• King’s Daughter, God’s Wife: The Princess as High Priestess in Mesopotamia (Ur, ca. 2300-1100 BCE) and Egypt (Thebes, ca. 1550-525 BCE)

    Author(s):
    Lloyd Graham (see profile)
    Date:
    2019
    Group(s):
    Ancient Near East, Assyriologists, Egyptology
    Subject(s):
    Iraq, Civilization, Ancient, Egypt, History, Ancient, Egyptology, Religions, Middle East--Babylonia
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    high priestess, EN-priestess of Nanna, God's Wife of Amun, Divine Adoratrice, sacred marriage, Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Ancient religion, Babylonia
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/24nn-e209
    Abstract:
    The practice of a king appointing his daughter as the High Priestess and consort of an important male deity arose independently in the Ancient Near East and Egypt. In Mesopotamia, the prime example of such an appointee was the EN-priestess of Nanna (EPN) at Ur; in Egypt, its most important embodiment was the God’s Wife of Amun (GWA) at Thebes. Both institutions operated – with interruptions and periods of uncertainty – for about a millennium (Ur, ca. 2288-1104 BCE; Thebes, ca. 1552-525 BCE). The office of EPN began strongly, with a peak period that lasted ca. 525 years, whereas the GWA’s heyday came at the end of its trajectory and lasted only half as long (ca. 265 years). This paper, which provides the first systematic comparison of the two institutions, focuses on comparing the two offices in their respective periods of peak strength. The High Priestesses were typically political appointments made in turbulent times, often to help the king secure control over a remote region and/or rival institution. As spiritual leaders, the incumbents were often instrumental in integrating distinct cultural or ethnic groups within their respective countries, thereby promoting the royal agenda of national unity. Despite social and political uncertainties, many of the High Priestesses managed long incumbencies (EPN typically 30-40 yrs, GWA 40-65 yrs), their tenures thereby spanning multiple kings and often dynasties as well. Both offices were collaborative institutions in which the incumbent was potentially assisted by a novice/heiress and perhaps also a retiree; for the GWAs in particular, the resulting “college” often required long-term collaboration between women of different ethnicities (possibly 25+ years for the Libyan/Nubian changeover, and probably 2-15 years for the Nubian/Saite one). For both type of High Priestess, the long incumbencies and the collaborative nature of their institutions combined to provide stability and continuity in their respective countries.
    Notes:
    Additional tags: Entu-priestess, zirru, Ur, Divine Adoratrix, God’s Hand, Shepenwepet, Shepenupet, Amenirdis, Amenerdis, Amenardis, Nitocris, Ankhnesneferibre, Enheduana, Enheduanna, Enanatuma, Enanedu, High Priest of Amun, Second Priest of Amun, Amun, Mut, Nanna, Suen, Ningal, gipar, Ekishnugal, Inana, Inanna, Sumerian religion, Babylonian religion, Mesopotamian religion, Egyptian religion
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Online publication    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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