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The Egytian Sun God Ra riding one of his solar chariots across the sky
The Egytian Sun God Ra riding one of his solar chariots across the sky. Image available under a
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Ra was the Sun-God of Heliopolis in ancient Egypt. He merged from the primordial waters of Nun carried between the horns of the celestial cow, the goddess Mehetueret. Ra is often represented symbolically by an eye (the eye of Ra).

From the fifth dynasty (ca. 2400 BC ) onwards Ra was united with the god Amon who was worshipped at Thebes, to become the most important deity of the Egyptian pantheon under the name of Amon-Ra. He remained for centuries the supreme god, except for a brief period during the reign of Akhenaten ( 1350 BC - 1334 BC) who imposed on Egypt the exclusive worship of Aten, the solar disk itself.

Ra was the father of the gods Heget and Bast.

The worship of Ra was likely first promoted by the Pharaoh Snefru, in the Fourth Dynasty. From Snefru's time onward, pharaohs adopted the title of "Son of Ra" and claimed divine descent from the Sun God. Ra was regarded as the first Pharaoh and was revered as having established the norms of behaviours for humans. Indeed all life on earth was believed to have been created by the god Ra, who brought forth the humans, animals, fish, birds, etc by speaking their secret names. In an alternative legend, humans were believed to have been created from the tears and sweat of the god Ra. The ancient Egyptians would sometimes refer to themselves as the "cattle of Ra".

Ra was a self-created god and did not result from the union of other gods. He was believed to travel across the sky in two chariots, representing the movement of the sun across the firmament. The solar boats of Ra were called the Mandjet (the Boat of Millions of Years), or morning boat and the Mesektet, or evening boat. These boats took Ra on his journey through the sky and the underworld.

In ancient Egyptian religious belief, the Sun was believed to be the body of Ra, or by some, just his eye. Different aspects of the sun were worshipped in different places and cults. Thus, at Heliopolis (the center of the Ra cult), Ra was worshipped as Atum (the sunset), Harakhti-Ra (the sun at the zenith) and Khepri (the rising sun ") associated with Harmakis (Horus rises on the horizon ). He was later associated with Horus.

The worship of the sun god Ra was in time merged with the worship of other local deities, in an attempt to unify the country and create a national religion. The principal competing gods that came to be absorbed by the worship of Ra, were Amon and Atum ("he who completes or perfects" - the god of the sunset)

Though Ra and Atum were the same god, Atum was used in several ways. He was primarily a symbol of the sun setting and was also a replacement of Ra as the creator of Shu and Tefnut. In some cults Atum had been created by Ptah. Atum was the father of Hike.

The Greeks associated Amon-Ra with Zeus, who referred to him as Amon-Zeus. The Romans also identified Amon-Ra with their supreme being, and referred to him as Jupiter Ammon.

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