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Egyptian Gods

Ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses

Egyptian Gods

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Egyptian Gods

Horus, one of the most important Egyptian gods
Egyptian gods might not be extremely unique in forms, since they have few things in common with various ancient deities, but they are for sure completely unique considering their power and survival. However, gods usually represented and shaped and the lifestyle of people and their needs, and Egyptian gods are no exception. Ever since ancient Egyptians settled down the Nile's banks, gods have been a major factor in their life as well as their pharaohs' life. Afterall, Herodotus statement about ancient Egyptians being "more religious than any other people" probably wasn't for nothing. It's easy to realize that this was close to be true judging from what someone would see when landing in Upper Egypt, with their countless gods and temples, though actually most of these gods we know very little of.
Like the members of any other human culture the ancient Egyptians were driven to find meaning in existence, but for them this goal was attained in theological ideas which posited a myriad gods that were believed to have created the world and to be involved in every aspect of its existence and continuance. The number of deities worshipped by the ancient Egyptians was indeed staggering, and almost 1,500 gods and goddesses are known by name, though fewer are known in detail. To the modern viewer this panoply of seemingly countless deities - including animal, human, hybrid and composite forms - with their kaleidoscopic symbols and

Three amulets representing (left to right) the goddess
Taweret, the god Bes, and the god Thoth in a baboon form.
Late Period. University of Leipzig Museum.
attributes often appears strange and confusing at best and quite unintelligible at worst. Yet closer examination reveals a world of interacting gods and goddesses whose myths and representations weave an amazing tapestry, often of unexpected intellectual and artistic sophistication.
Our evidence for these deities is both ancient and extensive, comprising textual, architectural, representational  and artifactual sources. Yet it is also surprisingly disjointed and fragmentary. Temples and tombs, the chief theaters for the enactment of religious ritual and the recording of religious beliefs, exist by the hundred and are the resource of much of our knowledge of the ancient gods, though we lack temples from a number of periods and geographic areas. We learn also of Egypt's deities from the shrines, icons and other artifacts found in even the simplest homes at sites such as the ancient workmen's village at Deir el-Medina though, again, domestic settings are unfortunately underrepresented for many periods and areas. As a result of the uneven preservation of Egyptian sites and monuments, there are large gaps in the written texts at our disposal - leaving persistent questions regarding the gods and their worship. Nevertheless, the texts inscribed on the walls of Old Kingdom pyramids (which are the oldest religious writings in the world), and their later derivative texts, provide us with invaluable, if sometimes cryptic, evidence of the rich theological milieu of the ancient Egyptians. Through the various sources at our disposal we know that some of Egypt's deities originated before the beginning of recorded time and survived to the very end of the ancient world - having been worshipped for fully three-fifths of recorded human history. Even when they were eventually replaced by later faiths, the gods of Egypt sometimes found new life, and their influence has persisted in many and remarkable ways - ranging from apparent precursors of minor religious motifs and stories to perhaps even the concept of monotheism itself.
But in ancient times, for the Egyptians themselves, the gods were far more than the sum of all their myths and images. The monuments and artifacts which have survived give only glimpses of the great power of the Egyptian gods. While they lived in the minds of the ancient Egyptians their influence was prodigious. For many if not most Egyptians, they were the breath of life itself and it is only to the extent that we understand these ancient deities that we can understand the nature of ancient Egyptian culture and society: the lives and hoped for afterlives of the ancient Egyptians themselves.

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