The text of the myth is written on a papyrus located in the Chester Beaty Library in Dublin (Ireland) and known as the Chester Beaty Papyrus # 1. First published by Alan Gardiner in 1931 in London. The text is 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 twentieth dynasty around 1160 BC. The literary processing of the myth should be attributed to this time.
The very core of the myth – the dispute between Horus and Set and the substantiation of the rights of both of them to the legacy of Osiris – dates back to ancient times, even before the unification of Egypt, when tribal clashes took place. In particular, this opinion is shared by Gwen Griffiths (John Gwyn Griffiths). However, most historians see in the myth already a literary work, and not a sacred one, and that it was created more as “amusement reading”. This opinion, in particular, is shared by Antonio Loprieno.
The text of the myth in modern literary processing
Horus grew up, became a strong, brave youth, a mighty god.
He often liked to ask his mother about his father, about his life and death. And now the time has come for the Mountain to fulfill its 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 insidious Set. Everyone loved Horus, and in this love was his strength.
“I’m going to look for Seth,” he said to his mother. “I am powerful because all people love me, and my heart is calm. Let Seth’s heart tremble! I’m going to look for you, villain, and as soon as you are found by me, I will kill you.
Horus climbed up the Nile, reached Siut, and there he found Set. Opponents met, and a fierce battle began between them. For ten days there was a struggle between uncle and nephew, they could not overcome each other.
Already, it seems, Seth begins to win, Horus weakens, but Isis, with her sorcery, infuses new strength into Horus:
– I tell you, I am your mother Isis, you defeat your weakness!
And with new ferocity Horus enters into a duel. Seth is discouraged, but his demon assistants keep him cheerful.
Here Seth contrived, threw a sharp stone and hit Horus right in the eye. Horus swayed, and Seth tore the young man’s eye. With a cry, Horus rushed at Seth, inflicted grievous wounds on him and broke his thigh. Set was exhausted from wounds and from the struggle, and Horus tied him tightly with thick ropes (note – According to another version, the first battle with Set Horus lost. Set killed him and cut him into sixty-four pieces. Only after the god Thoth spliced all the parts and revived Horus, he managed to get the better of his father’s killer) .
Isis called the healer-god Thoth and with his help healed the Mountain of his wounds, and he again began to see, as before. Horus took his torn out eye to give to his father; he went to Osiris and led the bound Set with him.
Horus came to his father with his captive. He took Seth’s hand and walked with him to the motionless Osiris.
– Get up! Wake up! Look at your son, look at what he did for you! He defeated your killer, he brought Seth tied up to you.
Horus took off the sandal from his father’s foot, placed it on Set’s head as a sign that he was giving Seth under the command of his father. And Set trembled under his brother’s sandal, the power of Osiris was terrible to him.
Then Horus opened his mouth to Osiris and put his torn out eye into it, saying:
– Father, now I have come to you! I am Horus your son. I give you my eye, it contains your soul, your strength.
Osiris swallowed his eye and life began to flutter in him. He opened his eyes, stretched out his arms, wiped the sand from his face. Then Osiris rose on his left side, turned to the right side and took possession of his body. Osiris rose, woke up, the deceased god awoke. He revived and became again mighty and strong, as he was before.
All people rejoice, 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 has disappeared, and the truth has taken root in the country.
And Osiris withdrew to the underworld and became the king of eternity, the judge over all the dead.
But Seth did not lay down his weapons. He did not manage to destroy Horus in childhood, he did not defeat the youth Horus in open battle, and Seth conceived to accuse Horus before the gods, to say that Horus took the fatherly throne incorrectly. After all, the inheritance belongs not to the son, but to him, the brother, besides the older age, and he, Set, after Osiris should rule Egypt.
Seth turned to the gods with a request to judge him with Horus. “Horus unlawfully occupied the royal throne,” he said. “I have to get kingship and rule the country after Osiris.”
The gods gathered for judgment in the Golden Hall to resolve the dispute between Set and Horus. Both opponents came to the courtroom and sat in front of the ruler of the whole world, in front of the god Ra. Here were the god of wisdom Thoth, the god of air Shu, the goddess of moisture Tefnut and others – all the Great Nine gathered to judge the dispute between the gods.
“Lord,” Thoth said, “we must decide who will be the king of the North and South.
– Justice is a great power! Shu said. – Do justice, great Ra! Give the worthy staff and crown of Pharaoh.
