Professor Ogden Goelet
Ancient Egyptian Religion
The King and his role
During the times of the Ancient Egyptians there were many beliefs that the Egyptians stood by, one of which being the ideal of polytheism. The Egyptians live in a spiritual free reign. Although they tend to follow the beliefs of the community that they lived in and around, they were for the most part free to worship and practice whatever they may with whatever God they felt right. Another belief the Egyptians held onto was the belief in kingship and order, “Maat”. The construct of Kingship during the times of the Ancient Egyptians was crucial to the unification of the Egyptian people. Through his associations with the Gods he was expected to keep the order or rather ma’at of the land, which was inhabited by the Egyptian people. The king was responsible for keeping the peace and amongst the people and the land both figuratively and literally. The king was tasked with protecting the people from potential attacks from foreign lands. But perhaps most importantly the King served as the median between the people and the Gods. They were therefore expected to make offerings to Gods that would suffice to their needs as deities, pleasing them and placing the king and thus his kingdom, his land and his people in good favor with the Gods. This was crucial because this meant that the Gods have blessed the land that the Egyptians harvest on assuring lasted nourishment, the king had to feed his people, and if he alone managed to please the Gods on behalf of him and his people he was able to accomplish just that. But we can’t forget the idea that when the people are happy the king is secure. All of the positive exchanges between the Gods and king were important in securing a pharaoh’s kingship and ultimately giving them the opportunity to create and secure a dynasty for a longer period of time. This is an important idea when discussing the topic of the development of Religion in State.
Equal to the construct of kingship, religion and ritual were a vital part of the Egyptian culture, thus a vital part in their unity, especially during times of tribal strife and war. Also key in the formation of religion is the Egyptian’s obsession over death, which could leave a dark air about the culture as whole, but the idea of an after-life, life after death was brought to the Egyptians through the image of Gods. The Egyptians created a world of polytheistic ideals and rituals that reflected their beliefs “Egyptians believed dated back to the time when gods ruled on earth, and by the “law” laid down by the King, their son and earthly representative.” (Cerny 35). So being that the relationship that the Egyptian people had with the Gods and their importance in the limiting of chaos in their world the ideal of the King’s divinity was key for the survival of society and perhaps the sanity of society as well. “Egypt was the first large “nation state,” with a culture virtually restricted to that state, and thus was very self-contained… in which kingship was an unquestioned presupposition of social order—indeed order was hardly conceivable without it.” (Baines, 2). The King’s responsibilities stretched as far as the prevention of the collapse of their Egyptian state. Of course it was important to every Egyptian to be responsible for themselves and do their duties unto the land as the Gods may have it and they praised and celebrated and communed because of these rituals and these practices. But in these times, even if an Egyptian works as hard as he can consistently to please the Gods on his own if the king falls short of his duty as the Divine middleman, the Egyptian’s harvest may not bloom crops sufficient enough to feed themselves of their families.
The King as a Divine Creature
Although out of the archives and data that has been collected over the past decades about Ancient Egyptian, the evidence that shows the King as...