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Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt

Page: 137

This was the great epoch of temple-building in Egypt. The temples of Dendereh, Edfû, Kom Ombo, Philæ, and many other famous structures were raised under Ptolemaic and Roman rulers. For the favours shown them by the conquerors the priests were duly grateful, even to the extent of deifying their rulers while they were yet alive. It was said of Ptolemy and his consort that "the beneficent gods have benefited the temples in the land and greatly increased the dignity of the gods. They have provided in every way for Apis, Mnevis, and the other esteemed sacred animals with great sumptuousness and cost." There was even a new order[3] of priesthood instituted, known as the "priesthood of the beneficent gods."

During the period of Roman ascendancy the high-priest was the most important religious official within a considerable area, acting as the representative of a still higher Roman official, the high-priest of Alexander and of all Egypt. The priests of the larger temples, on which grants of money and land had been lavishly bestowed, were doubtless sufficiently well provided for, but in the smaller temples things were far otherwise, if we are to judge from the evidence at our disposal. The Theban priests especially were regarded as sages well versed in the lore of antiquity, and as such were much sought after by travellers from Rome. In Thebes also were priestesses, consecrated to the service of Amen, the god of that district, to whom the Greeks as well as the Egyptians rendered homage, identifying him with Zeus.


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