«Nectanebos-the-Falcons»: Sculpture Images of Nectanebo II before the God Horus and Their Concept

Ladynin Ivan A.

The paper deals with a type of sculpture groups showing the falcon Horus with the last Egyptian king Nectanebo II (about one third of the falcon’s height) before him, as if protected by him (the best known and really artistically magnificent specimen of this type is a sculpture of green basalt MMA 34.2.1). Five sculptures of this type are inscribed at their bases; the inscriptions consist of the benediction (anx... «Be alive...»), including the titulary in the complete or in a somewhat shortened form added with an epithet; the one that must be especially mentioned is the titulary at the sculpture group from Tanis showing the epithet of Horus «the divine falcon, issue of Isis» (bik ntr[y] pr m %t) included directly in the nsw-bity name of Nectanebo II. As shown by J. Yoyotte (1959) and H. de Meulenaere (1960), the priestly titles of «god’s servants» (Hm-nTr) of «Nectanebo-the-Falcon» (Nxt-@r-@byt-pA-bik) or simply «The Falcon» (pA-bik), found rather widely in the monuments of the late 4th – 3rd centuries B.C., belonged to the priests, who provided for the worship of these sculpture groups. One can conclude that those images were placed and their cult was established in most local temples of Egypt, where Nectanebo II carried out building or restorations. Symptomatically, these priests were employed in Ptolemaic time as a sort of experts in belabouring the new forms of royal ideology (J. Quaegebeur, 1985, 1989). The interpretation proposed for the sculpture groups of «Nectanebos-the-Falcons» is based on the hypothesis by O.D. Berlev (2004) concerning the functioning of private nao-, theo- and symbolophorous statues of the New Kingdom and the Late Period: according to Berlev, the owner and beneficiary of such statue, when taking in his hands a god’s image or symbol, caused the god to get embodied in it and to surround him with a sort of «protective field» (made in Egyptian notions by the god’s «force» – bA). In the case of the «Nectanebos-the-Falcons» the identifier causing the god Horus to aspire to the king was his name (Nxt-@r-@byt – «Strong is Horus of [the town of] @byt», i.e. a statement pertaining to the god Horus, son of Osiris and Isis, worshipped at Behbeit el-Hagar in Lower Egypt). Naturally, the name belonged to the king immanently; hence the god embodied himself in the king’s person as such, which is in fact asserted in the inscription of the Tanis sculpture. When comparing «Nectanebos-the-Falcons» to the earlier types of Egyptian royal statuary one has to take into consideration the «falcon statues» of the Old and New Kingdoms (statues showing the king with the falcon behind his head or with some elements of the bird’s apparel in his head chief; e.g, the famous statue of Chefren CG 14) and the Ramesside «protection groups» showing the king before Horus in absolutely the same position as «Nectanebos-the-Falcons» (their antecedent in the Old Kingdom was the so-called «Hierakonpolis group», CG 14717). As noticed by A.O. Bolshakov (2000), the «falcon statues» accentuated the image of the king and not that of the bird; hence, he was presented as quite a «free agent», not so much depending on the deity as embodying it due to the specifics of his functions. The Ramesside «protection groups» were different, as they showed Horus not embodied in the king but separated from him and superseding him, though eager to help (probably to be embodied in him) when necessary. «Nectanebos-the- Falcons» do show the god permanently embodied in the king: but these statues stress the god’s superiority in this attitude and the fact that by merging in the king the god starts performing his duties (the inscription of the base of the Tanis sculpture), most probably, to mend his inadequacies. Apart from this relationship to the god, the king might seem void of any sacral qualities. Incidentally, the statues of «Nectanebos-the- Falcons» create a totally new concept of «the terrestrial rule of Horus» through the king, which gradually develops into the idea of Horus’ ability to reign on earth even without such a mediator (see the episode of Chabbash’s interlude in the Satrap Stela; Urk. II. 17.16–18.4).

Keywords: ancient Egypt, sculpture, falcon. Horus, Nectanebo II