Friday, January 1, 2021

Roman emperor as pharaoh

A block that originally formed part of a screen wall that connected the four front columns and the sidewalls of the temple of Harendotes ("Horus the Avenger") on the island of Philae represents the "Baptism of Pharaoh," a purification ritual that was part of Egyptian coronation ceremonies. The gods Horus (not preserved) and the ibis-headed Thoth, god of wisdom, pours water, represented by streams of the hieroglyphs ankh (life) and was (dominion), over the head of the king. The pharaoh whose head is partially preserved is a Claudian emperor, most probably either Claudius or Nero as defined in the strip of hieroglyphs along the top of the relief.

Cornice Block with Relief Showing the Baptism of Pharaoh (either Claudius or Nero), 41–68 CE, from the Temple of Harendotes on the island of Philae, Egypt, Roman Period at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

As Pharaoh of Egypt, Nero adopted the royal titulary Autokrator Neron Heqaheqau Meryasetptah Tjemaahuikhasut Wernakhtubaqet Heqaheqau Setepennenu Merur ('Emperor Nero, Ruler of rulers, chosen by Ptah, beloved of Isis, the sturdy-armed one who struck the foreign lands, victorious for Egypt, ruler of rulers, chosen of Nun who loves him').  At 16 years old, Nero was the youngest sole emperor until Elagabalus who became emperor at the age of 14 in 218 CE. Perhaps this is reflected in the Egyptian relief depicting a young man with soft mouth.

According to Suetonius, at the end of his reign when his Praetorian Guard abandoned him, Nero toyed with the idea of fleeing to Parthia, throwing himself upon the mercy of Galba, or appealing to the people and begging them to pardon him for his past offences "and if he could not soften their hearts, to entreat them at least to allow him the prefecture of Egypt." Suetonius reports that the text of a speech to this effect was later found in Nero's writing desk, but that he dared not give it from fear of being torn to pieces before he could reach the Forum.

Nero as a boy 1st century CE, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Prioryman.

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