Young Horus, still quite a child in comparison with Set, boldly turned to the gods and demanded to give him the inheritance after his father – the right to be the king of Egypt.
– It’s true a million times! – He said to the judges. And the gods decided that Horus, the faithful son who avenged his father’s death and gave him his eye, should become a king, and the gods wanted to put a crown on Horus’s head.
Isis rejoiced at the judgment of the gods and joyfully exclaimed:
– North wind, fly to the West and please the heart of Osiris – may he be alive, unharmed, healthy!
However, her joy was premature – suddenly the sun god Ra rose and said:
– Why are you judging and passing judgment without asking 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 while 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 Set – mighty, the strongest among the gods. Every day I kill the enemies of Ra. None of the gods can do this. And I will take the throne of Osiris!
But then Horus made an angry speech:
“It’s not good to do that to me. You cannot take away the crown and kingdom of the father from your son!
A dispute began between the gods. Some gods believed that Seth should be made king, others found that Horus was right. Isis stood in agitation, awaiting the decision of the court, and Set, feeling that the gods were ready to yield to Horus, in anger began to threaten them:
– Here I will grab my heavy club and will kill one god every day. Power is the lot of the strong! The stronger the king, the more powerful the country.
– No! – objected the god of wisdom Thoth. – Often power serves lawlessness. Before the court, not the one who is stronger is right, but the one on whose side justice. And in all fairness, as has long been established in the world, the son always inherits the property of the father. Horus must inherit the throne of Osiris, the title and crown of the king.
Then the gods decided to arrange a competition 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 both opponents and the nine gods to the secluded island of Sredinny, and there to resolve the dispute. The anti-boatman at the crossing was strictly ordered not to transport any woman like Isis to the island.
The gods crossed over to the island. The strife and dispute tired everyone, so they decided to rest and had a feast in the palm grove.
But Isis outwitted Set and all the gods. She turned into an old woman and bent over to Anti’s carrier as he sat in his boat.
– Take me to Sredinny Island, – she asked, – I am bringing food to a young shepherd; he is guarding the flock there, and for five days now he has been starving! (note – Here is a play on words. The herd in ancient Egyptian is pronounced as “iaut”, and this word means at the same time “dignity.” help the young man defending his dignity)
Anti refused to fulfill her request.
– I have been ordered: do not carry any woman like Isis.
– What you were told refers to Isis. And I am an old woman, do I look like her?
“You’re right,” said the boatman, looking at the old woman. – What will you give if I transport you?
– Take this bread!
– Here’s another thing in your bread? I’ll break orders for him. After all, I was told “don’t carry any woman”
Then Isis removed the gold ring from her finger and handed it to the carrier:
– Here, take my ring, it’s gold.
Anti looked greedily at the gold and took the ring. After that, he put Isis in a boat and transported him to the island.
And when she, getting out of the boat, walked around the island, she saw from afar the gods feasting and Seth sitting with them. And now the gods got drunk. Then Isis cast a spell and turned into a young girl, more beautiful than who was 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. When Isis drew level with him, he quietly called out to her:
– I’m standing here, beautiful girl!
But the girl-Isis recoiled from him:
– Don’t call me, great lord! I was the wife of a shepherd, 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 out my son and took away his cattle. I ask you to stand up for my son, return the inheritance to him.
Seth was indignant:
– Will the cattle be given to a stranger when the owner’s son remains? The villain who captured the cattle by force (note – Seth, in turn, does not notice the ambiguity of the phrase: he means “cattle”, but it turns out that he says “san” out loud) must be beaten with a stick and driven away.
Then Isis turned into a kite, flew up to the top of the acacia and said from there to Set:
– Mourn yourself! Your own mouth has spoken, and your mind has condemned you!
Seth wept with anger and went to the great Ra – to complain about Isis, how she, having assumed the image of a beauty, insidiously deceived him.
– What did you answer Isis? – asked Ra.
– I told her – let the stranger beat with a stick, drive him away, and put the son in his father’s place.
– What to do now, – Ra sighed, – you yourself have condemned yourself!
Then Ra ordered to bring the carrier Anti and severely punish him with cane blows on the soles for violating the command of the gods and transporting Isis to the island. Since then, Anti cursed the gold, which he was tempted with. Therefore, in the cities and villages of Egypt, where the Anti is worshiped, a ban is imposed on gold.
