Two great kings of the second dynasty
1. HOTEP-SEKHEMOUY of Abbydos (2925 to 2880 BC.)
In the second dynasty we will briefly discuss two kings who included "Hotep" in their name. One was the first in the dynasty, and the second was the ninth, and had the last position in the second dynasty.
It is thus HOTEP-SEKHEMOUY of Abydos who inaugurates the nine reigns of this second royal Egyptian dynasty. In the opinion of egyptologist Jean Vercoutter, (in his book "Egypt at the beginning of the Old Kingdom"), the translation of this name would mean " the Two Powers are at peace ".This same author refutes other studies of hieroglyphics. Hotep became, under Sethi-1er (in the New Empire toward 1310BC), "Bedjaou", in the Nesoutbity list of Abydos. The mistake is probably to do with the origin of name "Banoueter" on the royal list transcribed on the papyrus of Turin.
The columnist Manethon gives this king the name of Boethos and recalls that during his reign an earthquake close to Bubastis caused enormous crevasses into which many people fell to their deaths.
After a reign of 38 years, Hotep-Sekhemouy was buried in Saqqarah in a huge tomb (120m x 50 m), entirely dug out of the rock. Even though his body has disappeared, in this tomb they have found of the fragments of stone vases bearing his royal insignia.
One very interesting point: also recovered (in this century) were some royal engraved seals belonging to Horus HOTEP-SEKHEMOUY under the pyramid of king Djeser in North Sakkara! (Lacau-Lauer 1961, 39, [pl.V] and 17).
2. HORUS / KHA-SEKHEMOUY (reigned around 2800 to 2790 BC.)
The ninth and last king of the 2nd dynasty was the Pharaoh KHA-SEKHEMOUY (!) (Ka = the mystical soul of the being), this name was that of the last Pharaoh of the first dynasty; and Sekhmouy, was the name of the first king of the second dynasty, an allusion to the meeting of the two entities "Horus and Set".
On the Nesoutbity list his name becomes " Nebouy-Hotep-imef = the reed and the bee stay reconciled together in peace "
This mention of reconciliation in the name of Pharaoh leads us to infer that a civil war took place between the capitals of the two kingdoms, which were divided under the previous reigns, and that the new king KHA-SEKHMOUY re-united them and brought peace.
At the end of the XIXth century, the Egyptologist Amelineau, discovered his tomb, which is the biggest in Abydos. Dug to a depth of 2 meters into the soil, it has the approximate shape of a trapezoid, the base of which is 70 m long and the two sides measure 18 m to the north and 11 m to the south. The funeral room in the center of trapezoid was surrounded by five small rooms and a large apartment of 8 rooms.
Some Egyptian excerpts praising ATOUM-RE
In order to appreciate the importance of the new theology introduced by the great priest Imhotep in the 3rd dynasty, we must analyze some texts and Egyptian prayers which addressed one omnipotent God, and not idols :
" We worship you, oh Re the daylight, let us prostrate ourselves before ATOUM!
You rise and you give light, crowned like the king of the gods.
You are the master of the heavens and the master of the earth,
The one that created us: those in high places and those in low places!
You are THE ONE GOD, who was since the beginning!
Who made the countries and created men,
Who made the sky and created the Nile,
Who made the water and who gave her the life that she contains.
It is to you that the gods sing in unison,
Then the boat of rising sun receives you,
and your heart oh master of the gods, rejoices
for those that you created give you homage.
The goddess of Sky is resplendent next to you
like the stones of lapis lazuli,
Whilst the god of rain dances to your radiance,
Which shines for me, who contemplates your beauty.
Atoum was the invisible protection which embraced the sun in the Cosmos as it went down, and protected it until its rebirth at dawn. For the Egyptian there was a certain likeness between the journey of sun which crossed above the Nile during the daytime and in the evening went again, like human beings, to the kingdom of the dead, to be born again at the dawn, and these ancient prayers from the New Kingdom which became "the Hymn to Amon-Re": (AMON replacing the name of Atoum)
The one that created everything that exists,
from the eyes of whom is descended all men;
and from the mouth of whom, is descended the gods;
You are the master of silence, who hears the voice of the poor.
When I called to you in my distress,
Overwhelmed, you came to save me and bring me breath,
For you saved me, when I was a prisoner.
And the former prisoner pursues his song of praise, which resembles a little our Dies Irae (From the depths I cry to You, oh Lord.)
You Amon-Re, the master of Thebes, you are truly
the one who saves him that dives into the underworld,
When we cry to YOU, Lord
You are the one that comes from afar to our help. "
And one finds again engraved on the stones of the XIXth dynasty (1320BC to 1200BC), this song which crosses the centuries like the Annunciation in the Magnificat :
I praise as high as the sky
and as far as the earth extends,
I tell of your strength to the one who goes up
and the one that descends!
