Bronze ritual pendant of Osiris, Dyn. 25

Bronze ritual pendant of Osiris, Dyn. 25
Period:Egypt, 3rd Intermediate Period, Dynasty 25 and Contemporaries, Alara
Dating:747 BC–656 BC
Physical:8.6cm. (3.4 in.) -

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Links to others from Dynasty 25 and Contemporaries

Amulet of Duamutef, Dyn. 25
Amulet of Imsety, Dyn. 25
Bronze Imhotep seated, Dyn. 25 (?)
Bronze Nefertem pendant amulet, Dyn. 25
Bronze of a queen nursing, Dyn. 25
Bronze of King Shabaka ? as Osiris, Dyn. 25
Bronze of Ptah, Memphis, Dyn. 25
Bronze ritual pendant of Osiris, Dyn. 25
Bronze statuette of Ptah, Dyn. 25
Faience amulet of Qebhsenuef, Dyn. 25
Five Udjat eyes amulet, Dyn. 25
Horus-the-Child as Amun, 776-656 BC
Horus-the-Child, Dyn. 25, 776-656 BC
Mentuemhet, prince of Thebes, Dyn. 25
Osiris-Neper, god of agriculture, Dyn. 25
Queen Aqaluqa as Isis nursing, Dyn. 25
Queen as Goddess Neith seated, Dyn. 25106

Queen as Isis nursing, Dyn. 25
Scarab of Piankhi, Dyn. 25
Twenty-eight udjat eyes amulet, Dyn. 25
Udjat eye amulet-pendant, Dyn. 25
Udjat eye amulet-pendant, Dyn. 25

Links to others representing Osiris

Bronze of a king as Osiris, Dyn. 18
Bronze of a king as Osiris, Dyn. 22
Bronze of a king as Osiris, Dyn. 26
Bronze of a king as Osiris, Dyn. 26
Bronze of King Psamtik I as Osiris, Dyn. 26
Bronze of King Psamtik I as Osiris, Dyn. 26
Bronze of King Shabaka ? as Osiris, Dyn. 25
Bronze ritual pendant of Osiris, Dyn. 25
King Ahmose II (?) as Osiris, Dynasty 26
King Amenemope (?) as Osiris, Dyn. 21
Osiris, King of the Afterlife, Dyn. 18
Osiris, King of the Afterlife, Dyn. 22
Osiris of an unknown king, Dyn. 18 (?)
Osiris with Djed pillar on back, Dyn. 26
Osiris-Neper, god of agriculture, Dyn. 18
Osiris-Neper, god of agriculture, Dyn. 22
Osiris-Neper, god of agriculture, Dyn. 25
Tall bronze Osiris, Ptolemaic Period

Links to others of type Divine standard

Osiris with Djed pillar on back, Dyn. 26
Ptah-Tatenen pendant, Dyn. 19-20
Ritual pendant for the Priest of Ptah
  This statue of Osiris from Dynasty 25 (Kushite) is a ritual pendant, presumably used by a priest of Osiris in his duties. It was hung from two rings, one at the pedestal, and another behind the neck. Osiris is represented holding the crook (heka) and flail (nkhakha), in the traditional position. The pedestal is inscribed but is not clearly readable. Dynasty 25, (747-656 BC).

One of Egypt’s principal gods, Osiris was thought to rule over Duat (the Egyptian underworld), and sit in judgement of the life and deeds of the deceased, determining their chances for eternal rest: he was the ‘king of the dead’.

Ions (1968:54) hypothesizes that the cult of Osiris was originally brought to Egypt by Syrians (probably in predynastic times) as they settled in the delta town of Busiris, where the god Andjety was the dominant local god. There, it appears that Osiris was given the royal regalia (crook and flail) of Andjety and was worshipped as a local god of fertility, responsible for the success of crops. From these humble beginnings, Osiris rose to become one of the most prominent gods in the Egyptian pantheon.

By the end of Dynasty 5, the cult of Osiris may have reached such a level of popularity that the priests of Heliopolis, who up to then enjoyed complete control over national theological doctrine, felt a need to take counter-measures to remain in control of this newcoming god. Instead of trying to suppress him, they incorporated Osiris in the family of the solar god, limiting his prestige by making him a great grand-child of Atum. If their aim had been to curb the expansion of the Osirian cult, they were less than successful. Orisis would keep growing in importance by associating with other deities, eventually absorbing their powers and prerogatives.

"… his earliest appearance yet attested [is] on a block from the reign of King Izezy [Djedkare Izezi, penultimate king of Dynasty 5] which shows the head and part of the upper torso of a god, above whom are the hieroglyphic symbols of Osiris’s name" (Hart 1986:151). But depictions of Osiris remain rare until Dynasty 12 (Budge 1973:[1]31).

In earlier dynasties, the traditional dogma was that the king became a god—the God Horus—upon his coronation, then joined the God Re in his solar ship upon his death, and sailed the firmament for eternity. The next king would in turn become Horus. At some point during dynasty 5, the dogma changed radically, calling for the deceased king to become Osiris upon his death. Not only had the cult of Osiris reached national recognition, but it had become part of the very nature of kingship. Although this relationship between king and Osiris was a new development, the Egyptians sought to make it appear original. Indeed, the legend of Osiris places him as the ancestral king of Egypt.

