Sacred Texts  Egypt  EHH Index  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 1





THE inhabitants of Egypt during the Dynastic Period of their history possessed, in common with other peoples of similar antiquity, very definite ideas about the abode of departed spirits, but few, if any, ancient nations caused their beliefs about the situation and form, and divisions, and inhabitants of their Heaven and Hell, or "Other World," to be described so fully in writing, and none have illustrated the written descriptions of their beliefs so copiously with pictorial representations of the gods and devils, and the good and evil spirits and other beings, who were supposed to exist in the kingdom of the dead. It is now generally admitted that Egyptian Dynastic History covers a period of nearly five thousand years, but it must not

p. 2

be assumed for one moment that it is at present possible to describe in a connected or complete form all the views and opinions about their Other World which were held by the theologians and the uneducated classes of Egypt during this long space of time, and it must be said at once that the materials for such a work are not forthcoming. All that can be done is to collect from the copies that have come down to us of the books which relate to the state and condition of the dead, and to the abode of departed spirits, the beliefs which are enunciated or referred to therein, and, taking them so far as possible in chronological order, to piece them together and then make deductions and draw general conclusions from them. We must always remember that the texts of the various Books of the Dead are far older than the illustrations found in the later recensions of them which are now in our hands, and that such illustrations, in matters of detail at least, reflect the opinions of the priestly class that held religious supremacy at the time when they were drawn or painted. In cases where archetypes were available the artist was careful to follow in all general matters the ancient copies to which he had access, but when new beliefs and new religious conceptions had to be illustrated, he was free to treat them pictorially according to his own knowledge, and according to the wishes of those who employed him.

The oldest Books of the Dead known to us, that is to say, the religious compositions which are inscribed

p. 3

on the walls of the chambers and corridors of the pyramids of kings Unas, Teta, Pepi I., Mer-en-Ra, and Pepi II., are without illustrations of any sort or kind, and it is not easy to account for this fact. That the Egyptians possessed artistic skill sufficient to illustrate the religious and general works which their theologians wrote or revised, under their earliest dynasties of kings of all Egypt, is evident from the plain and coloured bas-reliefs which adorn the walls of their mastabas, or bench-shaped tombs, and we can only point out and wonder at the fact that the royal pyramids contain neither painted nor sculptured vignettes, especially as pictures are much needed to break the monotony of the hundreds of lines of large hieroglyphics, painted in a bluish-green colour, which must have dazzled the eyes even of an Egyptian. The reason, however, why such early texts are not illustrated is probably not far to seek. Professor Maspero has proved that the "pyramid texts" contain formulae and paragraphs which, judging from the grammatical forms that occur in them, it is easy to see must have been composed, if not actually written down, in the earliest times of Egyptian civilization. These formulae, &c., are interspersed with others of later periods, and it seems as if, at the time when the "pyramid texts" were cut into stone, these religious compositions were intended to contain expressions of pious thought about the hereafter which would satisfy both those who accepted the ancient indigenous beliefs,

p. 4

and those who were prepared to believe the doctrines which had been promulgated by the priests of the famous brotherhood of Ra, the Sun-god, who had made their head-quarters in Egypt at Annu, i.e., On, or Heliopolis. The old native beliefs of the country were of a more material character than the doctrines which the priests of Heliopolis taught, but it was found impossible to eradicate them from the minds of the people, and the priests therefore framed religious works in such a manner that they might be acceptable both to those who believed in the old animal-gods, tree-gods, plant-gods, &c., of Egypt, and those who preferred a purely solar cult, such as that of the worship of the Sun-god Ra. The oldest Books of the Dead, in fact, represent the compromise arrived at under the IVth, Vth, and VIth Dynasties, between the priests of the old and the new religions. This being so, the religious texts of the period represent too much a patch-work belief for purposes of systematic illustration, and in the result, and perhaps also through the funeral customs of the day, the growth in men's minds of the wish for illustrated guides to the Underworld was retarded.

