*Includes ancient accounts
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
Africa may have given rise to the first human beings, and Egypt probably gave rise to the first great civilizations, which continue to fascinate modern societies across the globe nearly 5,000 years later. From the Library and Lighthouse of Alexandria to the Great Pyramid at Giza, the Ancient Egyptians produced several wonders of the world, revolutionized architecture and construction, created some of the world's first systems of mathematics and medicine, and established language and art that spread across the known world. With world-famous leaders like King Tut and Cleopatra, it's no wonder that today's world has so many Egyptologists.
To the ancient Egyptians, as was the case with any society made up of inquiring humans, the world was a confusing and often terrifying place of destruction, death and unexplained phenomena. In order to make sense of such an existence, they resorted to teleological stories. Giving a phenomenon a story made it less horrifying, and it also helped them make sense of the world around them. Unsurprisingly, then, the ancient Egyptian gods permeated every aspect of existence.
There are few characters in Egyptian myth whose image and name are more widely known than Horus. His name most probably means "the Distant One;" as the celestial falcon, his wings were believed to span the length of the distant sky and his eyes were the sun and the moon. This name betrays the connection Horus shared with Re, the "all powerful" sun god, and also hints at his earlier incarnation as one of the earliest celestial gods in Egyptian religious belief.
One of the earliest images from ancient Egypt is that of a falcon residing in the famous "sun-Barque" of Re, which the ancient Egyptians believed traversed the sky during the day and crossed the dangerous land of the dead during the night. Horus' place in the sun-barque probably represents Horus as a 'star or planet crossing the Winding Waterway of the sky," since the ancient Egyptians were famous for their complex astronomical system that incorporated many mythical elements, but his position there is much more than being just another of the sun-god's divine entourage. Horus' mythological lineage places him as the direct descendant of the Ennead, the nine gods and goddesses who were formed from the earlier abstract concepts in the primordial waters of "Nun". This places him at an interesting crossroads in terms of his relationships with the greater pantheon. Not being one of the Ennead weakens Horus' claim to the divine right of kingship, in contrast to Seth, his uncle, who could claim primacy as one of the Ennead himself. The result of this contention made for a fascinating power struggle and a myth that would have real-world ramifications throughout the vast expanse of Egyptian history.
Horus would eventually ascend the throne of his father, Osiris, and for this reason he held a deep connection with the throne of united Egypt. The earliest kings were shown as hawks (long considered part of the "Falconidae Family") preying on their enemies, the reason for which lies in the mythological foundation of Horus' life and also in the real world understanding of the "history" of the royal line of kings. Integral to Horus' myths is the notion of royal inheritance. Born of the murdered god Osiris and the magical goddess Isis, Horus' - the younger, at least - life was defined by his establishment of the royal line of Egyptian kings. To the modern Western reader, this notion of gods being mortal and inheriting the power of their fathers may seem a little strange, but, to the ancient Egyptians, stories about feuding mortal deities were par for the rather strange course, and an understanding of the nuances of Egyptian religious belief can go some way towards dispelling that confusion.