Today the Stylish Lion takes you on a journey to discover the lion’s connection to Egypt! It is important to know that the symbol of the lion was extremely powerful in Egypt, both as a religious and cultural association. These creatures were venerated and many representations of them were visible.
1) The first Appearances of Lion in Egypt
The first data on the hunting of lions were discovered in Egypt. This hunting was reserved only for the reigning pharaohs. Namely, the oldest data on this hunt come from carved hieroglyphs showing the hunting exploits of the pharaoh Amenhotep III (1390 to 1353 BC). He is said to have killed more than 100 lions during the first decade of his reign (Jackson, 2010).
2) The Representation of Lions in Egypt
The earliest representations of lions come from ancient Egypt. Many characteristics of the lion were attributed to different gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt by sculptures and statues that became emblematic. The reigning king was given the martial qualities of thelion, indicating his power and bravery. Lions were also valued as a symbol of wealth through Ancient Egyptian jewelry. This royal relationship between the lion and the king would come from the chiefs of the tribes who hunted large carnivores such as lions or crocodiles.
Generally speaking, lions lived on the edges of the desert, which is why they became the guardians of the places where the sun rose and set. The lion being associated with the sun, the majority of these gods have connections with Ra, the sun god. Bastet is often associated with the head of a lion as a symbol of royal exploits. This goddess was linked to joy, music, dance and fertility.
Maahes (or Miysis) was the lion-god of war and protection. At the heart of death, he preserved the innocent and condemned the guilty.
The goddess Sekhmet appears in the form of a woman with the head of a lion. Sekhmet means “powerful”. At that time, lions were raised in temples dedicated to the gods, allowing them their space to move around.
We know well the sphinxes and their lioness body, with wings of birds and a head of a reigning pharaoh. The most famous of these is the Great Sphinx of Giza, which protects the road leading to the pyramid of King Khafre. This one was built about 5,000 years ago. During the time of its construction, Khafre was the king of Egypt, so it is his head that adorns the Sphinx. This pyramid is 20.22 meters high and 73.5 meters long. Over time, the Sphinx has deteriorated both because of the climate and because of vandalism. Some facts report that soldiers would have fired on the nose of the Sphinx which would have made it collapse. During the 1980s, some attempts to restore the Sphinx were made but this proved to be difficult.
The headstand that supports the tomb of the most famous pharaoh, Tutankhamun, shows two lions lying back to back. On either side of a kneeling Shu, the god of air, they represent the two mountains between which the sun rises. This back-to-back position represents the horizon on which the sun rises and sets, and has also come to symbolize yesterday and tomorrow (Jackson, 2010).
3) Going Further
In ancient Egypt, lions were also toys for children. Today, small carved lions that resemble the original statues are common.
In hieroglyphics, the lion was used to represent the letters R and W together.
In Christianity, the story of St. Mary of Egypt details the story of a repentant prostitute who succumbs in the desert, however she is buried by a monk and a lion.