This theogony from ancient Egypt was written around 700 B.C.E. but derived from a text perhaps composed as early as the third millennium. By this time the kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt had been united and a complex of religious temples established at Memphis. In this two-part cosmological myth replete with religious and political implications, the unification of the Nile valley is described as having been accomplished by the earth-god Geb for the benefit of Horus, the divine child of Isis and Osiris. Yet, the unification of the two lands necessitated that the chief god of Memphis, Ptah, be elevated in status along with his city. Thus, Ptah brought forth Atum, the creator god, and became primarily responsible not only for the divine order of the universe but also for the sociopolitical order of the kingdom--which were inseparable in ancient Egypt. The act of creation in this Egyptian text is more intellectual in tone than the physical creation detailed in the Babylonian Ennuma Elish and other Egyptian texts. It is thereby similar to the initial account of creation in the somewhat later Hebrew Genesis (Reading 6).

(James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Princeton University Press [Princeton, NJ: 1955], pp. 4-5. Reprinted by permission.)

The Ennead gathered themselves to Geb, and he judged Horus and Seth. He prevented them from quarreling further, and he made Seth the king of Upper Egypt in the land of Upper Egypt, at the place where he was born, Su. Then Geb made Horus the king of Lower Egypt in the land of Lower Egypt, at the place where his father [Osiris] was drowned, Pezshet-Tawi. Thus, Horus stood in one place and Seth stood in another place, and they were reconciled about the Two Lands. . . .

Words spoken by Geb to Seth: "Go to the place in which you were born." Seth went to Upper Egypt.

Words spoken by Geb to Horus: "Go to the place in which your father was drowned." Horus went to Lower Egypt.

Words spoken by Geb to Horus and Seth: "I have judged you [Upper and Lower Egypt]."


But then it became ill in the heart of Geb that the portion of Horus was only equal to the portion of Seth. So Geb gave his entire inheritance to Horus, that is, the son of his son [Osiris], his first-born. . . . Thus Horus stood over the entire land. Thus this land was united, proclaimed with the great name "Ta-tenen, South-of-His-Wall, the Lord of Eternity." The two Great Sorceresses grew upon his head. So it was that Horus appeared as King of Upper and Lower Egypt, who united the Two Lands in Wall Nome, in the place in which the Two Lands are united.It happened that reed and papyrus were set at the great double door of the House of Ptah. That means Horus and Seth, who were reconciled and united, so that they associated and their quarreling ceased in the place which they reached, being joined in the House of Ptah, "the Balance of the Two Lands," in which Upper and Lower Egypt have been weighed. . . .

[The following portion of the text is fragmentary. Yet the implication seems to be that Ptah, as the "first principle" of creation, takes precedence over other creator gods.]

The gods who came into being as Ptah--

Ptah who is upon the Great Throne, . . .

Ptah-Nun, the father who begot Atum,

Ptah Naunet, the mother who bore Atum, . . .

Ptah the Great, that is, the heart and tongue of the Ennead;

Ptah . . . who gave birth to the gods, . . .

There came into being as the heart and there came into being as the tongue [something] in the form of Atum. The mighty Great One is Ptah, who transmitted [life to all gods], as well as to their ka's, through this heart, by which Horus had become Ptah, and through this tongue, by which Thoth became Ptah.

[Thus] it happened that the heart and tongue gained control over every other member of the body, by teaching that Ptah, [as heart and tongue] is in every body and in every mouth of all gods, all men, all cattle, all creeping things, and everything that lives, by thinking and commanding everything he wishes.

His Ennead is before him in the form of teeth and lips. That is [the equivalent of] the semen and hands of Atum. Whereas the Ennead of Atum came into being by his semen and his fingers, the Ennead [of Ptah], however, is the teeth and lips in this mouth, which pronounced the name of everything, from which Shu and Tefnut came forth, and which was the fashioner of the Ennead.

The sight of the eyes, the hearing of the ears, and the smelling the air by the nose, they report to the heart. It is this which causes every completed [concept] to come forth, and it is the tongue which announces what the heart thinks.

Thus all the gods were formed and [Ptah's] Ennead was completed. Indeed, all the divine order really came into being through what the heart thought and the tongue commanded. Thus the ka spirits were made and the hemsut spirits were appointed, they who make all provisions and all nourishment, by this speech. [Thus justice was given to] him who does what is liked, [and injustice to] him who does what is disliked. Thus life was given to him who has peace and death was given to him who has sin. Thus were made all work and all crafts, the action of the arms, the movement of the legs, and the activity of every member, in conformance with this command which the heart thought, which came forth through the tongue, and which gives value to everything.

[Thus] it happened that it was said of Ptah: "He who made all and brought the gods into being." He is indeed Ta-tenen, who brought forth the gods, for everything came forth from him, nourishment and provisions, the offerings of the gods, and every good thing. Thus it was discovered and understood that his strength is greater than that of the other gods. And so Ptah was satisfied, after he had made everything, as well as all the divine order. He had formed the gods, he had made cities, he had founded nomes, he had put the gods in their shrines, he had established their offerings, he had founded their shrines, he had made their bodies like that with which their hearts were satisfied. So the gods entered into their bodies of every kind of wood, of every kind of stone, of every kind of clay, or anything which might grow upon [Ptah in his form of the "rising land"] in which they had taken form. So all the gods, as well as their ka's gathered themselves to him, content and associated with the Lord of the Two Lands.