When the glory of sovereignty departed from the kings who held court at Memphis after the end of the rule of the VIth Dynasty, the system of solar theology, which had been promulgated in Lower Egypt by the priests of Heliopolis, began to make its way into Upper Egypt, and wherever it came it assumed a

p. 5

leading position among the religious systems of the day. The kings of the VIIth and VIIIth Dynasties, like those of the IIIrd, IVth, and VIth, came from Memphis, but they had comparatively little power in the land, and, so far as we know, they did not build for themselves pyramids for tombs, and there is no evidence forthcoming to show that they filled the walls of their sepulchres with religious texts. They carried on neither wars nor building operations of any importance, and it seems that their tombs were neither large nor magnificent. Owing to their feeble rule the governors of Suten-henen, or Herakleopolis, and those who ruled in the provinces near that city, succeeded in gaining their independence, and the kings of the IXth and Xth Dynasties were Herakleopolitans; their rule gradually extended to the south, and the religious influence of their priests was so great that they succeeded in forcing many of their mythological legends and beliefs into the accepted religion of the country, and these subsequently became part and parcel of the great Recension of the Theban Book of the Dead. The dominion of the Herakleopolitans, however, was of comparatively short duration, and it collapsed under the attacks of the bold and vigorous governors of the Thebaïd, whose capital was at Thebes. Judging from the historical evidence concerning the period which lies between the VIth and the XIth Dynasties, neither the two last Memphitic nor the two Herakleopolitan Dynasties of kings did anything to

p. 6

improve the general condition of the country, and it seems as if they found it necessary to employ all their energies to maintain their position and the little real power in the country which they possessed.

As this was the case, we need not wonder that all magnificence disappeared from funeral rites and ceremonies, and that the tombs of the period were small and unimportant. The gods were worshipped and the dead were buried as matters of course, but it goes without saying that kings, whose authority was not consolidated, and whose power was ineffective except in the immediate neighbourhood of the towns in which they lived, who were unable to wage wars in Syria and Sinai and to bring back much spoil, could neither establish Colleges of priests nor endow new temples; for in ancient Egypt, as elsewhere, the fortunes of the gods and the wealth of their sanctuaries increased or declined according as the inhabitants of the land were prosperous or otherwise. Similarly also, when the community was suffering from the evil effects of a long period of civil wars, and business was at a standstill, and farmers were unable to carry on the usual agricultural operations on which both the government and the priesthood ultimately depended for support, it was impossible for men to bury their dead with all the pomp and ceremony which were the characteristics of funerals in times of peace and prosperity. The innate conservatism of the Egyptians made them cling to their ancient beliefs during this period of stress, but

p. 7

no important pyramids were built, and very few private funeral chapels were maintained at expensive rates, and the souls of the dead were committed to such protection as could be obtained by the prayers of their relatives and friends, and by the utterance of religious formulae, and by inexpensive amulets.

With the rise to power of the Princes of Thebes, things took a turn for the better so far as worship in the temples and the care for the dead were concerned. So soon as they had overcome their enemies the Princes of Herakleopolis, and their confederates the Princes of Asyut, and had firmly established themselves on the throne of Egypt, they sent men to reopen the quarries in the First Cataract and in the Wadi Hammamat near Coptos. This is a sure proof that the new line of kings, most of whom bear the name of Menthu-hetep, had need of large quantities of granite, and of sandstone of various kinds, and such materials can only have been required for the building of temples and palaces, and funeral altars and stelae, sarcophagi, &c. The fact that the work was begun again in the quarries also proves that the authority of the Menthu-heteps was well established. Menthu-hetep II., we are told by an inscription set up in the Wadi Hammamat by his officer Amen-em-hat, caused to be quarried a block of stone which measured eight cubits, by four cubits, by two cubits, i.e., about thirteen feet six inches long, six feet six inches wide, and three feet six inches thick, and it is probable that he required

p. 8

this for a sarcophagus. This king is also famous as the maker of a well in the desert, the mouth of which was about sixteen feet six inches square; and at one time he employed several thousands of men, including three thousand carriers or boatmen, in his stone-works. His successor, Menthu-hetep III., continued the work in the quarries, and built himself a pyramid, called Khu-ast, in the mountain of Tchesert at Thebes, which may now be identified with that portion of the great Theban cemetery to which the name Der al-Bahari was given by the Arabic-speaking Egyptians.

