Amun was one of the most important deities in ancient Egypt and remains one of the best represented in the surviving material culture. His name means the "hidden" or "secret one" and represents his unknowable nature. While this name may have originally associated him with the power of the wind, his mysterious, imperceptible nature would prove central to his many different roles. Amun's origins can be traced back to the Old Kingdom (see old kingdom, egypt), with mention of him in the 5th Dynasty Pyramid Texts. These passages refer to him as a primeval, creative force in the universe. He plays a similar, creative role as part of the Hermopolitan Ogdoad. Amun's geographic origin may have been either Hermopolis Magna (see hermopolis magna, tuna el-gebel (pharaonic)) or Thebes. However, the earliest known temples dedicated to him were in Thebes, where his importance grew to outstrip the other, local gods. Amun's prominence spread throughout the country with the expansion of Theban influence at the end of the First Intermediate Period (see first intermediate period, egypt). After Theban victories removed the hyksos from power prior to the New Kingdom (see new kingdom, egypt), worship of Amun was established on a national scale.
Amun was represented in several different forms: anthropomorphically, wearing a double-plumed headdress; in an anthropomorphic, ithyphallic guise when combined with the god Min, known as Amun-Min, and referred to as Amun kamutef (see kamutef), the "bull of his mother;" as a lion, or ram-headed lion, when combined with the god Re; as frog-headed when part of the Hermopolitan Ogdoad; in snake form when known as the creator god Amun kematef, or "Amun who has completed his moment;" as a goose; or, to emphasize his fertility, as a ram.
Amun similarly developed many different functions. His original role as an unseen, creative force in the universe facilitated an easy combination with other, local deities. During the Middle Kingdom (see middle kingdom, egypt) a shift in theology combined him with the supreme expression of solar power, the god Re. This combinationwas facilitated by the move of Egypt's capital to Itjtawy in the Fayyum, which moved worship of Amun closer to the center of worship of Re in Heliopolis (see heliopolis, ain shams/matariya). Prior to this shift, Pharaoh was regarded as the son of Re. The creation of Amun-Re introduced Amun into the myth of the divine birth of the King, and helped to reconcile the divine and earthly aspects of the ruler (2007: 280) by imbuing the solar god with new attributes. Amun-Re was henceforth viewed as the physical father of Pharaoh and the ruler of Egypt through Pharaoh, with his divine will manifested through oracles (see oracles, pharaonic egypt). This syncretization, which ultimately prioritized Amun's attributes over those of the sun god's, was considered inappropriate during the Amarna period (see amarna), but was re-adopted in succeeding periods. Amun's accumulation of religious importance, evident in his adoption of the title "King of the Gods," and its resulting political power, enabled his priesthood to wield enormous influence, eventually giving rise to a new form of theocracy within society. By the end of the New Kingdom, the power of Amun's priesthood allowed them to rival the Pharaohs. By the 25th Dynasty, the exportation of Amun to nubia had resulted in his adoption as the chief god of the kingdom of napata. This development lent religious imperative to the Nubian invasion of Egypt. Amun's importance continued during the Ptolemaic period, during which time he was equated with the Greek god zeus.
The largest focus of Amun's worship was at Karnak Temple (see karnak), where it was believed he brought the world into being. In Karnak he took the role of a father figure, forming part of the Theban triad. This holy trinity was completed with mut, Amun's associated consort, and Khonsu (see khons (khonsu)), their child. It was there and at the connected Luxor Temple that Amun's role as father of Pharaoh was celebrated during the Opet Festival.
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