Site Section Links
KRONOS Vol IX, No. 3
THE OEDIPUS LEGEND AND THE AMARNA PERIOD
There is no reason to doubt that the Oedipus story may have had its origin in some historical events of the Mycenaean Age. Since the only episode of the Oedipus story that can be localized with certainty in continental Greece is the slaying of Laios,(1) which may have been a later addition,(2) there is no reason to deny the possibility that the story originated among the Ionians of Asia Minor, and for some unknown reason was transferred later to Boeotian Thebes.
To account for the appearance of the Sphinx, which is an integral part of the story, an origin in some Egyptian myth has been postulated for it at least three times.(3) The novelty of Velikovsky's idea lies in his suggestion that: A) the story of the death of the Sphinx originated in an historical event, namely, the destruction of a conspicuous sphinx-statue, and B) the prototype of Oedipus was an individual Egyptian king.(4) The question, therefore, is whether there existed an Egyptian king of sufficient stature to be remembered after centuries, whose fate was well known in Asia Minor, and in whose time a famous sphinx-statue was destroyed. Only Amenhotep III and Akhnaton meet these requirements; and acceptance of their prolonged co-regency would rule out Velikovsky's identification of Oedipus with Akhnaton, as Velikovsky himself admits (p. 54, n. 8).*
AMENHOTEP III AND THE SPHINX
From a lintel found by Bruyere at Deir el Medineh,(5) we know that during the Eighteenth Dynasty there existed a statue of the Amen of Luxor in the shape of an androsphinx, which received increased attention from Amenhotep II. It may be assumed with certainty that, in the Amarna period-at the end of the reign of Amenhotep III-when the name of Amen was erased on all monuments, all statues of the god were destroyed as well. The overthrow of that Sphinx of Luxor could have marked the start of the persecution of Amen-a memorable feat symbolizing the liberation from a cruel tyranny. (The fact that, on one Sphinx-stele of Amenhotep II, the figures of the Sphinx of Gizeh were also carefully erased(6) is most easily accounted for by assuming a confusion with that image at Luxor.)
Amenhotep II boasts repeatedly of having killed prisoners with his own hands; and the same can be inferred for Thutmosis IV from the fact that, on one occasion,(7) his wife is depicted as handing him the weapon in the traditional scene of clubbing enemies, which at other periods of Egyptian history may have been purely symbolical. These human sacrifices were made in honor of Amen, whose image the Sphinx of Luxor was.
The peculiar and rare emblem of the female sphinx (sphinge) with broken wings, best known from the "Carnarvon Plaque",(8) appears first under Amenhotep III. It expresses pictorially the idea of "tamer of the (female) sphinx", whatever this may have meant, and regardless of whether the sphinge symbolized conquered Syria or Queen Tiy.(9) In my opinion it probably did both, and Davies was right when he stated: "On the gem of Amenhotep III, the sphinx may be taken to represent the homage of the king's Syrian consort.''(10) I think the well-known inscription on a fayence bowl in Edinburgh,(11) which makes of Tiy's father Yuya a prince of Djahi, should also be admitted as evidence. It is of course undoubtedly modern; however, it looks to me as if it had been copied - with some restorations - by an unskilled person from a genuine text, incompletely preserved on a broken vessel.(12) A person capable of producing an unusual inscription that would make so much sense as this one does should have been able, I think, to avoid its glaring ineptitudes if he had simply invented the whole thing.
The memory of Amenhotep III as the destroyer of the bloodthirsty Sphinx of Luxor and his image as the peaceful tamer of the Syrian sphinge may have merged into the tradition of a destroyer of a Sphinx that was a winged female bloodthirsty monster.
AMENHOTEP III AND THE ORACLE
An oracle of the Sphinx of Gizeh was instrumental in securing the throne for Thutmosis IV. B. Bruyere(13) has tried to show that this was a normal procedure for all kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty. But precisely in the case of Amenhotep III (and Akhnaton) no evidence for such a ritual visit to Gizeh has been found.(14) Thus, it is conceivable that he ascended the throne without consulting an oracle or against the blackballing of an oracle.
THE PARENTAGE OF AMENHOTEP III
Amenhotep III claimed a miraculous birth, and it is by no means certain that every Egyptian king did so. From the evidence,(15) it appears possible (though very far from being proved) that Amenhotep III was physically not the son of Thutmosis IV, and became a royal prince(16) only after his mother - Mutemwia - passed from the harem of his real father into that of the king, or that she was a Mitannian princess. In that case, he may have been rejected by the oracle as illegitimate, or as a foreigner, and thus had to break the power of the Sphinx in order to become king.