This building is mentioned in the great Abbott Papyrus preserved in the British Museum (No. 10,221), where it is declared to have been found unviolated by the members of the Commission which was appointed to inquire into the condition of the royal tombs, after the robberies which had taken place in them about the period of the rule of the priest-kings of Thebes, B.C. 1,000. The remains of the tomb of Menthu-hetep III. have been recently discovered, 1 and though at the time of writing it has not been completely excavated, sufficient has been done to show that it is a very remarkable building. It is clear that the lower part of it is rectangular, and that it was surrounded by a colonnade; the outside is eased with limestone slabs, behind which is a "wall of rough and heavy nodules

p. 9

of flint, and the middle is filled with rubbish and loose stones." On this rectangular building, or base, a small pyramid probably stood, at least, this is what we should expect. The remains already excavated prove that this base was surrounded by a triple row of columns, which supported a ceiling and formed a hypostyle passage or colonnade, which "must have been quite dark, or nearly so (like the ambulatories surrounding the shrines in later temples), for the outside was closed by a thick wall." Between this wall and the edge of the platform on which the building stood was an outer colonnade of square pillars, but the pillars no longer exist. In the rock below the pavement of this colonnade a number of tombs were hewn; each consisted of a pit from twelve to fifteen feet deep, which led to a small rectangular chamber, wherein originally stood a limestone sarcophagus. In these tombs women who were both priestesses of Hathor and members of the royal harim were buried, and further excavations will no doubt reveal the fact that Menthu-hetep's high officers of state were buried in somewhat similar tombs in the immediate neighbourhood of the remarkable monument which the Egypt Exploration Fund has brought to light through the exertion of Prof. E. Naville and Mr. H. R. Hall.

The facts given above indicate that Menthu-hetep III. built a splendid tomb at Thebes, and it seems that in certain particulars he copied the royal pyramid tombs of the IVth, Vth, and VIth Dynasties. It is

p. 10

unlikely that the superstructure which he set upon the rectangular base, to which reference has been made above, and which is assumed to have been in the form of a pyramid, was as large as any of the important pyramids of Giza, and the base on which it rested is "a new and interesting fact in Egyptian architecture"; but when he set his funeral monument on the rocky platform in the mountain of Tchesert it is more than probable that either he or his architect had in mind the rocky platform on which the great Pyramids of Giza stand, and it seems as if he built it on a massive rectangular base, so that it might appear conspicuous and imposing from a distance. Like the earlier royal builders of pyramids, Menthu-hetep built a funeral temple in connexion with his pyramid, and established an order of priests, who were to perform the services and ceremonies connected with his worship, and he allowed the ladies of his court to be buried round about it, just as did the kings of old who reigned at Memphis. The great feature of Menthu-hetep's monument, which has no parallel in the older pyramids in the north of Egypt, is the ramp, with a double row of square columns on each side of it, which he built on the front or eastern face of the temple platform.