There is some evidence that Old Kingdom kings were not completely at ease with this new tradition. "… sentiments can be found that reveal an apprehension or dread of the ruler of the Underworld. This reflects the underlying desire of the monarch to be with the sun-god in the sky as a visible phenomenon, rather than to dwell in the unknown and forbidding regions of Duat" (Hart 1986:154).

With the general ‘democratization of death,’ Middle Kingdom Egyptians started aspiring to become Osiris, like their king. But as earlier with kings, this hope remained tainted with dread. Osiris exerted on Egyptians an ambivalent fascination, commanding a respect that was partly rooted in fear and even disgust—"… in the Middle Kingdom, there exist in the Coffin Texts descriptions of Osiris that conjure up a picture of a threatening demon. He glories in slaughter, utters malignant spells against a dead person, and runs a ‘mafia’ consisting of executioners called ‘Osiris’s butcherers painful of fingers’ or ‘Osiris’s fishermen’" (Hart 1986:155).

With the New Kingdom—when a generally less somber outlook prevailed—the image of Osiris may have softened. The euphemisms multiplied, and the term "Osiris" came of use as a prefix to the name of deceased dignitaries, much like the term ‘late’ in modern English (as in ‘the late President Nixon’). He continued to absorb the attributes of other deities, and remained an increasingly prominent object of devotion until the end of the Egyptian culture.

Osiris is customarily represented as a mummified human, his body shrouded in bandages, except for his hands which hold the royal insignias of the crook and flail. His distinctive crown, called the Atef consists of a tall conical helmet resembling the crown of Upper Egypt, flanked by two tall plumes. The long, horizontal wavy horns of a now extinct breed of ram, are sometimes affixed to the base of the crown.

The legend of Osiris evolved constantly over 2500 years, spinning off many variants. One of the most complete, most entertaining, but perhaps least accurate, single version is that told by the Greek historian Plutarch.

"… On the first day Osiris was born, as he was delivered, a voice cried out that the Lord of All was coming to the light of day… the great king and benefactor, Osiris, had been born… On the second day, Horus the Elder was born, and on the third Seth was born, not in the right time or place, but bursting through with a blow, he leapt by his mother’s side. On the fourth day Isis was born, near very moist places, and on the fifth Nephtys… Nephtys married Seth, and Isis and Osiris, being in love with each other before even they were born, were united in the darkness of the womb… Horus the elder was the fruit of this union…

It is said that Osiris, when he was king, at once freed the Egyptians from their primitive and brutish manner of life; he showed them how to grow crops, established laws for them, and taught them to worship gods. Later, he civilized the whole world as he traversed through it, having very little need of arms, but winning over most people by beguiling them with persuasive speech together with all manner of song and poetry. That is why the Greeks thought he was the same as Dionysus.

When he was away, Seth in no way conspired against him, since Isis was well on guard and kept careful watch, but on his return he devised a plot against him, helped by seventy two fellow-conspirators plus an Ethiopian queen named Aso. Seth secretly measured the body of Osiris and had made to the corresponding size a beautiful chest which was exquisitely decorated. He brought the chest to a banquet, and when the guests showed pleasure and admiration at the sight of it, Seth promised playfully that whomever would lie down in it and show that he fitted it, should have the chest as a gift. They all tried one by one, and since no one fitted into it, Osiris went and laid down. The the conspirators ran and slammed the lid on, and after securing it with bolts from the outside and with molten lead poured on, they took it to the river and let it go to the sea. . .

When Isis heard of this, she cut off there and then one of her locks and put on a mourning garment… She learned that the chest had been cast up by the sea in the land of Byblos and that the surf had brought it gently to rest in a heath-tree. Having shot up in a short time into a most lovely and tall young tree, the heath enfolded the chest and grew around it, hiding it within itself. Admiring the size of the tree, the king cut off the part of the trunk which encompassed the coffin, which was not visible, and used it as a pillar to support the roof. They say that Isis heard of this through the divine breath of rumour and came to Byblos, where she sat down near a fountain, dejected and tearful. She spoke to no one but the queen’s maids, whom she greeted and welcomed, plaiting their hair, and breathing upon their skin a wonderful fragrance which emanated from herself. When the queen saw her maids, she was struck with longing for the stranger’s hair and for her skin, which breathed ambrosia, and so Isis was sent for and became friendly with the queen and was made nurse of her child… Isis nursed the child, putting her finger in its mouth, instead of her breast, but in the night she burned the mortal parts of its body, while she herself became a swallow, flying around the pillar and making lament until the queen, who had been watching her, gave a shriek when she saw her child on fire, and so deprived it of immortality. The goddess then revealed herself and demanded the pillar under the roof. She took it from beneath with the utmost ease and proceeded to cut away the heath-tree. This she then covered with linen and poured sweet oil on it, after which she gave it into the keeping of the king and queen… The goddess then fell upon the coffin and gave such a loud wail that the younger of the king’s sons died; The elder son she took with her , and placing the coffin in a boat, she set sail…

