The god Amon

EGYPTIAN CREATOR GOD

Would you like to know more about Amun? Do you want to discover the myths that surround the Egyptian creator god?

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As enthusiasts of ancient Egypt, we are here to answer these two questions!

Creator of the Earth and at the origin of all the gods, Amun is a central deity of Egyptian mythology. An Egyptian creator 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 the pharaoh 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.

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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 of the creation of life. Indeed, in the beginning, there was only an infinite ocean and the depths of the original darkness. Amun sprang from these two elements, spontaneously responding to the call of life.

original Egyptian oceanBefore Amun, there was only a vast empty ocean, according to the ancient Egyptian myths.

In order to create life, Amun first took the shape of a giant 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 other forms of life present in nature.

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Amun literally translates as "the Hidden One." Indeed, this god being considered as a breath of life, he is not easily representable. Therefore, ancient representations give him a 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. Sometimes, Amun can also be recognised by his blue skin in reference to the lapis lazuli, a stone sacred at the time of the pharaohs (as representing the breath of life).

AmunAbove, Amun wearing his crown with two goose feathers (the most attentive will notice that Amun is not represented here with his blue skin color as mentioned above!).

Aside from his pharaoh-like representations, Amun is most of the time represented as a ram-headed god. The ram is associated with him because of its symbolism as a protective animal and leader of his herd (what Amun is to the Universe).

The cult of Amun was very present in ancient Egypt. Amun gained importance during the IXth dynasty of pharaohs originating from Thebes and became the protective divinity of pharaohs of this era (in -2300 BC).

Yet, it is really under the XIth and XIIth dynasties of the pharaohs (in -2150 BC) that the cult of Amun will take a national dimension. With the ascension to the Egyptian power of Amenemhat I (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 "Upper Egypt" and "Lower Egypt" of ancient Egypt).

During the XIIIth dynasty, Amun became the most important deity of the country and his cult was omnipresent throughout Egypt. The pharaoh Sekhemre (founder of the XIIIth dynasty, in -1803 BC) attributed his victory against the Hyksos (enemy people in the country of the Nile coming from South-West Asia) to Amun and raised the latter to the rank of "Unifier of Upper and Lower Egypt".

The first of the gods will be a little later associated with the god Ra (the Sun headed-falcon god) in the form of the merged god Amun-Ra, whose attributes are as follows.

B) The god Amun-Ra

First, we would like to remind you that Amun is the initial form of Amun-Ra. However, when Amun was at the height of his popularity, he merges with Ra (the god creator of the Earth and the stars) to become Amun-Ra. He then became the most important god in Egyptian mythology.

Indeed, Amun being the creator of all forms of life and Ra being the creator of all mineral substances, Amun-Ra can be seen as the creator of "everything."

2) Akhenaten's heresy

Akhenaten is the son of Amenhotep III, an important pharaoh of the 14th century BC. Akhenaten initial name was Amenhotep IV a name which pay homage to the all-powerful god of that time, Amun (for "Amen-hotep" meaning "Amun is satisfied").

When the future Akhenaten succeeded his father to the throne of Egypt, he quickly became familiar with the mysteries of power. An idealist by nature, the young Amenhotep IV wanted to reform the country and bring it a wind of modernity.

Akhenaten StatueA sculpture of Akhenaten, the so-called "heretic" pharaoh who reigned from 1355 to 1338 BC and tried to make the whole of Egypt forget the existence of Amun.

The most important revolution of Akhenaten's reign was religious. When Akhenaten came to power, he discovered a corrupt and wealth-hungry clergy of Amun-Ra. Akhenaten realizes that the offerings made to the gods only serve to maintain the unsustainable lifestyle of the priests. Every day, the clergy strengthens its power through fear and thus asserts its psychological hold on the Egyptian people.

For this reason, Akhenaten decided to abandon the cult of Amun-Ra and all the other deities of the Egyptian pantheon: the monotheistic cult of Aten began.

