Sacred Cats of Ancient Egypt

cats of ancients

Cats are one of the most popular pets all over the world. As they are loved in every medium, they are the protagonists of the internet environment today. Although we don’t know how long they have been with us, we know that it goes back at least as far as the history of humanity.

Cats, the sacred animal of prehistoric times, have been the “favorite” of humanity in the following centuries, even though their name was a bit tarnished during the Middle Ages. The question of cat or dog is still on the agenda for people.
We have compiled a small research for cat lovers by going back to the best times of cats in Ancient Egypt.

also: Why Do Humans Love Cats?

Researchers have encountered findings such as cat skeletons and cat skulls in prehistoric times. These findings increased during the Bronze Age. Today we know that cats originated from North Africa. But even in prehistoric times, cats were seen everywhere from Anatolia to the Indus valley.

It is interesting to note that in Egypt, which attributed many missions to cats, including sacredness, there are no remains of cats from prehistoric times, even from the Old Kingdom Period (2686-2118 BC). The depiction of domestic cats in ancient Egyptian art dates from approximately 2000 BC. Thus, it is possible to trace the history of the domestic cat back 4 millennia before the present.

So how did cats become such prized masters in Egypt?

Cats are naturally gifted to hunt reptiles and rodents. Naturally, grain stocks were very valuable for people who settled down and practiced agriculture. It was not difficult for them to accept these cute animals, which protected the grains from all kinds of rodents, as friends.

The ancient Egyptians’ love for cats developed from appreciating their ability to catch rodents to seeing them as sacred creatures.

Animism, the belief in the divine spirit, was widespread in Ancient Egypt and encompassed all of nature. For this reason, the ancient Egyptians did not worship the cat itself, but the divine power they believed to be present in it.

Cats were first domesticated in 2500 BC to hunt waterfowl. So much so that many Egyptian art paintings depict them with hunters. These paintings date back to 3000 BC.
In Egypt, the male cat was identified with the sun god. As early as 1500 BC, it was believed that the sun god Ra, the most powerful deity of Egypt, manifested himself in the form of a cat.

Every night Ra would incarnate in Atum-Ra and go to the underworld, where he would fight the demon-snake Apophis and cut him with his knife. In this way he secured his return the next day as the Sun God.

Because of the cat’s nocturnal habits, it is also associated with the Moon God. It was believed that the moon goddess was embodied in the cat. The most impressive example is the sistrum, a musical instrument made of bronze. Where the frame joins the handle, there are one or more cat figures, and on the handle there is a depiction of Hathor. When the sistrum is shaken, it produces a high-pitched sound. This sound is associated with fertility and renewal, symbolized by the cat, because the cat has such power. Goddess Hathor and her sistrum.

According to J. Malek, the oldest written remains of cats are hieroglyphs from the temple relief in the pyramid complex of Amenemhat I. It is not known whether the cat city mentioned in the inscription “lord of the city of miww (cats)” actually existed.
Cats gained such power in Egypt that even kings referred to cat species in their names. One of the kings of the 22nd dynasty was even named “pȝ- miw”.

Such blessings did not always bring much beauty. Because they were blessed animals, they were sometimes sacrificed for spells. By carrying small amulets in the shape of Bastet cats, they believed that they would be protected from dangers and misfortunes such as snake and scorpion bites and would increase fertility. However, the sacrifices offered to honor the spirit of the Goddess Bastet were usually selected from two or four month old cats. Ancient writings show that cat sacrifice was quite common in late antiquity.

Diodorus Siculus reported that in Egyptian society, cats were considered as sacred as gods and anyone who killed a cat, even accidentally, was subjected to harsh punishments. When an unfortunate Roman accidentally killed a cat, enraged people lynched the Roman, despite the efforts of Pharaoh Ptolemy XI to prevent it.

The sanctity of cats in Egypt also led to great troubles. For example, in the Battle of Pelusium between Egypt and Persia, Emperor Kombises II used this sanctity to put cats in the front rows of the battle and the Egyptian army, which could not attack, was defeated.
Thanks to people who wanted to be with their cats even after death, cats were mummified together with their owners and placed in their graves. The carpenter even made special cat coffins for cats.

A limestone sarcophagus was even built for the pet cat of Prince Thutmose, son of Pharaoh Amenhotep III.
As Egypt became a Roman province, the importance of cats slowly faded away

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