Thoth

Last updated
ḏḥwtj
Thoth
Thoth.svg
Thoth, in one of his forms as an ibis-headed man
Major cult center Hermopolis
SymbolIbis, moon disk, papyrus scroll, reed pens, writing palette, stylus, baboon, scales
Consort Maat
Offspring Seshat [lower-alpha 1]

Thoth ( /θθ,tt/ ; from Koinē Greek : Θώθthṓth, borrowed from Coptic : Ⲑⲱⲟⲩⲧ, the reflex of Ancient Egyptian : ḏḥwtj "[He] is like the Ibis") is an ancient Egyptian deity. In art, he was often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or a baboon, animals sacred to him. His feminine counterpart was Seshat, and his wife was Ma'at. [1] He was the god of the moon, wisdom, writing, hieroglyphs, science, magic, art, and judgment. His Greek equivalent is Hermes.

Contents

Thoth's chief temple was located in the city of Hermopolis (Ancient Egyptian : ḫmnw /χaˈmaːnaw/, Egyptological pronunciation: "Khemenu", Coptic : ϢⲙⲟⲩⲛShmun). Later known as el-Ashmunein in Egyptian Arabic, the Temple of Thoth was mostly destroyed before the beginning of the Christian era, but its very large pronaos was still standing in 1826. [2]

In Hermopolis, Thoth led "the Ogdoad", a pantheon of eight principal deities, and his spouse was Nehmetawy. He also had numerous shrines in other cities. [3]

Thoth played many vital and prominent roles in Egyptian mythology, such as maintaining the universe, and being one of the two deities (the other being Ma'at) who stood on either side of Ra's solar barque. [4] In the later history of ancient Egypt, Thoth became heavily associated with the arbitration of godly disputes, [5] the arts of magic, the system of writing, and the judgment of the dead. [6]

Name

ThothThoth
Thoth
Thoth

or
ThothThothThothThoth
Thoth
Thoth
Common names for Thoth [7]
Egyptian hieroglyphs

The Egyptian pronunciation of ḏḥwty is not fully known, but may be reconstructed as *ḏiḥautī, perhaps pronounced *[t͡ʃʼi.ˈħau.tʰiː] or *[ci.ˈħau.tʰiː]. This reconstruction is based on the Ancient Greek borrowing Thōth ([tʰɔːtʰ]) or Theut and the fact that the name was transliterated into Sahidic Coptic variously as ⲑⲟⲟⲩⲧThoout, ⲑⲱⲑThōth, ⲑⲟⲟⲧThoot, ⲑⲁⲩⲧThaut, Taautos (Τααυτος), Thoor (Θωωρ), as well as Bohairic Coptic ⲑⲱⲟⲩⲧThōout. These spellings reflect known sound changes from earlier Egyptian such as the loss of palatalization and merger of with h i.e. initial ḏḥ > th > tʰ. [8] The loss of pre-Coptic final y/j is also common. [9] Following Egyptological convention, which eschews vowel reconstruction, the consonant skeleton ḏḥwty would be rendered "Djehuti" and the god is sometimes found under this name. However, the Greek form "Thoth" is more common.

According to Theodor Hopfner, [10] Thoth's Egyptian name written as ḏḥwty originated from ḏḥw, claimed to be the oldest known name for the ibis, normally written as hbj. The addition of -ty denotes that he possessed the attributes of the ibis. [11] Hence Thoth's name would mean "He who is like the ibis", according to this interpretation.

