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The myth of «The Dispute of Horus and Seth»

The text of the myth is written on a papyrus located in the Chester Beaty Library in Dublin (Ireland) and known as “Chester Beaty Papyrus No. 1”. First published by Alan Gardiner in 1931 in London. The text occupies part of a huge (5.02 m long) papyrus containing a number of texts, including a collection of beautiful love poems. The papyrus was written in Thebes during the XX dynasty, around 1160 BC. e. The literary treatment of the myth should be attributed to this time.

The very core of the myth – the dispute between Horus and Seth and the justification for the rights of both of them to the legacy of Osiris — dates back to ancient times, even before the unification of Egypt, when there were tribal clashes. In particular, this opinion is shared by Gwen Griffiths (John Gwyn Griffiths). However, most historians see the myth as a literary work, rather than a sacred one, and that it was created more as “entertainment reading”. This opinion is particularly shared by Antonio Loprieno.

The text of the myth in modern literary processing

Detail of the frieze from the recess in the tomb of Pharaoh Horemheb, showing the gods Osiris, Anubis and Horus.

Detail of the frieze from the recess in the tomb of Pharaoh Horemheb (XVIII dynasty), showing the gods Osiris, Anubis and Horus.

Horus grew up, became a strong, brave young man, a powerful god.

He often liked to ask his mother about his father, about his life and death. And now it was time for Horus to fulfill his filial duty — to avenge his father. No one was afraid of the young strong god, and he went to look for his opponent, the killer of his father-the treacherous Seth. Everyone loved Horus, and in that love was his strength.

— I am going to find Seth, “he said to his mother,” I am powerful, for all men love me, and my heart is at peace. Let Seth’s heart flutter! I am coming to find you, villain, and as soon as I find you, I will kill you.

Horus went up the Nile and came to Siut, and there he found Seth. The opponents met, and a fierce battle began between them. For ten days there was a struggle between the uncle and the nephew, they could not overcome each other.

Now, it seems, Seth begins to win, Horus weakens, but Isis infuses new strength into Horus with her sorcery:

— I tell you, I am your mother Isis, you conquer your weakness!”

And with a new ferocity, Horus enters the duel. Seth’s spirits drop, but his demon helpers keep him awake.

So Seth managed to throw a sharp stone and hit the Mountain right in the eye. Horus swayed, and Seth tore the boy’s eye out. With a cry, Horus rushed at Seth, inflicted severe wounds on him, and broke his thigh. Seth was exhausted from his wounds and from the struggle, and Horus bound him tightly with thick ropes. — According to another version, Gore lost the first fight with Seth. Seth killed him and cut him into sixty-four pieces. Only after the god Thoth fused all the parts and revived Horus, did he manage to get the better of his father’s killer).

Isis called the healing god Thoth and with his help healed the Mountain of his wounds, and he began to see again as before. Horus took his torn eye to give to his father, and he went to Osiris, and took Seth bound with him.

Horus came to his father with his prisoner. He took Seth by the hand and went with him to the motionless Osiris.

“Stand up!” Wake up! Look at your son, look at what he’s done for you! He struck down your killer, he brought Seth bound to you.

Horus removed the sandal from his father’s foot and placed it on Seth’s head as a sign that he was giving Seth over to his father. And Seth trembled under his brother’s sandal, for he was afraid of the power of Osiris.

Then Horus opened Osiris ‘ mouth and put his torn eye in it, saying:

“Father, I have come to you! I am Horus, your son. I give you my eye, in it is your soul, your strength.

Osiris swallowed the eye and life began to flutter in it. He opened his eyes, stretched out his hands, and wiped the sand from his face. Then Osiris raised himself on his left side, turned to his right side, and took possession of his body. Osiris arose, awoke, and the departed god awoke. He came to life and became again mighty and strong, as he had been before.

All men rejoice, and the gods rejoice. Isis and Nephthys are triumphant, and Horus embraces his beloved father.

Osiris gave his throne to Horus, his son and heir, who defeated his enemy.

And Horus became king of Egypt. The whole earth rejoiced. The evil disappeared, and the truth was established in the country.

And Osiris retired to the underworld and became the king of eternity, the judge of all the dead.

But Seth did not lay down his weapon. He failed to destroy Horus as a child, he did not defeat the young man Horus in open battle, and Set planned to accuse Horus before the gods, to say that Horus had wrongly taken his father’s throne. After all, it is not the son, but he, the brother, who is also the eldest, who has the inheritance, and he, Set, should rule Egypt after Osiris.

Seth asked the gods to judge him with Horus. “Horus illegally occupied the royal throne,” he said. — I must become a king and rule the land after Osiris.”

The gods gathered for judgment in the Golden Hall to settle the dispute between Set and Gor. Both opponents came to the courtroom and sat down before the lord of the whole world, before the god Ra. Thoth, the god of wisdom, Shu, the god of air, Tefnut, the goddess of moisture, and others were also present — the entire Great Nine gathered to discuss the dispute between the gods.

“Lord,” he said, ” we must decide who will be king of the North and South.

