Kingdom of Napata and Meroë

The highly sacred “Pure Mountain” (Djw-Wab), the Southern Throne of Amon-Ra at Napata (near the fourth cataract of the Nile, about 400 km north of Khartoum):
in the foreground, the row of rams’ statues (representing Amon-Ra) leading to the Great Temple of Amon-Ra.
The pinnacle on the left of the “Pure Mountain” is the Giant Uraeus springing from the Throne of Amon-Ra.

Napata, in Upper Nubia (now called “Sudan”, near the fourth cataract of the Nile, about 400 km north of Khartoum), was the capital of Egypt during the XXV Dynasty (ca. 747-656 bc), and later became the capital of the independent Kingdom of Kush, known as “the Kingdom of Meroë” from the 591 bc, when King Aspelta moved the political capital to Meroë, that is the beginning of the Meroitic Period.

Founded after or during the campaign of conquest in Nubia of King Thutmosis I (ca. 1500 bc), Napata was initially a defensive fort, and indeed its name was “Slaughter of foreigners”; it was called “Napata”, from the reign of King Amenhotep II, ca. 1424-1398 bc. Throughout the New Kingdom Napata was the southern border of Egypt, but following the invasions of the Sea Peoples and of the Libyans (ca. 1190 bc), it was abandoned by the Egyptian’s army, together with the whole territory of Kush: the period between 1100 and 850 bc is completely obscure, and the archaeological evidences are not enough for an historical reconstruction.
But from the VIII century bc a local dynasty emerged, closely connected to the Great Temple of Amon-Ra at Napata, from which arose the XXV Dynasty: the Kings of the XXV Dynasty reunified the Two Lands of Egypt during the third intermediate period, ca . 1060-750 bc, when Egypt was divided into various kingdoms. The Kings of the XXV Dynasty were highly known and praised for Their great devotion towards the Gods and for Their military capabilities (like the great and highly religious King Piye, or like Shabaka, Taharqa and many others).
The numerous invasions and finally the assyrian domination in 664 bc marked the end of the rule of the Dynasty of Napata over the Two Lands of Egypt, but the Kings of Kush continued to dominate Their independent Kingdom according to the sacred Egyptian religion and tradition until the IV/V century CE, reigning as true and rightful Kings.
The Kingdom of Meroë and its highly sacred Temples were destroyed in the V century CE by the invasion of the christian kingdom of Axum that few years later was in turn destroyed by the muslim invasions: then began a period of cruel and bloody wars between the christians and the muslims that still today destroy the “Sudan”, once known and praised as one of the most prosperous, happy, and richest kingdoms of the Earth thanks to the devotions of its people and Sovereigns towards the Gods of Kush/Meroë.

statues of Kings of the XXV Dynasty, from the Museum of Kerma:
on the left , King TantAmani (664-653 bc) and SenkAmanisken (640-620 bc); in the middle, Taharqa (690-664 bc), Aspelta (in front, 600-580 bc) and AnlAmani (with ram’s horns, 620-600 bc); on the right, TantAmani and SenkAmanisken

Napata and its royal dynasties were closely related to the cult of Amon-Ra, and indeed Amon-Ra was the Dynastic God and the source of power and legitimacy of its Sovereigns.
The Kings of Napata/Meroë (during the XXV Dynasty and throughout all the history of the Kingdom of Meroë) were selected and confirmed by the High Priest of Amon of Napata: if a King was judged by the priests of Amon-Ra as lacking or deficient of “Maat”, that is of Justice and Truth, he was replaced, and usually to the kings “without Maat” it was ordered to commit suicide.
Napata remained the religious capital of the Kingdom throughout the history of the independent Kingdom of Kush, and even when Meroë became the capital, Napata was the sacred city where the Kings were crowned and the main Seat of the Royal Necropolis, and the oracular Temple of Amon-Ra was always the religious guide of the policy of the Sovereigns of Meroë.
The Great Temple of Amon at Napata is one of the three oracular seats of Amon-Ra, along with the oracle of Amon-Ra at Ipet-Sut (the Temple Complex of Amon-Ra at Uaset, Diospolis Megale-Thebes) and the oracle of Siwa in the Libyan desert (Siwa is also connected to the oracle of Zeus at Dodona, cf. Herodotus, Histories, II, 54-57).

The great bond between Amon-Ra and Napata derives from the existence of the “Pure Mountain” (Djw-Wab), the Southern Throne of Amon-Ra (Uaset and the Great Precinct of Amon-Ra are the Northern Throne of Amon-Ra), the sacred mountain now known as “Jebel Barkal”, and from its physical appearance.
In the religious iconography, the “Pure Mountain” is depicted as a Temple: a huge Cobra is represented at its entrance, identified with the colossal natural pinnacle of the Mountain, and Amon (sometimes together with the Goddess Mut) is represented inside the Mountain/Temple. Indeed in the ancient texts it is said that “Amon lives in the Mountain”, and by looking at the pictures of the Sacred Mountain, the connection and the identity between the physical appearance and the religious representations it is evident. Other times the entire Mountain is represented as a huge snake whose body protects Amon, and the pinnacle is always the face of the serpent, raised up as a sign of protection, like the Uraeus. Still today, among the modern local people, there are many legends regarding the presence of guardian spirits, and especially about the existence of a giant cobra inside the “Pure Mountain”.

Colossal statue of King Aspelta (600-580 bc), from the Great Temple of Amon-Ra at Napata; now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s