Further names and spellings

Other forms of the name ḏḥwty using older transcriptions include Jehuti, Jehuty, Tahuti, Tehuti, Zehuti, Techu, or Tetu. Multiple titles for Thoth, similar to the pharaonic titulary, are also known, including A, Sheps, Lord of Khemennu, Asten, Khenti, Mehi, Hab, and A'an. [12]

In addition, Thoth was also known by specific aspects of himself, for instance the Moon god Iah-Djehuty (j3ḥ-ḏḥw.ty), representing the Moon for the entire month. [13] The Greeks related Thoth to their god Hermes due to his similar attributes and functions. [14] One of Thoth's titles, "Thrice great", was translated to the Greek τρισμέγιστος (trismégistos), making Hermes Trismegistus. [15] [16]


Depictions

Thoout, Thoth Deux fois Grand, le Second Hermes, N372.2A, Brooklyn Museum Thoout, Thoth Deux fois Grand, le Second Hermes, N372.2A.jpg
Thoout, Thoth Deux fois Grand, le Second Hermés, N372.2A, Brooklyn Museum
Stela showing a male adorer standing before two Ibises of Thoth. Limestone, sunken relief. Early 19th Dynasty. From Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London Stela showing a male adorer standing before 2 Ibises of Thoth. Limestone, sunken relief. Early 19th Dynasty. From Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London.jpg
Stela showing a male adorer standing before two Ibises of Thoth. Limestone, sunken relief. Early 19th Dynasty. From Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Depiction of Thoth as a baboon (c. 1400 BC), in the British Museum Thoth-baboon-British-Museum.jpg
Depiction of Thoth as a baboon (c.1400 BC), in the British Museum

Thoth has been depicted in many ways depending on the era and on the aspect the artist wished to convey. Usually, he is depicted in his human form with the head of an ibis. [17] In this form, he can be represented as the reckoner of times and seasons by a headdress of the lunar disk sitting on top of a crescent moon resting on his head. When depicted as a form of Shu or Ankher, he was depicted to be wearing the respective god's headdress. Sometimes he was also seen in art to be wearing the Atef crown or the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. [11] When not depicted in this common form, he sometimes takes the form of the ibis directly. [17]

He also appears as a dog-faced baboon or a man with the head of a baboon when he is A'an, the god of equilibrium. [18] In the form of A'ah-Djehuty he took a more human-looking form. [19] These forms are all symbolic and are metaphors for Thoth's attributes. Thoth is often depicted holding an ankh, the Egyptian symbol for life.

Attributes

Thoth's roles in Egyptian mythology were many. He served as scribe of the gods, [20] credited with the invention of writing and Egyptian hieroglyphs. [21] In the underworld, Duat, he appeared as an ape, Aani, the god of equilibrium, who reported when the scales weighing the deceased's heart against the feather, representing the principle of Maat, was exactly even. [22]

The ancient Egyptians regarded Thoth as One, self-begotten, and self-produced. [17] He was the master of both physical and moral (i.e. divine) law, [17] making proper use of Ma'at. [23] He is credited with making the calculations for the establishment of the heavens, stars, Earth, [24] and everything in them. [23]

The Egyptians credited him as the author of all works of science, religion, philosophy, and magic. [25] The Greeks further declared him the inventor of astronomy, astrology, the science of numbers, mathematics, geometry, surveying, medicine, botany, theology, civilized government, the alphabet, reading, writing, and oratory. They further claimed he was the true author of every work of every branch of knowledge, human and divine. [21]

Mythology

Detail from the Papyrus of Hunefer (c. 1275 BCE) depicts the jackal-headed Anubis weighing a heart against the feather of truth on the scale of Maat, while ibis-headed Thoth records the result. Having a heart equal to the weight of the feather allows passage to the afterlife, whereas an imbalance results in a meal for Ammit, the chimera of crocodile, lion, and hippopotamus. El pesado del corazon en el Papiro de Hunefer.jpg
Detail from the Papyrus of Hunefer (c. 1275 BCE) depicts the jackal-headed Anubis weighing a heart against the feather of truth on the scale of Maat, while ibis-headed Thoth records the result. Having a heart equal to the weight of the feather allows passage to the afterlife, whereas an imbalance results in a meal for Ammit, the chimera of crocodile, lion, and hippopotamus.

