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Egyptian Maat and Hesiodic Metis

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image of Mnemosyne

Metis appears twice in the Hesiodic corpus as an anthropomorphic goddess, who is courted and then ingested by Zeus. In the Theogony this narrative ends with the permanent stabilization of his monarchic rule over gods and men. We argue that the myth of Metis and Zeus most probably derives - directly or indirectly - from Egyptian royal ideology, as it is expressed most emphatically in a series of New Kingdom and later (i.e. 1500 BCE-200 CE) texts and relief sculptures that depict the offering to various monarchical male gods of the goddess Maat. Like Hesiodic Mêtis/mêtis, Maat appears in Egyptian texts both as an abstract idea (maat) and as an anthropomorphized goddess Maat and several odd details in the Hesiodic narratives can be explained by Egyptian influence, especially the idea that Zeus swallows Metis and that afterwards she gives him moral guidance. Metis and Egyptian Maat are both closely connected to the idea of legitimate monarchic rule, a relationship that is expressed by the insertion of Maat herself into the coronation names of Egyptian kings, much the same as Metis' name appears in two of the traditional epithets attached to Zeus.


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