Now whilst Menthu-hetep III. was employed in building his pyramid and funeral temple, the hereditary governors and nobles of important provinces in Upper Egypt were not slow to avail themselves of the opportunity which peace and the renewed prosperity of

p. 11

the country gave them, and they began to make rock-hewn tombs for themselves and the members of their families in the hills, and to cause their bodies to be buried in elaborately inscribed or painted wooden coffins. Of coffins of this period, one of the oldest examples is that of AMAMU which was purchased by the Trustees of the British Museum so long ago as 1834. 1 On the inside of this coffin is inscribed in black ink in the hieratic character a series of texts which are extracts from the Heliopolitan Recension of the Book of the Dead; these are enclosed within a coloured border, formed of rectangles, painted in blue, green, yellow, and red. Above the texts are carefully drawn, and painted as nearly as possible in their natural colours, representations of most of the objects which the deceased hoped he would use in the Underworld, and these pictures prove that the knowledge of the elaborate funeral rites and ceremonies, which were observed at Memphis under the IVth Dynasty, had descended in a complete state to the period when Amamu's coffin was made and ornamented.

In connection with Amamu's coffin reference must be made to a large group of coffins which was excavated a few years ago at Al-Barsha, a place situated on the north side of a rocky valley, just behind the modern Coptic village of Der An-Nakhla, near Shekh Abada

p. 12

(the ancient Antinoë), in Upper Egypt. All the coffins found here are rectangular in shape, and have so much in common with the coffin of Amamu, in respect of shape, and in the arrangement of their texts and pictures, including the representations of mastaba doors, that it seems impossible to assign to them a date much earlier or later than the period of the XIth Dynasty. For our present purpose, however, whatever be their exact date, they are of the greatest importance, for on the insides of the panels of some of them are painted the oldest known illustrations of certain sections of Books of the Dead. The texts inscribed on them contain extracts from the Heliopolitan Recension of the Book of the Dead, of which we know so much from the selections given in the Pyramids of Unas, Teta, and other kings, but side by side with these are copies of chapters belonging to Books of the Dead, which seem to have been originally composed at some anterior period, and which were intended to reflect the more popular and more materialistic religious views and beliefs. Among such books must be mentioned the "Book of Two Ways," or the "Two Ways of the Blessed Dead," of which a version inscribed on a coffin in the Berlin Museum has been recently published. 1 The rubrical directions of this work show that it was compiled when implicit belief existed in the minds of the Egyptians as to the efficacy of

p. 13

certain "words of power" (hekau) and of pictures of the gods, and it is clear that many portions of it are purely magical, and were intended to produce very material results. Thus concerning one passage a rubric says, "Whosoever knoweth this Chapter may have union with women by night or by day, and the heart (or, desire) of the woman shall come to him whensoever he would enjoy her." This rubric follows a text 1 in which the deceased is made to pray for power of generation similar to that possessed by the god Beba, and for the will and opportunity of overcoming women, and it was to be written on a bandlet which was to be attached to the right arm. Moreover, the soul which had knowledge of certain sections of the work would "live among the living ones," and would "see Osiris every day," and would have "air in his nostrils, and death would never draw nigh unto him." 2 The illustrations which accompany the texts on the coffins from Al-Barsha make it evident that under the XIth Dynasty the Egyptian theologian had not only divided the Under-world in his mind into sections, with doors, &c., but that he was prepared to describe that portion of it which belonged to the blessed dead, and to supply a plan of it! Besides the sections from the "Pyramid Texts," to which reference has already been made, and the "Book of the Two Ways," the coffins of Al-Barsha

p. 14

contain a number of texts of various lengths, many of which have titles, and resemble in form the Chapters of the great Theban Recension of the Book of the Dead. Examples of these have been published in Prof. Maspero's Recueil de Travaux, tom. xxvi., p. 64 ff., by M. P. Lacau, e.g., "Chapter of the Seven Addresses of homage to the goddess Meh-urt"; [Chapter of] "the reassembling of the kinsfolk of a man in Neter-khert"; "Chapter of driving back Kebka"; "Chapter of setting out for Orion," &c.