“Justice is a great power! Shu said. “Do justice, great Ra!” Give the worthy one the rod and crown of Pharaoh.

Young Horus, still a mere child compared to Seth, boldly turned to the gods and demanded to give him the inheritance after his father — the right to be king of Egypt.

— That’s a million times true!” He told the judges. And the gods decided that Horus, the faithful son who had avenged his father’s death and given him his eye, should become king, and the gods wanted to put a crown on Horus ‘ head.

Isis rejoiced at the verdict of the gods and exclaimed joyfully:

— North wind, fly to the West and please the heart of Osiris-may he be alive, unharmed, healthy!

However, her joy was premature — the sun god Ra suddenly stood up and said:

— Why do you judge and pass judgment without asking me what I think?” Power must be given to Seth. Horus is too young to be a king. It is wrong to give the kingdom to the son of a deceased king when the brother of the deceased is still alive.

Seth was delighted. He did not even try to hide his triumph and began to praise himself:

— I am Seth, the mighty one, the strongest among the gods. Every day I kill the enemies of Ra. None of the gods can do that. And I will take the throne of Osiris!

But then Horus made an angry speech:

— It’s not right to do this to me. The crown and the kingdom of the father must not be taken away from the son!

A dispute between the gods began. Some gods thought that Seth should be made king, while others thought that Horus was right. Isis stood in agitation, waiting for the judgment, and Seth, sensing that the gods were ready to yield to the Mountain, threatened them in anger:

— I’ll grab my heavy mace and kill one god every day.” Power is the lot of the strong! The stronger the king, the more powerful the country.

“No!” “Power often serves iniquity,” Thoth, the god of wisdom, said. Before the court, the right is not the one who is stronger, but the one on whose side justice is on. And in justice, as has long been established in the world, the property of the father is always inherited by the son. Horus must inherit the throne of Osiris, the title and crown of king.

Then the gods decided to arrange a contest between Horus and Set, let the winner get the kingdom of Osiris.

But Seth was afraid that Isis would help Horus with her sorcery, so it was decided to cross the two opponents and the nine gods to the secluded island of the Middle, and there settle the dispute. Anti-the boatman at the ferry-was given strict orders not to transport any women who looked like Isis to the island.

The gods crossed over to the island. The strife and argument had tired everyone out, so they decided to rest and had a feast in a palm grove.

But Isis outwitted Seth and all the gods. She turned into an old woman, and came stooping up to the ferryman Anti, as he sat in his boat.

“Take me to the island of the Middle,” she said, ” I am taking food to a young shepherd; he is guarding the flock there, and for five days now he has been starving!” (note. “It’s a play on words. Herd in ancient Egyptian is pronounced as “iaut”, and this word means at the same time”san-title”. Therefore, Isis can not be accused of lying, since before the Anti, she claims that she wants to go to the island to help the young man defending his rank)

Anti refused to comply with her request.

— I have been told not to transport any woman who looks like Isis.”

— What you were told is about Isis. And I am an old woman, do I look like her?

“You’re right,” the boatman said, looking at the old woman. — What will you give me if I move you?”

“Take this bread!”

— Here’s another thing, what’s in your bread for me?” I won’t disobey orders for him. After all, I was told “do not transport any woman»

Then Isis took the gold ring from her finger and handed it to the ferryman:

“Here, take my ring, it’s gold.”

Greedily, Anti looked at the gold and took the ring. After that, he put Isis in a boat and took her to the island.

And when she came out of the boat and walked on the island, she saw the gods feasting in the distance, and Seth sitting with them. And now the gods were drunk. Then Isis cast a spell and turned into a young girl, the most beautiful in the world. In this form, she approached the gods.

Seth looked at her from his seat and immediately fell in love with her, she was so beautiful. He got up from the table and went to meet her. Then he hid behind a tree and waited for her to pass by. As Isis drew level with him, he called softly to her:

“I’m standing here, beautiful girl!”

But the Isis girl recoiled from him:

“Don’t call me, great lord! I was a shepherd’s wife,and we had a son. My husband died, and my son took his father’s cattle. But then a stranger came, entered my house, drove my son away, and took away his cattle. I ask you, stand up for my son, give him back his inheritance.

Seth was indignant:

— Will the cattle be given to a stranger when the owner’s son is left?” The villain who seized the cattle by force, (note. – Seth, in turn, does not notice the ambiguity of the phrase: he means “cattle”, and it turns out that he says “san” aloud) you need to beat him with a stick and drive him away.

Then Isis turned into a kite, flew up to the top of the acacia tree, and said to Seth from there:

“Weep for yourself! Your own mouth has spoken, and your mind has judged you!

Seth wept with anger and went to the great Ra to complain about Isis, how she, having taken the form of a beauty, had cunningly deceived him.

— What did you say to Isis?” Ra asked.

— I told her to beat the stranger with a stick, to drive him away, and to put the son in the place of the father.

“What is to be done now,” sighed Ra, ” since you have condemned yourself!

