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Children as Gods

Ceramic figure of Harpocrates riding a ram, 1st-2nd centuries A.D. (KM 3231)

CHILDREN AS GODS WERE PART of a long Egyptian religious tradition. The god Horus was the archetypal divine child, a special form of an important god for the specific needs of children and their parents. Child gods and their mythical exploits could also help humanize the sometimes remote and forbidding gods that the Egyptians worshipped. Greeks and Romans in Egypt brought in their own child gods (like Eros and Cupid) but also enthusiastically adopted the child Horus, calling him Harpocrates (a Greek form of the Egyptian words for “Horus the child”). Harpocrates was instantly recognizable by his characteristic hairstyle and finger to mouth (a symbol of silence or simply a childish gesture of finger-sucking?).

The child-god Harpocrates

Detail of a mural found in structure C65 at Karanis, 1st-3rd centuries A.D. (KM Neg. 4.2992)