Aton, the solar godAten is the personification of the Sun. In Egyptian mythology, he is always represented in the form of a sphere with long hands (hands that symbolize the Sun's rays that bathe the world in light). In some of them, Aten holds ankh crosses, the ancient Egyptian symbol of life.

Placing himself under the protection of Aten, Amenophis IV changed his name to "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 by the pharaohs who succeeded him (notably by Seti I and Ramesses II).

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3) Alexander the Great

Finally, the Egyptian creator god Amun marked history by its association with Alexander the Great. We will then discover together under what circumstances the latter was named "son of Amun" in 333 BC, about 1200 years after the "heresy of Akhenaten."

A) Who is Alexander the Great?

Alexander III of Macedon (or Alexander the Great) is an emblematic figure of antiquity for his conquests and the immense empire he built.

Alexander the Great in EgyptMural representation of Alexander the Great riding Bucephalus, his faithful steed who will accompany him from Greece to Asia.

Alexander's first successes took place in Greece. He was then commander of a cavalry corps in the army of his father, Philip II of Macedon, the king of Macedon since 359 BC. Alexander distinguished himself particularly in Thebes by destroying the "Sacred Battalion" (a unit of the best soldiers of the Theban army).

It was in 336 BC that Alexander in turn became king of Macedon. He succeeded his father when the latter was murdered during a wedding ceremony.

Alexander 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 BC, Alexander crossed the Hellespont (today called the Turkish 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, Alexander defeated the army commanded by the Persian Emperor Darius III at the Battle of Issus, where Alexander also succeeded in capturing Darius' family.

Following a truce concluded with Darius III, Alexander continued his journey southwards, conquering the entire Phoenician basin (the ancient Syria of antiquity). Alexander descended as far as Tyre, where he seized the city after a long siege. Passing through Jerusalem and Gaza, he then continued his conquests in Egypt.

His arrival in Egypt leads us to the rest of this story. . . .

Map Egyptian conquest Alexander the Great

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B) Alexander the Great, descendant of the Egyptian god Amun

When Alexander entered Egypt, he was welcomed as a liberator from Persian tyranny. Intrigued by Egypt's culture, he went to the oasis of Siwa (an oasis in the west of Egypt, near the border with present-day Libya).

There, Alexander meets the oracle of Amun, who confirms to Alexander his hereditary link with the most powerful of the Egyptian deities. The news spreads that it is clear that Amun was incarnated in Philip II of Macedon at the time of the conception of his son Alexander. Thus, the accession to power of Alexander results from the will of the gods: so, no one can contest his right to the throne of Egypt.

Siwa OasisThe Siwa oasis, which shelters in its heart the temple of Amun.

Alexander then went to Memphis (the ancient capital of Upper and Lower Egypt) to be officially crowned in the temple of Ptah (the temple of the god Ptah, the Egyptian god of artisans and farmers). Alexander the Great became pharaoh of Egypt and was placed under the protection of the god Amun. He then made built one of the most famous ancient cities bearing his name: Alexandria.

Lighthouse of AlexandriaA representation of the "Lighthouse of Alexandria," considered in ancient times as one of the Seven Wonder of the Ancient World.

Egypt was the last seafront that linked the Persians to the Mediterranean Sea. After reorganizing and modernizing the country, Alexander left Egypt in 331 BC to continue his conquest of the East.

In 331 BC, many negotiation attempts between Alexander and Darius III failed (indeed, Darius III wanted to negotiate to end the war and to recover his family members captured by Alexander).

Unavoidably, the two rivals for the domination of the ancient world met for a new 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 favors). Alexander seized Babylon, Susa, Persepolis, and all the capitals of the Persian Empire.

In October 331 BC, Alexander the Great was proclaimed "Lord of Asia." Alexander will die 8 years later (in 323 BC) of alcoholism following the end of his conquests, his return to Macedon, and (especially) the large parties he held there since his return to Macedon.

The Egyptian creator god

You are now able to explain who this iconic deity was. You now know:

  • Who is this god in Egyptian mythology
  • What was the place of this god in Akhenaten's heresy
  • How did this god become the "father" of Alexander the Great

 

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