god Amun
the great god Amun
Statue of the great god Amun at Karnak.   
The importance of the state cult of Amun (later Amun-Re), initiated in the Middle Kingdom, is undisputed. The cult of Amun-Re, the "king of the gods", was outstanding, as archaeological, monumental, textual, ritual & funerary evidence shows. So powerful was the name : "Amun", that Akhenaten tried to erase it from the records (scriptoral as well as monumental). This outrage was immediately restored by Tutankhamun after the heretical king died. In the Ramesside era, after the Amarna episode, Amun rose to even more formidable resplendance. In the Third Intermediate Period which followed the New Kingdom, civil stife occured & a double monarchy ruled : a military dictatorship of the high priests of Thebes (with Amun-Re as Pharaoh) versus the Kings of Tanis in the Delta. But, Amun's cult remain active as far as Upper Nubia ...

"A papyrus furnished the number of persons in the service of Amun during the reign of Ramesses III (ca.1198 - 1166 BCE) -priests, peasants in the fields, hunters, boatmen, administrators, and workers of all sorts- a total of 81.322 persons ! We also learn from this papyrus that this fortunate god owned 433 gardens, 591.320 acres of fields, 83 boats, 46 construction sites, and 65 towns, all dedicated to the sole purpose of maintaining his sacred domains. Seeing these figures, we can easily imagine the astonishing number of priests and other staff who could be employed in the cult and the management of such an organism : we can count as many as one hundred twenty-five different posts among the personnel employed in the service of this all-powerful god."
Sauneron, 2000, pp.52-53 (translated by David Lorton).

The importance of the cultic, ritual and intellectual activities offered to Amun-Re, answered theological and philosophical answers posed by the confrontation between the monotheist, solitary & Pharaonic solution of Akhenaten and the undisputed adherence of the people to a plurality of deities, acting in constellations (Assmann) and listening (during the festivals) to the voice-offerings of the commoners. These discussions and ideas were "secret", implying a limited access. The "inner" aspect of the Egyptian Sun-cult was only for an elite. The Books of the Netherworld are royal guides, i.e. the best of the best knowledge for the afterlife.


"The 'inner aspect' of the Egyptian sun-cult, its mysteries, is constituted by a tradition that specifies what must be known, said and done during the enactment of it. The representatives of this tradition are a small circle of professional priests and scholars. They are in no sense identical nor should they be confused with the larger circle of sun-worshippers, which in the New Kingdom almost took on the character of a 'movement'."

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