[This entry surveys the major types of ancient Egyptian hymns, with reference to their origins, themes, metrics, verse points, and sources of documentation. It comprises three articles:

For related discussions, see LYRIC.]

Nile Hymns

Besides the sun, the inundation of the Nile is the next most important natural phenomenon in Egypt. Yet while many hymns to the sun are known, only six different Nile hymns are known from the pharaonic period.

The first is the great Nile hymn, which is generally but inaccurately attributed to the poet Kheti. The large number of surviving copies (four papyri, two writing tablets, and seventy ostraca) shows that this text was popular with the people and highly appreciated by writers. According to the main manuscripts, this hymn has 136 verses, divided by rubrics into fourteen strophes. Most probably, this hymn of high literary value and beauty was sung during the celebrations at the coming of the flood, which began to rise around the heliacal rising of the star Sirius, near 19 July. The hymn is intended to encourage the god Hapy to come to Egypt and to give it his blessing. Careful examination of the available manuscripts shows that the great Nile hymn is not an “exceptionally obscure and corrupt … composition,” as Gardiner characterized the text in 1935 (Hieratic Papyri in the British Museum, third series, I, p. 46); on the contrary, its contents, formal structure, and metrics are carefully composed.

The first of this hymn's three main parts is formed by strophes I–X (22+54+22 verses). Here the progress of the flood is followed from its emergence near the island of Elephantine in the South (I, 2) via the Faiyum in Middle Egypt (VII, 3) and Heliopolis in Lower Egypt (VIII, 2; IX, 1), to the place where the waters mix with those of the Mediterranean (X, 3). Then the Nile hides his image (I, 3, sšmw) in order to return the next year. Hapy is praised as a universal god. The blessings of the inundation are the basis of life, prosperity, and health in Egypt. But Hapy satisfies the waterless hill country outside Egypt too, with the rains (I, 7–8). The catastrophes resulting from too low (II, 5–III, 2) and too abundant inundation (IX, 1–12) are sketched. These passages must reflect real experience: there is food for neither man nor animal, nor raw materials for industry. Everyone is poor and loses his dignity. Offerings to the gods in the temples are reduced. The social and ethical order is turned upside down. “A million perish among men” (II, 8). Hapy is here perceived as a demonic sovereign god “who makes one rich, and the other poor; but there is no possibility to argue with him. Who gives satisfaction, who cannot be intimidated and restricted by boundaries” (VII, 7–10). In the middle of this first main part, it is said that Hapy is welcomed in the person of the king, escorted by children (VI, 3–4).

The second main part consists of strophes XI–XII (sixteen verses). The theme here is the festivities on the occasion of the ceremonial welcome of the king in his role of the god Hapy. People sing and make music in procession; the whole country revels. Again children are mentioned. Together with the sixteen verses of this part, the children may be an allusion and foreshadowing to the sixteen children—symbolizing the sixteen cubits of the ideal level of the Nile inundation—who have been known since Roman times as putti.

The third part is formed by the prayer that concludes the hymn (strophes XIII–XIV, twenty-two verses). Hapy is urged to rise. The offerings that are presented to Hapy and to the other gods are the products and gifts of the inundation itself (XIII, 1–12). The last strophe incites people to extol the Ennead, which presides over the cavern of the inundation in Kher-aha (Heliopolis), and to perform the ritual for the king, who is named “son of Hapy.” The hymn ends with a rhythmic refrain: “Be green [the color of the water of the first stage of the inundation, before changing to reddish brown] and come! Be green and come! Hapy, be green and come!”

Most authors date the great Nile hymn to the Middle Kingdom; however, the role awarded to the king in the hymn fits the New Kingdom much better. The ritual identification of the king with Hapy is found for the first time in texts of the eighteenth dynasty. The whole atmosphere of the hymn is closely related to texts from the Amarna period, and Akhenaten is often addressed by the name of Hapy.

