Sobek

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Sobek
Sobek.svg
Name in hieroglyphs
SobekSobekSobek
Sobek

or
Sobek
Major cult center Crocodilopolis, Faiyum, Kom Ombo
Symbol crocodile
Consort Renenutet [1] or Meskhenet [ citation needed ]
Parents Set/Khnum and Neith [2]

Sobek (also called Sebek, Sochet, Sobk, and Sobki), in Greek, Suchos (Σοῦχος) and from Latin Suchus ("crocodile"), was an ancient Egyptian deity with a complex and fluid nature. [3] [4] He is associated with the Nile crocodile or the West African crocodile and is represented either in its form or as a human with a crocodile head. Sobek was also associated with pharaonic power, fertility, and military prowess, but served additionally as a protective deity with apotropaic qualities, invoked particularly for protection against the dangers presented by the Nile.

Greek mythology body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks

Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks. These stories concern the origin and the nature of the world, the lives and activities of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures, and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own cult and ritual practices. Modern scholars study the myths in an attempt to shed light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece and its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Ancient Egyptian deities gods and goddesses worshipped in ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian deities are the gods and goddesses worshipped in ancient Egypt. The beliefs and rituals surrounding these gods formed the core of ancient Egyptian religion, which emerged sometime in prehistory. Deities represented natural forces and phenomena, and the Egyptians supported and appeased them through offerings and rituals so that these forces would continue to function according to maat, or divine order. After the founding of the Egyptian state around 3100 BC, the authority to perform these tasks was controlled by the pharaoh, who claimed to be the gods' representative and managed the temples where the rituals were carried out.

Contents

History

Sobek enjoyed a longstanding presence in the ancient Egyptian pantheon, from the Old Kingdom of Egypt (c. 2686–2181 BCE) through the Roman period (c. 30 BCE – 350 CE). He is first known from several different Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom, particularly from spell PT 317. [5] [6] The spell, which praises the pharaoh as the living incarnation of the crocodile god, reads:

Old Kingdom of Egypt period of Ancient Egypt in the 3rd millennium BC

In ancient Egyptian history, the Old Kingdom is the period spanning c. 2686–2181 BC. It is also known as the "Age of the Pyramids" or the "Age of the Pyramid Builders", as it encompasses the reigns of the great pyramid builders of the Fourth Dynasty— among them King Sneferu, who perfected the art of pyramid-building, and the kings Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, who constructed the pyramids at Giza. Egypt attained its first sustained peak of civilization during the Old Kingdom—the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley.

Pyramid Texts literary work

The Pyramid Texts are the oldest known corpus of ancient Egyptian religious texts dating to the Old Kingdom. Written in Old Egyptian, the pyramid texts were carved onto the subterranean walls and sarcophagi of pyramids at Saqqara from the end of the Fifth Dynasty, and throughout the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and into the Eighth Dynasty of the First Intermediate Period.

Pharaoh Title of Ancient Egyptian rulers

Pharaoh is the common title of the monarchs of ancient Egypt from the First Dynasty until the annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire in 30 BCE, although the actual term "Pharaoh" was not used contemporaneously for a ruler until Merneptah, c. 1200 BCE. In the early dynasty, ancient Egyptian kings used to have up to three titles, the Horus, the Sedge and Bee (nswt-bjtj) name, and the Two Ladies (nbtj) name. The Golden Horus and nomen and prenomen titles were later added.

Unis is Sobek, green of plumage, with alert face and raised fore, the splashing one who came from the thigh and tail of the great goddess in the sunlight ... Unis has appeared as Sobek, Neith's son. Unis will eat with his mouth, Unis will urinate and Unis will copulate with his penis. Unis is lord of semen, who takes women from their husbands to the place Unis likes according to his heart's fancy. [7]

Unas Egyptian pharaoh

Unas or Wenis, also spelled Unis, was a pharaoh, the ninth and last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. Unas reigned for 15 to 30 years in the mid-24th century BC, succeeding Djedkare Isesi, who might have been his father.

