The Cryptographic Titulary of Darius at Hibis

Recorded: February 18, 2020
Event: Contextualizing Iranian Religions in the Ancient World - 14th Melammu Symposium

by Jonathan Winnerman (University of California, Los Angeles)

The Cryptographic Titulary of Darius at Hibis

There are numerous writings of the names and titles of Darius I in Egyptian hieroglyphs within the temple of Hibis, located in Egypt’s Kharga Oasis. Most of these resemble Darius’ hieroglyphic titulary on other Egyptian monuments, where pharaonic elements are occasionally interspersed with traditional Persian royal epithets. Several examples at Hibis are unique, however, in that they present his titulary not in normal hieroglyphs, but in cryptography. Cryptography, which had previously seen limited use in Egypt outside the royal tomb, frequently employed intentionally obscure lists of divinities, detailed human and animal figures, or sacred objects to write phrases normally conveyed by simpler hieroglyphs. In this way, the imagery of such writings may be compared to the presentation of Egyptian divinities elsewhere at Hibis, which may reflect a Persian desire to organize and order the complex web of Egyptian religion. At the same time, cryptography also had a deep, Egyptian religious significance. This is especially true in the context of the theology of Amun, whose name literally means “He Who is Hidden.” This talk will examine these cryptographic texts as unique examples for how Iranian and Egyptian religious systems may have combined and intermingled. Rather than attempting to determine the degree of Iranian influence inherent in them, it will be argued that these texts may represent a single expression that could have had important religious significance for both Iranian and Egyptian audiences.