Another Nile hymn is found on ostracon Deir el-Medina 1675; no other manuscripts of this text are known. Rubrics divide its ninety-three verses into nine strophes. In some respects this hymn is closely related to the great Nile hymn, and Fischer-Elfert (1986) is convinced that its author has used that text as a model. The same themes appear, often in the same wording. In other respects, the lesser Nile hymn exudes much more the atmosphere of the Amarna hymns. The detailed portrayal of nature in strophes II, III, VI, VII, and VIII stands out, as does the description of human behavior and social relations in strophes IV and VIII. Like the great Nile hymn, this text ends with an invocation to Hapy: “Come to Egypt with your products (mἰ r km.t m ἰnw=k). Hapy, do not be sluggish (wsf). Keep yourself from being too heavy (dns), so that the living beings are diminished (ʿnd)” (VIII, 85–86 to IX, 88–89). Compare the great Nile hymn: “Come to Egypt (mἰ r km.t) to make live men and animals with your products (m ἰnw.k) of the fields” (XIV, 7–8), “If he is sluggish (wsf), noses stop up, everybody is poor” (II, 5–6), “Who is too heavy (dns) so that people are diminished (ʿnd)” (IX, 3). In this text too, the king is mentioned: “Young men praise their Lord” (IV, 42); however, nothing seems to point out a ritual role of the king as (son of) Hapy. The structure of the lesser Nile hymn has not yet been studied in detail. Fischer-Elfert suggests that perhaps the hymn follows the succession of the three seasons ʒḫ.t, pr.t, and šmw. This Nile hymn undoubtedly dates from the New Kingdom.

A shorter Nile hymn (30+11 verses) is part of a rock inscription near Gebel es-Silsila, about 68 kilometers (40 miles) north of Aswan. Four kings from the New Kingdom (Sety I, Ramesses II, Merenptah, and Ramesses III) dedicated this text to the god of the inundation. After the royal titulary, the main text honors first the king, called “Good god,” but with the epithet “beloved of Hapy,” and the focus shifts swiftly onto the latter. Hapy is praised in phrases closely related to the great Nile hymn. His mysterious character is emphasized. The hymn is followed by a decree for offerings and a “list of this oblation which is presented to all gods and Nun on that day of throwing the Book of Hapy [into the river].” Although the word “praise” (dwʒw) is not used explicitly in this text, it is obvious from the liturgical context that it is a Nile hymn.

The hieratic ostracon Gardiner 28 has a short Nile hymn (about twenty-eight verses) in praise of the inundation of the year of Ramesses II's first sed-festival. Hapy is praised mainly as provider of food, and the hymn concludes with praise of the king.

Only eight lines of a Nile hymn are known from ostracon Deir el-Medina 1105. It mentions the mysterious character of Hapy, who is also Ptah-Tatenen. Finally, some words of the beginning of an unknown Nile hymn are preserved on an unpublished ostracon from Deir el-Medina, inventory number 11677.

All these hymns praise the Nile not as river, but for its annual fertilizing, regenerating flood. The inundation was venerated as a god named Hapy (ḥʿpy). Strictly speaking, Nile hymns can be defined therefore as religious chants to Hapy. He was believed to be both the god who initiated the inundation of the Nile, and the physical water of the flood itself. All manuscripts of Nile hymns date from the New Kingdom, as do the hymns themselves. Though the blessings of Hapy are described in the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts (Spell 581; R. O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Oxford, 1969, p. 235) and in the Middle Kingdom Coffin Texts (Spell 317–321; Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts, vol. 1, Warminster, 1973, pp. 240–250), hymns to the inundation from these periods have not been preserved. However, this does not mean that they did not exist then. Life, health, and prosperity in Egypt have always been totally dependent on the annual inundation of the Nile. The Nile hymns express the religious feeling that people owe all daily blessings to the inundation. Good and bad floods are life and death to the Egyptians: that is one of the most crucial themes in Nile hymns. Especially in the practical religion of the common people, the cult of the inundation, with its famous Nile festivals, played an important role. Another characteristic of Nile hymns is the close relation to the king and to royal hymns. In the New Kingdom especially, the king ritually represents the god of the annual inundation; in the liturgy of the Nile festivals, he played Hapy's role. This is the context in which we have to place the Nile hymns. These hymns, aiming at encouraging the inundation to rise, formed (together with offering lists) the main contents of the “Books of Hapy,” which were thrown into the river. The reason that all preserved Nile hymns from pharaonic Egypt date from the New Kingdom must be related to the revival of the cult of the inundation in the nineteenth and twentieth dynasties. This may have resulted from the expected second coincidence of the civil new year's day and the heliacal rising of the star Sirius in 1313 BCE.


