The monograph thoroughly examines the cults of all gods worshipped in the temples of Kush. the work is based on the research of all inscriptions preserved on Kush territory (from the first to the 6th cataracts), beginning from Egyptian penetration and to the decline of the Meroitic civilization. In the author's view, it makes it possible to understand the character of the evolution of cults, to define their significance and place in the Kush religious system and reveal the principal features and specificities of Kush religion as a whole.
The first chapter of the book examines the cults of gods of Egyptian origin adopted in Kush, the second chapter deals with gods of Kushitic origin. The penetration, formation and development of the cults of Egyptian gods in Kush consisted of two stages.
The first stage began in the Ancient Kingdom and lasted till the rule of the 25th dynasty, i.e., till the time when Egyptian ideological influence on Kush affected Egypt itself. From the time of the first penetration of Egyptians in Kush the local hypostases of Egyptian gods began to form there. It marked the beginning of the transformation of their cults in Kush and, possibly, the absorption by them of deities of Kushitic origin. In Kush, many deities retaining Egyptian features in the main were worshipped as the deities of that very locality where they had transformed. That was the reason of their firm penetration in the consciousness of the Kushites and hence, an opportunity for the Egyptians to exert an ideological influence. At the same time, during the epoch of the 18th dynasty the basic elements of Egyptian religion and mythology were broadly disseminated, and the cults of Egyptian gods were spread as they were worshipped in Egypt. Purely Egyptian cults intertwined with the local hypostases of Egyptian gods in Kush, which was a characteristic feature of Kush religion in that period.
The second stage was connected with the development of the Meroitic Kingdom. As for the gods of Egyptian origin, that time was characterized by the continued development of the local hypostases of Egyptian deities in Kush which gradually and, what is more important, under the influence of a changing political situation, increasingly acquired a local colour (for example, Amon of Napata, Isis, Bastet) and were taken for Kush gods. The period of independent development of the Meroitic Kingdom also included the stage of the Kush contacts with the Greco-Roman world, when Lower Nubia became a place of intertwining and mutual influences of various cultures, not only Egyptian and Meroitic, but also Greek and Roman. In the religious sphere that period was distinguished by the rebirth in Lower Nubia of the local cults of Egyptian gods. Outwardly, the development of religion in the region was like the religious process characteristic of the epoch of Pharaohs, with the only distinction that in it Egyptian religion influenced as it was by Greece and Rome was interconnected with Kushite religion, which had by that time passed a long stage and in which merged cults of local origin and hypostases of Egyptian deities that had assumed local forms. Under the impact of various religious factors Lower Nubia acquired great religious importance, which was demonstrated by numerous pilgrimages to Isis Philae undertaken by representatives of various states, regardless of who dominated that region politically.
A whole number of Egyptian deities had always been worshipped in Kush in their purely Egyptian image and with Egyptian epithets (Atum, Chons, etc.), which makes it possible to speak about the forced spreading of cults. However, the cults of a majority of Egyptian gods worshipped in Kush had undergone local changes. The degree of these changes differed: some gods were only given local epithets connected with one or another place where they were worshipped, others acquired new functions; there were also changes in iconography.
It should be noted that there was not only the borrowing of the cults of individual Egyptian gods, but also the influence of various elements of the predominant religious systems in Egypt mythology (Heliopolis, Hermopolis, Thebes, Memphis systems, the myth of Horus and Seth, the miraculous birth of Horus, etc.).
Amon of Napata was the state god. A certain hierarchy existed between him and other most important hypostases of Amon (Amon of Gempaton and Amon of Pnubs). Numerous other hypostases of this god were of narrow local significance. Horus was worshipped in many hypostases, but the chief one was Horus of Buhen, which was due to the significance of the settlement and the temple of Buhen in the system of administration in Lower Nubia.
In Kush, not only deities of Egyptian, but also those of local origin were worshipped in many local hypostases. This can largely be explained by the natural geographic conditions and the division of the country into northern and southern parts-regions where the degree of the influence of a purely Egyptian, and later Hellenic culture was not similar. The various types of economic activity (in some regions of the country land cultivation, in others cattle raising predominated) and the absence of a uniform state economic system gave rise to religious disconnection. But religious ideology at the service of state interests acquired, nevertheless, the forms necessary to the required level, having turned one of the local deities into a state god and shaped a definite hierarchy of gods in that religious system.
The transformation of the cults of Egyptian deities in Kush was expressed not only in a change in the character of epithets. The cults of Egyptian gods in Kush acquired purely local features. Such, for example, was a comparison of Amon to the lion in Gempaton. The cult of the state god Amon was closely connected with the local tradition of deifying the king, which was reflected in the throne names of Kush rulers; the name of Amon became a necessary component of the epithets of the elected ruler, coexisting with the general Egyptian titulature of Pharaohs and the name of gods typical of it. The idea about Amon whose cult was of a universal state character in Egypt took a final shape in the image of Amon of Napata around whom all principal ideas connected with the king's power were concentrated and the significance of whose cult was preserved during all periods of the existence of the Meroitic Kingdom as the god who chose the king and predetermined his power. The idea of theogamy became greatly widespread in connection with the specific features of choosing the king from among the claimants to the throne, and became a necessary addition to the biography of the chosen ruler. This was also the reason for the considerably growing role of the oracle of Amon and various prophecies.
