Greek Roman Hellenistic Life size Statues – Museum sculpture Reproductions







This title, applied sporadically in the Middle Kingdom to non-royal
women, became a major honor given only to the wives, mothers, and daughters
of kings in the Eighteenth Dynasty, and celibate daughters of kings in the
Third Intermediate Period.  Although
the same title was used in all three periods, it would probably be best to
treat them separately for what we say about the office in one period may not
apply in the other.  We know
almost nothing about the office in the Middle Kingdom so we will look at the
evidence for the New Kingdom and for the Third Intermediate.



The first of the royal women to bear the title was Ahhotep,
but it was under her daughter, Ahmose-Nefertari, that the office achieved
importance.  King Ahmose made a
deal with the priesthood of Amun whereby his wife and her heirs would hold
the title in perpetuity.  Along
with it came its own estate and officials. 

Amun acquired a great deal of wealth; the king acquired a position of
considerable prestige and power for a queen or princess.

dynasty God’s Wife might have worn priestly garments (short wig, a thin
square of cloth hanging in a knot from the back of the head, and a belted or
unbelted sheath dress) or, the dress and regalia appropriate to her standing
as a royal princess or queen. 

From the reign of Hatshepsut there is a scene in which the God’s
Wife participated in temple ritual along with a male priest, a scene in
which she led male priests into the sacred lake for purification and one
where she followed the King into the inner court of the temple. 

So much wealth and prestige was attached to the office that we must
wonder if there was not more to it than the performance of a few rituals. 
There is absolutely no sign of sacred prostitution anywhere in
Ancient Egypt so we can safely assume that despite the title there was
nothing sexual about the office.  The
following have been suggested:

  1. It
    is possible that she was, perhaps through the playing of music, supposed
    to make Amun happy and stimulated enough to carry out the reproductive
    activity necessary for the continued survival of Egypt. 
    This could account for the word wife without involving any sexual
  2. The
    Egyptians did see everything in pairs—good and evil, order and chaos,
    day and night, etc.—so that one was never possible without the other. 

    It has been suggested that the God’s Wife could participate in
    worship along side the King as a sort of matching pair. 
    The problem with this suggestion is that the office was not
    always held by a King’s Great Wife and yet the chief queen was a much
    more natural match for a king. 

  3. Others
    have suggested that a fear of the rising power of the Amun priesthood
    existed as early as the end of the Seventeenth and the beginning of the
    Eighteenth Dynasties and that Ahmose hoped that by planting a trusted
    female relative in a position of power at the center of the Amun temple
    he could curb the pretensions of the male priesthood. 
    This argument is strengthened by the fact that throughout the
    Eighteenth Dynasty princesses were forbidden to marry anyone but the
    king himself.  This
    prevented the dispersal of royal wealth and hence of political power. 
    Whatever authority and prestige a royal woman possessed came
    entirely from the King, allowing no one to set up a rival power base
    simply through association with a King’s daughter.

  4. If
    a queen or princess is the wife of Amun then the god might have fathered
    any children she produced.  Pharaohs
    liked to claim that they were sons of the divine. 
    The claim was always made retroactively: after they ascended the
    throne they could point out that their mother had been the wife of the god.



authority broke down once again in the Third Intermediate Period. 
Unlike the first two such periods, fragmentation was not seen as a
particularly bad thing.  The
power and size of each region fluctuated over time and there were moments of
intense rivalry that could include war, but the four-century period was more
stable than one might expect.

Egypt was essentially a theocracy under the control of the god Amun and his
priests; Lower Egypt (the Delta) was further divided into several
principalities.  For most of the
time all parts of Egypt pretended to accept a single ruler, usually the King
of Tanis, as the supreme Pharaoh, but this individual rarely demanded or
received obedience outside of his own corner of the country. 

the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms one of the Pharaoh’s most important jobs
was that of leading the worship of the gods in order to maintain Ma’at. 

By the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period the Amun priesthood
had succeeded in transferring that responsibility to itself, at least in the
area of Upper Egypt.  If the
king was not needed to propitiate the gods, he was certainly not needed to
appoint men to important civic offices like the Vizier, Treasurer, and
Commander of the Army.  At times
a Pharaoh based in Tanis would have his daughter appointed as God’s Wife
of Amun.  By having a celibate
daughter carry out the traditional ceremonies by which the monarch appealed
to the gods to help Egypt, the Pharaoh could pretend to rule the whole
country without the Amun priesthood actually having to give up any real
power, though it is possible there were occasions when the balance shifted
and the God’s Wife actually exercised some genuine authority.

Towards the end of this period the kings of Kush controlled the God’s
Wife.  New Kingdom Pharaohs had
taken great pains to control Nubia, but over the course of the 20th

Dynasty Egypt’s physical presence disappeared. 
By the middle of the Eighth Century BCE the roles were
reversed and Nubia controlled Upper Egypt. 
Although the King of Kush called himself the Pharaoh of Egypt, his
authority seldom extended north of Memphis and was often exercised through
the office of God’s Wife of Amun.