  • Assmann, Jan. “Nilhymnus.” In Lexikon der Ägyptologie, 4: 489–496. Wiesbaden, 1982. An elaborate article on the great Nile hymn, showing a different opinion on genre and dating of the text.
  • Barucq, André, and Francois Daumas. Hymnes et prières de l'Égypte ancienne, pp. 504–506. Littératures anciennes du Proche-Orient, 10. Paris, 1980. French publication of Ostracon Gardiner 28.
  • Bonneau, Danielle. La Crue du Nil, divinité égyptienne à travers mille ans d'histoire (332 av.–641 ap. J.–C.). Études et commentaires, 52. Paris, 1964. A good survey of all matters relating to the cult of the inundation, with frequent references to the pharaonic period. The Nile festivals are treated in chapter 5, pp. 361–420.
  • Černý, J. Hieratic Ostraca, pl. IXa. Oxford, 1957. Publication of Ostracon Gardiner 28.
  • Fischer-Elfert, Hans-Werner. Literarische Ostraka der Ramessidenzeit in Übersetzung. Wiesbaden, 1986. Study of the small Nile hymn of ostracon Deir el-Medina 1675, pp. 31–62, and ostracon 1105, pp. 29–30.
  • Foster, J. L. “Thought Couplets in Khety's ‘Hymn to the Inundation’.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 34 (1975), 1–29. The most recent English translation and study of the formal structure of the great Nile hymn.
  • Gasse, Annie. Catalogue des ostraca hiératiques littéraires de Deir el-Medina, vol. 4, fasc. 1, nos. 1676–1774. Cairo, 1990. Volume 1 gives translation, philological commentary and interpretation. For the structure of the hymn, see pp. 169–171, together with the integral translation in annex table II. The question of dating the great Nile hymn is treated in chapter 6, pp. 186–190. Ostracon 1754 is part of ostracon Deir el-Medina 1176, and ostracon 1767 is the same as ostracon Deir el-Medina 1192; ostracon 1745 can be added to the list of manuscripts.
  • Kitchen, Kenneth A. Ramesside Inscriptions. Vol. 1, pp. 85–89. Oxford, 1975. Republication of the rock inscriptions near Gebel es-Silsila.
  • Kitchen, Kenneth A. Ramesside Inscriptions Translated and Annotated: Translations. Oxford, 1993. For translation of the Gebel es-Silsila texts, see pp. 72–76.
  • Kitchen, Kenneth A. Ramesside Inscriptions: Notes and Comments, pp. 69–77. Oxford, 1993.
  • Maspero, G. Hymne au Nil. Bibliothèque d'étude, 5. Paris, 1912. The first publication of the great Nile hymn. Since then, at least twenty-one new translations of the text have been published with readings and interpretations of the text that diverge, often considerably.
  • Mathieu, B. “Études de métrique égyptienne I: Le distique heptamétrique dans les chants d'amour.” Revue de l'égyptologie 39 (1988), 63–82. The most recent study of metrics in ancient Egypt, with a reasoned list of metrical units, pp. 71–77.
  • Mathieu, B. “Contraintes métriques et production textuelle dans l'Hymne à la Crue du Nil.” Revue de l'égyptologie 41 (1990), 127–141. Discussion of the metrics of the great Nile hymn, which is set up by heptametric distichs consisting respectively of four and three accentual units. Red dots mark the end of each verse.
  • Plas, Dirk van der. L'hymne à la crue du Nil. Vol. 2. Egyptologische Uitgaven, 4. Leiden, 1986. An new edition of the manuscripts of the great Nile Hymn.

