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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Foreign Deities in Egypt

  • Author(s): Zivie-Coche, Christiane
  • et al.

The presence of foreign deities in the Egyptian pantheon must be studied in the light of the openness of Egyptian polytheism and as a reflection on cultural identity. Even if Egyptian self-identity was defined as intrinsically opposed to the Other, i.e. the foreigner, Egypt always maintained contact with its neighbors, particularly Nubia and the Near East. These intercultural contacts had an effect on the religion. Since the earliest times, deities like Dedoun, Ha, or Sopdu formed an integral part of the Egyptian pantheon, so much so that their likely foreign origin is not immediately perceptible. Particularly important is the introduction of a series of Near Eastern deities into the established pantheon at the beginning of the New Kingdom, under the reign of Amenhotep II. Receiving cult from both the state and private individuals, these deities were worshiped under their foreign name while depicted in Egyptian fashion. Their principal function was providing protection. It is the very nature of Egyptian polytheism that allowed for foreign divinities to acquire the same status as the indigenous gods.

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