From the considerations set forth above it is quite clear that the practice of illustrating certain sections of Books of the Dead existed under the XIth Dynasty, and there is no good reason for doubting that it continued to be observed during the prosperous rule of the kings of the XIIth Dynasty. Under the IVth, Vth, and VIth Dynasties the selections of extracts from Books of the Dead which were intended to benefit royal souls in the Underworld were cut upon the walls of the chambers and corridors of their pyramids, and in the case of private individuals texts intended to produce the same effect were usually cut into the walls of the chambers wherein their stone sarcophagi were placed. The pyramids of the kings of the XIth and XIIth Dynasties, whether in the north or south of Egypt, are not, so far as the information at present available goes, characterized by lengthy extracts from Books of the Dead, and officials and men of rank in general were content to dispense with the cutting of religious

p. 15

inscriptions into the sides of stone sarcophagi, and into the walls of the passages and chambers of their tombs in the mountains, and to transfer them to the sides of their brightly painted, rectangular wooden coffins. The practical advantages of this change are obvious. Wooden coffins were easier to obtain and cheaper than stone sarcophagi, longer and fuller selections from religious texts could be easily and quickly traced upon them in the hieratic character, which an expert scribe could, no doubt, write at a rapid rate, the expense of adding coloured drawings was small, and, above all, the deceased would have close to his mummy the sacred writings on which he so greatly relied for assistance in the Other World. The coffin which was fully inscribed could easily be made to hold copies of all the texts deemed to be of vital importance to the dead, and such a coffin when, as was frequently the case, it was placed in a massive, outer, wooden coffin, served the purpose of the large rolls of papyri inscribed with religious and funeral texts, and illustrated with elaborately painted vignettes, which were buried with the dead from the XVIIIth to the XXVIth Dynasty.

After the death of Amen-em-bat III., who was perhaps the greatest king of the XIIth Dynasty, the whole country fell into a state of confusion, and the kings of Thebes ceased to be masters of all Egypt. The kings of the XIIIth Dynasty were Theban and reigned at Thebes, and appear to have maintained their hold

p. 16

in a considerable degree upon Upper Egypt; but the kings of the XIVth Dynasty reigned at Xoïs, in the Delta, and many of them were contemporaries of the kings in Upper Egypt. The kings of the XVth and XVIth Dynasties were Hyksos, or "Shepherd Kings," and their rule was overthrown by Seqenen-Ra, III., a king of the XVIIth Dynasty, and a Theban, probably about B.C. 1800. In the interval between the XIIth and the XVIIIth Dynasties the ceremonies connected with the worship of the gods in their temples, and the funerals of kings and officials, lost the magnificence which had characterized them under the XIIth Dynasty, and the building of pyramids and the making of rock-hewn tombs ceased for a period of some hundreds of years. With the rise to power of the Theban kings, who formed the XVIIIth Dynasty, a marvellous development of temple and funeral ceremonies took place, and, thanks chiefly to the vast quantities of spoil which were poured into Thebes by the victorious armies of Egypt on their return from Western Asia, the cult of the gods and of the dead assumed proportions which it had never reached before in Egypt.

The chief deity of Thebes was Amen, the "Hidden," or perhaps "unknown," god, in whose honour a shrine was built to the north of the city, in a place called "Ap," or "Apt," by the Egyptians, and "Karnak" by the modern inhabitants of Luxor. It is impossible to say at present exactly when the first sanctuary of

p. 17

this god was built at Thebes, but the discovery of the large collection of 457 votive statues of kings and officials and other objects, made by M. Legrain 1 in 1901-2, indicates that the foundation of the sanctuary of Amen dates from a very early period of Dynastic History. 2 Be this as it may, the god Amen seems to have enjoyed no special importance or popularity in Egypt until the XIIth Dynasty, when his sanctuary appears to have been rebuilt and enlarged; but so long as his priests were dependent for maintenance upon the revenues of Upper Egypt alone neither they nor their god can have enjoyed any very great wealth. When Seqenen-Ra III. defeated the Hyksos, and made himself master of all Egypt, and when Aahmes I. (Amasis) drove the Hyksos out from their stronghold Avaris, in the Delta, thus completing the work of the deliverance of the country from a foreign yoke, which Seqenen-Ra III. had begun, they attributed the success of their arms to their god Amen, who was from this time forward regarded not only as the principal god of the Egyptians, but as the "king of the gods." Soon after Amen-hetep I., the successor of Aahmes I., came to the throne, he made war against the Nubians, and became master of the gold-producing districts of the Eastern Sudan. His next care was to rebuild, or perhaps to repair and add to, the sanctuary

