God's Wife, God's Servant


Book Details

Author  mariam ayad
Publisher  Routledge
Publication Date   June 30, 2008
ISBN  0415411718
Pages  216

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Drawing on textual, iconographic and archaeological evidence, this book highlights a historically documented (but often ignored) instance, where five single women were elevated to a position of supreme religious authority. The women were Libyan and Nubian royal princesses who, consecutively, held the title of God's Wife of Amun during the Egyptian Twenty-third to Twenty-sixth dynasties (c.754–525 BCE). At a time of weakened royal authority, rulers turned to their daughters to establish and further their authority. Unmarried, the princess would be dispatched from her father’s distant political and administrative capital to Thebes, where she would reign supreme as a God’s Wife of Amun.

While her title implied a marital union between the supreme solar deity Amun and a mortal woman, the God’s Wife was actively involved in temple ritual, where she participated in rituals that asserted the king's territorial authority as well as Amun's universal power. As the head of the Theban theocracy, the God's Wife controlled one of the largest economic centers in Egypt: the vast temple estate at Karnak. Economic independence and religious authority spawned considerable political influence: a God's Wife became instrumental in securing the loyalty of the Theban nobility for her father, the king.

Yet, despite the religious, economic and political authority of the God's Wives during this tumultuous period of Egyptian history, to date, these women have only received cursory attention from scholars of ancient Egypt. Tracing the evolution of the office of God's Wife from its obscure origins in the Middle Kingdom to its demise shortly after the Persian Conquest of Egypt in 525 BCE, this book places these five women within the broader context of the politically volatile, turbulent Seventh and Eighth centuries BCE, and examines how the women, and the religious institution they served, were manipulated to achieve political gain.

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