Throughout the Third Intermediate Period the God’s Wife of Amun was always
celibate; she might have been the daughter of a king or a high priest, but
she was never a king’s wife.  She
was always pictured wearing a queen’s costume and never the dress of a
princess or priestess.  Paintings
show her performing rituals that had hitherto only been carried out by a
Pharaoh: making an offering or libation to a god; being embraced by a god;
receiving the symbols of kingship from a god. 

A relief from North Karnak even shows a God’s Wife celebrating a
Sed Festival, traditionally the thirtieth anniversary of a king’s reign.



Standing figure of a
22nd Dynasty God’s Wife of Amun. Photo used with the kind
permission of Jon Bodsworth



Definition: Hestia, the goddess of the hearth, is considered the founder of the family and the state and the one who maintains public reverence for the gods. Her parents are Cronus and Rhea, making Hestia the sister of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, and Demeter. Therefore she is sometimes considered one of the twelve Olympians. Hestia is invoked at the beginning and end of all solemn public oaths and sacrifices. At the Prytaneion, townhall, her sacred fire was kept burning as the center of city life. There officials sacrificed to her as in a private home, the father or mother would worship her. Those seeking the state’s protection would go to the Prytaneion’s sacred fire. Her sacred fire, at the Delphic Temple, was the center of Greek religious life. The attributes of Hestia include a serious, but gentle expression seen on statues, and a sceptre. Sources: Greek Religion, by Walter Burkert Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece, by Leslie and Roy Adkins Dictionary of Roman Religion, by Leslie and Roy Adkins

Babylonian Gods and Goddesses

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The Goddess Venus – Goddess of Love and Beauty

Venus de Milo at the Louvre.

Venus de Milo at the Louvre.

A look at the Roman goddess Venus as distinct from the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

Fertility Goddess

The goddess of love has an ancient history. Ishtar/Astarte was the Semitic goddess of love. In Greece this goddess was called Aphrodite. Aphrodite was worshiped especially on the islands of Cyprus and Kythera. The Greek goddess of love played a crucial role in the myths about Atalanta, Hippolytus, Myrrha, and Pygmalion. Among mortals, the Greco-Roman goddess loved Adonis and Anchises. The Romans originally worshiped Venus as goddess of fertility. Her fertility powers spread from the garden to humans. The Greek aspects of the love and beauty goddess Aphrodite were added on to Venus’ attributes, and so for most practical purposes, Venus is synonymous with Aphrodite. The Romans revered Venus as the ancestor of the Roman people through her liaison with Anchises.

“She was the goddess of chastity in women, despite the fact that she had many affairs with both gods and mortals. As Venus Genetrix, she was worshiped as the mother (by Anchises) of the hero Aeneas, the founder of the Roman people; as Venus Felix, the bringer of good fortune; as Venus Victrix, the bringer of victory; and as Venus Verticordia, the protector of feminine chastity. Venus is also a nature goddess, associated with the arrival of spring. She is the bringer of joy to gods and humans. Venus really had no myths of her own but was so closely identified with the Greek Aphrodite that she “took over” Aphrodite’s myths.”

Source: ( ~grandpa/rommyth2.html) Roman Gods: Venus

The Parentage of the Goddess Venus/Aphrodite

Venus was the goddess not only of love, but of beauty, so there were two important aspects to her and two main stories of her birth:

“There were actually two different Aphrodites, one was the daughter of Uranus, the other the daughter of Zeus and Dione. The first, called Aphrodite Urania, was the goddess of spiritual love. The second, Aphrodite Pandemos, was the goddess of physical attraction.”

Source: Aphrodite

Portraits of Venus

Although we are most familiar with the nude Venus artistic representations, this wasn’t always the way she was portrayed:

“The patron deity of Pompeii was Venus Pompeiana; she was always shown as being fully clothed and wearing a crown. The statues and frescos which have been found in Pompeian gardens always show Venus either scantily clothed or totally nude. Pompeians seem to have referred to these nude images of Venus as Venus fisica; this may be from the Greek word physike, which meant ‘related to nature’.”
Venus in Pompeiian Gardens

Festivals of the Goddess Venus

Encyclopedia Mythica:

“Her cult originated from Ardea and Lavinium in Latium. The oldest temple known of Venus dates back to 293 B.C., and was inaugurated on August 18. Later, on this date the Vinalia Rustica was observed. A second festival, that of the Veneralia, was celebrated on April 1 in honor of Venus Verticordia, who later became the protector against vice. Her temple was built in 114 B.C. After the Roman defeat near Lake Trasum in 215 B.C., a temple was built on the Capitol for Venus Erycina. This temple was officially opened on April 23, and a festival, the Vinalia Priora, was instituted to celebrate the occasion.”