Egyptian mythology credits Thoth with the creation of the 365-day calendar. Originally, according to the myth, the year was only 360 days long and Nut was sterile during these days, unable to bear children. Thoth gambled with the Moon for 1/72nd of its light (360/72 = 5), or 5 days, and won. During these 5 days, Nut and Geb gave birth to Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nephthys.

In the central Osiris myth, Thoth gives Isis the words to restore her husband, allowing the pair to conceive Horus. Following a battle between Horus and Set, Thoth offers counsel and provides wisdom.

History

Thoth, sitting on his throne Thothbw1.JPG
Thoth, sitting on his throne
Modern impression of an Achaemenid cylinder seal from Iran, with king holding two lion griffins at bay and Egyptian hieroglyphs reading "Thoth is a protection over me". Circa 6th-5th century BC. Cylinder seal and modern impression king holding two lion griffins at bay and Egyptian hieroglyphs ca. 6th-5th century BC.jpg
Modern impression of an Achaemenid cylinder seal from Iran, with king holding two lion griffins at bay and Egyptian hieroglyphs reading "Thoth is a protection over me". Circa 6th–5th century BC.

Thoth was a Moon god. The Moon not only provides light at night, allowing time to still be measured without the sun, but its phases and prominence gave it a significant importance in early astrology/astronomy. The perceived cycles of the Moon also organized much of Egyptian society's rituals and events, both civil and religious. Consequently, Thoth gradually became seen as a god of wisdom, magic, and the measurement and regulation of events and of time. [27] He was thus said to be the secretary and counselor of the sun god Ra, and with Ma'at (truth/order) stood next to Ra on the nightly voyage across the sky.

Thoth became credited by the ancient Egyptians as the inventor of writing (hieroglyphs), [28] and was also considered to have been the scribe of the underworld. For this reason, Thoth was universally worshipped by ancient Egyptian scribes. Many scribes had a painting or a picture of Thoth in their "office". Likewise, one of the symbols for scribes was that of the ibis.

In art, Thoth was usually depicted with the head of an ibis, possibly because the Egyptians saw the curve of the ibis' beak as a symbol of the crescent moon. [29] Sometimes, he was depicted as a baboon holding up a crescent moon.

During the Late Period of ancient Egypt, a cult of Thoth gained prominence due to its main center, Khmun (Hermopolis Magna), also becoming the capital. Millions of dead ibis were mummified and buried in his honor.[ citation needed ]

Thoth was inserted in many tales as the wise counselor and persuader, and his association with learning and measurement led him to be connected with Seshat, the earlier deification of wisdom, who was said to be his daughter, or variably his wife. Thoth's qualities also led to him being identified by the Greeks with their closest matching god Hermes, with whom Thoth was eventually combined as Hermes Trismegistus, [30] leading to the Greeks' naming Thoth's cult center as Hermopolis, meaning city of Hermes.

In the Papyrus of Ani copy of the Egyptian Book of the Dead the scribe proclaims "I am thy writing palette, O Thoth, and I have brought unto thee thine ink-jar. I am not of those who work iniquity in their secret places; let not evil happen unto me." [31] Plate XXIX Chapter CLXXV (Budge) of the Book of the Dead is the oldest tradition said to be the work of Thoth himself. [32]

There was also an Egyptian pharaoh of the Sixteenth dynasty named Djehuty (Thoth) after him, and who reigned for three years.

Plato mentions Thoth in his dialogue, Phaedrus. He uses the myth of Thoth to demonstrate that writing leads to laziness and forgetfulness. In the story, Thoth remarks to King Thamus of Egypt that writing is a wonderful substitute for memory. Thamus remarks that it is a remedy for reminding, not remembering, with the appearance but not the reality of wisdom. Future generations will hear much without being properly taught and will appear wise but not be so.

