15 Pages


The golden age of Egyptian solar hymns, the three centuries from c.1500 to 1200 B.C. which have provided us with many hundreds of examples of them, is a unique phenomenon. No other period of Egyptian history, indeed no other culture, has produced such an abundance of poetry in praise of the sun god. There can be no doubt that the sheer volume of this poetry is connected with the institution of the tomb. Once the custom of recording sun hymns in the tomb had become established, it was quite natural that many of these inscriptions should have been preserved for us. Unlike the inscriptions usually categorised under the heading "Personal Piety", l which were recorded as a result of individual religious experience, the recording of sun hymns in tombs, it might be argued, was mere routine, the fulfilment of a prescribed nqrm: they are not to be understood as an expression of living (i.e contemporary) theological discourse, any more than the biographical inscriptions, which are far more numerous and cover a much longer historical period, are to be understood as an expression of contemporary anthropological discourse, i.e the on-going intellectual debate about the problems of "I" and "society", "man" and "the cosmos" and so on; "in fact" (the argument might continue), we are simply dealing with the use of a traditional stock of predetermined formulae and cliches.