Likewise to the to the son and the daughter, to the big and the small,
the generations of generations,
Likewise to those that will not see the light of day again. (Note that the mystery of mysteries is included here!)
To the birds in the sky and to the fishes in the water,
Also to the one that knows and to the one that is unaware of it. "
The Third DYNASTY and the beginning of the Ancient Empire :
Extras names on the royal lists
Dates of the reigns
List of Abydos
Papyrus of Turin
|1. Roi NEBKA ........||..... Nebka||-2790 to -2770 BC|
|2. Roi DJESER ......||..... Djeserit||-2770 to -2730 BC|
|3. Roi TETI ...............||..... Djeserty||-2730 to -2724 BC|
|4. Roi SEDJES .........||..... Houdefa||-2724 to -2718 BC|
|5. Roi NEFERKARE||..... Houni||-2718 to -2694 BC|
The different sources are alas too often contradictory, it is difficult to state the dates exactly, since the calendar was put back to zero for every new Pharaoh.
The list of the IIIrd dynasty begins with the 20 years' reign of Pharaoh Nebka in both kingdoms of a united Egypt. He was the last king who governed Egypt from THIS (this ancient city was situated across from Abydos in Upper Egypt). After beginning his reign in This, king Djeser later installed his COURT in the large city of Memphis.
The personality of King Djeser (or Djoser) was so pivotal in the History of the Egypt, that he overshadowed his predecessor Nebka, although the two were descended directly from queen Nyhetepmaat - the wife or daughter of King Khasekhemouy.
The reign of King DJESER :
The king that Sesostris II designated his most magnificent ancestor, or " the king made sacred by his excellence", was effectively a man of wisdom and exceptional insight, and due to him Egypt went deep into spirituality, to discover the ways to lead souls to the kingdom of heaven.
It was in his reign that the first Egyptian pyramid was erected. These are more than simple monuments, but very complex architecture, with high walls to protect the immense buildings. Here we see more than a tomb: there are gigantic stairs and all the steps lead the soul of the king toward the sky, he himself becoming an entity of light.
This king was a fount of new ideas, and was born about 850 years before the times of Abraham. Far from being heretical, on the contrary, he was a representative of the Eternal (like Moses or Elijah), come to visit men and show them a new way to eternal life by rebirth after death. So a period of building, (like the era of cathedrals to the Middle Ages) started: the period of the great pyramids.
King Djeser led several campaigns against the Asian peoples (Syrians, Phoencians and Canaanites), and he completed several mining expeditions in the mining colonies of the Sinai where some graffiti and his serek were recovered at Ouadi Maghara.
The stele relating the famine on the island of Sehel
On the island of Sehel situated to the south of Aswan is a stele (assigned to Ptolemy Vth?), which relates the history of a famine in Egypt which lasted for 7 years until the time of king Djeser and his minister IMHOTEP. This stele relates in other words : the history of Joseph and his accession to power.
In the year 18 of his reign, the king Djeser was confronted by a terrifying famine due to a great drought which caused a troubling decrease in the level of the Nile, and in its yearly flooding, indispensable to germinate the seeds.
This lack of water lasted during seven consecutive years. Pharaoh then called on Imhotep, the chief of the priests, who revealed that the Nile started at Elephantine on the territory consecrated to the god Khnoum (a criocephalic god, with the body of a man and the head of a ram, represented often as a potter who created living human beings from the earth on his wheel).
Pharaoh saw the god Knouhm in a dream, promising the king more abundant crops. To thank him, Djeser published a decree which re-established his cult on the land surrounding the Nile, from Elephantine to Lower Nubia.
Even though some consider this story to have been constructed by the clergy of Elephantine to justify the annexation of Lower Nubia by the army of Djeser, there had been on this site, an ancient temple containing documents. These inspired Ptolemy the 5th to recount this whole event of the famine on the stele, and incidently, all three names of king Djeser are given correctly according to the three lists of Horus, Nesoutbity and Nebty.
(J. Vercoutter: Egypt at the beginning of the New Kingdom.)
Djeser thus being a living legend, a king who saves his people from famine and who becomes the first king known in history to direct his life and that of his people towards the idea of resurrection after the death of the body. He broke with the traditions of his predecessors by abandonning his funeral mastaba, which was in construction close to Abydos, and gave sweeping powers to IMHOTEP, his new Prime minister, to accomplish his reforms.
