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Nut

(225 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Eg. Nwt). The Egyptian goddess of the sky, daughter of Shu (air) und Tefnut (fire; Tefnut, legend of), wife of the earth-god Geb und mother of Osiris, Seth, Isis and Nephthys as well as the sun god Re and the 36 decan stars. N. appears either in a purely human form with a nw-jar on her head or as a cow. She is depicted frequently in cosmological representations, which show Geb on the earth, separated from N. who is held over him by Shu. According to the so-called ‘Book of Nut’,  a cosmological treatise about the course of the heave…

Bastet

(193 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Egyptian Bst.t). Chief goddess of  Bubastis, represented as a cat or a cat-headed woman. B. is syncretistically associated with  Sachmet,  Hathor,  Isis and similar goddesses [1. 11-69]. In the   interpretatio [2] graeca she is seen as  Artemis (e.g. Hdt. 2,137), infrequently also as  Aphrodite (e.g. Pistis Sophia 139-140, [5]). B. can be understood as a more benign aspect of Sachmet, but she herself may be said to be mistress of a particular class of demon. In this capacity, she is assigned the lion god Maih…

Ptah

(628 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Φθᾶς/ Phthâs, Φθάς/ Phthás; Egyptian Ptḥ, Ptah) was initially the creator god of Memphis, but later he also had cults in other places, e.g. in Egyptian Thebes [10]. Just as Thot was the scribe and scholar par excellence, so P. was considered the artisan, especially the metal worker [4]; the interpretatio Graeca (Interpretatio II. Religion) calls him Hephaestus. P., his wife Sekhmet, a lion-headed goddess of the plague, and their son Nefertem (connected with the lotus) formed the Memphitic Triad of Gods. Particularly…

Osiris

(483 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Ὄσιρις/ Ósiris, Eg. Wsr). The ruler of the afterlife, one of the central figures in Egyptian mythology from the Old Kingdom; he was regarded as the son of Geb and Nut, brother and husband of Isis and the posthumous father of Horus; additional siblings were Seth and Nephthys. There was no coherent version of the myth of O. until Plutarch ( De Iside et Osiride, [7]), although it is already attested in allusions and extracts in the oldest texts. O. was regarded as the mythological king at a time when the gods reigned on earth and evil did not y…

Thoeris

(170 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Θόηρις/ Thóēris etc., Egyptian T-Wr.t, 'the great one'). Egyptian protector-goddess, presumably identical with Ipet. Both of them are represented in the shape of a hippopotamus with the paws of a lion and the tail of a crocodile. The name T. may originally have been only an epithet of Ipet. The most important attribute of T. is a loop identical with the hieroglyph for protection. Because of her function as a protector, T. was quite popular (e.g. as an amulet), but she cannot be seen…

Sekhmet

(290 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] Egyptian goddess, wife of Ptah (Ptah) and mother of the lotus god Nefertem. S. is usually depicted as a lion-headed woman; her main cult site is Memphis. As her name ('the powerful') suggests, S. is a dangerous goddess par excellence. She is the ruler of the demons, especially the ḫ.tiw ('slaughter demons', the seven invisible decan stars; Astronomy B.2.). Hence statues, primarily in the late period (713-332 BC), often represent her on a throne the sides of which are decorated with decan figures in the form of snakes. Identifie…

Seth

(494 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] As the killer of his brother Osiris, S. is a central figure of Egyptian mythology [8]. He is usually depicted with the head of an unidentified animal (known as the S. animal). He litigates and fights with the son of Osiris, Horus, over Egypt's rule [1]. Together, the two gods embody Upper and Lower Egypt; much more common, however, is the connexion of S. with the desert and foreign lands. In the New Kingdom, this led to his identification with the Syrian Baal, who is associated wi…

Sothis

(168 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (σωθίς/ sōthis according to Heph. [5] 1,1). Constellation (Egyptian śpd.t, from śpd 'sharp'), essentially corresponding to Sirius (its main star). Identified with Isis, it appeared in a prominent role as early as the Pyramid texts (Funerary literature) [1]. It retained this role until the end of the Egyptian religion. S. is one of the 36 decan stars (Astronomy B.2.). Its first heliacal rising was thought to introduce a new  year and forebode the flooding of the Nile. Its 70-day phase of invi…

Hathor

(245 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Egyptian Ḥw.t-ḥrw, ‘house of Horus’; Greek Ἀθωρ/ Áthōr [4]). The Egyptian goddess H. - in human or cow shape - is regarded as the daughter of  Re and as the mother of the music god Iḥy. She is often matched with  Horus of Edfu as a partner. H.'s areas of competence cover love, music, as well as the realm of the dead. In the   interpretatio [2] Graeca she is identified with  Aphrodite [4]. At birth, seven H.s determine the baby's destiny [5. 41 f.]. As an aspect of the ‘dangerous goddess’, H. usually represents the appeased sid…

Thot

(466 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Θωύθ/ Thōýth and similar; Latin Theuth; Egyptian Ḏḥwtj). Egyptian god of wisdom, knowledge and writing and moon god. The cult of T. was practiced mainly in Hermupolis (magna); however, there were also cults of T. in numerous other places. T. has probably been worshipped since the Early Period; reliable documentation is extant from the period of the Old Kingdom ( c. 2700-2190 BC). He is mostly represented as a man with the head of an ibis; the ibis and the baboon are sacred to him. T. is supposed to be either a son of Neith or, having no m…

