Skip to main content

Distributed for Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

Kingship and the Gods

A Study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature

This classic study clearly establishes a fundamental difference in viewpoint between the peoples of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. By examining the forms of kingship which evolved in the two countries, Frankfort discovered that beneath resemblances fostered by similar cultural growth and geographical location lay differences based partly upon the natural conditions under which each society developed. The river flood which annually renewed life in the Nile Valley gave Egyptians a cheerful confidence in the permanence of established things and faith in life after death. Their Mesopotamian contemporaries, however, viewed anxiously the harsh, hostile workings of nature.

Frank’s superb work, first published in 1948 and now supplemented with a preface by Samuel Noah Kramer, demonstrates how the Egyptian and Mesopotamian attitudes toward nature related to their concept of kingship. In both countries the people regarded the king as their mediator with the gods, but in Mesopotamia the king was only the foremost citizen, while in Egypt the ruler was a divine descendant of the gods and the earthly representative of the God Horus.

470 pages | illustrations | 8 4/5 x 6 | © 1948

Oriental Institute Essays


Religion: Comparative Studies and History of Religion

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
Chronological Table of Kings
Concepts of Kingship in the Ancient Near East
Book I. Egypt
Part I. The Founding of Kingship
1. The Historical Foundation: The Achievement of Menes
2. The Theoretical Foundation: The Memphite Theology
3. The King’s Person: Horus
A. Horus, the Great God, Lord of Heaven
B. Horus, Son of Osiris
C. Titulary
Part II. The Functioning of Kingship
4. The King’s Rule
5. The King’s Potency: The Ka
A. The Ka of Commoners
B. The Ka of the King
6. The King’s Ceremonial: The Sed Festival
A. Opening Festivities
B. Main Celebrations
C. The Dedication of the Field
D. The Concluding Ceremonies
7. The King’s Supporters: The Royal Ancestors
A. The Followers of Horus
B. The Standards
C. The Souls of Pe and Nakhen
D. The Dual Shrines
E. The Influence of the Ancestral Spirits
Part III. The Passing of Kingship
8. The Royal Succession
9. The Coronation
10. The Transfiguration of the King’s Predecessor
11. The Mystery Play of the Succession
Part IV. Kingship and the Divine Powers in Nature
12. The Gods of the Egyptians
13. The Power in the Sun: Creation
A. The King, Image of Re
B. Creation and Circuit
C. The King, Son of Re
14. The Power in Cattle: Procreation
A. Egypt in Africa
B. Sun and Sky
C. The King and Hathor
15. The Power in the Earth: Resurrection
A. Osiris, Son of Geb and Nut
B. Osiris in the Grain
C. Osiris in the Nile
D. Osiris in Orion and the Moon
E. Osiris, King of the Dead
Book II. Mesopotamia
Part V. The Foundations of Kingship
16. The Historical Forms of Kingship in Mesopotamia
A. Mesopotamian Beginnings and Primitive Democracy
B. The Temple Community
C. Designations of the Ruler as Evidence of Unbroken Tradition
17. The Making of a King
A. The Theological Aspect of Kingship
B. The Accession
Part VI. The Functions of the King
18. Government
A. Administration of the Realm
B. Interpretation of the Superhuman
C. Representation of the People
19. The Service of the Gods
A. The Perils of Service and the Substitute King
B. The Joys of Service and the State Festivals
C. The Rewards of Service and the Building of Temples
Part VII. Kingship and the Divine Powers in Nature
20. The Gods of Mesopotamia
A. Cosmic Powers and Social Justice
B. The Suffering God
Excursus: Tammuz, Adonis, Osiris
21. The Deification of Kings
A. The Union of King and Goddess
B. The King as "Son" of the Gods
C. The King Worshipped in Temples
D. The Worship of Royal Statues
E. The King of Personal Names
F. The King and the Powers in Nature
22. The New Year’s Festival
A. The Significance of the Celebrations
B. The Festival at Babylon and Assur
The Hebrews

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press