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My theory.

 
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ISETTHEFAIR
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2011 9:40 pm    Post subject: My theory. Reply with quote

I have wondered for some time why it is that Egyptian Gods and Goddesses are not as commonly known about as say, their Roman or Greek counterparts. How many big Hollywood films can you think of where Roman or Greek gods play a great part but there are none that I can think of - other than old horror movies such as The Mummy in it's various forms, where there is any mention of Egyptian gods.

I have puzzled over this for some time and I thought it might have something to do with the rather 'odd' look to so many of the gods in comparison with the apparently more 'noble' looking Zeus or Jupiter. I love the exotic look of the Egyptian gods but I wonder if their unusual appearance was a big turn off for the staid victorians, hence the preference for gods of other cultures. Of course they might have had a hard time with the many brother/sister pairings in Egyptian mythology.

What do others think? Is it possible that gods such as Khepri with his lovely dung beetle head might have frightened them off?
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 5:06 pm    Post subject: Re: My theory. Reply with quote

ISETTHEFAIR wrote:
I have wondered for some time why it is that Egyptian Gods and Goddesses are not as commonly known about as say, their Roman or Greek counterparts. How many big Hollywood films can you think of where Roman or Greek gods play a great part but there are none that I can think of - other than old horror movies such as The Mummy in it's various forms, where there is any mention of Egyptian gods.

I have puzzled over this for some time and I thought it might have something to do with the rather 'odd' look to so many of the gods in comparison with the apparently more 'noble' looking Zeus or Jupiter. I love the exotic look of the Egyptian gods but I wonder if their unusual appearance was a big turn off for the staid victorians, hence the preference for gods of other cultures.


Since most of western culture is based upon the Greco-Roman civilisations, these deities are more well-known as they are mentioned abundantly in the literature which began in the 7th century BCE and which is still with us today. No aspect of Zeus'/Jupiter's life is unknown, for example (we know who is father and mother were, how and where he was born, and how he rebelled against them to establish himself as supreme ruler of the Greek/Roman pantheon; we know his consort and her origins and history, his children (divine and demi-god), etc.). These are all carefully spelled out in Greek and Roman literature.

Egyptian myth was basically unknown until the 19th century, since hieroglyphs were lost (as to knowledge as to their translation) after 391 CE. So if and when Egyptian deities were seen between the 4th century and the 19th century, who they were and what they represented was unknown.

This is not to say there was no speculation: Horapollo's Hieroglyhica, written in the 5th century CE, speculated about the symbolic meaning of glyphs and Egyptian imagery, but this work was not discovered until the 15th century CE, and even then, the understanding of glyphs and imagery was often very skewed from their actual meanings.

Once the system of hieroglyphs as a written language was rediscovered in the 19th century CE (by Thomas Young and Jean-François Champollion), a basic understanding of ancient Egyptian religious imagery began to emerge. But even there, one has the problem that the Egyptian did not record their mythology in full; an example would be the myth of Osiris' life and subsequent death: it is never recorded in full anywhere in Egyptian texts, and this is thought to be so due to the traumatic nature of the event, which Egyptians were loathe to record.

Even where stories were present about certain deities, these myths often changed over the course of Egyptian history as deities merged with other deities and their mythology became intertwined (a process called syncretism). So this left the mythology around ancient Egyptian deities somewhat muddled.

The Victorians, who were the first consumers of history of ancient Egypt after its rediscovery, were actually quite fascinated by Egyptian religion and its panethon. The 1800's saw the phenomena of the "Egyptian Revival" period where the architecture, imagery, and texts of ancient Egypt were widely used in modern architecture, and in exhibitions. One has merely to go to cemeteries of the period, such as in London (examples include Kensal Green, Highgate Cemetery, and Abney Park) to see that the Victorians were fanatical in their use of ancient Egyptian religious symbols and imagery as part of their own funereal use (which is understandable since the majority of the Victorians' understanding of Egyptian culture came from Egyptian funereal practices).

So, the Victorians did not see Egyptian religion as 'odd': perhaps they did not clearly understand the imagery from the Egyptian point of view, but as is the case with ancient Egypt, every culture and new generation find their own meaning in ancient Egyptian culture as modern knowledge of the ancient culture increases.

There are quite a number of works on Egyptian revival and how the Victorians and later periods "reinterpreted" ancient Egypt. These include:

Carrott, R. G. 1978. The Egyptian Revival: Its Sources, Monuments, and Meaning. 1808-1858. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Curl, J. S. 1982. The Egyptian Revival: An introductory study of a recurring theme in the history of taste. London: George Allen and Unwin.

________. 1994. Egyptomania. The Egyptian Revival: A Recurring Theme in the History of Taste. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Day, J. 2006. The Mummy's Curse: Mummymania in the English-speaking World. London: Routledge.

Elliott, C., K. Griffis-Greenberg, et al. 2003. Egypt in London – Entertainment and Commerce in the 20th Century Metropolis. In C. Price and J.-M. Humbert, Eds., Imhotep Today: Egyptianizing Architecture: 106-125. Encounters with Ancient Egypt. London: Cavendish/UCL Press.

Humbert, J.-M., C. Ziegler, and M. Pantazzi. 1994. Egyptomania: Egypt in Western Art, 1730-1930. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada.

On the "reinterpretation" of ancient Egypt by modern culture:

Assmann, J. 1997. Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism. Cambridge/London: Harvard University Press.

Ginn, P. 2000. "Egyptomania." Archaeology's friend or foe? BA Honours Thesis, Egyptian Archaeology (Unpublished). Institute of Archaeology. University College London.