p. 18

of Amen, and he founded the famous College of priests of Amen, whose counsels guided, both for good and for evil, the destinies of Egypt for several hundreds of years. He richly endowed these priests and their god and his temple, and on many of the coffins of this brotherhood are representations of members of the order in the act of worshipping his names, and of pouring out libations before his cartouches. The priests of Amen had, no doubt, good reason for worshipping Amen-hetep with such devotion.

It is unnecessary to describe in detail the growth of the cult of Amen under the XVIIIth Dynasty, and it will suffice to say that the history of his cult is, practically, the history of Egypt for nearly one thousand years. His priests made him possessor of the principal attributes and titles of all the ancient gods of Egypt, and their absolute power enabled them to modify the old systems of belief of the country. They introduced the primitive gods of the land into their own system of theology, but assigned to them subordinate positions and powers inferior to those of Amen, or Amen-Ra, as he was called, and the new editions of most of the old religious works which appeared at Thebes bore the traces of having been edited in accordance with their views and opinions. In many of its aspects the cult of Amen was less material than that of many of the old gods, and the religion of the priests themselves ruthlessly rejected many of the primitive beliefs which survived among the populace

p. 19

in general. They were obliged to tolerate and respect the universal belief in Osiris as the judge, king, and god of the dead, for they, of course, found it impossible to eliminate from the minds of the people the effect which the traditions of a material heaven, handed down for untold generations, had made upon. them. Among the servants of Amen and his temple, however, there were some who preferred to put their faith in the religious writings which had satisfied their ancestors many centuries before, and to these we owe the great collection of religious and funeral texts called PER EM HRU, "[The Book of] Coming forth by Day," which is now commonly known as the Theban Recension of the Book of the Dead.

It is true that the subject matter of many of the texts is older than the IVth Dynasty, and that the phraseology of some dates from the period of the Vth and VIth Dynasties, and that the forms in which most of them are cast are not more recent than the XIth or XIIth Dynasty, but it is equally true that the editing and arrangement of them by the Theban priests, to say nothing of the addition of supplementary hymns, Chapters, and coloured illustrations, produced a very decided change in the general teachings of the collection.

"The Book of Coming Forth by Day," in its Theban form, was an illustrated guide to the kingdom of Osiris, but its teachings did not satisfy the strict followers of Amen-Ra, and they brought into use a Recension of a work in which they were able to promulgate the

p. 20

particular ideas of their order as to the future state of the dead. The followers of Osiris believed that the righteous dead would find their everlasting abode in the kingdom of that god, and would enjoy in a fertile land, with running streams, a life very like that which the well-to-do Egyptian lived upon earth. The followers of Amen-Ra aimed at securing a place in the boat of the Sun-god, i.e., the "Boat of Millions of Years," so that they might sail over the sky with him each day, and enjoy the sight of the earth on which they had lived, and might, under his all-powerful protection, pass through the regions of darkness by night, and emerge in heaven, being reborn each day. In the kingdom of Osiris the beatified dead ate bread-cakes made from one wonderful kind of grain, and drank beer made from another kind, and enjoyed conjugal intercourse, and the company of their relations and friends; all their material comforts were supplied by the use of words of power, &c., by which they even obtained entrance into that kingdom.