Artapanus of Alexandria, an Egyptian Jew who lived in the third or second century BC, euhemerized Thoth-Hermes as a historical human being and claimed he was the same person as Moses, based primarily on their shared roles as authors of texts and creators of laws. Artapanus's biography of Moses conflates traditions about Moses and Thoth and invents many details. [33] Many later authors, from late antiquity to the Renaissance, either identified Hermes Trismegistus with Moses or regarded them as contemporaries who expounded similar beliefs. [34]

Archaeology

Egypt’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities announced the discovery of the collective graves of senior officials and high clergies of the god Thoth in Tuna el-Gebel in Minya in January 2020. An archaeological mission headed by Mostafa Waziri reported that 20 sarcophagi and coffins of various shapes and sizes, including five anthropoid sarcophagi made of limestone and carved with hieroglyphic texts, as well as 16 tombs and five well-preserved wooden coffins were unearthed by their team. [35] [36]

Modern cultural references

Thoth has been seen as a god of wisdom and has been used in modern literature, especially since the early 20th century when ancient Egyptian ideas were quite popular.

See also

Notes

  1. Also said to be his consort.

Related Research Articles

Hermes Ancient god of boundaries and travelers

Hermes is an Olympian deity in ancient Greek religion and mythology. Hermes is considered the herald of the gods. He is also considered the protector of human heralds, travellers, thieves, merchants, and orators. He is able to move quickly and freely between the worlds of the mortal and the divine, aided by his winged sandals. Hermes plays the role of the psychopomp or "soul guide"—a conductor of souls into the afterlife.

Horus Egyptian war and sky deity

Horus or Heru, Hor, Har in Ancient Egyptian, is one of the most significant ancient Egyptian deities who served many functions, most notably god of kingship and the sky. He was worshipped from at least the late prehistoric Egypt until the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Roman Egypt. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history, and these are treated as distinct gods by Egyptologists. These various forms may be different manifestations of the same multi-layered deity in which certain attributes or syncretic relationships are emphasized, not necessarily in opposition but complementary to one another, consistent with how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the multiple facets of reality. He was most often depicted as a falcon, most likely a lanner falcon or peregrine falcon, or as a man with a falcon head.

Set (deity) Egyptian god of the desert, storms, violence, and foreigners

Set is a god of deserts, storms, disorder, violence, and foreigners in ancient Egyptian religion. In Ancient Greek, the god's name is given as Sēth (Σήθ). Set had a positive role where he accompanies Ra on his barque to repel Apep, the serpent of Chaos. Set had a vital role as a reconciled combatant. He was lord of the Red Land, where he was the balance to Horus' role as lord of the Black Land.

Hermes Trismegistus Legendary author of the Hermetica

Hermes Trismegistus is a legendary Hellenistic figure that originated as a syncretic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth. He is the purported author of the Hermetica, a widely diverse series of ancient and medieval pseudepigraphical texts that lay the basis of various philosophical systems known as Hermeticism.

Nut (goddess) Egyptian goddess of the sky

Nut, also known by various other transcriptions, is the goddess of the sky, stars, cosmos, mothers, astronomy, and the universe in the ancient Egyptian religion. She was seen as a star-covered nude woman arching over the Earth, or as a cow. She was depicted wearing the water-pot sign (nw) that identifies her.

Nu (mythology) Ancient Egyptian personification of the primordial watery abyss

Nu, feminine Naunet, is the deification of the primordial watery abyss in the Hermopolitan Ogdoad cosmogony of ancient Egyptian religion. The name is paralleled with nen "inactivity" in a play of words in, "I raised them up from out of the watery mass [nu], out of inactivity [nen]". The name has also been compared to the Coptic noun "abyss; deep".
Nu is the one of the eight deities of the Ogdoad representing ancient Egyptian primordial Chaos from which the Primeval Mound appeared. He is coupled with goddess Naunet and appears in anthropomorphic form but with the head of a frog. No cult is addressed to Nun but he is typically depicted in ancient Egyptian art holding aloft the solar barque or the sun disc. He may appear greeting the rising sun in the guise of a baboon. Nun is otherwise symbolized by the presence of a sacred cistern or lake as in the sanctuaries of Karnak and Dendara.

