Homosexuality in ancient Egypt

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A Ramesside period ostracon, depicting a homosexual couple in coitus (two men having sex together)

Very little is known about the nature of homosexuality in Ancient Egypt. Most of what historians believe is based on speculation.

Historical Examples[edit]

The duo Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, manicurists in the Palace of King Niuserre during the Fifth Dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, circa 2400 B.C.[1] are speculated to have been homosexual based on a representation of them embracing nose-to-nose in their shared tomb.

However, it is also likely that they were just twin brothers[citation needed]. In Ancient Egypt, it is believed that death is just a rebirth into another realm, which is a common belief for the rest of Africa[citation needed]. Native African beliefs of Death and the Afterlife that the way you were born is the way you died[citation needed], so the two men were buried that way because that was the way they came into the world, as twin brothers[citation needed]. Khnum also means "to join" and Khnum is in both their names, more evidence that the two men are just twin brothers[citation needed]. They share the name of a creator god who is believed to be the one who fashions the person's soul and body on his divine potter's wheel. The soul and body are believed to be twins, thus the reason why Khnum's name also means "to conjoin".[2][3]

The men were also priests[citation needed], upholders of Ma'at (the feminine representation of Law [Maa])[citation needed]. According to the 42 negative confessions it states: "Hail, Qerrti, who comest forth from Amentet, I have not committed adultery, I have not lain with men."[4][5]

Homosexuality in Ancient Egyptian Art[edit]

Ostraca dating from the Ramesside Period have been found, which depict hastily drawn images of homosexual as well as heterosexual sex.[citation needed]

Homosexuality in Ancient Egyptian Literature[edit]

The Tale of King Neferkare & General Sanset[edit]

This Middle Kingdom story has an intriguing plot revolving around a king's clandestine homosexual affair with one of his generals. It may reference the actual Pharaoh Pepi II.[6]

The contendings of Horus and Seth[edit]

This Middle Kingdom satire of the rivalry between the Egyptian Gods Horus and Seth relates a story in which Seth attempts to seduce his rival Horus. Horus, warned by his mother Isis, does not accept Seth's sexual offer, thus avoiding humiliation from the other gods and disgracing Seth. Seth displays homosexual characteristics in other fragmentary texts as well, commenting "how lovely your backside is!" to his arch-rival Horus.

A New Kingdom version of the satire is more complete. In it, Seth invites Horus to a feast at his home, and when evening arrives both of them make a bed and lay down together. That night, they engage in intercrural sex. Horus, having caught a sample of Seth's semen brings it to his mother Isis. Isis, shocked and appalled, chops off the her son's semen-covered hand and throws it into the Nile (She later makes him a new one.) Some time after that, Isis arouses Horus and collects his semen, to sprinkle it on Seth's favorite food, cos (romaine) lettuce. The trick works and Seth eats the tainted cos lettuce, causing him to become pregnant with Horus' child, his nephew. Seth remains unaware of his pregnancy until Thoth commands that Horus' semen come out of Seth, to unknown consequences. Thus, the plan to seduce Horus backfired on Seth.

Ancient Egyptian sexual practices as reflected in the Bible[edit]

The Bible enumerates homosexuality among one of the forbidden sexual relationships deemed as "the doings of the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 18:3), from which it can be inferred that homosexuality was indeed practiced by some segment of the population of Ancient Egypt.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Thomas A Dowson, "Archaeologists, Feminists, and Queers: sexual politics in the construction of the past". In Pamela L. Geller, Miranda K. Stockett, eds., Feminist Anthropology: Past, Present, and Future, pp 89–102. University of Pennsylvania Press 2006, ISBN 0-8122-3940-7
  2. ^ E.A. Wallis Budge, The Great Awakening The Egyptian Book of the Dead:Book of Coming Forth Today from Night, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1894. p.196
  3. ^ The Negative Confessions from the Papyrus of Ani from the Papyrus of Ani 2400 BCE translated by E.A. Wallis Budge 1892
  4. ^ E.A. Wallis Budge, The Great Awakening The Egyptian Book of the Dead:Book of Coming Forth Today from Night, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1894. p.196
  5. ^ The Negative Confessions from the Papyrus of Ani from the Papyrus of Ani 2400 BCE translated by E.A. Wallis Budge 1892
  6. ^ Wit and Humour in Ancient Egypt, Houliban,- P