Drawing on textual, iconographic and archaeological evidence, this book highlights a historically documented instance, where five single women were elevated to a position of supreme religious authority. It examines how the women, and the religious institution they served, were manipulated to achieve political gain.
Drawing on textual, iconographic and archaeological evidence, this book highlights a historically documented (but often ignored) instance, where five single women were elevated to a position of supreme religious authority. The women were Libyan and Nubian royal princesses who, consecutively, held the title of God's Wife of Amun during the Egyptian Twenty-third to Twenty-sixth dynasties (c.754-525 BCE). At a time of weakened royal authority, rulers turned to their daughters to establish and further their authority. Unmarried, the princess would be dispatched from her father's distant political and administrative capital to Thebes, where she would reign supreme as a God's Wife of Amun. While her title implied a marital union between the supreme solar deity Amun and a mortal woman, the God's Wife was actively involved in temple ritual, where she participated in rituals that asserted the king's territorial authority as well as Amun's universal power. As the head of the Theban theocracy, the God's Wife controlled one of the largest economic centers in Egypt: the vast temple estate at Karnak.; Economic independence and religious authority spawned considerable political influence: a God's Wife became instrumental in securing the loyalty of the Theban nobility for her father, the king. Yet, despite the religious, economic and political authority of the God's Wives during this tumultuous period of Egyptian history, to date, these women have only received cursory attention from scholars of ancient Egypt. Tracing the evolution of the office of God's Wife from its obscure origins in the Middle Kingdom to its demise shortly after the Persian Conquest of Egypt in 525 BCE, this book places these five women within the broader context of the politically volatile, turbulent Seventh and Eighth centuries BCE, and examines how the women, and the religious institution they served, were manipulated to achieve political gain.
INTRODUCTION 3 PART I: The Historical Setting 6 The God's Wife: Historical Development and associated titles 7 Text Box 1.1 The Mythic Conception I: Atum and the Heliopolitan Creation Myth 9 The God's Wife Prior to the New Kingdom 10 The God's Wife During the New Kingdom 12 Text Box 1. 2: The Mythic Conception II: The King's Divine Conception 15 Egypt at the End of the New Kingdom 18 Egypt during the Libyan Period 23 The Nubians in Egypt 24 The Libyan and Nubian God's Wives of Amun 34 Egypt under Saite Rule 47 Nitocris 48 Ankhnesneferibre, The Last God's Wife of Amun 55 Text Box 1.3: Amun, Mut, and the "Throne Names" of the God's Wives 59 Part II: Rites and Rituals 70 Entertaining the Gods 73 Playing Music: Shaking the Sistrum 74 Text Box 2.1: The sistrum, the menat-necklace and objects sacred to Hathor 101 Provisioning the Gods: Offering to the Gods 103 Wine 103 Food 109 Cool Water/ Incense 113 "A Boon, which the King Gives" 118 Maat 119 Building Houses for the Gods/ Dedicating Shrines 136 Partnering with the King (I): Symmetrically Opposed Scenes 143 In Providing for the Gods 143 Rewarded by the Gods 156 Partnering with the King (II): "For God, King, and Country" 163 In Protecting the Gods 163 Rites of Protection at the Cenotaph 163 "Burning Fans" 170 "Rites at Kom Djeme" 180 Rejuvenating the gods 184 The Elevation of the tjest-support 184 Rites of Divine Reentrance 188 Other rites of "Royal and Divine" Dominion 196 "Driving Four Calves" 198 "Striking Chests" 205 Celebrating the sed festival 210 PART III: Avenues to Legitimacy 221 Assumption of the Priesthood 223 The Gradual Appropriation of Priestly Duties 224 Text Box 3.1: The God's Wife and Initiation Rites 231 Purification Rites 232 Priestly Companions and Priestly Rank 234 Avenues to Legitimacy 238 Shepenwepet I 238 Suckling Scenes 239 Crowning Scenes 243 Amenirdis I 246 Shepenwepet II 253 Divine marriage iconography 257 Nitocris 262 Ankhnesneferibre 265 Text box 3.2: Adoption, Succession to Office, and Age at Appointment 268 Text Box 3.3: Sexuality, Celibacy and the Sexual Role of the God's Wife 275 Celibacy re-visited 275 The Egyptians' Attitude towards Marriage and Sex 278 Contraceptives in Ancient Egypt 284 Prohibitions Against Sexual Activity in Ancient Egypt 285 The God's Wife Sexual Role