ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian symbols: the winged sun disc

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The winged sun disc

Winged sun disc above temple gate at Edfu     Winged sun disc The winged sun disc as a symbol of protection is found on stela and above temple gates since the Middle Kingdom and was–during the Ptolemaic period only–very rarely worn as a protective amulet.[9] It was called the Behdety,,[1] being associated with the god Behdety, who early on merged with Horus and was then known as Horus of Behdet. It was also referred to as the Great Flyer,[2] and in its female form it was associated with Hathor and called apy.t.[3]

Winged sun disc above temple gate at Edfu.[4]

    Since prehistoric times the idea existed of the heavens as a pair of falcon wings spread out over the world. On a first dynasty comb there is a depiction of a solar barque attached to a pair of wings floating through the sky.[5] The sun disc set between wings is known since the fifth dynasty: the symbol for the heavens had become a solar symbol. By this time Behdety had become identified with Horus, the divine ruler of Egypt, the royal uraeus serpents—protectors of the Egyptian kingship–were added, which since the New Kingdom wore at times the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt respectively. The winged disk now symbolized the divine protection of the king.
[The One of Edfu], lord of Mesen,[7] with the many-coloured plumage, who shines in the horizon, at the head of the chapel of the North. May you protect your beloved son, the son of Re, Ptolemy living for ever, beloved of Ptah, the gods Euergetes.
Temple of Dakka, reign of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II.[6]
    In the Ptolemaic Legend of the Winged Sun Disc Seth and his cohorts attack Re, who is defended by his son Horus. The story is told in the style of a pharaonic chronicle with dates and descriptions of the armies' movements and the heroic feats of the divine ruler of Egypt. In the battle at Edfu Horus takes on the shape of the winged sun disc, and the title of Behdety (the Edfuan) is conferred upon him by Thoth. Horus pursues the sun god's enemies throughout Egypt, defeating them time and again until their final defeat in Nubia.
Mitanni winged solar disk     Winged sun discs are also known from other ancient cultures, the Sumerian,[11] the Assyrian[10] and the Hittite for instance. Towards the end of 14th century BCE Mursili II introduced the idea of the king as sun in Hatti possibly influenced by Mitanni rather than Egyptian traditions.[8]

Rock art panel from Yazilikaia.[8]

[1] MdC transliteration, Wb vol. 1, 470.9
[2] MdC transliteration apy wr
[3] MdC transliteration apy.t, Wb vol. 1, 180.1
[4] Excerpt, © Olaf Tausch on Wikimedia, GNU Free Documentation License
[5] Shaw and Nicholson 1995, p.305
[6] After a transliteration and French translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae web site: Leuven Online Index of Ptolemaic and Roman Hieroglyphic Texts, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven => Dakka => façade du pronaos => décoration extérieure => frise => partie ouest => ligne supérieure => Horus
[7] the cult place of Horus at Edfu
[8] Kristiansen & Larsson 2005, pp.291f,
[9] Andrews 1994. pp.44f.
[10] Kist et al. 2003, p.192
[11] Darvill 2003, p.450
Carol Andrews, Amulets of ancient Egypt, University of Texas Press, 1994
Timothy Darvill, The concise Oxford dictionary of archaeology, Oxford University Press, 2003
Joost Kist, Dominique Collon, Geoffrey Eric Turner (eds.), Ancient Near Eastern seals from the Kist collection: three millennia of miniature reliefs, Brill, 2003
Kristian Kristiansen, Thomas B. Larsson, The rise of Bronze Age society: travels, transmissions and transformations, Cambridge University Press, 2005
Lurker 1999, pp.74f
Shaw and Nicholson 1995, p.305

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