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Amun
 

Amun (also spelt Amon, Amoun, Amen, and rarely Imenand, and spelt in Greek as Ammon, and Hammon) was the name of a deity, in Egyptian mythology, who gradually rose to become one of the most important, before disappearing back into the shadows.

God of Air
Originally, he was simply nothing more than a deification of the concept of air, and thus wind, one of the four fundamental concepts held to have composed the primordial universe, in the Ogdoad cosmogeny, whose cult was strongest in Heliopolis.

His name reflects this function, since it means the hidden one, reflecting the invisibility of the air, and of the wind. Like all other members of the Ogdoad, his male aspect was usually depicted as a frog, or frog-headed. Symbolically, invisibility was represented by the colour blue, since it was the colour of the sky, seen through the air, and so this was the colour usually given to Amun's image.

As with the other concepts in the Ogdoad, he was dualistically considered to have a female aspect, referred to as Amunet (also spelt Amentet, Amentit, Imentet, Imentit, Amaunet, and Ament), which was simply the feminine form of the word Amun. The other female aspects of the Ogdoad were all depicted as snakes, thus Amunet was depicted likewise.

Creator
Gradually, as god of air, he came to be associated with the breath of life, which created the ba, particularly in Thebes. By the First Intermediate Period this had lead to him being thought of, in these areas, as the creator god, titled father of the gods, preceding the Ogdoad, although also part of it. As he became more significant, he was assigned a wife (Amunet being his own female aspect, more than a distinct wife), and since he was the creator, his wife was considered the divine mother from which the cosmos emerged, who in the areas where Amun was worshipped was, by this time, Mut.

Amun became depicted in human form, seated on a throne, wearing on his head a plain deep circlet from which rise two straight parallel plumes, possibly symbolic of the tail feathers of a bird, a reference to his earlier status as a wind god.

Having become more important than Menthu, the local war god of Thebes, Menthu's authority became said to exist because he was the son of Amun. However, as Mut was infertile, it was believed that she, and thus Amun, had adopted Menthu instead. In later years, due to the shape of a pool outside the sacred temple of Mut at Thebes, Menthu was replaced, as their adopted son, by Chons, the moon god.

King
With the eviction of the Hyksos rulers from Egypt, by the armies of the Eighteenth dynasty, Thebes, where the victors were based, became the most important city, and so Amun became nationally important. To Amun the Pharaohs attributed all their successful enterprises, and on his temples they lavished their wealth and captured spoil.

And so, when the Greeks reported back on their visits to Egypt, Amun, as king of the gods, became identified by the Greeks with Zeus, and so his consort Mut with Hera.

As the Egyptians considered themselves suppressed during the period of Hyksos rule, the victory under the supreme god Amun, was seen as his championing of the underdog. Consequently, Amun was viewed as upholding the rights to justice of the poor, being titled Vizier of the poor, and aiding those who travelled in his name, as the protector of the road. Since he upheld Ma'at, those who prayed to Amun were required first to demonstrate that they were worthy, by confessing their sins.

Fertility God
When, subsequently, Egypt conquered Kush, they identified the chief deity of the Kushites as Amun. This deity was depicted as Ram headed, specifically a woolly Ram with curved horns, and so Amun started becoming associated with the Ram. Indeed, due to the aged appearance of it, they came to believe that this had been the original form of Amun, and that Kush was where he had been born.

However, since rams, due to their rutting, were considered a symbol of virility, Amun became thought of as a fertility deity, and so started to absorb the identity of Min, becoming Amun-Min. This association with virility lead to Amun-Min gaining the epithet Kamutef, meaning Bull of his mother, in which form he was often found depicted on the walls of Karnak, ithyphallic, and with a scourge.

Sun God
As Amun's cult grew bigger, Amun rapidly became identified with the chief God that was worshipped in other areas, Ra-Herakhty, the merged identities of Ra, and Horus. This identification led to a merger of identities, with Amun becoming Amun-Ra. As Ra had been the father of Shu, and Tefnut, and the remainder of the Ennead, so Amun-Ra was likewise identified as their father.

Ra-Herakhty had been a sun god, and so this became true of Amun-Re as well, Amun becoming considered the hidden aspect of the sun (e.g. during the night), in contrast to Ra-Herakhty as the visible aspect, since Amun clearly meant the one who is hidden. This complexity over the sun led to a gradual movement towards the support of a more pure form of deity. Thus the pharaoh, Amenhotep IV introduced the worship of Aten, the sun's disc itself, identifying it as Amun-Ra.

Although Atenism, the worship of Aten, had started out as standard henotheism, it very quickly became, for reasons that are not very clear, entirely monotheistic. Indeed, it is even possible that this is the first instance of monotheism in the world. Subsequently, Amenhotep IV started persecuting the worship of Amun, and erased the name from monuments, even changing his own name to Akhenaten in favour of Aten.

However, this abrupt change was unpopular, particularly with the previous priesthoods, who had now suddenly found themselves without power. Consequently, when Akhenaten died, his name was struck out, and all his changes undone, almost as if they had not occurred. Worship of Aten was replaced, and that of Amun-Ra restored.

Decline
After the Twentieth dynasty moved the centre of power back to the old capital from Thebes, the powerbase of Amun's cult had been removed, and the authority of Amun began to wane. Under the Twenty-first dynasty the secondary line of priest kings of Thebes upheld his dignity to the best of their power, and the Twenty-second favoured Thebes.

As the sovereignty weakened the division between Upper and Lower Egypt asserted itself, and thereafter Thebes would have rapidly decayed had it not been for the piety of the kings of Nubia towards Amun, whose worship had long prevailed in their country. Thebes was at first their Egyptian capital, and they honoured Amun greatly, although their wealth and culture were not sufficient to effect much.

However, in the rest of Egypt, his cult was rapidly overtaken, in popularity, by the less devisive cult of the Legend of Osiris and Isis, which had not been associated with Akhenaten's actions. And so there, his identity became first subsumed into Ra (Ra-Herakhty), who still remained an identifiable figure in the Osiris cult, but ultimately, became merely an aspect of Horus.

In areas outside of Egypt, where the Egyptians had previously brought the worship of Amun, Amun's fate was not as bad. In Nubia, where his name was pronounced Amane, he remained the national god, with his priesthoods at Meroe and Nobatia, via an oracle, regulating the whole government of the country, choosing the king, and directing his military expeditions.

According to Diodorus Siculus, they were even able to compel kings to commit suicide, although this behaviour stopped when Arkamane, in the 3rd century BC, slew them.

Likewise, in Libya, there remained an oracle of Amun in the desert, at the oasis of Siwa. Such was its reputation among the Greeks that Alexander the Great journeyed there, after the battle of Issus, and during his occupation of Egypt, in order to be acknowledged the son of the god. Even during this occupation, Amun, identified as a form of Zeus, continued to be the great god of Thebes, in its decay.

 

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This article is copied from an article on Wikipedia.org - the free encyclopedia created and edited by online user community. Although the vast majority of the wikipedia encyclopedia articles provide accurate and timely information please do not assume the accuracy of any particular article. This article is distributed under the terms of GNU Free Documentation License.

 

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