Maat Egyptian deity and concepts of truth, order and justice

Maat or Maʽat refers to the ancient Egyptian concepts of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice. Maat was also the goddess who personified these concepts, and regulated the stars, seasons, and the actions of mortals and the deities who had brought order from chaos at the moment of creation. Her ideological opposite was Isfet, meaning injustice, chaos, violence or to do evil.

Iah is a lunar deity in ancient Egyptian religion. The word jꜥḥ simply means "Moon". It is also transcribed as Jah, or Aah.

Seshat Ancient Egyptian deity

Seshat, under various spellings, was the ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom, knowledge, and writing. She was seen as a scribe and record keeper, and her name means she who scrivens, and is credited with inventing writing. She also became identified as the goddess of accounting, architecture, astronomy, astrology, building, mathematics, and surveying.

Hermeticism Philosophy based on the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus

Hermeticism, or Hermetism, is a label used to designate a philosophical system that is primarily based on the purported teachings of Hermes Trismegistus. These teachings are contained in the various writings attributed to Hermes, which were produced over a period spanning many centuries, and may be very different in content and scope.

Book of Thoth is a name given to many ancient Egyptian texts supposed to have been written by Thoth, the Egyptian god of writing and knowledge. They include many texts that were claimed to exist by ancient authors and a magical book that appears in an Egyptian work of fiction.

Nabu Mesopotamian god of literacy and scribes

Nabu is the ancient Mesopotamian patron god of literacy, the rational arts, scribes and wisdom.

Tuna el-Gebel Place in Minya Governorate, Egypt

Tuna el-Gebel was the necropolis of Khmun. It is located in Al Minya Governorate in Middle Egypt.

Hermopolis Village in Minya Governorate, Egypt

Hermopolis was a major city in antiquity, located near the boundary between Lower and Upper Egypt.

Artapanus of Alexandria

Artapanus of Alexandria was a historian, of Alexandrian Jewish origin, who is believed to have lived in Alexandria, during the later half of the 3rd or 2nd century BCE. Although most scholars assume Artapanus lived in Alexandria, others argue he resided in the countryside. Regardless, Artapanus lived in Egypt. His name, however, is a rather curious one; for Hystaspes' son, and the Achaemenian king Darius the Great's brother's name was also Artap/banus. It is also the name of several Iranian historical personalities, including five of the Parthian kings'. In modern Persian it is Ardavān.

In ancient Egyptian religion, Aani is the dog-headed ape sacred to the Egyptian god Thoth. "One of the Egyptian names of the Cynocephalus Baboon, which was sacred to the god Thoth."

Damanhur City in Beheira, Egypt

Damanhur is a city in Lower Egypt, and the capital of the Beheira Governorate. It is located 160 km (99 mi) northwest of Cairo, and 70 km (43 mi) E.S.E. of Alexandria, in the middle of the western Nile Delta.

Ogdoad (Egyptian) Group of 8 deities in Ancient Egyptian religion

In Egyptian mythology, the Ogdoad were eight primordial deities worshiped in Hermopolis.