But Seth did not calm down even here. 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 Greenery. Whoever emerges before the expiration of three months from this day will not receive dignity.
And Seth and Horus began to compete. They both turned into hippos and threw themselves into the sea. But here, too, Horus defeated Seth. Seth could not stand three months under water. He emerged from the water and hid in the reed out of sight. After three months, Horus emerged and lay down for a short rest under a shady tree.
Seth saw that Horus was resting exhausted under a tree, quietly crept up to the sleeping man, and tore both his eyes out of his sockets. He buried his torn eyes on the mountain. The eyes of Horus in the ground turned into bulbs and then sprouted with lotus flowers.
Seth then came to Ra and said:
– I emerged from the sea and did not find Horus anywhere. He could not stand the test and is hiding somewhere on the shore.
Then the goddess Hathor went in search, and she found the blinded Horus under the tree. Hathor caught the gazelle, milked it, and, telling Horus to open his blind eyes, poured fresh milk into them, and Horus’s vision returned, he became healthy again.
Then Hathor brought him to Ra and said:
– So I brought Horus to you. Seth blinded him, but I restored his sight!
Ra was angry with Set and ordered to stop the enmity.
And Seth shouted:
– King Horus will not be ordained until he is ordered to compete with me. We will build stone boats and we will both sail in a race. The one who overcomes the opponent will be given the rank of Master – may he be alive, unharmed and healthy!
“I agree,” replied Horus. – But this competition will be the last!
The competition was scheduled for the next day. Seth went into the mountains, chipped off the top of the rock with a club, and hewed out of it a huge boat. She was 138 cubits in length (approx. – Elbow is an ancient Egyptian measure of length, about 52.3 cm) .
And the son of Isis built himself a boat of cedarwood and plastered it on top with plaster. In appearance, his boat also seemed to be made of stone.
The day of the competition came. The rivals each got into their own boat and swung their oars on command. Horus’s boat glided easily on the water. The rook of stupid Seth, barely leaving the shore, immediately went under the water with a gurgle.
Seth was furious, he turned into a hippo and rushed after Horus’s boat.
– I’ll kill you! He wheezed. – Never, never be your king! I will turn your boat over and drown you!
The gods watching the competition from the shore were alarmed. Horus alone showed no sign of agitation. With an imperturbable face, he stood in the boat and waited for Seth sailing up. And so Horus raised his hand, and everyone saw in his hand a shining copper harpoon.
The hippo Seth was horrified, and his eyes widened with fear.
– Spare me. Horus! ”He cried.“ Great Ra, save me! I lost the match, I surrender and I will never challenge Horus again!
But no one on the shore moved. Everyone looked at Ra, what he said.
“Spare him, don’t throw the harpoon,” said Ra. “Spare your rival, Horus. You are the king of Egypt! Rejoice, gods! He added. – Rejoice and prostrate yourself before the new ruler!
Seth admitted his defeat and said:
– You, mighty Horus, deserve to be the king of both Lands!
He tied Horus Set with ropes and brought him to his mother Isis.
– Here, Isis, your enemy. The prediction came true, I defeated Seth and avenged my father’s death. Say the word and I will kill him.
Isis looked at the bound Seth, and she felt sorry for him, because he is her brother. Isis did not order to kill Seth and released him in peace.
Horus found out about this and was angry with Isis. Outraged, he grabbed his mother and tore off the royal crown from her head – she who gives mercy to her enemies is unworthy to be a queen. However, Thoth put on her a crown in the form of cow horns instead of a crown. Since then, Isis has often been depicted wearing a headdress with cow horns, between which the sun disk.
They put the royal crown on Horus and the gods said to him:
“You are the great king of Egypt, the king of the whole earth!
So Horus won the final victory in the dispute and received the throne of his father Osiris.
Ra was delighted that the litigation was over. Seth, in order to comfort him, took Ra to him, sat next to him and told him to rumble from heaven, so that people would fear and worship the power of the gods who live in heaven.
All the gods were delighted, 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 Ra’s retinue in his Heavenly Boat, and, together with other gods, began to protect the sun from demons and the giant serpent Apophis.
With the departure of Horus to heaven, the golden age ended. Earthly power passed to the pharaohs. And since then, each pharaoh Ta-Kemet was considered “the earthly incarnation of Horus.”