Dirk van der Plas

Osiris Hymns

The figure of Osiris makes its first appearance in the written record during the Old Kingdom: on the tomb stelae as a god to be invoked for offerings, and in the Pyramid Texts as the divinity with whom the dead king is identified to symbolize his entry into the divine world of the gods. In the Old Kingdom stelae, however, it is not Osiris but Anubis who is the prime object of the petitions. Similarly, it is interesting to see that Osiris is not at this time a major figure, except in the one specific instance of his coalescence with the deceased king. Actual hymns to Osiris are not found until the Middle Kingdom, and they flourish in the New Kingdom.

In the Osirian hymns the subject matter falls into two distinct divisions—events leading to the triumph of Horus (the awarding of the land of Egypt to Horus as King), and Osiris' rulership of the Duat, the realm of the dead. The first portion of this material is best seen in the longest and most connected narration of Osiris' life to survive from ancient Egypt, the stela of Amenmose (Louvre C286). It comprises a fairly long poem opening with a section that describes the many centers for the worship of Osiris, from ancestral Busiris and Heliopolis, to Herakleopolis, and finally to Abydos. He is called a god of primeval times and foremost of the Nine Great Gods; and the culmination of his praises is, “He gave earth food.” Then the joyful reaction of the entire universe is described: earth flourishes because of his guidance; he “goes forth in peace” to receive the adoration of the gods and the nations, bearing the scepter of Geb, noblest of the Ennead, and conquering his enemies. Next described is the transfer of function in governing the creatures of the world, and especially Egypt: Geb presents all the creatures of earth to Osiris, who rises in splendor upon the throne of Egypt, bringing light and abundance, and providing a “pattern” for governing.

Then there is an interesting leap in the flow of the narration: the murder of Osiris by his brother Seth is entirely omitted. The poem immediately moves to the heroic resurrection brought about by Osiris' sister-wife Isis, who through her mystical power (“magic”) joins the scattered pieces of Osiris' body, resurrects the god, and receives his seed to become the mother of Horus. Then Isis takes the child Horus to the Ennead sitting in the court of Geb. Called “the Lords of Truth,” they determine that Horus is the rightful ruler of Egypt (and the earth)—he is the king. Like Osiris before him, Horus goes forth bearing the scepter and mace of Geb to rule earth and heaven in order to continue the abundance originally brought on by Osiris. The climax of the poem is a paean to Horus as ruler and a damnation of the unnamed Seth as a destroyer and criminal overcome by Horus. The chorus of praise ushers in a golden age of justice and right—“the land is at peace under its master … the back is turned on iniquity.” In the final section, the proceedings of the Ennead are noted and officially recorded, and the happy verdict is passed on to Osiris, since he, though confined to the underworld, now rules his earthly kingdom vicariously through his son.

The contents of the stela of Amenmose have been presented at length because this is the most detailed rendering of the myth of Osiris to survive from Egypt's great period (as opposed to the much more extensive material from Greco-Roman times). But it nevertheless presents events only up to the time when Osiris becomes king of the dead.

The fundamental theme of the Osiris myth, of course, is death and resurrection. Osiris defeated death, and he lives forever in the next life. He thus gave the hope of a similar resurrection to all ancient Egyptians, who came to identify each deceased person as “an osiris,” one who merged with the figure of the god Osiris and like him staked claim to eternal life. Just as the sun-god Re gave a pattern or regularity to life by the cycles of light, dark, and renewed light, so Osiris gave a similar pattern to the rhythms of life and death through renewed life.

The hymns presenting the second portion of the Osirian material—the rule in the kingdom of the dead—do not have a similar single source to encapsulate the myth. There are, nevertheless, many hymns representing this phase of the story of Osiris (primarily from the New Kingdom Book of Going Forth by Day (Book of the Dead). From them collectively one can gain a composite picture of Osiris as king of the dead. Most hymns from the Egyptian tradition are constructed as a pastiche of phrases and epithets referring to the god they praise. Since many of the laudatory terms appear to be interchangeable among several gods, it is often difficult to separate the characteristics of a specific god and to provide him with a distinctive personality. This trait of ancient Egyptian poetic composition is what tends to make Egyptian hymns repetitious and lacking in interest to the modern ear. Often, much of the hymn is taken up with a list of cult centers (with appropriate laudatory language) and an identification of the god in his many forms and in his fusion with other gods.