Entrance to the Boat of Millions of Years was likewise obtained by the knowledge of magical words and formulae, and of the secret names of the great gods, but the food on which lived the beatified souls who succeeded in securing a place in the Boat consisted of the emanations of the god Ra, or, according to the priests of Amen, Amen-Ra. In other words, the beatified souls in the Boat became beings formed of the light of Ra, on which they subsisted. The belief

p. 21

that the souls of the righteous flew into the Boat of Ra is a very old one, but the doctrine in the form in which it was developed by the priests of Amen can never have been universally accepted in Egypt, for it was not sufficiently material to satisfy any but the educated classes. The great kings of the XVIIIth and XIXth Dynasties, being convinced that their military successes were due to the influence and operation of Amen-Ra, dutifully accepted the instructions of the priests of the god in all matters relating to his worship, and they permitted them to prepare tombs for them in the Valley of Biban al-Muluk at Thebes, which were built and ornamented according to the views held by the followers of Amen-Ra concerning the Other World. The oldest tombs here, i.e., those of the XVIIIth Dynasty, are usually entered by means of long, sloping corridors that lead down into the chambers which held the sarcophagi, and into smaller halls which adjoin the large chambers; in the later tombs the corridors are often very long, and it is this characteristic which caused certain Greek writers to call them Σύριγγες, i.e., "shepherd's pipes." Of the forty-five tombs in this valley (Strabo mentions forty only), the oldest royal tomb appears to be that of Thothmes I., and the most recent that of Rameses XII., of the XXth Dynasty. These tombs vary greatly in details, just as they do in size and in the arrangement and number of their chambers, but it seems that each tomb was intended to represent the Underworld, and that the ceremonies,

p. 22

which were performed in it as. the mummy was taken from the entrance to the last chamber in which it was to rest, were highly symbolical, and that the progress of the body through the tomb was, so far as it was possible, made to resemble that of the Sun-god through the hours of the night in the Other World.

The religious texts with which the walls of the royal tombs are decorated do not consist of extracts from the funeral works of the Ancient and Middle Empires, but of sections from a work entitled AM-TUAT, i.e., [The Book of] "what is in the Tuat," or Underworld, and many of these are illustrated more or less fully with coloured pictures of the gods, mythological scenes, &c. The rubrics show that portions of this work belong to remote antiquity, and many of the beliefs which appear in it are the products of the period when the Egyptians were partly, if not wholly, savages. In the book itself numbers of gods and mythological beings are mentioned whose names are not found elsewhere in Egyptian literature. As we find it in the tombs of the royal followers of Amen, the Book "Am-Tuat" contains all the dogmas and doctrines which the priests of Amen held concerning the future life and the state. and condition of the dead, and it is quite easy to see that the great object of those who compiled it was to prove that Amen-Ra was not only the head of the gods in heaven, and the ruler of the world which he had created, but also the king of all the gods of the dead, and the master of all the beings who were in the

p. 23

[paragraph continues] Underworld. In other words, the priests of Amen asserted the absolute sovereignty of their god, and their own religious supremacy. It is, however, interesting to note that certain kings did not entirely shake off their belief in Osiris, and in the efficacy of the Chapters of the Book of Coming Forth by Day, for Thothmes III. was swathed in a linen sheet on which was written a copy of the CLIVth Chapter, and Amen-hetep III. was rolled up in sheets whereon extracts from several Chapters of that work were inscribed. Seti I. went a good deal further, for although fully illustrated copies of Divisions I.-XI. of the Book "Am-Tuat" were painted on the walls of his tomb, he took care to have a complete copy of the Book of Gates, 1 with full illustrations, and copies of the LXXIInd and LXXXIXth Chapters of the Book of Coming Forth by Day cut on his alabaster sarcophagus.