Another specific feature of the state system of Kush-namely, the position of the Queen-mother-determined the special position of Isis and her role as a protectress of o king's power. With the passage of time the significance of this goddess became so great that her cult became the leading one. In Kush, Satis and Anukis were worshipped as tile wives of many gods of Egyptian origin (Horus of Miam, of Buhen and Amon).
The religious ideology of the main temples decided the essence of the religion of the population, and ultimately, on that basis one should judge about the degree of the development of religious consciousness. God appeared before the inhabitants of Kush in the image that had been brought by the Egyptians, in that canonical form of depiction as had taken shape in Egypt by that time. Together with the image of the Egyptian god rites connected with him became widespread in Kush; the everyday rite of serving the god, ceremonial run performed before the god, ceremonial founding of a temple and delivering it to its owner. To these canonical elements were added local features: for example, a specific headdress of Amon of Gempaton did not have an analogy in Egypt, neck decorations of gods-hypostases of Horus in Lower Nubia differed from traditional Egyptian ones, and, finally, the proportions of the canon of depicting Egyptian gods in Kush changed with the passage of time (Negroid features in the image of Hapi, Osiris and images of gods on reliefs of Musawwarat es-Sufra). Among local specifications were also ritual processions of statues of gods (especially Amon) around temples watched by. crowds of people.
The temples founded by Egyptians in Kush were centres of Egyptian influence. Many of them were situated in the administrative centres of regions into which the conquered territory had been divided (Buhen, Aniba).
Temples which were not connected with the centres of Egyptian power in Kush were no less important for the propaganda of Egyptian religion. Among them, first and foremost was Amada, the most "Egyptized" temple in Kush. This was also the case of other temples, expecially those of the time of Ramses II-Wadi es-Sebua, Derr and Beit el-Wali.
The results of the study of the cults of deities of Egyptian origin worshipped in Kush show that along with the Thebes religious system which was state religion in Egypt, and other religious systems widespread in that country, religious concepts typical of individual regions and even settlements in Egypt, which had a narrow local character, reached Kush. These were Bastet, Sobek, Sumenu, Sopd, Banebdjed, etc. These cults were brought to Kush by Egyptian migrants who had settled in Kush, for some reason or other. Apart from representatives of the official administration, these could be simply refugees, which was shown vividly, for example, by the name "Gempaton" ("Place of Aton"), which coincided with the name of its temple in Egypt.
Examining the problem of the influence of Egyptian religious elements, it should constantly be borne in mind that it was effected along three lines: 1) acceptance of Egyptian gods in the pantheon unchanged; 2) transformation of Egyptian cults on a local basis; 3) inclusion of local cults in the Egyptian pantheon and their subsequent appearance in Kush in a "Egyptized" way.
These elements were parts of a uniform process that was going on in Kush during the entire period under review, although at certain stages their relationship differed. Thus, the penetration of the cult of purely Egyptian gods in Kush, as far as can be judged by the extant sources, stopped after the Egyptians had lost power (or after the downfall of the 25th dynasty), but was resumed in the Greco-Roman epoch when the cults of "Hellinized" Egyptian gods had made their appearance in Kush. During the epoch of the independent development of the Meroitic Kingdom local religious features vividly manifested themselves (especially on the example of the cult of Apedemak); at the same time the cults of local gods adopted Egyptian religious concepts. Besides, a whole number of features going back only to the Egyptian tradition became inherent in them. These were stability of the Egyptian style of depicting deities, the attributed of gods (the sign of life, the sceptre "uas", the attached tail, etc.), the form of composing invocation.
An original combination of purely Egyptian elements with local ones can be seen in the image of the Meroitic god. Even local elements can be traced weakly in the god's outward appearance (Arensnuphis, Sebuimeker), or are absent altogether (Dedun), whereas the inscriptions glorifying local gods clearly reflect their origin and Kush features. Images of local gods (except Dedun) can be seen in the temples of Kush already at the time when Kush religion having been constantly influenced by Egypt had revealed its main trend - to adopt religious concepts with their corresponding transformation on the local ground, which formed the basis of syncretism in Meroitic religion. Apart from that, many Egyptian deities transformed in Kush began to be gradually regarded as Kush gods. Consequently, their outward appearance, attitude to them and their interpretation expressed in inscriptions ceased to be an alien element for the Meroites. This explains why they preserved for their gods the outward attributes of Egyptian deities, the basic principles of the canon and even individual epithets and religious formulas.
