The religious world of ancient Egypt


‘The exhibition, dedicated to the relationship between man and God in ancient Egypt, narrates the evolution of the religious experience, and therefore of culture, through three thousand years of history. In the third millennium BC (first section of the exhibition) the fundamental themes were related to the divine person of the King, the concept of a theocratic state, the heterogeneity of traditions and the great effort to rationalise them, by unifying them. In this period the relationship with God was always mediated by the King who was the guarantor of both the destiny of men and of the benevolence of the gods: the direct relationship with the divinity was an exclusive prerogatory of the King-God. The most ancient documents somehow testify this: the dead king cannot share the same destiny as all the other subjects: he is God and therefore he is rescued from the underground world after death. There is therefore a marked distance between the king and his people; the sovereign appears himself as a sign of the divine (after his death it is his pyramid that carries on this inheritance) and guarantees all the ethical rules. The so-called non-royal texts of this epoch are called “teachings” and define all the rules of behaviour. Morality is mainly directed to success in society: respect for hierarchy, tradition, etiquette, etc. There is little religious expression while the ideal social pattern is being designed. At the dawn of the second millennium (second section), we witness the breaking up of the activism typical of the Memphite era, of the trust in the institutions and in the ability of men to reach perfection and happiness. This change in sensitivity excludes any form of piety outside a collective social religion. The end of the Memphite era (decline of the VI dynasty) also marked the beginning of a crisis of the social structure and of the monarchy itself: po-litical upheavals, socio-economic decline. A new awareness is born that ethics and morality are not synonyms for ‘correct’ social and personal relationships, but that relations among men (virtues) are the sign of the relation with the divine. The second half of the second millennium saw the rise of a new way of relating to the divinity, which does not need the demiurgic figure of the king anymore. It clearly appeared for the first time that the rules can only be born from a religious experience, that it is possible to have a personal relation with God and that heaven belongs to those who will manage to deserve it in front of the judgement of the divinities; finally it becomes clear that this divinity must be served by adhering to its will, which implies following moral precepts and exercising the truth. The first millennium BC (third section) shows the problematic picture of the Egyptian civilisation facing realities and provocations coming from abroad. The cult of Isis spread throughout the Mediterranean world circulating that Egyptian culture heritage which would be re-interpreted by our civilisations.’


24 Agosto 1985 - 31 Agosto 1985


Exhibitions Meeting Exhibitions