King Taharqa Loved by the Gods
Publication Date: 10/01/2003
Author: Janice Yellin,
COPYRIGHT 2003 Cobblestone Publishing, Co.
Since the First Time, it was the sacred duty of every ruler to build new temples to the ancient gods and restore old ones. Taharqa knew this well. He also knew that, in the centuries before his rule, weak kings had neglected this responsibility. So he set about erecting new temples and fixing many ancient ones in Egypt and Nubia. Through these acts, he connected the world of humans to the world of the gods and became the greatest builder of all 25th Dynasty kings.
According to Egyptian and Nubian mythology, there were gods who took care of the living and gods who saw to the dead. The king of all the deities was Amun, and he reigned supreme among the gods of the living.
There were actually two Amuns, the human-headed Amun of Thebes and the ram-headed Amun of Napata. Nubia was the birthplace and home of the latter. For hundreds of years before Taharqa's time, he had been worshipped alongside Amun of Thebes in both Egypt and Nubia.
Because Amun of Napata gave Taharqa his kingship and was considered his divine father, Taharqa built a magnificent temple in the shadow of the holy mountain at Napata. He also repaired all the ancient Amun temples in Nubia that had been neglected after Egypt's empire in Nubia collapsed. With new temples built and old ones restored to glory, Amun of Napata was once again properly honored.
Taharqa also constructed temples in Nubia to many of the great goddesses of Egypt, including Mut and the goddess of the royal crown, Bastet.
Taharqa never forgot his origins, and many of the gods he worshipped were Nubian gods from Lower Nubia. The divine family of Khnum was particularly important. Khnum was a ram-headed god who fashioned the earthly body of each person from clay at birth. His wife Satet and daughter Anket were believed to protect the source of the Nile floodwaters that gave life to Nubia and Egypt each year. The three had been revered in Nubia and Egypt from very early times.
Every day, in the temples Taharqa built or restored, the deities were honored with prayers and songs. Incense was burned before them. Offering tables, piled high with meats, fruits, and bread, were purified when priests poured sacred Nile water over them.
Taharqa believed in a life after death protected by Osiris and Isis, his wife. According to Egyptian and Nubian mythology, the god Osiris had ruled Egypt until he was murdered by his jealous brother Seth. Osiris's wife, the goddess Isis, and her companion, the jackal-headed god Anubis, mummified his body. By using their great magical powers, they revived Osiris so he could become the ruler of the underworld. Osiris and Isis then had a son, Horus, who ruled on earth. For Nubians and Egyptians, therefore, the living king was the god Horus, Osiris's son. When the king died, he became Osiris, lord of the underworld.
In order to ensure his existence after death, Taharqa, like his ancestors, built a stone pyramid to house his mummy and food offerings for the afterlife. He built a burial chamber deep beneath his pyramid. In the center of the room, Taharqo's mummy rested on a stone platform surrounded by a moat. When the moat was filled with water, the raised area became a "sacred island" surrounded by the life-giving waters of the Nile. Only one other tomb had an underground "island," and it was no ordinary tomb. It was the resting place of the god Osiris that had been built behind his temple at Abydos.
While Taharqa ruled Nubia and Egypt, the deities of both the living and the dead prospered once again. Temples were filled with rich offerings, and priests and priestesses sang praises to the gods and goddesses throughout the two lands. Indeed, the Nubians saw Taharqa as a king whom the deities themselves loved.
First Time refers to the mythological period when the gods and goddesses lived on earth and had their kingdoms there. This was a golden age, and justice ruled the land.
Janice Yellin has studied the religion, art, and history of ancient Nubia and is working on a project to record the pyramids of the ancient Nubian rulers of Meroe. She teaches art history at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.