Hornung, E. 2001. The Secret Lore of Egypt: Its Impact on the West. D. Lorton, transl. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Montserrat, D. 2000. Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt. London: Routledge.

I would say that if Hollywood hasn't figured out ways to translate Egyptian religion into a "Clash of the Titans" type of movie, it may be because the characters (i.e, Egyptian deities) would have to be heavily CGI-created. While this is not impossible, another reason may have to do more with the fragmentary nature of Egyptian myth which leaves one always with less than half the story, and one has to surmise what "happened next."

But I suspect the real reason for a lack of interest in the topic on a popular basis is because Egyptian studies are relatively recent form of popular interest. This doesn't mean that such films could be created which show this, but it's not the lack of knowledge or expertise to assist in informing about the topic, but mainly what Hollywood thinks ancient Egypt is all about.

Sadly, one has merely to see films such as "The Mummy" (1999 and 2001) to see that even when good academic expertise is available to the director and producers (there was at least 1 Egyptologist used in both films, mainly for creating the language and not much else), they always tend to fall back onto old and trite imagery and storylines rather than show the public the depth and complexity of ancient Egyptian religion and culture. I also say the same is also true of recent "documentaries" on television about ancient Egypt over the past 10 years or so: even when they use Egyptological expertise, documentary filmmakers tend to ignore about 90% of what these experts are telling them, and make up some awful tripe about the culture, making their works an embarassment to watch.

ISETTHEFAIR wrote:
Of course they might have had a hard time with the many brother/sister pairings in Egyptian mythology.


Remembering that Zeus is married to his sister, Hera, and that they were the children of Cronus and Rhea (also married siblings); Cronus and Rhea, in turn, were children of Uranus and Gaia (a son who took his mother as consort, in some versions of the myth), one can't say that the Egyptian deities hold the franchise on sibling incest. Cronus and Rhea's siblings, the other Titans, were all also married siblings like Nyx and Erebus. So, I can't see that the Victorians would have objected to the pairings of the Egyptian deities any differently than to their Greek and Roman counterparts, and they took that mythology in stride.

There were often other more unusual pairings in Greek and Roman mythology than in Egyptian mythology (such as Oedipus marrying his mother Jocasta; Athena being born from Zeus' skull after he consumed her pregnant mother Thetis, and various pairings of Zeus with human femals in the guise of animals), which probably would have been considered shocking to the ancient Egyptians, much less the Victorians. I don't see that facet of the mythology being too much for the 19th century Victorians by any means.

I hope this assists.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very well put and documented Neseret. Many thanks, I Had no clue how to answer this question.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 11:11 am    Post subject: Re: My theory. Reply with quote

ISETTHEFAIR wrote:
I have wondered for some time why it is that Egyptian Gods and Goddesses are not as commonly known about as say, their Roman or Greek counterparts. How many big Hollywood films can you think of where Roman or Greek gods play a great part but there are none that I can think of - other than old horror movies such as The Mummy in it's various forms, where there is any mention of Egyptian gods.

I have puzzled over this for some time and I thought it might have something to do with the rather 'odd' look to so many of the gods in comparison with the apparently more 'noble' looking Zeus or Jupiter. I love the exotic look of the Egyptian gods but I wonder if their unusual appearance was a big turn off for the staid victorians, hence the preference for gods of other cultures. Of course they might have had a hard time with the many brother/sister pairings in Egyptian mythology.

What do others think? Is it possible that gods such as Khepri with his lovely dung beetle head might have frightened them off?


I tend to agree with Neseret that Egyptian mythology never had much of a chance given its late introduction.

That may change, Rick Riordan, author of the Lighting Thief and other books based on Greek mythology for tweens and teens has a new series based on Egyptian mythology.

Can a movie deal be in the makes?

His website is aimed at kids of course and the series is very much magic based but Riordan has links to the British and Brooklyn Museum websites to help his young readers learn more.

Part of the story is based in my home town of Brooklyn--now I have to read it.

http://www.rickriordan.com/my-books/kane-chronicles.aspx
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Paddy
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2011 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's true that the information that's most "available to the wide public" is brought down a level and tends to address a younger population. I mean, if you're only casually interested in Egypt and won't go looking for good references, the information closest at hand are the documentaries, and E.A Wallis Budge for those who go sniffing for books. ^^
I've always wondered why not go by the accurate facts instead of rehashing everything, since it's not like it really disturbs the main plotline.
I'm not so versed in Greek mythology so the Lightning Thief was really quite fun to look at (as in, you're not constantly on the look-out for historical blunders xD) ... that "Kane Chronicles" business certainly sounds interesting!

Also, if you wanted to see the Egyptian gods "in action", there's some good, gruesome, realistic interpretations in Enki Bilal's comics ("La Foire aux Immortels"). Smile The movie "Immortel Ad Vitam" is based off of that comic; I'm not sure the actual mythology is taken into account (it's a crazy sci-fi storyline) but the CGI gods do look quite classy.
Very Happy

Trailer for the curious: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V16K6yMWprk
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Leonelle
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PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was actually wondering this myself but thanks neseret for your clarrification.
Might I also add another reason why Egypt will probably have a harder time is based on the fact that, it takes a lot of work to make quality things.
And the chances of hollywood making some serious quality things--even if based on a book-- is very rare unless a hardcore Egyptologist feels like throwing away their money on making some historically correct movies. (*cross fingers*)
Another big thing is, hollywood will only care if they see people /really/ want it. Hollywoods all about making money, but they need to make sure that it will make money, and not be too "boring."
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