From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A depiction of Bes based on various sources
Major cult centerHermopolis, but worshipped everywhere
SymbolOstrich feather
Personal information
ParentsMin (god) (in some myths)
ConsortBeset, Taweret
Bes in hieroglyphs


Bes (/ˈbɛs/; also spelled as Bisu, Coptic: Ⲃⲏⲥ), together with his feminine counterpart Beset, is an ancient Egyptian deity, A Deity likely of Kushite/Nubian or Nehesi C-Group culture origin [2] worshipped as a protector of households and, in particular, of mothers, children, and childbirth. Bes later came to be regarded as the defender of everything good and the enemy of all that is bad. According to Donald Mackenzie in 1907, Bes may have been a Middle Kingdom import from Nubia or Somalia,[3] and his cult did not become widespread until the beginning of the New Kingdom, but more recently several Bes-like figurines have been found in deposits from the Naqada period of pre-dynastic Egypt, like the thirteen figurines found at Tell el-Farkha [4]

Worship of Bes spread as far north as the area of Syria and as far west as the Balearic Islands (Ibiza) in Spain, and later into the Roman and Achaemenid Empires.


People in Upper Egypt started venerating Bes long before people in Lower Egypt. The word “bes” means “cat” in Nubian, suggesting a possible Nubian or southern origin of Bes. Bes originally looked like a cat standing on his hind legs, before becoming more anthropomorphic and usually depicted with a leopard skin around his neck and resembling more a dwarf.[5]


Egyptian composite capital with a Bes capital above it, in the Dendera Temple complex (Egypt)

Bes was a household protector, becoming responsible – throughout ancient Egyptian history – for such varied tasks as killing snakes, fighting off evil spirits, watching after children, and aiding women in labour by fighting off evil spirits, and thus present with Taweret at births.[citation needed]

Images of the deity, quite different from those of the other gods, were kept in homes. Normally Egyptian gods were shown in profile, but instead Bes appeared in full face portrait, ithyphallic, and sometimes in a soldier's tunic, so as to appear ready to launch an attack on any approaching evil. He scared away demons from houses, so his statue was put up as a protector.[citation needed] Since he drove off evil, Bes also came to symbolize the good things in life – music, dance, and sexual pleasure. In the New Kingdom, tattoos of Bes could be found on the thighs of dancers, musicians and servant girls.[6] Many instances of Bes masks and costumes from the New Kingdom and later have been uncovered. These show considerable wear, thought to be too great for occasional use at festivals, and are therefore thought to have been used by professional performers, or given out for rent.[citation needed]

Later, in the Ptolemaic period of Egyptian history, chambers were constructed, painted with images of Bes and his wife Beset, thought by Egyptologists to have been for the purpose of curing fertility problems or general healing rituals.[citation needed]

Like many Egyptian gods, the worship of Bes or Beset was exported overseas. While the female variant had been more popular in Minoan Crete, the male version would prove popular with the Phoenicians and the ancient Cypriots.[7]

At the end of the 6th century BC, images of Bes began to spread across the Achaemenid Empire, which Egypt belonged to at the time. Images of Bes have been found at the Persian capital of Susa, and as far away as central Asia. Over time, the image of Bes became more Persian in style, as he was depicted wearing Persian clothes and headdress.[citation needed]


Modern scholars such as James Romano claim that in its earliest inception Bes was a representation of a lion rearing up on its hind legs.[8] After the Third Intermediate Period, Bes is often seen as just the head or the face, often worn as amulets.

Popular culture[edit]


  • The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson. ISBN 0-500-05120-8
  • The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Ian Shaw. ISBN 0192804588


  1. ^ "VYGUS Dictionary 2018 PDF | PDF | Linguistic Typology | Syntactic Relationships".
  2. ^ "Bes, the Odd God: Egypt's Nubian Party Boy". 17 November 2023.
  3. ^ Mackenzie, Donald A. (1907). Egyptian myth and legend. With historical narrative, notes on race problems, comparative, etc. London: The Gresham Publishing. p. 312. The grotesque god Bes also came into prominence during the Eighteenth Dynasty; it is possible that he was introduced as early as the Twelfth. Although his worship spread into Syria he appears to have been of African origin and may have been imported from Somaliland.
  4. ^ Teeter, Emily (2011). Before the pyramids. Chicago,Illinois: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. p. 59. Thirteen dwarf figurines (fig.6.8) were found at Tell el-Farkha, the largest group of such figurines so far discovered anywhere in Egypt (Buszek 2008). Dwarfs played an important role in the culture as indicated by images of them in art, but also by burials of dwarfs found in the immediate vicinity of tombs of the kings and aristocracy. The depictions from Tell el-Farkha attract particular attention because of the high level of workmanship of most of them, as well as the realism of their facial expressions and the representation of their bodies. These are far more skillfully done than any of the previously known early dwarf sculptures
  5. ^ Carr, Karen (2017-06-18). "Who was the African god Bes?". Study Guides. Retrieved 2023-07-05.
  6. ^ "Faience Figurine and Bowl - Archaeology Magazine". Retrieved 2023-07-10.
  7. ^ Weingarten, Judith, "The Arrival of Bes[et] on Middle-Minoan Crete". In: Jana Mynárová, Pavel Onderka, and Peter Pavúk (ed.s): There and Back Again – the Crossroads II. Proceedings of an International Conference Held in Prague, September 15-18, 2014. Czech Institute of Egyptology, Faculty of Arts of the Charles University, Prague 2015, ISBN 978-80-7308-575-9, pp. 181–196.
  8. ^ Richard H. Wilkinson: The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson, London 2017, ISBN 0-500-05120-8, p. 104.

Further reading[edit]