*Includes ancient accounts
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
Africa may have given rise to the first human beings, and Egypt probably gave rise to the first great civilizations, which continue to fascinate modern societies across the globe nearly 5,000 years later. From the Library and Lighthouse of Alexandria to the Great Pyramid at Giza, the Ancient Egyptians produced several wonders of the world, revolutionized architecture and construction, created some of the world’s first systems of mathematics and medicine, and established language and art that spread across the known world. With world-famous leaders like King Tut and Cleopatra, it’s no wonder that today’s world has so many Egyptologists.
Although the Egyptians may not have passed their civilization directly on to later peoples, the key elements that comprised Egyptian civilization, including their religion, early ideas of state, and art and architecture, can be found among other civilizations. For instance, civilizations far separated in time and space, such as China and Mesoamerica, possessed key elements that were similar to those found in ancient Egypt. Indeed, since Egyptian civilization represented some fundamental human concepts, a study of their culture can be useful when trying to understand many other pre-modern cultures.
To the ancient Egyptians, as was the case with any society made up of inquiring humans, the world was a confusing and often terrifying place of destruction, death and unexplained phenomena. In order to make sense of such an existence, they resorted to teleological stories. Giving a phenomenon a story made it less horrifying, and it also helped them make sense of the world around them. Unsurprisingly, then, the ancient Egyptian gods permeated every aspect of existence.
Given the abundance of funerary artifacts that have been found within the sands of Egypt, it sometimes seems as though the Ancient Egyptians were more concerned with the matters of the afterlife than they were with matters of the life they experienced from day to day. This is underscored most prominently by the pyramids, which have captured the world’s imagination for centuries.
Ra’s name was all but ubiquitous in ancient Egyptian texts, to the point that many people today have come across it in history classes. Amun-Ra, Atum-Ra, and Ra-Harakhti have been used in modern cinema and literature for decades, yet isolating "Ra" as a single character, for all its preeminence in the concept of Egyptian mythology, is frustratingly difficult.
People familiar with Egyptian mythology know Ra as a sun god, which would seem to explain Ra’s centrality in ancient Egyptian religion, but there is so much more to his being a solar entity than a simple manifestation of this awe-inspiring, daily phenomenon for early humans. Ra was a king and tyrant, a lover and friend. It is only through the understanding of this deity as such that people today can fully appreciate the richness of his character and the roles he played in ancient Egyptian religious thought.
Ra: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Egyptian God of the Sun looks at the god that had such a decisive impact on the Egyptians’ concepts of life. Along with pictures depicting important people, places, and events, you will learn about Ra like never before.