Neith Egyptian goddess

Neith was an early ancient Egyptian deity who was said to be the first and the prime creator. She was said to be the creator of the universe and all it contains, and she governs how it functions. She was the goddess of wisdom, weaving, the cosmos, mothers, rivers, water, childbirth, hunting, war, and fate.

The origin of his name, Sbk [8] in Egyptian, is debated among scholars, but many believe that it is derived from a causative of the verb "to impregnate". [9]

Egyptian language Language spoken in ancient Egypt, branch of the Afro-Asiatic languages

The Egyptian language was spoken in ancient Egypt and was a branch of the Afro-Asiatic languages. Its attestation stretches over an extraordinarily long time, from the Old Egyptian stage. Its earliest known complete written sentence has been dated to about 2690 BC, which makes it one of the oldest recorded languages known, along with Sumerian.

This statue of Sobek was found at Amenemhat III's mortuary temple (which was connected to his pyramid at Hawara in the Faiyum), serving as a testament to this king's devotion to Sobek. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Sobek Oxford.jpg
This statue of Sobek was found at Amenemhat III's mortuary temple (which was connected to his pyramid at Hawara in the Faiyum), serving as a testament to this king's devotion to Sobek. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
This Late Period (c. 400-250 BCE) statue shows Sobek bearing the falcon head of Re-Harakhti, illustrating the fusion of Sobek and Re into Sobek-Re. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Egyptian - Statue of a Crocodile with the Head of a Falcon - Walters 22347 - Right.jpg
This Late Period (c. 400–250 BCE) statue shows Sobek bearing the falcon head of Re-Harakhti, illustrating the fusion of Sobek and Re into Sobek-Re. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Though Sobek was worshipped in the Old Kingdom, he truly gained prominence in the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1650 BCE), most notably under the Twelfth Dynasty pharaoh, Amenemhat III. Amenemhat III had taken a particular interest in the Faiyum of Egypt, a region heavily associated with Sobek. Amenemhat and many of his dynastic contemporaries engaged in building projects to promote Sobek – projects that were often executed in the Faiyum. In this period, Sobek also underwent an important change: he was often fused with the falcon-headed god of divine kingship, Horus. This brought Sobek even closer with the kings of Egypt, thereby giving him a place of greater prominence in the Egyptian pantheon. [10] The fusion added a finer level of complexity to the god's nature, as he was adopted into the divine triad of Horus and his two parents: Osiris and Isis. [3]

Middle Kingdom of Egypt period in the history of ancient Egypt between about 2000 BC and 1700 BC

The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt following a period of political division known as the First Intermediate Period. The Middle Kingdom lasted from around 2050 BC to around 1710 BC, stretching from the reunification of Egypt under the reign of Mentuhotep II of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Twelfth Dynasty. The Eleventh Dynasty ruled from Thebes and the Twelfth Dynasty ruled from el-Lisht. Some scholars also include the Thirteenth Dynasty of Egypt wholly into this period as well, in which case the Middle Kingdom would finish around 1650 BC, while others only include it until Merneferre Ay around 1700 BC, last king of this dynasty to be attested in both Upper and Lower Egypt. During the Middle Kingdom period, Osiris became the most important deity in popular religion. The Middle Kingdom was followed by the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt, another period of division that involved foreign invasions of the country by the Hyksos of West Asia.

Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt

The Twelfth Dynasty of ancient Egypt, is often combined with the Eleventh, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Dynasties under the group title Middle Kingdom.

Amenemhat III pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt

Amenemhat III, also spelled Amenemhet III, was a pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt. He ruled from c. 1860 BC to c. 1814 BC, the highest known date being found in a papyrus dated to Regnal Year 46, I Akhet 22 of his rule. His reign is regarded as the golden age of the Middle Kingdom. He may have had a long coregency with his father, Senusret III.