Syncretism in Kush religion is characterized by a combination in one image of features inherent in various deities (differing in origin and functions), the merging of the images of several gods in one image, and the ascription of local features to Egyptian gods. It should be emphasized that the beginning of this process was connected with the first penetration of Egyptians in Kush where they brought their gods, while the conquest of Kush only gave a new impetus to these syncretic phenomena, having made the process of adaptation and changing of religious ideology a manifestation of Egypt's state policy toward the conquered territory.
Naturally, the Meroites did not borrow Egyptian experience mechanically in the epoch of the flourishing of Meroitic civilization, just as they did not mechanically adopt Egyptian gods during the early period of Kush history. Hence; syncretism in Kush was the process of merging various foreign elements with local ones that was subordinated to uniform laws; the relationships of these elements were conditioned by the time and policy. The syncretic images that had taken shape in Ptolemaic - Roman temples of Lower Nubia became a natural result of a lengthy development of the religious ideology of Kush. Egyptian-Kush images (those that had taken shape back during the epoch of Pharaohs in Lower Nubia and deities that became widespread during later period) were then influenced by the images of Hellenic gods.
The impact of Hellenic culture had two directions: through Egypt when "Hellinized" Egyptian gods reached Kush, were acknowledged and transformed on the local ground and through direct contacts of Meroites with Greeks. In any case, the question is only about the form of manifestation of a foreign (particularly, Greco-Roman) influence. On the whole, the preservation (or rebirth?) and development of local cults in Lower Nubia during the Hellenic period, the introduction of Kush deities in the Greek pantheon and their return to Kush in a new appearance corresponded to the general development of Kush religion.
The position of this or that deity in the general system of faith in a state is determined, above all, by the character of its relations With supreme power. If one is to assess the significance of Kush gods from this angle, one has to single out, undoubtedly, Amon, Isis, Apedemak, Bastet and, possibly, Sebuimeker. The relation of Apedemak and Amon still presents an unresolved problem. Both were deities closely connected with the king. Possibly, Apedemak's main function was that of the God of war, which could be clearly traced in his appearance. However, that god, as shown by inscriptions, was multifunctional, worship of that god as a god of fertility stemmed from his being compared with the king responsible for the welfare of his people. The symbolics of the lion embodied in Apedemak was reflected in the king's sacral decorations. At the same time Amon played the decisive role in choosing a king; Amon was then regarded as a Kush god. The annals of Horsiotef and Nastasen testify to a great importance of Bastet as the king's goddess, yet numerous data leave no doubts as to the leading role of Isis.
The history of the formation and development of the cults of Egyptian gods in Kush and the cults of gods of local origin shows that Kush religion emerged in an organic synthesis of various elements, with the preservation of the traditional local foundation.
Speaking about local gods, it should be noted that some of them were accepted in the Egyptian and Greek pantheons. Thus, the God Dedun is mentioned already in the Pyramid Texts, he is known mainly by Egyptian sources. At the same time it is known that the cult of that god came from Kush, and this leaves no doubt in its non - Egyptian origin. The God Mandulis whose cult had been formed on the basis of an ancient Egyptian solar myth, was included in the Greek pantheon and connected with the principal Greek gods. Roman soldiers made pilgrimages to him. The God Arensnuphis was closely connected with Egypt by his origin, because he, in our view, is a personification of the Egyptian epithet "beautiful husband", which was referred in Egypt to different gods. The transformation of an epithet into an independent deity took place, evidently, in Musawwarat es-Sufra. All that is known about Apedemak and Sebuimeker points to the fact that they were exclusively Meroitic gods: they left no traces in the pantheon of those peoples with whom Kush had direct contacts. It is unlikely that Apedemak had a concrete Egyptian prototype. Here one could speak only about a similarity of outward attributes, and as far as the essence of the cult is concerned, only about a typological likeness. As for the deities of the first cataract area-Chnum, Satis, Anukis and Miket, they could well be gods of the Egyptian and Nubian parts of the population of those regions. Their origin cannot be definitely ascertained. It is noteworthy that it was only Satis and Anukis that had penetrated in the inner regions of Kush; Chnum and Miket were not mentioned during the period of the independent existence of the Meroitic Kingdom.
A synthesis of various components added to local faiths has led to the creation of an original system that reflected the specific features of the historical development of Kush. That system was characterized by transforming on the local basis of the cults of the Egyptian gods that had come to Kush, in conjunction with worshipping them not in their typical Egyptian appearance, without any change. The transformed cults later began to be worshipped by Kushites as the local ones, consequently, an Egyptian god in Kush ceased to be Egyptian, became a Kush deity in its local appearance and was worshipped as such on a par with purely local gods. Similar phenomena could be observed in the Greco-Roman epoch. Hence, a specific feature of historical development was that clashes with the great ancient powers - Egypt, Greece and Rome, above all, - did not destroy the local base; on the contrary, they forced it to adapt itself to the prevailing situation by creating its own system of religious concepts which we term the religion of Kush.