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Looking at History through the Prism of Mythology: can the Osirian Myth Shed any Light on Ancient Egyptian Royal Succession Patterns?

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The Osirian Myth is testimony to the importance Egyptians put on royal succession. In this paper, we wish to show how the distinction between Myth and History can sometimes be blurred. We will examine two case studies in which the traditional focus on the orderly transmission of royal power from Osiris to his son Horus is altered in order to fit in extraordinary political circumstances or unusual cultural features. We will first look at the Great Abydene Stela of Ramesses IV to examine how the tumultuous succession of Ramesses III changed the angle from which the Osirian Myth is alluded to. We will then deal with the Stela of Taharqa on the High Nile in Year 6 to see how the myth is reshaped in order to encompass the new reality of an Egyptian dynasty of Nubian origin, where the king’s mother played a major role in the royal investiture.

Affiliations: 1: Université du Québec à Montréal


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