THE COSMOLOGY OF THEBES
Brian E. Colless
Hymns to Amon-Rey
The Ennead, which came forth from Nun*, assembles at the sight of you, *(primeval waters)
great in glory, Lord of lords, who fashioned his own being . . .(Amon-Rey)
For those in darkness he shines forth, to illuminate them . . . .
All bodies are clothed when his brightness comes.
The sky is of gold, Nun* is of lapis lazuli, *(the sea is blue-green)
the earth is turquoise, when he rises in their midst.
The gods see their temples opened.
People start to see when he appears.
All the trees stir at his presence, . . . their leaves unfold.
The fish leap in the water, frisking with love for him.
The cattle frolic in his presence.
The birds flap their wings; they know him in his time of perfection.
They (all) live because they see him every day. (cp. Hymn to the Aton)
They are in his hand, sealed with his seal,
and no god may unseal them but his majesty.
Thebes is the most fundamental of all cities. (or: the norm for every city)
The water and land were in her at the beginning of time,
the sand came to delimit the fields,
and to create her ground upon the (primordial) hillock,
and thus the land came into existence.
Then people came into being in her,
to found every city with her very own name,* *Niwt, The City
for they are given the name city* *niwt, city
only under the authority of Thebes, the Eye of Rey.
Her Majesty* came as the Sound Eye and the Beneficial Eye, *Thebes
to bind the land together with her essence,* *(ka)
coming to rest and alighting in Ishru
in her form as Sekhmet, Mistress of the Two Lands.
How rich* she is, they say of her, *(weser)
in her name of Waset*. *Egyptian name for Thebes
She remains sound in her name of the Sound Eye,
the eye within, which is in his sun disc.
Opposite-her-Lord, appearing and appointed in her place
in her name of Appointed-of-Places*, without her peer. *’Ipt-Swt, Karnak
Every other city is under her shadow,
to magnify themselves through Thebes, the fundamental.
How fair you sail, Harakhti*, *Horus of the horizon; here Amon-Rey
when daily you fulfil the same round as yesterday.
Maker of years and marshal of the months,
days and nights and hours follow his course.
You make yourself newer today than yesterday. . . .
Alone watchful, to whom slumber is abhorrent;
mankind may sleep, but his eyes are wakeful. . . .
Crossing the sky, passing through the underworld,
the sun is on every path, circling before men's faces.
All people have their faces turned towards him;
humans and gods alike exclaim: How welcome you are.
The foe* has been speared, *Nik, the serpent or dragon Apophis
the rebels are massacred by his sword. . . .
The divine ship of millions is on a fair course,
the crew shout for joy and their hearts are glad,
for the enemies of the Lord of All are overthrown,
his foes in heaven and earth are no more.
Heaven, Thebes, Heliopolis, and the underworld,
all their inhabitants rejoice over their lord,
when they see him powerful in his risings,
furnished with valour and victory, and powerful in his forms.
You are triumphant, Amon-Rey:
the rebels are overthrown, repelled by the spear.
The remover of evil, who dispels diseases,
a physician who heals the eye without recourse to remedies,
who opens the eyes and banishes squint,
who rescues whom he will, even from the underworld,
who saves from Fate according to the fullness of his heart.
He possesses eyes and ears,
and a face on all sides for those whom he loves,
hearkening to the prayers of the one who invokes him,
coming from afar in a mere moment to the one who calls him.
He prolongs life or he shortens it,
giving a loved one more than his fated due.
The name of Amon is a water charm over the flood*; *Nun
the crocodile* has no power when his name is pronounced. *hnty, or monster
The winds are dispelled, the rebellious wind turns back. . . .
And he is a sweet breeze to one who cries to him,
a rescuer of the weary. . . .
He is of more avail than millions *cp. prayer of Ramesses at the battle of Qadesh
to the person who places him in his heart;
one man is stronger through his name than hundreds of thousands,
the goodly protector in very truth, successful at grasping opportunities,
when no one can withstand him.
The Eight Gods* were your first form, *(the Ogdoad of Hermopolis)
until you completed them, you being one*. *(or alone)
Your body is mysterious among the great ones;
You have concealed* yourself as Amon at the head of the gods. *'mn
You made your transformation as Tatenen*, *'land emerging', primeval god
to give birth to the primeval gods in your first primeval time.
