Week 3 Blog Post

The section of lecture describing the Narmer Palette brought to my attention the recurring appearance of the Egyptian god, Horus. Considering the topic this week has been state formation, it was interesting to me that this symbol seemed to be a relatively constant find. The readings then continued my interest, adding to the mystery by mentioning that the origin of the Horus name has not been identified as coming from one particular location. Although this phenomena is explained as a result of competing regional polities and the exchange of religious beliefs, I decided to research the concept of Horus a little more.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Horus is a god represented by a falcon. The eyes of Horus symbolized different things, for the god’s right eye is the sun  – representing power – and the left eye a moon, representing healing. Throughout the class material it had been discussed that the power that Horus represented seemed to be the most prevalent concept and desired by the many rulers of the time. I never would have surmised that the falcon god could symbolize healing as well. The concept of the falcon god appeared under many names at first, and many falcon cults existed since predynastic times.

The University of Texas website provides an example of the Egyptian story of creation, the story of Osiris, Isis and Horus, which explains why Horus is the representation of power. The sky god and the earth god had four children: Osiris, Isis, Set and Nepthys. Osiris was the eldest and became the king of Egypt. Set was jealous of Osiris and killed him so that he could become king, but Nepthys resurrected him long enough for him to have a son, Horus. Ultimately, Set and Horus fought over who was the rightful king, with Osiris deciding that his son was the rightful heir and that no one should acquire the throne through an act of murder. What I find most interesting about this story is that while Horus is favored by the gods for never having killed anyone like Set had, artifacts such as the Narmer Palette depict a ruler and Horus, along with the vanquishing of enemies to emphasize that power. Of course there are many interpretations and angles to study, and it would be unlikely for a ruler to stay in control without the use of force, but for the purpose of studying the symbolism of Horus it is an interesting thing to consider.

 

References

Horus (Egyptian god). (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved July 17, 2012, from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/272528/Horus

Kohler, E. C. Theories of State Formation. In (pp. 38-50).

The Story of Osiris, Isis and Horus: The Egyptian Myth of Creation. Retrieved July 17, 2012, from http://www.laits.utexas.edu/cairo/teachers/osiris.pdf

 

5 thoughts on “Week 3 Blog Post

  1. Wow, I am thankful for your extra research as I find the Egyptian gods/deities to be particularly interesting. I did not actually know that much about Horus because I had always tended to study the four gods before him. After thinking about it, it makes sense that one of his eyes would represent the sun, the most powerful energy we know of and surely the most powerful the Egyptians knew of, and the other would represent healing. The sun sees over everything, but it is as deadly as it is powerful. The healing eye would be to help and mend the damage.
    I agree with you about the symbolic purpose of the ceramic scenes using Horus when the rulers were slaying their enemies. If Horus is most loved especially because he has never killed anyone, why would they find it appropriate to place him in scenes where it is apparent that murder is happening? Perhaps, rather than the slaying of the enemy, he is there to represent the power that the victor is gaining. When any ancient civilization sent their warriors out, they prayed for the gods to look favorable upon them and allow them to be victorious. Horus’s eye represented the sun, what better way to say that the gods were with you?

  2. Amanda, your in depth research was very fascinating. I, myself never have really looked into the origin of Horus or the history behind the Egypt deities/gods. As you stated in your post such as Horus symbolized different things, for the god’s right eye is the sun – representing power – and the left eye a moon, representing healing I had a thought. On the Narmer Palette it shows Horus depicting as a ruler along with vanquishing of enemies to show power. But, what shows the process of healing? Do they put Horus on there as well for future references such as after war comes the healing stage? (I hope you’re able to understand the question I’m asking)
    Another thing I found to be interesting was how Horus is known to be the god who never killed anyone. Along with the previous post on your blog, I was interested in why he is placed in scenes of murder? It is apparent that this would represent power so I searched a little on exactly who Horus was. I found that there are different forms of Horus’ recorded throughout history. I also found that Horus was the god of sun, war and protection. A trifecta I must say. Thanks again for your research!

  3. In addition to being an interesting figure of Egyptian mythology and religion, there are some interesting items that happen to involve Horus in both the archaeological record and the historical record that relate to an emerging unified Egyptian state. Egyptian rulers reinforced the legitimacy of their rule by associating themselves with deities and stating that their power and authority was of divine origin. We see this in the Narmer Palate, where Horus is assisting Narmer in subjugating his enemies (Watrall 2012). In addition, the name itself was employed by “a whole range of Protodynastic rulers”, such as Horus Crocodile (Kohler 2010, p 48 and 50). So in this way Horus is not only a symbol of state unification under a single leadership ruling by divine right, his use among rulers up and down the Nile shows how he is more than just the patron god of Hierakonpolis with his ubiquitous presence indicating an “exchange of religious beliefs and cultural values between neighboring religious polities.” (Kohler 2010, 50) Further, representation of the Horus name became “increasingly standardized” (Kohler 2010, 50), showing again not only the spread of cultural ideology with the need to communicate similar ideas to a wider populace, but also is indicative of the general codification of written language that begins to appear in the archaeological record around this time, which facilitates the developing bureaucracy of the state. While I am not making the claim that Horus himself is the driving figure behind each of these state formation phenomena, I did find it interesting that he was interrelated with so much of the evidence that was discussed this week.

    References:
    Kohler, E. Christiana (2010). Theories of State Formation. In Willeke Wendrich (Ed.), Egyptian Archaeology (pp. 36-54) Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
    Watrall, Ethan (2012) Evidence for Unification. Lecture.

  4. I thought that your topic was especially interesting this week, as I, too, wondered about the significance of the Deity that we were introduced to in the Narmer Palette. It makes sense that Horus represents power, since the unification of Egypt would have showed a power struggle or at least a shift of power. In the Upper Egyptian relics especially we saw the powerful glyphs on the palettes and mase head. I would be especially interested in seeing some of the Pre-Unification Lower Egyptian Palettes, or relics to see if they were as interested in representing power as the Pre-Unification Upper Egyptians seemed to be.

    I am also wondering if there are any other Gods that represent power, and if there was specific power that Horus had or focus (war). One thing that you wrote that I found extremely interesting was how Horus was the rightful king in the eyes of Osiris, the assassinated king. I very much enjoyed the point of irony that you made, how the reason that he was king was because no man should acquire his throne through an act of murder, yet that he was depicted on these relics so powerfully, [Narmer Palette showing him and showing Narmer striking a slave, the dead Lower Egyptian birds hanging dead]. However, I am wondering if there is another God of Power, perhaps the reason the Pre-Unification relics chose Horus to represent them was because he did not acquire his throne through murder, and perhaps that was not on their agenda either.

    WC: 254

  5. Especially since it is believed that there was no major military action, maybe that was either their intention by choosing Horus to represent their intentions, or perhaps that is what they wanted to make the Lower- Egyptians believe?

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