chapter  7
21 Pages

Judge and Saviour: The God of the Individual

The problem of 'personal piety', in Ancient Egypt, is briefly this: are we dealing (a) with a structural feature of Ancient Egyptian religion, typical of all its periods but very differently testified by archaeological and textual evidence, or (b) with a historical movement typical only of a particular period (viz. the Ramesside period as "the age of Personal Piety", as Breasted called it), but implying forerunners and consequences? The first position is advocated especially by J. Baines! and others,2 the second one by, among others, Breasted,3 Posener4 and myself.5 I think that the arguments offered by Baines should lead to a more multi-layered understanding of the phenomenon. I prefer an 'as well as' solution to an 'either-or' one, by designing a theoretical framework that allows for both structural plurality and historical changes. The conventional dichotomy between "official religion" and "personal piety" should be replaced by a tetratomy: "official religion" (state), "local religion" (nome and town), "popular religion" (house and family) and "personal religion" (individual). Within this broader framework, 'personal piety' emerges as "personal religion" in the form of a religious movement having its roots in Theban festival customs ("local religion") and spreading during the Amarna period all over Egypt, eventually changing the whole structure of Egyptian religion, mentality and worldview.