Wepwawet

(207 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] ( Wp-w.wt/Upuaut, 'Opener of the Ways') is represented as a standing jackal or a jackal-headed man. He is a god of the dead (cf. Anubis), but his standard also leads the king's 'Horus escort', when he walks in public. This is reflected in Hdt. 2,122, where a priest is led by two jackals to the Sanctuary of Demeter [3. 58 f.]. Presumably W. is also the Macedon mentioned in Diod. Sic. 1,18 as a companion of Osiris [1. 83]. Clem. Al. Strom. 5,7,43 suggests an astronomical interpretat…

Soknopaiou Nesos

(110 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Σοκνοπαΐου νῆσος/ Soknopaïou Nêsos; Egyptian paj, later t mj(.t), modern Dīmā). Town in the Faiyum; the chief god was Sobek. Like Tebtynis, S. is primarily significant because of its papyri (Greek documents, temple library with Hieratic and a large number of Demotic religious, literary and scientific papyri, c. 1st-2nd cent. AD) [2]. Their edition is still in progress [4]. von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin) Bibliography 1 A. E. R. Boak, S. N., 1935 2 E. A. E. Reymond, Demotic Literary Works of Graeco-Roman Date, in: FS zum 100jährigen Bestehen der …

Sobek

(322 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] ( śbk, Graecised as Σοῦχος/ Soûchos, cf.  Damascius, Vita Isidori P 99) was the crocodile-headed chief god of the Faiyum. The most important local form was S. of Šedet (Crocodilopolis, from 256 BC Arsinoe [III 2], modern Madīnat al-Fayyūm). His cult was widespread; a temple to him (together with Haroeris) in Kom Ombo is particularly well-known. S. was considered the lord of the North. The goddess Neith is mostly named as the mother of S., and occasionally in the Faiyum the ephemeral crocodile deity Senui ( snwj, Graecised as Ψοσναυς/ Psosnaus: SB 6154,7 = 5827; [5. 8…

Scetic desert

(57 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] Region beyond the western edge of the Egyptian delta, esp. in the area which today is referred to as Wādī n-Naṭrūn. Christian monks retreated there beginning in the 4th cent. AD, four monasteries are still occupied today. von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin) Bibliography A. Cody, in: A. S. Atiya (ed.), The Coptic Encyclopedia, vol. 7, 1991, 2102-2106.

Tebtynis

(171 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Τεβτῦνις/ Tebtŷnis, also Τεπτῦνις/ Teptŷ nis). City in the Faiyum, Egyptian  Bdnw [1], modern Umm al-Buraiǧāt; the main god was Sobek, Lord of T. (Greek Soknebtýnis). Remains of the city and the temple have been excavated [2; 4]. Although not of great relevance in Antiquity, T. has particular significance for modern scholars because it includes the remains of a comprehensive temple library from the first two centuries AD, containing hundreds of hieroglyphic, hieratic and primarily demotic MSS of religiou…

Hatshepsut

(216 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] ( Ḥ.t-šps.wt, ‘first among noble women’). Daughter of  Thutmosis [1] I, wife of Thutmosis [2] II; after his death she assumed the rulership for her underage stepson and nephew Thutmosis [3] III. Soon thereafter, she had herself crowned  Pharaoh and was depicted as a man. Her reign ( c. 1490-1469 BC) was marked by an important building programme. Aside from extensions to the Imperial temple in Karnak ( Thebes), H.'s architectonically unique temple of the dead in ad-Dair al-Baḥrī deserves special mention. Among many enterprises,…

Satis

(150 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Σάτις/ Sátis, Egyptian Sṯ.t), Anuket and Chnum (Chnubis [1]) are the three chief deities of the island of Elephantine. The temple of S. on Elephantine is archeologically attested as early as the Early Dynastic Period (from c. 2800 BC) [1]. S. is depicted as a woman wearing a crown with horns. Because of the phonological similarity of S. and Sothis, the two goddesses were identified with one another in the Late Period (713-332 BC) [2]. This connection is reinforced by the association of Sothis with the flooding of …

Nephthys

(201 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Νέφθυς/ Néphthys, Plut. De Is. et Os. passim; Epiphanius, Expositio fidei 3,2,12; Egyptian Nb.t-Ḥw.t, ‘mistress of the house’). In Egyptian mythology, N. is the daughter of Geb and Nut and sister-wife of Seth; other siblings are Isis and Osiris. She is known primarily for helping Isis in her search for Osiris and in rearing Horus; little is known of her own characteristics. N. protects the dead and, along with Isis, Neith und Selket, takes care of their entrails. She appears in the Pyramid Texts as a ‘pseudo-woman who had no vulva’, and had…

Sinuhe

(220 words)

Author(s): von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] (Egyptian z-nh.t). Hero of an Egyptian story, generally regarded as a masterwork of Egyptian literature. The text has come down to us in various papyri and ostraca from the period of c. 1800 to 1100 BC. The original probably dates from the time of Sesostris I. In the story, S. is a liegeman to the crown prince Sesostris . On the way back from a campaign in Syria, Sesostris learns of the death of his father and sets out for the residence with his retinue. S., who overheard these news unobserved, deserts and fle…

Funerary literature

(1,660 words)

Author(s): S.LU. | von Lieven, Alexandra (Berlin)
[German version] I. Mesopotamia Funerary literature (FL), intended to assist the deceased in accomplishing the journey and achieving admission into the Underworld, is rarely found in Mesopotamian graves. A prayer (found in a grave from the Middle Elamite period, 2nd half of 2nd millennium BC [1]) has a deceased person calling on a divinity to lead him into the  Underworld. In contrast to the Egyptian Books of the Afterlife, Mesopotamian sources exist which adopt such knowledge for use in earthly con…
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