“Sobek of Shedet. The crocodile god in the Fayyum in the Dynastic Period”, by Marco Zecchi, 2010
ISBN # 978-88-6244-115-5 © 2010 Tau Editrice Via Umbria 148/7- 06059 Todi (PG) firstname.lastname@example.org
Book review written by Peter D Avellone
I originally procured this high-quality book on loan from the United States Library of Congress until I could afford the $100.00/80.00 Euro price tag available at Amazon.com. I have long been fascinated by the Egyptian Crocodile God Sobek, the premier crocodile deity of the Ancient Egyptian pantheon of Gods. As any else who has shown interest in Sobek, I found it very frustrating and difficult to find any substantial amount of information on Him in any one place. There are numerous fragments and accounts scattered across spells, texts, hymns, and internet sites, the latter of which are quite dubious in nature, or at best incomplete.
First and foremost, this is a research book for students and Egyptologists researching Ancient Egypt, and not an entertainment. Marco went to a lot of work compiling a fantastic wealth of what data is currently available on Sobek, from His pre-historic origins in the Fayyum, most notably in the ancient town of Shedet, His cult-center through to the ‘end’ of His divine career. He provides both his own and historical insights on Sobek, in several aspects; his syncretizations with Horus and later, Ra, and the importance those associations held in expanding His popularity beyond the agricultural powerhouse of the Fayyum region.
Marco also puts forth his reasoning in challenging many previously-arrived at conclusions and assumptions regarding Sobek and His accompanying history, and while drawing his own conclusions, maintains a professional demeanor, never coming across as haughty or derisive, and giving ample credence to the existence of archeological phenomena; i.e., the destruction, recycling, or movement of monuments, misplaced, or as-of-yet undiscovered artifacts. Marco places Sobek into context as an unapologetically masculine, ferociously virile deity ‘sweet of love’ and dangerous to women, hesitant to fully anthropomorphize away from his primal, reptilian core, yet eager to come forth as protector when invoked. Additionally, he delves into the psychological, fertility, and royal associations of this God and how His power base and influence expanded beyond the agricultural economic strength of the Fayyum Depression to become connected to Kingship by way of His role in rescuing Osiris.
This book documents the rise and fall of His divine fortunes through times of drought, invasion, and foreign rule. The root associations, functions, and meanings of His name, filial relationships, and the evolution of His epithets. Marco makes a point to note that Sobek exhibits some rather interesting base emotional and physiological mechanisms! I would like to have had more connections to His myths and stories, but I am not sure that these exist complete, or in any sense of entirety. To his credit, Marco is diligent throughout, including a massive bibliography and list of sources, which one can pursue at one’s own leisure. There is a lot of repetition, which some might find irritating, but I perceived more as ensuring clarity and proper identification of His roles in various towns and temples, since there were other ‘versions’ of Sobek, especially in later times, which Marcos, quite to my amusement, refers to as ‘shady’ or ‘imposters’. Among the rich list of epithets is Amenemhat III’s stirring hymn to Sobek the Shedtite. However, you will need to find a translator for this jewel, or translate from the demotic Egyptian yourself, and there are some terms still unknown in their meaning. Revealing the details of a dead civilization are not easy, and though archeological research into Ancient Egyptian civilization is an ever-expanding field, much has been lost to time, invasions, recycling of monuments, and the natural degradation or willful destruction of fragile documents. I found this work to be quite revealing and stimulating. Marco’s tone is enthusiastic, reverential and respectful throughout, to the point where I suspect that he too, has fallen under Sobek’s spell by the end of the book, as many of us who have come to know and love the Lord of Crocodiles.
I find myself returning to this work repeatedly to ‘connect the dots’ in my own personal research and for inspiration. I hope to see more on Sobek of Shedet in future works.
Thank you for providing this, Marco. Dua Sobek!
Marco Zecchi is a Lecturer in Egyptology at the Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna
Peter D Avellone is a Kemetic Reconstructionist fascinated by anything involving Sobek, my patron deity, and I welcome any information anyone has related to Him.