Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The God's Wives of Amun

Em Hotep! (Keith Payne)

The God’s Wives of Amun – Royal Women and Power Politics in the Eighteenth Dynasty

Another good piece from Keith Payne, with photographs and a list of literature cited at the end (two of which are available online).

During the Middle Kingdom Period, having a daughter appointed as a God’s Wife in your local temple meant that you were a member of the upper crust of Egyptian society. But at the dawn of the New Kingdom, Pharaoh Ahmose I drafted a legal contract that made the God’s Wife of Amun arguably the second most powerful person in the kingdom. Before all was said and done, one God’s Wife would use the office to become the most powerful person in the kingdom.

With Amun now the King of the Gods, his earthly consort came into her own wealth and authority in a way that would ultimately shatter the glass ceiling of Egyptian politics, at least for a while…

When studying religious and political institutions in ancient Egypt, very rarely can we point to a specific person, time, and place and say “that is where it all began.” The God’s Wife of Amun is unique in that aspect. True, the genesis of the title and its original purpose are lost in the murky traditions of overlapping and often contradictory provincial religions. And true, we are not 100% certain of who the first royal God’s Wife may have been. But there are some things we do know.

We know, for instance, that the office of God’s Wife of Amun underwent a complete restructuring in the early years of the New Kingdom, when it was endowed with wealth and status that elevated it to one of the most powerful institutions in ancient Egypt. We know the individual who set these changes in motion was none other than Ahmose I, Hero of Thebes and Champion of Amun. And we know that the first person to hold the reinvented office was his queen, Ahmose-Nefertari.

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