The Hidden and the Revealed: Parallel Conceptions of the Divine at Hibis and in Context

Recorded: April 14, 2023
Event: Achaemenid Workshop 1
Citation: Winnerman, Jonathan. "The Hidden and the Revealed: Parallel Conceptions of the Divine at Hibis and in Context." Pourdavoud Center: Achaemenid Workshop 1 (April 14, 2023).

by Jonathan Winnerman (University of California, Los Angeles)

Ancient Egyptian theology often juxtaposed multiple conceptions of the divine in attempts to encapsulate the true totality of divine power. These different conceptions, which were usually outright contradictory, could be expressed in terms of number, geography, or even form and appearance. Yet, perhaps the most common but also complex of all these juxtapositions was that of the hidden and the revealed manifestations of god. This was the duality that informed the identity of Amun-Re, king of the gods, who was hidden in his name of Amun, literally “he who is hidden,” and revealed in his form of Re, the visible sun. As the king was also a tangible form of the divine, he could be inserted into this scheme as well, an ability of which Darius I and the priests, theologians, and artisans who supported him were able to take advantage at the temple of Hibis. On the northern and southern outer walls, Darius commissioned parallel inscriptions. One, in standard hieroglyphs, focuses on the king, while the other, written intentionally in cryptographic or enigmatic hieroglyphs, focuses on Amun. Such inscriptions were not without precedent, and similar examples can be found as early as the reign of Ramses II in the New Kingdom. The precise position and significance of the Hibis texts in this tradition, however, have never been properly understood, as a complete and accurate translation of these enigmatic hieroglyphs has never been published. This paper aims to fill this lacuna by presenting a new, preliminary translation and offering a detailed examination of Darius’ position in relation to hidden and revealed conceptions of god. This may in turn permit a new discussion of the interactions between Egyptian and Achaemenid religious traditions in the context of the larger imperial project.

About the Speaker

Jonathan Winnerman is Academic Administrator for Ancient Studies at UCLA, where he assists with the research and operations of the new Institute for the Study of Global Antiquity. He earned his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2018. Specializing in the ancient Egyptian language and Egyptian religion, his academic work focuses on the creation and expression of authoritarian power in ancient Egypt and beyond. He worked in Egypt for many years, most notably as a team member of the Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.