Other important detail: next to the name of Djeser on this stele is the name of IMHOTEP with his principal titles :
" Great chancellor of Lower Egypt, royal prince, chief priest of Heliopolis, royal physician, architect and chief of construction. " (Gardiner 1947)
But before we examine the personality and work which contribute to the genius of Imhotep, we are going to try to understand the importance of the changes which suddenly intervened in the " great religious reforms " of the third Egyptian dynasty.
MEMPHIS and the cult of god : PTAH
The center of cult of the god PTAH was at Memphis, the new city constructed there two centuries before by king Adjib (the 6th king of the 1st dynasty). This city, surrounded by a wall of fortification, called "the white wall," is situated in a pivotal place between the two kingdoms of North and of South. It was at this strategic place that the two great rivals Horus and Seth (finally) made their peace ! It is also in this city that the kings of the third dynasty established their Capital : here they had their court, the government and their palace.
Since the archaic period they had honored the ancient god MIN, whose cult spread to Coptos (close to Thebes), to Akhmin (in Upper Egypt on the road beside the Red Sea, [akh] meaning soul). A third character, SOKAR (Sokaris) represented by a human mummy, with the head of a falcon ruled over the world of the dead, and in particular in the necropolis of Roseatou. (Saqqarah)
Min was presented as a man completely bound, and in his hand the flagellum, the symbol of royalty, and in the other his erect phallus, symbol of fertility and virility.
The god PTAH, Lord of the city of Memphis, a god patronizing arts and handicrafts, was represented also under the appearance of a man covered in cloth, with a cap on his skull. He held in his hand a scepter showing a composite of the Ouas, (the scepter of the gods) and the Ankh or Egyptian cross, the symbol of eternity.
His name implies the idea of an opening, (an allusion to the maternal uterus), in fact he was also a god of fertility, who dominated the ancient gods and recalls in some ways the very ancient cult of the Universal mother goddess, giving life and protection.
In order not to disrupt the former traditions, the god Ptah, (who in the New Kindom would be joined and transformed into AMON) had his temple erected beside the temple of APIS, whom the Egyptians continued to honor as an incarnation (or living avatar) of the god Ptah. But after the Old Kindom, the enneade (or college of the gods of Heliopolis) was considered as one person : every god kept his entity, but as part of the whole.
Since the IIIrd dynasty, the priests of Memphis affirmed that PTAH was an eternal god. Replacing the god Tatenen, (the primordial earth), the local creator god, PTAH became the creator who had conceived the world in his heart before creating it in action.
The general character of these sayings expresses well the tolerance towards the former cults.
Always conceding, the Egyptians united their god Ptah with the ancient and dangerous goddess SEKHMET of Memphis, represented as a woman with lioness's head. His name means "the powerful". Also as " goddess of war ", Sekhmet is capable of bringing illness, but also of healing them, that's why she was the chief goddess of medicine, and of the priests who knew the art of healing. This couple had a child, a war god : Nefertoum, who had the shape of a lion and became a guardian of the borders.
HELIOPOLIS and the cult of the great god ATOUM
In this period the religious center of Egypt was concentrated on Heliopolis: the city consecrated to the sun god Re. Atoum, a source of vital energy was assimilated with Re, (in The Book of the Dead), creating one entity : " Atoum-Re ". According to the same book, Re was born at dawn as a child, (formerly the scarab god Khepri, whom hieroglyphics show representing both birth and growing).
At noon, Re became Horakthty : the sun at its zenith, represented by an adult man with the head of a falcon surmounted by a solar disk, all surrounded by a Uraeus. In the evening Re became a bearded old man who took away the sun in his boat during in the night for him be born again in the morning, full of strength, on the other side of Nile, thanks to the all-embracing power and protection of ATOUM, the great invisible God.
Once the main divinity of the city of Pithom, in the Delta of Nile, Atoum became at Heliopolis, " This who is, and who is not ". He became the great god who estimated the number of years of the reigns ofthe Pharaohs on the fruits of the Ished tree, the symbol of eternity. The real tree was the Persea tree situated in Heliopolis, who had the power to unite lovers who made vows under its foliage.
Atoum, who had created himself by the strength of his own actions, the Egyptians also called :
Neb-er-Djer, which means : " the Lord of the Universe ".
As protector of humans beings, Atoum could take several terrestrial forms, later as Vishnu, one of the "famous avatars": earlier under the aspect of a man with a head of an ichneumon (hostile animal with snakes), or in the shape of a shepherd or of bull Mnevis, the former aspect of fertility. In the Egyptian mind it was not the animals who were gods, but the gods could occasionally help or disrupt our destiny by appearing (temporarily) in an animal shapes!
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