Sobek first acquired a role as a solar deity through his connection to Horus, but this was further strengthened in later periods with the emergence of Sobek-Ra, a fusion of Sobek and Egypt's primary sun god, Ra. Sobek-Horus persisted as a figure in the New Kingdom (1550–1069 BCE), but it was not until the last dynasties of Egypt that Sobek-Ra gained prominence. This understanding of the god was maintained after the fall of Egypt's last native dynasty in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt (c. 332 BCE – 390 CE). The prestige of both Sobek and Sobek-Ra endured in this time period and tributes to him attained greater prominence – both through the expansion of his dedicated cultic sites and a concerted scholarly effort to make him the subject of religious doctrine. [11] [12]

Solar deity Sky deity who represents the Sun

A solar deity is a sky deity who represents the Sun, or an aspect of it, usually by its perceived power and strength. Solar deities and Sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms. The Sun is sometimes referred to by its Latin name Sol or by its Greek name Helios. The English word sun stems from Proto-Germanic *sunnǭ.

Ra ancient Egyptian solar deity

Ra or Re is the ancient Egyptian deity of the sun. By the Fifth Dynasty in the 25th and 24th centuries BC, he had become one of the most important gods in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the noon sun. Ra was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: the sky, the Earth, and the underworld. He was the god of the sun, order, kings, and the sky.

New Kingdom of Egypt period 1550 to 1070 BC in ancient Egypt

The New Kingdom, also referred to as the Egyptian Empire, is the period in ancient Egyptian history between the 16th century BC and the 11th century BC, covering the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties of Egypt. Radiocarbon dating places the exact beginning of the New Kingdom between 1570 BC and 1544 BC. The New Kingdom followed the Second Intermediate Period and was succeeded by the Third Intermediate Period. It was Egypt's most prosperous time and marked the peak of its power.

This relief from the Temple of Kom Ombo shows Sobek with typical attributes of kingship, including a was-sceptre and royal kilt. The ankh in his hand represents his role as an Osirian healer and his crown is a solar crown associated with one of the many forms of Ra. Kom Ombo, Sobek 0319.JPG
This relief from the Temple of Kom Ombo shows Sobek with typical attributes of kingship, including a was-sceptre and royal kilt. The ankh in his hand represents his role as an Osirian healer and his crown is a solar crown associated with one of the many forms of Ra.

Cult centers

The entire Faiyum region – the "Land of the Lake" in Egyptian (specifically referring to Lake Moeris) – served as a cult center of Sobek. [11] Most Faiyum towns developed their own localized versions of the god, such as Soknebtunis at Tebtunis, Sokonnokonni at Bacchias, and Souxei at an unknown site in the area. At Karanis, two forms of the god were worshipped: Pnepheros and Petsuchos. There, mummified crocodiles were employed as cult images of Petsuchos. [13] [14] [15] [16]

Sobek Shedety, the patron of the Faiyum's centrally located capital, Crocodilopolis (or Egyptian "Shedet"), was the most prominent form of the god. Extensive building programs honoring Sobek were realized in Shedet, as it was the capital of the entire Arsinoite nome and consequently the most important city in the region. It is thought that the effort to expand Sobek's main temple was initially driven by Ptolemy II. [11] Specialized priests in the main temple at Shedet functioned solely to serve Sobek, boasting titles like "prophet of the crocodile-gods" and "one who buries of the bodies of the crocodile-gods of the Land of the Lake". [17]

This Roman period box shows a king making an offering to a solar form of Sobek. It is thought that this box could have been used in such offering rituals. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Egyptian - Chest with Writing - Walters 61271.jpg
This Roman period box shows a king making an offering to a solar form of Sobek. It is thought that this box could have been used in such offering rituals. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Outside the Faiyum, Kom Ombo, in southern Egypt, was the biggest cultic center of Sobek, particularly during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. Kom Ombo is located about 30 miles (48 km) north of Aswan and was built during the Graeco-Roman period (332 BC AD 395). [18] The temple at this site was called the "Per-Sobek", meaning the "house of Sobek". [17]

Character and surrounding mythologies

Sovk (Suchus, Cronos, Satrune); by Jean-Francois Champollion; 1823-25; Brooklyn Museum (New York City) Sovk (Suchus, Cronos, Satrune), N372.2.jpg
Sovk (Suchus, Cronos, Satrune); by Jean-François Champollion; 1823–25; Brooklyn Museum (New York City)

