Stories of divine birth in the eighteenth dynasty
Stories of divine birth from the eighteenth dynasty
The concept of kingship and divinity during eighteenth dynasty
The concept of kingship during the eighteenth dynasty has changed a lot from previous concepts however remaining faithful to middle kingdom concepts. The concepts changed with regards of the vocabulary used at this time where the concept of ‘son ship’ did not necessarily mean from father to son but it was more hierarchical where it worked in a sense of mythological attire. The names chosen during this period such as the prenomen and the Horus name started to change in a way where they started to use more humanistic qualities such as calming, protecting and uniting…etc. As for the second concept that changed during this period is the mythological descent of the god king who sat on the Horus throne where each king would have his own god as it was greatly affected by the second intermediate period where Egypt was occupied by Hyksos and they had their own god. By the time of the eighteenth dynasty, Amun the god of Thebes who has a human form, became the greatest god of Egypt and was united with Re, the sun god. Amun was given the father like form and he was looking after the king and in the new kingdom to make their kingship more legitimate stories of divine birth emerged. The king demanded respect and too much of this respect relied on stories of his divine birth as according to Barry J Kemp in his book “Ancient Egypt; anatomy of a civilization”, respect requires ‘backing of myth and the regular reinforcement of ceremony to put into perspective the shortcomings of individual kings.’ The two stories that completely survive as discussed above were the story of Hatshepsut and Amenhotep III.
Hatshepsut’s divine birth
Since in the eighteenth dynasty, Amun-Re became the greatest god in Egypt, stories of divine birth had to be associated with him. This was clearly shown in Hatshepsut’s temple in Deir El Bahri where she said that she had built this temple as a garden for her father Amun and indeed the temple looks like a garden with little shrubs and trees and ramps leading to the temple. To further legitimize that she is the rightful heir to the throne, she recorded on the walls of her temple in the northern half of the middle terrace in Deir El Bahri the story of her divine birth to prove that she is the physical daughter of Amun. The story of her divine birth is recorded as a series of sequential scenes showing the contact between her mother queen Ahmose and Amun-Re and how she is the physical daughter of Amun. The story begins with scenes of her mother Ahmose, wife of Thutmose I where the gods decide that she would be the one to give birth to the ruler of Egypt. Upon making this decision, Amun-Re descends to earth in the form of her husband Thutmose I and visits her in her chamber. He first finds her asleep but his godly presence awakens her and by his divine breath impregnates her. Before he left her chamber, he revealed his divine nature to Ahmose and told her that she will give birth to the future ruler of Egypt. He told queen Ahmose “This is my daughter, Khnemet-Amun Hatshepsut, may she live. I designate her as my successor. She it is who shall be on this throne. Assuredly, it is she who shall sit on this heavenly throne. She shall issue decrees to the people from all departments of the palace. Assuredly, it is she who shall guide you. Obey her word; assemble you at her command…for she is your god, the daughter of a god.” Then after this scene, scenes of queen Ahmose being heavily pregnant were shown which is unique in ancient Egyptian, in this scene the queen was shown being led to the birthing room by Heket; the Egyptian frog goddess of childbirth and Khnum who was a god that was believed to create children’s bodies in their mother’s wombs using potter’s wheel. The Queen is then shown with midwives at the time of the birth; various gods also attend the birth (including Meskhent the goddess of births). After the birth two Hathor goddesses suckle the baby and its astral self. Finally the goddess of history, Safkhet, makes a record of Hatshepsut's birth.
Amenhotep III's divine birth
The same inscriptions that described Hatshepsut’s divine birth were almost copied in Amenhotep III’s temple at Karnak, also claiming Amenhotep III divine birth and showing that he is the rightful heir to the throne as he is divine as he was the physical son of the god Amun. These inscriptions found were inscribed in the birth room in the temple. The inscriptions say that Amun-Re visited Thutmose IV wife, the mother of Amenhotep III in her chamber, disguised as her husband Thutmose IV. He found her sleeping but as soon as he entered her chamber, she was awakened by his divine aroma and then he revealed his true nature in front of her which was a divine god. After he made love to her, he told her that he had placed the ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt in her body. Words spoken by Amun-Re; “Amenhotep, ruler of Thebes, is the name of this child I have placed in your body…He shall exercise the beneficent kingship in this whole land…He shall rule the two lands like Ra forever.”
- Clayton, Paeter A. Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. London. Thames and Hudson. 1994
- Kemp, Barry J. Ancient Egypt; Anatomy of a Civilization. New York. 2006.
- O'conner, David and Silverman, David. Ancient Egyptian Kingship. New York. 1995.
- O'conner, David and Clinee, Eric. Amenhotep III; Perspectives on His Reign. University of Michigan. 1998.
- Roehering, Catherine and Keller, Cathleen. Hatshepsut, From Queen to Pharaoh. New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New Haven. Yale University Press. 2005.
- Tyldesley, Joyce. Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh. London. New York, N.Y. Viking. 1996.