Your beauty is praised as Bull of his Mother.
You have removed yourself as the dweller in heaven, abiding as Rey.
He has come into the (divine) fathers, making their sons,
making perfect inheritances for your children.
You were the first to exist, when there were no other beings;
the land was not empty of you at the first time,
all other gods came into existence after you. . . .
The Ennead was joined with your limbs,
your form is all the gods united in your body.
You emerged first to begin the beginning,
Amon, whose name is concealed* from the gods, *’mn
oldest of the old, older than they,
Tatenen*, who shaped himself as Ptah*. *chief gods of Memphis
The fingers of his body are the Eight Gods*; *Ogdoad of Hermopolis
rising as Rey from Nun, he constantly renews himself;
he spurts out . . . Shu and Tefnut. . . .
He rises upon his throne according to the desire of his heart.
He gained dominion over all that is . . . .
He continues the kingdom of eternity for ever,
established as sole lord.
His form shone in the First Time,
and all living beings were struck dumb by his glory.
He cackled aloud as the Great Cackler
in the place where (?) he created himself, he being alone.
He began to speak in the midst of the silence,
and he opened all eyes, making them see.
He began to cry aloud, when the earth was dumb;
his roaring spread about, and there was no one else.
He fashioned all things that are and brought them to life;
he showed all people the way to go;
their hearts came alive when they saw him. . . .
The One who came into being in the First Time,
Amon, who came into being at the beginning.
No one knows his form.
No god came into being before him.
There was no other god with him to tell his nature.
He had no mother to give him his name.
He had no father to beget him and say This is mine. (It is I.)
He was the one who shaped his own egg.
The mighty one, mysterious of birth, creator of his own beauty,
the divine god, creator of himself.
All the gods came into being after he began his existence.
Mysterious of form, resplendent of appearance,
the wondrous god of many forms.
All the gods make their boast in him,
to magnify themselves through his beauty, since he is utterly divine.
Rey himself is united with him in body.
He is the great one who is in Heliopolis*. *(i.e. Atum)
He is called Ta-tenen*, *(Ptah of Memphis)
and Amon, who comes forth from Nun and leads the people.
Another of his forms is the Ogdoad.* *(the Eight Gods of Hermopolis)
Primeval god who fathered the primeval gods,
who caused Rey to be born.
He completed* himself as Atum*, one in body with him. *(tem)
He is lord of all, the origin of all that exists.
His spirit*, as they say, is that which is in heaven. *(ba)
He is the one who is in the underworld, at the beginning of the East,
His spirit* is in heaven, his body is in the West.
His image is in Hermonthis, heralding his risings.
Amon is one*, hiding himself from them, *(or alone)
concealing himself from the gods, his nature unknown.
He is more remote than heaven, more profound than the underworld,
no god knows his true form.
His nature is not set forth in writing; there is no teaching concerning him.
He is too mysterious for his glory to be revealed,
too great to be investigated, too mighty to be known.
Instant violent death comes upon one who utters his mysterious name,
whether unwittingly or intentionally.
There is no wise god who addresses him by it.
The Spirit is concealed* by his name, so that he remains mysterious. *'mn
Three is the number of all gods: Amon, Rey, Ptah,
and there is none like them*. *(second to them)
His name is hidden as Amon, he is Rey in face, and his body is Ptah.
Their cities on earth are established forever,
Thebes, Heliopolis, Memphis, for eternity.
A message is sent from heaven; it is heard in Heliopolis,
it is repeated in Memphis to the Fair of Visage*, *(Ptah)
it is set down in a book in the writing of Thoth,
with regard to the question of the city of Amon*. *(Thebes)
The answer is given in Thebes, and an oracle is delivered:
It* belongs to the Ennead. *(Thebes, as the Heliopolis of the south?)
Everything that issues from his mouth is Amon.
The gods are established by him through commands.
A divine message is sent: It shall let live or it shall put to death,
life or death are with it for all people.
Only he is: Amon, with Rey [and with Ptah], together three.
Four was the number of goddesses in the First Time. (Tefnut, Nut, Isis, Nephthys)
They were rejoicing in his form as great bull. . . .
