GMC: Zeus-Ammon, the Hellenistic Form of Ammon

Zeus, Father of Gods and men, was one of the most important Gods in Makedonia, as zeus-ammonHe was in most of Greece. He was in fact called by the title Panhellenios, “Of All the Greeks”. He is the only Greek God I have seen referred to like this. You see, some times Gods shared titles. Both Zeus and Dionysos are called Soter (“Savior”), and Athena was called Soteira, which is the feminine form.

Ammon, which means “Hidden” in Egyptian, is by coincidence very similar to ammos, the Greek word for sand. So among the first Greeks to encounter Ammon, Zeus-Ammon was also a kind pun. It meant to them “Sandy Zeus”, which is very appropriate for a God of a country that is primarily desert. Ammon and Zeus were related very early on:

 

Moreover, most people believe that Amoun is the name given to Zeus in the land of the Egyptians, a name which we, with a slight alteration, pronounce Ammon[1].

 

Some writers said that not only are Zeus and Ammon the same Deity, but is the same as the Jewish God, Who Celsus called Sabaoth, and basically every God called “the zeus_ammonHighest God”, or the King of the Gods in each pantheon. He explicitly states that it makes no difference which one you invoke[2]. Roman author Minucius Felix comments on the various depictions of Zeus and/or Jupiter:

 

What is your Jupiter himself? Now he is represented in a statue as beardless, now he is set up as bearded; and when he is called Hammon, he has horns; and when Capitolinus, then he wields the thunderbolts; and when Latiaris, he is sprinkled with gore; and when Feretrius, he is not approached; and not to mention any further the multitude of Jupiters, the monstrous appearances of Jupiter are as numerous as his names. – Minucius Felix, Octavius

 

Osiris has been given the name Sarapis by some, Dionysos by others, Pluto by others, Ammon by others, Zeus by some, and many have considered Pan to be the same God; and some say that Sarapis is the God whom the Greeks call Pluto. – Diodorus Siculus 1.25

 

Zeus is not a God Who is popular with Neo-Pagans. As a Sky-Father, He probably reminds many people of Yahweh, the Christian Father that many Pagans are running from, including myself in my earlier years. Zeus has been called authoritarian. The fact is, someone has to take responsibility. As much as we love Them, the world cannot be made up entirely of trickster Gods. There has to be order. There have to be boundaries, there have to rules, or there is no meaning in a trickster God crossing the boundaries, no rules to break in the first place.

Even the ancient Greeks didn’t quite know what to think about Him. Homer saw Him as a principle of abstract justice. Yes, He could be temporarily distracted. True, He was partial to a few humans, his children especially, but what God didn’t have a favorite among mortals? But ultimately, He cannot be deterred from acting out justice. Aischylos, the playwright who wrote Prometheus Bound, thought He was a evil, selfish, drunken tyrant. Euripides saw Him as destiny, “He who brings the unthought to be.” Poets wrecked hell with some of the stories. Plato vehemently declared the poets to be liars. As I said before, the myths are not literal truth.

Socrates and his disciples believed that Zeus represented unity, and his followers discarded many of the myths surrounding Zeus as blasphemous. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of those myths were the tales of His sexual exploits. But they also cut out His jolly and playful sense of humor, and tried to make Him a more philosophical and severe God. This is one of the reasons that the Athenians didn’t like Socrates, and he was even accused of atheism.

Zeus was sometimes called simply The Good God. He was the protector of travelers and strangers especially, and was the God who upheld Xenia, the law of hospitality. Anyone who violated the sacred bond of host and guest had Him to deal with. Murders were another crime He especially hated, and He sent the Furies to pursue those who committed them. Zeus was also the God who made sure that you kept your oaths. Both He and Haides were invoked in oaths, and both saw that anyone who willfully violated an oath was punished.

As ruler of the sky, Zeus is the God of weather, called the “cloud-gatherer”. His legendary weapon was the lightening bolt. In ancient times, temples to Zeus were built where lightening had hit the ground. They were also built on mountain-tops.

Some might be surprised to learn that Zeus is also a household God, as well as God of the State. He was considered the God who protected the pantry, where He was believed to guard the family’s food in the shape of a serpent. Zeus is associated with the family as well. He is the Divine Husband, and He is a loving father to His children, if a strict one at times. Under the title of Zeus the Mild, He is a protector of children. Oddly enough, in this same aspect He is considered a Khthonic Deity, meaning He is associated with the Earth and with Death. In this aspect He was  depicted as either a bull, or a snake, again. He is also God of Purification, an aspect He shares with His son Apollon.

