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Horemheb › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 22 April 2014
The Tomb of Horemheb (Jean-Pierre Dalbéra)
Horemheb (reigned 1320-1292 BCE) was the last pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egypt. He is also known as Dejserkheprure and Horemhab. His name means, “ Horus is in Festival” and he came from the lower classes of Egypt, worked himself up through the ranks of the army, became commander-in-chief of the Egyptian military, and finally pharaoh. Little is known about his early life, but it seems that he initially served under Amenhotep III and continued service under Akhenaten.He first comes to the notice of historians during the reign of Tutankhamun when he acted in the capacity of advisor to the young king along with the vizier Ay. Ay succeeded Tutankhamun and, on his death, Horemheb took the throne, at which point he initiated a nation-wide campaign to erase his immediate predecessor's names from history and revitalize the nation that had declined under Akhenaten's rule. He is generally considered a good pharaoh, but whether he is a hero or villain depends upon one's view of Akhenaten's reign and Horemheb's reaction to it.


Based upon his coronation text, Horemheb came from the city of Herakleopolis, but nothing is known of his parentage nor anything of his youth. He first appears in the historical record serving under Amenhotep III but, as this reference is unclear, he could have begun his career under Akhenaten. It would seem, however, that since he was quickly promoted by Akhenaten to Great Commander of the Army, he would have provided service to the throne earlier.


Akhenaten initiated religious reforms that proscribed the traditional polytheistic religious practices in Egypt and instituted monotheism in the form of the religion of Aten. Aten had been a minor sun deity prior to Akhenaten's reign but now became the supreme god of the universe and the only god the Egyptians were allowed to worship. Further, Akhenaten proclaimed himself the incarnation of Aten and elevated his wife, Nefertiti, to equally divine status. Thus, the royal couple were not only the intermediaries between the people of Egypt and their god, they were the god incarnate. Whatever Horemheb may have thought of these reforms at the time is unknown but, based upon his later reaction to them, he did not approve. There would have been good reason for his displeasure. The historian Barbara Watterson notes that:
By the ninth year of his reign, Akhenaten had proscribed the old gods of Egypt, and ordered their temples to be closed, a very serious matter, for these institutions played an important part in the economic and social life of the country. Religious persecution was new to the Egyptians, who had always worshipped many deities and were ever ready to add new gods to the pantheon. Atenism, however, was a very exclusive religion confined to the royal family, with the king as the only mediator between man and god (111-112).
Still, Horemheb served his king as commander-in-chief and led the armies of Egypt against the Hittites in the north. If he did serve under Amenhotep III, then his frustration under Akhenaten must have been immense in that the inscriptions relate that the Egyptian army, once invincible, was unable to win a single victory against the Hittites during Akhenaten's reign. The cause of this is thought to be the king's neglect of both foreign and domestic affairs due to his intense religious interests. Nefertiti assumed the responsibilities of her husband but, in spite of her efforts, Egypt continued to decline in power. The military exercises and discipline, which had been a regular part of the army's life under Amenhotep III, had grown lax as, in fact, had every other aspect of Egyptian rule save that of Akhenaten's monotheistic faith.


Akhenaten died in 1353 BCE and, after a short interim rule by another of his sons (or, it is thought, by Nefertiti), his son Tutankhaten assumed the throne. Shortly after his coronation, Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun, repealed his father's proscriptions, and returned Egypt to traditional religious practices. He moved the capital from Akhenaten's city of Akhetaten back to Thebes and re-opened the temples. Although his reign lasted only ten years, and he died before he was 20 years old, Tutankhamun's efforts to bring Egypt back to its former balance would have meant a great deal to the people of the land. The Egyptian concept of ma'at, of eternal balance, was thought to be maintained by the people's cooperation in the work of the gods. In abandoning those gods, it was thought, Akhenaten had brought imbalance to the land, and it was this balance that Tutankhamun sought to restore.
Death Mask of Tutankhamun

Death Mask of Tutankhamun

When Tutankhamun died, Horemheb was in the north leading the armies of Egypt against the Hittites. The vizier Ay ordered a ceremonial marriage with Tutankhamun's young widow, Ankhsenamun, in order to officiate at the king's funeral and then assumed the throne. This official marriage was considered necessary in order to maintain balance, the concept of celestial harmony known as ma'at, but it was not an actual marriage. It was assumed, however, that Ankhsenamun would marry Ay in order to legitimize his claim to the throne and, again, ensure balance in the land. Shortly after the funeral, however, Ankhsenamun wrote to the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I asking him to send one of his sons to be her husband. She refused to marry Ay (who may have been her grandfather) and wanted a husband of royal blood whom she could consider an equal.Suppiluliuma was suspicious at first but, after Ankhsenamun's assurances, sent his son Zananza to be king of Egypt. The prince was murdered before reaching the border, however, and this assassination has long been thought to be the work of Horemheb. The Egyptologist Zahi Hawass writes:
Perhaps Ay told the commander of the army, Horemheb, what the young queen had done, or perhaps Ay and Horemheb were themselves involved in a struggle for the throne. Perhaps the two men decided together to stop the Hittite prince, because it would have brought shame on the nation for an Egyptian queen to marry a foreigner - such a thing would have reversed the proper order of things. Perhaps it was Ay, or his successor, Horemheb, who had the Hittite prince killed; and perhaps Ankhsenamun was forced, after all, to marry the aged Ay. In fact, we do not have any clues to her eventual fate (68).
Ay ruled for three years and, having no heir at his death, Horemheb took the throne. While Ay had continued Tutankhamun's policies concerning the return to traditional religious practices, Horemheb would go much further, and it is these policies for which he is most remembered.
General Horemheb & Wife