Maker of the vulva, creator of the phallus,
he was the first to impregnate a maiden; (as Amon, with Mut, producing Khonsu?)
and he begot with his grasp before the vulva existed. (as Atum)
Rising as Rey from Nun, giving birth to all that is and is not,
he is father of fathers, and mother of mothers,
and the bull for those fair maidens.
His enemies are hurled down on their faces,
there is none that can assail him. . . .
Glaring lion with fierce claws,
he laps up the power and blood of his opponent in an instant.
Bull strong of back and heavy of hoof upon the neck of his foes. . . .
The mountains shake beneath him in the hour of his wrath;
the earth quivers when he roars*. *(thunders)
All things in existence are awe-struck before him.
Woe to any one who opposes him.
Whoever encounters his horns is impaled upon them.
Perception* is his heart. *(sia: cognitive perception, creative thought)
Ordination* is his lips. *(hu: authoritative utterance, magic power)
His soul* is everything in existence. *(ka: life force)
the Nile goes forth from the hole beneath his sandals.
His spirit* is Shu, his heart is Tefnut. *(ba)
He is Harakhti who is in heaven;
his right eye is day, his left eye is night*. *(sun and moon)
He is the one who leads humankind on every way.
His body is Nun, and he who is in it is the Nile,
giving birth to whatever is, and bringing to life whatever exists.
He blows breath into every nose.
Fate and Fortune* are with him for everyone. *(Sh'yt, Rnnt).
His wife is the fertile field; he impregnates her;
his seed is bread, and his fluid is grain.
The faces of all among men and gods are upon him.
He is perception.
The goddess with separated horns (Seshat),the scribe of the Great Ennead
Fragmented and not readily translatable
The person is extolled who lands at Thebes,
city of truth, precinct of the silent ones.
Happy the person who lands there,
becoming a divine spirit* like the Ennead. *(ba)
She who is opposite her lord* is exalted *(the necropolis of Thebes)
from the time of Rey's rising in front of her until his setting before her. . . .
Ramesses II being blessed by Amon-Rey, King of the Gods.
Mut (consort of Amon) at left, Khonsu (son of Mut) at right.
This collection of hymns in praise of Thebes and its god Amon-Rey are found in a partly damaged state in Leiden Papyrus I 350, dated to the reign of Ramesses II in the 13th century B.C.E. (since on the back of the papyrus appears a journal dating from the 52nd year of that pharaoh).
The structure and arrangement are unusual. The stanzas (literally 'houses') are numbered from one to eight hundred, or so it would appear at first glance; but on closer analyis it emerges that there are really only twenty-six stanzas, since the numbering system runs 1, 2... 10, 20... 100, 200... 800. The first four are lost, and only thirteen of the more legible and significant sections are presented here (9, 10, 20, 30, 70, 90, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 800). Notice also that each stanza begins and ends with a word-play on the number that heads it: e.g. 70 sefekh has sefekh ('dissolve, remove') at the start and khesef ('oppose, withstand') at the end. Stanzas Nine and Ninety begin with the Nine Gods (Ennead), and Stanza Eighty with the Eight Gods (Ogdoad). Whether Amon-Rey was deceived or amused by these two stratagems is a matter of speculation only.
An idea of the theology of Thebes, after the interlude of the cult of the Aton in the 14th century B.C.E., may be gained from studying this work. Amon is portrayed as the god who generated all the other gods, encompasses them all, and forms a divine trinity with Rey and Ptah. Thebes thus took over the cosmogonies of Heliopolis, Memphis, and Hermopolis. Memphite cosmology had Ptah as the intellect behind the creative actions of Heliopolitan Atum. Theban cosmology declared Amon-Rey to be prior to Atum-Rey and the Ennead of Heliopolis, and also to Ptah and Tatenen of Memphis. Amon (or Amun) was the name of one of the members of the Eight Gods (Ogdoad) of Hermopolis, and this may have helped to establish his priority and primacy.
Text and Translations
J. Oswalt, The Concept of Amon-Re as reflected in the Hymns and Prayers of the Ramesside Period, Ph.D. Dissertation, Brandeis University (1968), 61-89, with Egyptian text (not complete, but see his references to other editions).
J.A. Wilson in Pritchard's Ancient Near Eastern Texts (1955), 8 and 368-369.
A. Barucq, F. Daumas, Hymnes et prières de l'Egypte ancienne (1980) 206-229.