Zeus’s most sacred animal is the eagle, which is He sends to earth with omens for seers to read. The bull, the goat, the wolf, and the serpent are all holy to Him as well. His trees are the oak and the white poplar. Some of his other symbols include the ram’s horns, lightning bolt, scepter, aegis, and honey. Some of Zeus’s titles are Loud-Thundering, Good Counselor, the Purifying, He Who Rejoices, Earthly, Son of Kronos, Ktesios (Who Protects Provisions), Wolf, Cloud-Gatherer,  Father, and Savior. (for a more complete list, and the names in Greek, see: http://neosalexandria.org/zeus.htm or http://www.theoi.com/Cult/ZeusTitles.html). Zeus is Equated with Jupiter, Ba’al, Ammon, Ra, Seth, Serapis, Helios, Ptolemy Soter, and the Emperor Hadrian.

 

“To whom the Sun has given victory, the living image of Zeus, Ptolemy, living for ever.” – The Rosetta Stone [the Greek portion]

 

But from Zeus come kings; for nothing is diviner than the kings of Zeus. Wherefore thou didst choose them for thine own lot, and gavest them cities to guard. And thou didst seat thyself in the high places of the cities, watching who rule their people with crooked judgements, and who rule otherwise. And thou hast bestowed upon them wealth and prosperity abundantly; unto all, but not in equal measure. One may well judge by our Ruler, Ptolemy, for he hath clean outstripped all others. At evening he accomplisheth what whereon he thinketh in the morning; yea, at evening the greatest things, but the lesser soon as he thinketh on them. But the others accomplish some things in a year, and some things not in one; of others, again, thou thyself dost utterly frustrate the accomplishing and thwartest their desire. Hail! greatly hail! most high Son of Kronos, giver of good things, giver of safety. Thy works who could sing? There hath not been, there shall not be, who shall sing the works of Zeus. Hail! Father, hail again! And grant us goodness and prosperity. Without goodness wealth cannot bless men, nor goodness without prosperity. Give us goodness and weal.” – Kallimakhos, Hymn to Zeus 80-93

 

            Ammon was one of the supreme Gods of Egypt. He was believed to be behind the accomplishments of the Pharaoh, and one of the Pharaoh’s protectors. He was originally a Libyan or Aethiopian God, pictured as a ram and believed to be a protector of their flocks.

Eventually He became identified with the Sun and so was called Ammon-Ra (or Amun-Ra).  In the Hermetica, Atum is written as not just the supreme God, but the God behind all Gods, the unifying power of the Universe that flows through everything and is incomprehensible to mortal (and even most immortal) minds.

 

The Ennead combined is Your body.
Every god joined in Your body, is Your image.
You emerged first, You inaugurated from the start.
Amun, whose name is hidden from the gods.
Oldest elder, more distinguished than these,
Tatenen, who formed [Himself] by Himself as Ptah.
The toes of His body are the Eight (Ogdoad).
He appeared as Re, from Nun, so that He might rejuvenate.
He sneezed, as Atum, from His mouth and gave birth to
Shu and Tefnut, combined in manifestation
.
-Hymns to Amun, Leiden Papyrus I (c. 1250 BC), Chapter XC

 

As Zeus-Ammon He became known throughout the entire Greco-Roman world. Pindar even wrote an ode to Him. Herodotus tells a myth of how Zeus came to be associated with the ram. In this story, as Herakles (Hercules) wanted to speak directly with Zeus. However, Zeus could not reveal Himself in His true form without killing the then-mortal Herakles, so He wore the head of ram and covered His body with its skin.

Besides Zeus, Ammon was equated with Ra, Min, Hermes and Jupiter. The Romans called Him Jupiter-Hammon. Alternative spelling are Amon, Amoun, Amen, Amun, Imen, Hammon. Some of His symbols are the ram, goose, bull, lion, double plumes, scepter, uraeus, and ram horns.

[1]    Plutarch. On Isis and Osiris. 10

[2]    Celsus in Origen’s Contra Celsum 5.41

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One Response to GMC: Zeus-Ammon, the Hellenistic Form of Ammon

  1. Edward P. Butler says:

    “Socrates and his disciples believed that Zeus represented unity”–I don’t know where that’s coming from, but that’s not Socrates or Platonism. Look up the places in Plato where Zeus is actually mentioned, and you’ll see that He doesn’t “represent” anything, but rather is the King of the Gods and, among other things, the divine patron of philosophy.

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