, Egypt was unifed under one king. From its very beginning,the concept o kingship outlined a number o roles and responsibilitiesor the all-powerul ruler. He protected Egypt rom oreign invasion andinternal uprising; he controlled a large and extensive government bureaucracy; butfrst and oremost the king served as an intermediary between the people o ancientEgypt and their gods. Considered semi-divine, the king played an essential rolein the continuation o the cosmos, and participated in ceremonies and rituals toappease the deities.As bearer o a divine ofce, celestial power was embodied in the king, settinghim apart rom ordinary human beings. Mythically, the living king was a humanmaniestation o the god Horus, and the son o the deities Isis and Osiris. As such,the king battled Seth, his uncle and the brother o Osiris, or control o the throne.The Egyptians envisioned this mythical competition as a metaphor or the strugglebetween order and chaos. This Horus/Osiris myth also served as the prototypeor ideal accession to the throne—rom ather to son, rom Osiris to Horus.While living the king was associated with Horus. At his death, he became the godo the Underworld, Osiris.Because o the king’s special semi-divine role, he had to perorm certain tasks orthe gods in order to keep them content. I the gods were appeased, then the worldwould continue unctioning. One o these tasks was to maintain order by deendingEgypt against oreign invaders. In Egyptian art, the king is oten depicted smitingthe enemies o Egypt, symbolizing his power over them.The image o a king ritualistically bashing the head o a oreigner was a powerulsymbol rom the beginning o Egyptian history, seen frst in the amous NarmerPalette. The king holds a weapon in his raised right hand and a submissive,kneeling enemy o Egypt by the hair in his let. The smiting scene remained a potentvisual image throughout Egyptian history. A Middle Kingdom example o KingAmenemhat
smiting enemies is eatured in
Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs
on the pectoral o Mereret (see the
Pectoral of Mereret
or Power Point or an in depth exploration o this piece).
Osiris, the god ofthe underworld
Narmer Palette.This relief carvingdates to around3200 BC and ison display in theCairo Museum.
Pectoral of Mereret