Then Ra ordered the ferryman Anti to be brought in and severely punished with blows on the soles of his feet for violating the command of the gods and transporting him to the island of Isis. Since then, Anti has cursed the gold he fell for. Therefore, in the cities and villages of Egypt, where Anti is worshipped, gold is banned.

But even then, Seth wasn’t satisfied. He went up to Horus and said to him:

— Are you afraid to compete with me?” Let’s turn into two hippos and dive into the depths of the Great Green. Whoever emerges before the expiration of three months from this day, he will not receive the rank.

And Seth and Horus began to compete. They both turned into hippos and threw themselves into the sea. But even then, Horus defeated Seth. Seth couldn’t stand three months under water. He came out of the water and hid in the reeds out of sight. At the end of three months, Horus surfaced and briefly lay down to rest under a shady tree.

When Seth saw that Horus was resting exhausted under a tree, he crept quietly up to the sleeping man and tore both of his eyes out of their sockets. He buried the torn eyes on the mountain. The eyes of Horus in the ground turned into bulbs and then sprouted lotus flowers.

Seth then came to Ra and said:

— I came up out of the sea and I didn’t find Horus anywhere. He failed the test and is hiding somewhere on the shore.

Then the goddess Hathor went in search, and she found Horus blinded under a tree. Hathor caught a gazelle, milked it, and, telling Horus to open his sightless eyes, poured fresh milk into them, and Horus ‘ sight returned, and he became healthy again.

Then Hathor brought him to Ra and said:

— I have brought Horus to you. Seth blinded him, but I gave him his sight back!

Ra was angry with Seth and ordered him to stop the feud.

And Seth shouted:

— There will be no King Horus until he is ordered to compete with me.” We’ll build stone boats and we’ll both race each other. The one who overcomes the opponent will be given the rank of Lord-may he be alive, unharmed and healthy!

“I agree,” replied Horus, — but this contest will be the last!”

The competition was scheduled for the next day. Seth went into the mountains, chipped off the top of a rock with a club, and carved out a huge rook. It was 138 cubits long (approx. – The elbow is an ancient Egyptian measure of length, about 52.3 cm.).

And the son of Isis built himself a boat of cedar wood and covered it with plaster on top. His boat also looked like it was made of stone.
The day of the contest came. The contestants each got into their own boat and swung their oars at the command. Gore’s boat glided easily through the water. The boat of the stupid Seth, as soon as it left the shore, immediately went under the water with a gurgle.

Seth became enraged, turned into a hippopotamus, and ran after Horus ‘ boat.

— I’ll kill you!” — What is it? ” he croaked. — You will never, never be a king!” I’ll capsize your boat and drown you!

The gods, watching the contest from the shore, were alarmed. Horus alone showed no signs of agitation. With a straight face, he stood in the boat and waited for Seth to come up. Then Horus raised his hand, and they all saw that he had a shining brass harpoon in his hand.

Horus, who kills Seth in the form of a hippopotamus. The image on the walls of the temple of Horus in Edfu.

Horus, who kills Seth in the form of a hippopotamus. The image on the walls of the temple of Horus in Edfu.

The hippopotamus Seth was horrified, and his eyes widened in fear.

“Spare me.” Gor!”Great Ra, save me!” he shouted. I have lost the contest, I give up, and I will never challenge Horus for power again!

But no one on the beach moved. Everyone was watching Ra to see what he would say.

“Spare him, don’t throw the harpoon,” Ra said. “Spare your rival, Horus. You are the king of Egypt! Rejoice, ye gods! he added. “Rejoice and prostrate yourselves before the new lord!”

Seth acknowledged his defeat and said:

“You, mighty Horus, are worthy to be king of both Lands!”

He bound Horus Seth with ropes and brought him to his mother Isis.

“Here, Isis, is your enemy. The prophecy was fulfilled, and I defeated Seth and avenged my father’s death. Say the word, and I’ll kill him.

Isis looked at the bound Seth and felt sorry for him, because he was her brother. Isis did not order Seth to be killed, and she let him go in peace.

Horus found out about this and became angry with Isis. Outraged, he seized his mother and tore the royal crown from her head — she is not worthy to be a queen who gives mercy to her enemies. However, he put on her crown instead of a crown in the form of cow horns. Since then, Isis is often depicted in a headdress with cow horns, between which the Sun disk.

They put a royal crown on Horus and said to him the gods:

— You are the great king of Egypt, the king of all the earth!

Thus Horus won the final victory in the dispute and received the throne of his father Osiris.

Ra was glad that the lawsuit was over. Seth, to comfort him, took Ra to him, sat him down, and told him to thunder from heaven, so that people would fear and worship the power of the gods who dwell in heaven.

All the gods were glad, and the earth rejoiced, when they saw the young Horus, the son of Osiris, king of Egypt.

The son of Isis was the last of the gods to reign on earth. After reigning for many years, he ascended to heaven, joined the retinue of Ra in his Celestial Boat, and together with the other gods began to protect the sun from demons and the giant serpent Apop.

With the departure of Horus to heaven, the golden age ended. Earthly power passed to the Pharaohs. And since then, every Pharaoh Ta-Kemet has been considered an ” earthly incarnation of Horus.”

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