The Chapter which Thothmes III. believed to be all-powerful is entitled "Chapter of not letting the body perish," and if its words really express his convictions, he must have been terrified at the idea of his material body falling into dust and decay, and must have hoped for its resurrection through Osiris. The Chapters which Seti I. had cut on his sarcophagus are entitled the "Chapter of Coming Forth by Day, and of making a way through Ammehet," and the "Chapter of causing the soul to be united to its body in the Underworld." In the former he declares that

p. 24

he knows the names of the gods who preside over the Other World, and also the proper words of power, and because he has this knowledge he demands admission into Sekhet-Aaru, a portion of Osiris's kingdom of Sekhet-hetepet, and a constant and abundant supply of wheat (for bread), barley (for beer), incense, unguents, &c., and the power to assume any form he pleases at will. In the latter he calls upon certain gods to make his soul rejoin its body, and, addressing the gods who tow the Boat of Millions of Years, he asks them to cause him to be born from the womb of the Sky-goddess Nut in the eastern horizon of heaven, [daily,] for ever.

It has already been said that a complete illustrated copy of the Book of Gates was also inscribed on the sarcophagus of Seti I., and it is not easy to explain this fact until we remember the important position which it makes Osiris to hold in the Other World. That the book is formed of very ancient materials is evident from the last sections, which certainly contain magical texts and pictures specially prepared with the object of making the sun to rise, and there is little doubt that the latter are representations of the ceremonies which the, primitive Egyptians actually, performed to produce that most desirable effect. The earlier sections of the Book are, full of magical ideas, but scattered among them are expressions of beliefs which, it seems, must belong to a later period of civilization, and passages which impress the reader

p. 25

with the idea that they were composed by men who believed that the righteous would be rewarded and the wicked punished in the world to come. Special prominence is given to the conception of the Judgment, wherein Osiris is the Judge of the dead. As the result of this Judgment the righteous have allotments of land meted out to them, which vary in size according to their deserts, and the wicked are slain, and their bodies cut in pieces, and their souls destroyed. In many particulars the views of the Book of Gates concerning the future state agree closely with those of the Book of Coming Forth by Day.

The net result of the facts stated in the last two paragraphs proves that Seti I. relied for salvation upon the protection, part magical and part religious, afforded by the sacred writings of two great schools of religious thought, the leaders of which in his day preached opposing and contradictory doctrines. It may be argued that by filling the walls of his tomb and sarcophagus with the texts of such books he was merely acting from the point of view of religious expediency, wishing to indicate his impartiality in respect of the followers of Amen and the followers of Osiris, and his respect for the ancient traditional beliefs, however material, crude, and impossible they may have appeared to him personally. This, however, is unlikely to have been the case, and it is far more probable that he believed every religious or funeral text to have its own special value as a means of

p. 26

salvation, and that he selected for inscribing on the walls of his tomb and sarcophagus those which he thought would bc the most likely to secure for him in the next world an existence which would be at once happy and everlasting. Therefore Seti I. provided himself with amulets, ushabtiu figures, magical formulae, pictures of gods and fiends to be used in working sympathetic magic, religious formulae and copies of hymns and funeral works, an inscribed tomb and sarcophagus, &c.; in fact, he was painfully anxious to omit nothing from the inscriptions in his tomb which would propitiate any god, or appease the wrath and turn aside the opposition of any of the fiends wherewith he had filled his Underworld.


8:1 See a letter in the Times of June 22nd, 1905 (p. 4), on the "Most Ancient Temple at Thebes," by Prof. E. Naville and Mr. If. R. Hall.

11:1 See Birch, Ancient Egyptian Texts front the Coffin of Amamu in the British Museum, London, 1886.

12:1 Schack-Schackenburg, Das Buch von den Zwei Wegen des Seligen Toten, Leipzig, 1903.

13:1 See page 49, l. 9-p. 51, l. 11.

13:2 See page 49, ll. 4-9.

17:1 See Maspero's Recueil de Travaux, tom. xxvii., p. 67.

17:2 According to M. Legrain, the IIIrd Dynasty (Recueil, tom. xxvii., p. 67).

23:1 See within, Chapter IV., p. 85.

Next: Chapter II. The Earliest Egyptian Conception of the Other World.