References

  1. Thutmose III: A New Biography By Eric H Cline, David O'Connor University of Michigan Press (January 5, 2006)p. 127
  2. Verner, Miroslav (2013). Temple of the World: Sanctuaries, Cults, and Mysteries of Ancient Egypt. American University in Cairo Press. p. 149. ISBN   978-977-416-563-4.
  3. (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Thoth was said to be born from the skull of Set also said to be born from the heart of Ra.p. 401)
  4. (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 400)
  5. (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 405)
  6. (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians p. 403)
  7. Hieroglyphs verified, in part, in (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 402) and (Collier and Manley p. 161)
  8. Allen, James P. (2013-07-11). The Ancient Egyptian Language: An Historical Study. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   9781107032460.
  9. Allen, James P. (2013-07-11). The Ancient Egyptian Language: An Historical Study. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   9781107032460.
  10. Hopfner, Theodor, b. 1886. Der tierkult der alten Agypter nach den griechisch-romischen berichten und den wichtigeren denkmalern. Wien, In kommission bei A. Holder, 1913. Call#= 060 VPD v.57
  11. 1 2 (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 402)
  12. (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 pp. 402–3)
  13. (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 pp. 412–3)
  14. (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians p. 402)
  15. (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 415)
  16. A survey of the literary and archaeological evidence for the background of Hermes Trismegistus in the Greek Hermes and the Egyptian Thoth may be found in Bull, Christian H. 2018. The Tradition of Hermes Trismegistus: The Egyptian Priestly Figure as a Teacher of Hellenized Wisdom. Leiden: Brill, pp. 33-96.
  17. 1 2 3 4 (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 401)
  18. (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 403)
  19. (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 plate between pp. 408–9)
  20. (Budge Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 408)
  21. 1 2 (Budge Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 414)
  22. (Budge Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 403)
  23. 1 2 (Budge The Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 407)
  24. (Budge Gods of the Egyptians Vol. 1 p. 401)
  25. (Hall The Hermetic Marriage p. 224)
  26. "Museum item, accession number: 36.106.2". www.metmuseum.org. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  27. Assmann, Jan, The Search for God in Ancient Egypt, 2001, pp. 80–81
  28. Littleton, C.Scott (2002). Mythology. The illustrated anthology of world myth & storytelling. London: Duncan Baird Publishers. pp.  24. ISBN   9781903296370.
  29. Wilkinson, Richard H., The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, 2003, p. 217
  30. A survey of the literary and archaeological evidence for the background of Hermes Trismegistus in the Greek Hermes and the Egyptian Thoth may be found in Bull, Christian H. 2018. The Tradition of Hermes Trismegistus: The Egyptian Priestly Figure as a Teacher of Hellenized Wisdom. Leiden: Brill, pp. 33-96.
  31. The Book of the Dead by E. A. Wallis Budge, 1895, Gramercy, 1999, p. 562, ISBN   0-517-12283-9
  32. The Book of the Dead by E. A. Wallis Budge, 1895, Gramercy, 1999, p. 282, ISBN   0-517-12283-9
  33. Mussies, Gerald (1982), "The Interpretatio Judaica of Thot-Hermes", in van Voss, Heerma, et al. (eds.) Studies in Egyptian Religion Dedicated to Professor Jan Zandee, pp. 91, 97, 99–100
  34. Mussies (1982), pp. 118–120
  35. "In photos: Communal tombs for high priests uncovered Upper Egypt - Ancient Egypt - Heritage". Ahram Online. Retrieved 2020-06-28.
  36. "Tombs of High Priests Discovered in Upper Egypt - Archaeology Magazine". www.archaeology.org. Retrieved 2020-06-28.
  37. Steadman, John L. (2015-09-01). H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition: The Master of Horror's Influence on Modern Occultism. Weiser Books. ISBN   9781633410008.
  38. Lee, Benjamin (November 13, 2015). "Gods of Egypt posters spark anger with 'whitewashed' cast". The Guardian . London. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  39. Gedges, Pauline (September 4, 2007). Scroll of Saqqara. Penguin Canada. ISBN   978-0143167440.
  40. Sawan, Amer (June 14, 2021). "God of War: Kratos Comes Face to Face With Brand New Pantheon". CBR.com. Retrieved June 17, 2021.
  41. "The Minor Gods: Egyptian - Age of Mythology Wiki Guide - IGN".
  42. "Age of Mythology".
  43. www.smitegame.com https://www.smitegame.com/gods/ . Retrieved 2021-10-01.{{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)

Bibliography