There are even indications (certainly not strong enough, though, to be taken as proofs) that Amenhotep III married his own mother, or at least treated her as if she were his wife: A) On the Memnon Colossi, Mutemwia is represented at his side on a small scale; as far as I know, no Egyptian, whether king or commoner, ever depicted his own mother on a smaller scale than himself, with the - quite doubtful - exception of the King's Mother, 'I'h, in the relief of Mentuhotep at the Shatt er-Rigal.(17) B) In the inthronization scene of Theban tomb No. 226, Mutemwia takes the place behind the king normally reserved for the queen.(18) (Her only title there is that of "King's Mother", but there is room enough in the destroyed area for an additional "King's Wife" as on the Memnon Colossi.) C) On her statue in the British Museum,(19) Mutemwia's name - in a cartouche - is preceded by "King's Wife, Mother of the God". But, the corresponding royal cartouche is that of Amenhotep III, and Thutmosis IV is nowhere named on the monument. (If one is willing to assume that the story of Amenhotep III's miraculous birth was altogether a pious fraud, the evidence may perhaps also be explained by the assumption that Mutemwia - either a widow or a sister of Thutmosis IV - first married the young usurper, and then adopted him as her son; since a man could adopt his wife as his daughter,(20) there is no good reason to doubt the possibility of such a procedure to sanction the inthronization of a usurper.) This double relationship may be expected to have been considered improper; and it certainly did not last longer than one year, after which he was married to Tiy.
THE SICKNESS OF AMENHOTEP III
The help of the wise Amenhotep, son of Hapu, who was revered as a demi-god already in his lifetime at the end of the reign of Amenhotep III, was invoked by a daughter of Psametik I when she became blind.(21) The most likely explanation for this fact would seem to be a tradition that the sage once had helped or healed his king in a similar predicament. (Alveolar abscesses, such as those the skull of Amenhotep III shows him to have suffered from, are capable of affecting the eyes.(22)) Egyptians generally believed that blindness was the result of some act of impiety,(23) and the "morally self inflicted" in history may have become a "physically self-inflicted" in the myth.
THE END OF AMENHOTEP III AND THE STORY OF HIS SUCCESSORS
After a reign of about 27 years, Amenhotep III, apparently incapacitated by some illness, made his son Amenhotep IV his co-regent, and retired to his palace at where he continued to live for nearly 12 years more.(24)* Akhnaton in his turn late in his reign made Smenkhkare, who was probably his younger brother, his co-regent. While Akhnaton exiled himself to el-Amarna, Smenkhkare either resided at or later returned to Thebes. He died soon after Akhnaton, or perhaps at the same time as the latter. Finally Ay, who was probably a brother of Tiy,(25) was nine years regent for and co-regent with the boy Tutankhamen (who was probably the youngest son of Amenhotep III(26)) and then, for a few years, sole ruler. This unusual sequence of reigns tallies strikingly with the political events in the Oedipus story, following his downfall: Oedipus continues to live in Thebes as a blind prisoner in his palace, in co-regency with his young sons. First, the older son rules in Thebes; then the younger son rules in Thebes, while the older son goes into voluntary exile. Then both sons perish during an attempt on the part of the latter to regain Thebes, and are succeeded by the Queen's brother. The designation of Akhnaton as "the foreign enemy (hrw) of Akhet-Aton", together with the conspicuous presence of foreign troops pictured in some tombs at el-Amarna, makes him a good candidate for the role of Polyneices.
THE TRANSMISSION OF THE STORY FROM EGYPT TO GREECE
Amenhotep III was a blood-relation of the rulers of Mitanni, and his sickness and death were of great concern to Tushratta.(27) He also corresponded with - and apparently married a daughter of - the king of Arzawa,(28) a country later known as Cilicia which at that time belonged to Mitanni and later was colonized by Ionians. The tragic story of the renowned foreign cousin of the rulers of Cilicia and his offspring may have been handed down locally for a few centuries, and then been taken over and adapted by Ionian bards. Moreover, the Iliad mentions - as the home of Andromache - a city named Thebes, located near Mount Plakos to the south of Mount Ida, which had been founded by the Cilicians.(29) (In addition, there existed a Cilician Thebes,(30) and the name Eteocles has been compared to the late Cilician name (*!* Greek text: ToukLels). (31))
These Cilicians, whatever their ethnic character, may have brought the story to the western shore of Asia Minor - whence it was transferred to Boeotian Thebes - presumably at the time when the story of Niobe* (whose Anatolian origin is seldom disputed,(32) and who once is said to have been worshipped as a goddess by the Cilicians(33)) became intimately associated with the region around Mount Sipylos in Lydia as well as with Boeotian Thebes. At that time, of course, it had been completely forgotten that the prototype of Oedipus had lived in the ancient capital of Egypt, and it was merely by coincidence that, for some still unexplained reason, that capital was known to Homer as "Thebes". In Boeotian Thebes (where the house of Cadmos was believed to have been a short-lived foreign dynasty), the indigenous story of the killing of an ancient king by a stranger(34) was added; and finally Sophocles invented the story of Antigone.(35)**
1 . Cf. F. Borkenau, Psyche 11 (1957), pp. 8-27.