Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Page 7: Introduction: Temple, Land and Cosmos

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The Ramesseum - temple of the cult of the deified Ramesses II - from the west.
Behind the temple proper lie the extensive mud-brick buildings of the temple's
hundreds of ancient Egyptian temples built throughout ancient Egypt history (including many of which we doubtless have no record), they offer a unique view into the lives eand minds of the ancient Egyptians. This is because ancient Egyptian temples were far boarder in relevance and importance than those of many other cultures. As a result, they have been described in widely varying ways: as mansions of the Egyptian gods, models of ancient Egypt and of the universe itself, focal points of ancient Egyptian worship, portals to the divine, and perhaps most colorfully, as islands of order in a cosmic ocean of chaos. In reality, as will be seen in this book, ancient Egyptian temples never functioned exclusively as any of these things. Rather, despite the seeming hyperbole of some of these descriptions, ancient Egyptian temples were all of these things and much more.

Some temples served primarily as houses of the Egyptian gods, built and expanded over the millennia to serve their patron deities, while others were mortuary monuments built to serve the spirit of deceased kings and to ensure their comfort and rule in the hereafter. Still other ancient Egyptian temples served different purpose, some doubling as fortresses, administrative centers and even as concrete expressions of propaganda or royal retreats.

Within the walls of most of these monuments, sanctuaries and treasuries, offices and palaces, slaughterhouses and schools might be found. Not only were many of the religious complexes centers of government, economy and commerce, but also within these temples ancient science and scholarship thrived and the nature of existence itself was pondered by generations of the learned priests.