General Horemheb & Wife


Horemheb ascended the throne c. 1320 BCE and, according to the historian Margaret Bunson, “he marked his reign with extensive programs to restore order and rebuild Egypt's decimated shrines. Tributes flowed into the land during his reign and lesser city-states and nations sent delegations to keep cordial relations with him; he was called `stern' by contemporaries” (115-116). Claiming that the gods, specifically Horus of Hutsenu (his patron god), had chosen him to bring balance back to the land, Horemheb instituted a strict orthodoxy concerning traditional religious practice. Bunson writes:
He returned all of the properties of the temples to the rightful priests, lands which Akhenaten had confiscated during the Amarna Period. He also dated his reign to the death of Amenhotep III in 1353 BCE, thus erasing the Amarna Period and its aftermath. His reign was also marked by building programs, including restorations and the start of additions to Karnak, Nubian shrines, a temple to Ptah and tombs at Memphis and Thebes (116).
Horemheb destroyed Akhenaten's city of Akhetaten and moved the capital of Egypt from Thebes to Memphis in order to distance himself from anything that had to do with the rulers of the Amarna Period (the period during which the capital of Egypt was at Akhetaten, known today as `Amarna', but including Akhenaten's successors prior to Horemheb). The monuments, temples, and stele that had been erected by his immediate predecessors were torn down and used as fill in constructing new buildings. Just as Akhenaten had ordained that all signs of the old gods should be erased from the landscape of Egypt, Horemheb proclaimed that all reference to the religion of Aten be obliterated. So successful was he in this goal that later Egyptians believed he was the successor of Amenhotep III and had simply continued that king's policies. Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, and Ay were forgotten by history so completely that it was not until they surfaced in excavations in the late 19th and mid-20th centuries that it was known they had ever existed.
Egyptian Stela of Horemheb

Egyptian Stela of Horemheb

The primary goal of Horemheb had not so much to do with religion, however, as balance. He wanted to restore Egypt to the grandeur it had known under Amenhotep III's rule. In this endeavor, he admirably succeeded as is attested to by later inscriptions regarding his reign. Bunson writes:
His most ambitious and beneficial act was the reestablishment of law and order in the Nile Valley. His famous edict concerning firm government was found on a fragmented stela in Karnak. The edict concerned itself with legal abuses taking place because of the laxity of Akhenaten's rule. Horemheb declared that officials of the state and provinces would be held accountable for cheating the poor, for pocketing funds, and for misappropriating the use of slaves, ships, and other properties. The king singled out higher-ranking official especially, promising swift judgments and the death penalty for offenses. The edict also announces the appointments of responsible men as viziers and gives information about the division of the standing army into two main units, one in Upper Egypt and one in Lower Egypt. Horemheb not only published his edict throughout the land took inspection tours to make sure that all of the provisions were being carried out in the remote areas as well as the cities (116).
Horemheb reigned for 28 years and, in that time, restored Egypt to its former balance, though not to the level of power it had known under Amenhotep III. He had no heir to take the throne and so appointed his vizier and former comrade-in-arms Paramesse as heir to the throne. Paramesse took the name Rameses I upon his ascension and founded the 19th dynasty of Egypt.

Adonis › Antique Origins

Definition and Origins

by Elias N. Azar
published on 21 February 2016
Adonis (Mary Harrsch (Photographed at the Musée Louvre, Paris))
The myth of Adonis, a tale as old as time, is a legendary love story that combines tragedy and death on the one hand, and the joy of coming back to life on the other. The story of the impossibly handsome Adonis and his lover the goddess Aphroditeoriginally dates back to the ancient civilizations of the Near East. It was popular among the Canaanites, and very well-known to the people of Mesopotamia and Egypt as well, though referred to by different names in each civilization. It is the legend of the god of beauty who faced death when he was young, but came back to life for the sake of his beloved Aphrodite. The myth has been a source of great inspiration for many poets, artists and historians alike, leading to its widespread use as a major theme in literary and intellectual productions.


The god Adon was considered one of the most important Canaanite gods: he was the god of beauty, fertility and permanent renewal. The name itself, “Adon”, means “The Lord” in Canaanite. In Greek mythology and the Hellenic world generally, he was called Adonis, and became known by that name among those nations. Other adaptations of Adon in various civilizations include the Canaanite god Baal who was worshipped in Ugarit, and Tammuz or Dumuzi (meaning July) as he was known to the Babylonians. In Egypt, he was Osiris, the god of resurrection.
In addition to the god Adonis, the myth involves his everlasting mistress Astarte, the goddess of love and beauty. She was known as Aphrodite to the Greeks, and Venus to the Romans. Their stories were so intertwined that Adonis' myth would be incomplete without mentioning Astarte and the legendary love story that brought them together.


