Ancient Egypt
Sobek One Crocodile Or Two Image Credit: Ancient Egypt
Sobek One Crocodile Or Two Image Credit: Ancient Egypt

Sobek - One Crocodile Or Two?

Wildlife expert John Wyatt investigates this important Egyptian god and the dangerous animal associated with him.

John Wyatt

No other creature in ancient Egypt was perhaps as feared, revered and frequently depicted as the crocodile. It was one of the first animals to be portrayed in rock art, on palettes and on Naqada pottery. It was also an early hieroglyph and often used in tombs from the Old Kingdom onwards to symbolise the conflict between good and evil. It was worshipped principally as Sobek; treated as both a guardian and a demon on birthing wands and bricks and in various scenes from the Book of the Dead and other funerary papyri; and included on the protective cippus of Harpocrates. It was considered totally sacred by some, yet eaten by others. Differing beliefs even led to occasional conflict. But who was Sobek and on what actual animal or animals was he and other crocodile deities based?

The God Sobek

Sobek is an ancient Egyptian water deity who was first mentioned in the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom (c. 2686–2181 BC) although he probably originated as a local god in Shedet in the Fayum (later Crocodilopolis and Arsinoë) and gained influence by syncretisation with other local crocodile gods. It was then believed that his sweat might be the source of the Nile but reptiles, of course, do not sweat. Diodorus Siculus, the Greek historian, in around 50 B


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