Sobek is, above all else, an aggressive and animalistic deity who lives up to the vicious reputation of his patron animal, the large and violent Nile crocodile/West African crocodile. Some of his common epithets betray this nature succinctly, the most notable of which being: "he who loves robbery", "he who eats while he also mates", and "pointed of teeth". [5] However, he also displays grand benevolence in more than one celebrated myth. After his association with Horus and consequent adoption into the Osirian triad of Osiris, Isis, and Horus in the Middle Kingdom, Sobek became associated with Isis as a healer of the deceased Osiris (following his violent murder by Set in the central Osiris myth). [3] In fact, though many scholars believe that the name of Sobek, Sbk, is derived from s-bAk, "to impregnate", others postulate that it is a participial form of the verb sbq, [8] an alternative writing of sAq, "to unite", thereby meaning Sbk could roughly translate to "he who unites (the dismembered limbs of Osiris)". [6]

It is from this association with healing that Sobek was considered a protective deity. His fierceness was able to ward off evil while simultaneously defending the innocent. He was thus made a subject of personal piety and a common recipient of votive offerings, particularly in the later periods of ancient Egyptian history. It was not uncommon, particularly in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, for crocodiles to be preserved as mummies in order to present at Sobek's cultic centers. [19] Sobek was also offered mummified crocodile eggs, meant to emphasize the cyclical nature of his solar attributes as Sobek-Ra. [20] Likewise, crocodiles were raised on religious grounds as living incarnations of Sobek. Upon their deaths, they were mummified in a grand ritual display as sacred, but earthly, manifestations of their patron god. This practice was executed specifically at the main temple of Crocodilopolis. [21] [17] These mummified crocodiles have been found with baby crocodiles in their mouths and on their backs. The crocodile – one of the few reptiles that diligently care for their young – often transports its offspring in this manner. The practice of preserving this aspect of the animal's behavior via mummification is likely intended to emphasize the protective and nurturing aspects of the fierce Sobek, as he protects the Egyptian people in the same manner that the crocodile protects its young. [19]

In Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, a local monograph called the Book of the Faiyum centered on Sobek with a considerable portion devoted to the journey made by Sobek-Ra each day with the movement of the sun through the sky. The text also focuses heavily on Sobek's central role in creation as a manifestation of Ra, as he is said to have risen from the primal waters of Lake Moeris, not unlike the Ogdoad in the traditional creation myth of Hermopolis. [22]

Many varied copies of the book exist and many scholars feel that it was produced in large quantities as a "best-seller" in antiquity. The integral relationship between the Faiyum and Sobek is highlighted via this text, and his far reaching influence is seen in localities that are outside of the Faiyum as well; a portion of the book is copied on the Upper Egyptian (meaning southern Egyptian) Temple of Kom Ombo. [23]

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. Francoise Dunand and Christiane Zivie-Coche (trans. David Lorton). (2004). Gods and Men in Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395 CE. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. [hereafter: Gods and Men].
  2. "Gods of Ancient Egypt: Sobek". www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk.
  3. 1 2 3 Zecchi 2010, p. 3.
  4. Zecchi 2010, p. 4.
  5. 1 2 Bresciani 2005, p.  199.
  6. 1 2 Bresciani 2005, p.  200.
  7. Allen & Manuelian 2005, p.  60, The Pyramid Texts of Unis.
  8. 1 2 WB IV, 95.
  9. Murray 2004, p.  107, Religion.
  10. Zecchi 2010, p. 37-52.
  11. 1 2 3 Zecchi 2010, p. 153.
  12. Zecchi 2010, p. 154.
  13. Frankfurter 1998, p.  99, The Local Scope of Religious Belief.
  14. Frankfurter 1998, p.  151, Mutations of the Egyptian Oracle.
  15. Frankfurter 1998, p.  159, Mutations of the Egyptian Oracle.
  16. Frankfurter 1998, p.  160, Mutations of the Egyptian Oracle.
  17. 1 2 3 Bresciani 2005, p.  203.
  18. "Kom Ombo Temple - Discovering Ancient Egypt". discoveringegypt.com.
  19. 1 2 Ikram 2005, p.  219.
  20. Ikram 2005, p.  225.
  21. Bresciani 2005, p.  202.
  22. O'Connor
  23. Tait, 183–184.

Bibliography

Further reading

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