The role that Cyprus played in transferring the myth of Adonis and Astarte from the Canaanite regions to the Greeks – and from the latter to the Romans – is a very significant one. However, perhaps due to the lack of Mesopotamian and Canaanite sources written about this legend (and often the ambiguity of such sources), the late Greek writings are the main references for this tale of eternal love. Hence, the myth is most popularly known as that of Adonis and Aphrodite, rather than Adon and Astarte.


Based on the different Greek sources (such as Bion of Smyrna) and the other Roman references (like Ovid 's Metamorphoses) a general consensus on the story of Adonis and Aphrodite is as follows:
A great king called Cinyras (in some sources known as Theias, the king of Assyria ) had a daughter named Myrrha, who was very beautiful. The king used to boast about his daughter being more beautiful than Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty.When Aphrodite heard of this, she became angry and decided to retaliate. She used her son Eros, the god of desire and attraction, to make Myrrha fall in love with her father, and even deceived him into committing incest. When Cinyras discovered the trick, he swore to kill Myrrha, who in turn escaped from her father after realizing she was pregnant. Myrrha was ashamed and regretful of her heinous act, and pleaded to the gods to protect her. They answered her prayers by turning her into a Myrrh tree.
Nine months later, the Myrrh tree split off, and Adonis was born; he had inherited the beauty of his mother. When Aphrodite saw the boy, she was so amazed by his beauty that she decided to hide him from the rest of the goddesses, and entrusted him to Persephone, goddess of the underworld. Persephone began looking after the boy, and when he grew older and became more and more attractive, she fell in love with him.
A conflict then rose between Aphrodite and Persephone, who refused to give Adonis back to Aphrodite. Zeus, the king of the gods, intervened and ruled that Adonis to spend four months of the year with Persephone in Hades, the Underworld, then four months with Aphrodite, and the remaining four months however he wished. Because Adonis was so taken with the charm of Aphrodite, he devoted his free four months to her as well.
Adonis was well-known for his hunting skills, and in one of the hunting journeys in the Afqa Forest (near Byblos ), Adonis was attacked by a wild boar and began bleeding in the hands of Aphrodite, who poured her magical nectar on his wounds.Although Adonis died, the blood blended with the nectar and flowed onto the soil where a flower sprouted from the ground, its scent the same as Aphrodite's nectar, and its color that of Adonis' blood – the Anemone flower. The blood reached the river and colored the water red, and the river became known as the "Adonis River" (currently known as Nahr Ibrahim or River Abraham), which is located in the Lebanese village of Afqa.


Byblos was one of the main places in the ancient world that used to observe the rituals of Adonis, and actually brought back the practice of these ceremonies and rites well into the early centuries of Christianity. The writings of Lucian of Samosata in the second century CE played a major role in shedding light on the rituals that were widely practiced by the people of Byblos.His book On The Syrian Goddess ( De Dea Syria ) recounts his visit to the village Afqa, where he explains what he encountered.
According to Lucian, the people of Byblos believed the wild boar incident that befell Adonis happened in their country. To commemorate this event, they would smite themselves each year, mourn, and celebrate religious rituals and orgies while a great mourning prevailed over the entire country. When their beating and bewailing stopped, they would celebrate the funeral of Adonis, as if he had died, and then the next day announce that he had returned to life and was sent to heaven.
Another one of the Byblos region's marvels is the river that runs from Mount Lebanon and flows into the sea. The River Adonis is said to lose its color every year and take on a bloody red hue, pouring into the sea and dyeing a large part of the beach red – a sign to the people of Byblos to start their time of mourning. It is believed that at this time of year, Adonis was wounded in Lebanon, and his blood went to the riverbed. One of the reasons given by Lucian – as told to him by one of Byblos' wise men – explaining why the river turns red at this time of the year is the strong wind blowing soil into the river. The soil of Lebanon (and of this region particularly) is known for its red color, which, when mixed with the river water, turns it purple.


The popularity of the story of Adonis and his mistress Aphrodite led to a revival of its rituals in many other Phoenician cities as well. It also spread across to the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, but with minor differences in adaptation, depending on the characteristics and features of each civilization. The essence of the legend, however, remains intact across all adaptations: a god of beauty and youth and his relationship with the goddess of love, along with the young god's death and return to life being a metaphor of nature's annual rebirth.
The myth of Adonis is closely related to the concept of vegetation and agricultural civilizations, such as Mesopotamia or the Canaanite areas (as the story originated in the Near East). The winter was a season of gloom and sadness for the inhabitants of these areas, whereas the spring and summer brought them the joy of new life. This myth is commonly believed to be an expression of its people's thinking, reflections, and psychological perceptions.
Remnants of Adonis worship are still present in this day and age among some nations of the Levant, Mesopotamia, and even Persia /Iran, where it is manifested as part of spring folklore celebrations, like the Feast of Nauroz.


Article based on information obtained from these sources:
with permission from the Website Ancient History Encyclopedia
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