As soon as she happened on a desert spot, there in solitude she opened the chest and pressing her face to that of Osiris, she embraced him and began to cry. She then noticed that the boy had approached silently from behind and had observed her, whereupon she turned round and full of anger gave him a terrible look. The boy was unable to bear the fright, and dropped dead…

Having journeyed to her son Horus who was being brought up in Buto, Isis put the box aside, and Seth, when he was hunting by night in the moonlight, came upon it. He recognized the body and having cut it into fourteen parts, he scattered them. When Isis heard of this, she searched for them in a papyrus boat, sailing through the marshes… this is why there are many tombs of Osiris in Egypt, for the goddess, as she came upon each part, held a burial ceremony… The only part that Isis did not find was his male member, for no sooner was it thrown in the river than the lepidus, phragus, and oxyrhynchus ate of it, fish they most of all abhor. In its place, Isis fashioned a likeness of it, and consecrated the phallus… Isis, having had sexual union with Osiris after his death, bore Harpocrates, prematurely delivered and weak in his lower limbs." (Plutarch, Of Isis and Orisis:12-20)

Dynasty 25
The kings of Dynasty 25 (747-656 BC) were not from Egypt, but from the land of Kush, south of Egypt (in today’s northern Sudan). Previously invaded, colonized, exploited, and forcefully ‘Egyptianized’ most recently during the New Kingdom, the Kushites had unexpectedly retained their Egyptianized ways in the five hundred years since the Egyptian state had pulled out of Kush. Their leader Piankhy (Piyi) still worshipped Egyptian gods, wrote official texts in classical hieroglyphs, and intended to be buried under a pyramid. Indeed, at a time when Lower Egypt was populated by a majority of ethnic Lybians who did not necessarily revere the Egyptian cultural heritage as their own, and when the strong pharaohs of the past had been replaced by a “federation of semi-autonomous rulers” (Shaw 2000:345), Piankhy felt more genuinely Egyptian than any king of Egypt. In fact, Kushite kings “did not see themselves as foreigners, although they had different ethnic, cultural and linguistic roots. In their view and faith, Kush and Egypt were the two halves of the ancient kingdom of Amun, which were once united in a distant mythical past” (Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris 1997:166, 170).

And so, when King Tefnakht of Sais in the Delta showed expansionist ambitions, Piankhy’s religious fervor led him to descend upon Egypt with his powerful army in a crusade to unite the nation under an ‘ideologically Egyptian’ king—himself. In southern Egypt, he diplomatically established his influence by convincing the Thebans to adopt his sister Amenirdis as the Divine Adoratrice of Amun—a position with considerable political power. In northern Egypt, his military supremacy brought compliance. But instead of annihilating the (mostly Lybian) kings, princes and chieftains of the Delta, he was satisfied with receiving their pledge of allegiance.

By the strength of their conviction and their deft and consistent application of symbolically charged gestures, Kushite kings awoke in their people a sense of national identity, gave a new impetus and a clear purpose to a land slowly drifting away into irrelevance. Although the idea of drawing strength from Egypt’s great past predates their intervention—“it had its origin in the later Lybian period, having begun during the first half of the eight century BC” (Shaw 2000:356)—the Kushites lent an energy, and a dedication to the cause that is almost palpable. Dynasty 25 high art blends the physical strength of Kushite body types with the classical model of Old Kingdom portraiture, adding a few details that demonstrate that Dynasty 25 Egypt was not just a relic of the past, but a nation moving forward, building confidently and proudly on its glorious heritage.

Although in artistic and cultural matters, the Kushite kings insisted on a return to Old Kingdom order, in politics they were unwilling to commit the resources necessary to return to an absolute centralized royal authority. But perpetuating the decentralized model of the previous hundred years meant they had to intervene sporadically to curtail the ambitions of their vassals. More importantly, the relative independence of local rulers in the delta eventually drew them to meddle in rebellions against the Assyrian dominance of Palestine. Provoking the Assyrian empire at the height of its power proved fatal to the Kushite Dynasty. In 667 BC, Assyria invaded Egypt and the Kushites pulled back to the land of Kush. Within three years, all hope was lost for Dynasty 25.

Bibliography (on Osiris)

Budge, E. A. Wallis, Sir
1973 Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection (unabridged republication of the 1911 edition by the Medici Society). Dover Publications, New York, NY.

Hart, George
1986 A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, United Kingdom.

Ions, Veronica
1969 Mythologie Egyptienne (Translation of the 1968 edition by the Hamlyn Publishing Group). ODEGE, Paris, France.

Shaw, Ian
2000 The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Bibliography (on Dynasty 25)

Institut du monde Arabe, Paris, , and Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich
1997 SOUDAN. Royaumes sur le Nil (Exhibition in Munich, Paris, Amsterdam, Toulouse, Mannheim.). Flammarion, Paris.

Shaw, Ian
2000 The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom.

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