who, presuming Alexander's total victory, sought to win his favours). Alexander seized Babylon, Susa, Persepolis and all the capitals of the Persian Empire.
In October 331 BC, Alexander the Great was proclaimed King of Asia.
Amun, a god engraved in our history forever!
You are now able to explain who this iconic deity was. You now know:
- Who is this god in Egyptian mytholgy
- What was the place of this god in Akhnaton's heresy
- How did this god become the "father" of Alexander the Great
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