Nevertheless, amid the repetitiousness (and unlike the connected narrative from the stela of Amenmose) one can extract from these hymns some of the most important traits connected with the god as he rules the underworld. Osiris is praised as the powerful ruler of the Sacred Land, sitting on his great throne in the underworld, about which the dead crowd in order to praise him and participate in the offerings and gifts given him. He presides over the tribunal of judges in the Hall of the Two Truths where the newly arrived dead are given judgment. He is, above all, just. He is usually mentioned as being present when the sun god Re passes through the underworld, undergoing the rejuvenation that restores his youth and vigor for the new dawn. The dead stand to receive a glimpse of him, the god of light, in the otherwise dark realm of Osiris. Osiris is also identified with other deities like Khentyamentiu, Andjeti, and Sobek, as well as by epithets like Wennefer (“the Eternally Perfect”) or Weredj-ib (“the Weary-hearted,” i.e., “dead”). He is often fused with well-known gods like Horakhty or Atum. Most of the traditional Osirian characteristics gleaned from pictorial art are also present in the hymns—the two forms repeating or complementing each other.

See also MYTHS, article on the OSIRIS CYCLE; and OSIRIS.



  • Moret, A. BIFAO 30 (1931): 725–730 and pls. 1–3. The “Stela of Amenmose,” Louvre C286.
  • Naville, Edouard. Das Ägyptische Totenbuch der XVIII, bis XX, Dynastie. 3 vols. 1886; reprinted, Graz. 1971.


  • Assmann, Jan. Ägyptische Hymnen und Gebete. Zurich, 1975. See especially pp. 443–460.
  • Barucq, André, and François Daumas. Hymnes et prières de L'Égypte ancienne. Paris, 1980. See especially pp. 73–114.
  • Faulkner, R. O., ed. and trans. The Egyptian Book of the Dead (The Papyrus of Ani). 1994.
  • Foster, John L. Echoes of Egyptian Voices. Norman, Okla., 1992. See pp. 40–46.
  • Lichtheim, Miriam. Ancient Egyptian Literature. Vol. 2. Berkeley, 1976. See pp. 81–86.


  • Griffiths, John G. In Lexikon der Ägyptologie, pp. 623–633. Wiesbaden, 1982. With extensive bibliography.

John L. Foster

Solar Hymns

Ancient Egyptian texts of adoration addressed to the sun god are called “solar hymns” by modern scholars. They are distinguishable from ancient Egyptian hymns addressed to other deities not only by their subject but also by their structure, language, and purpose.

The sun god is often addressed in solar hymns simply as Re (“Sun”), but he also appears in more specific identities associated with one or more of the phases of the daily solar cycle: in the morning as Khepri (“Evolving One”), or Harakhty (“Horus of the Akhet,” the space between the netherworld and the visible horizon); during the day as Re, Horus (“Far One”), or Harakhty; and at sunset as Atum (“He Who Finishes”). The choice of name also reflects the various roles of the sun god as creator (Atum), source of light and life (Re), and ruler of the universe (Horus). Since the same functions are associated with the creator and supreme deity, Amun, this god also appears as the object of solar hymns, usually in the form of Amun-Re or more elaborate combinations such as Amun-Re-Harakhty. Solar hymns of the Amarna period are addressed to the sun disk (the Aten); their title, however, indicates that the deity worshipped in these hymns is not the disk itself but the divine force of light manifest in it.

Like other hymns, those addressed to the sun god typically have a bipartite structure, consisting of a title followed by the hymn itself. The title is normally in the infinitival form dwʒ X ἰn Y, “worshiping X by Y,” or rdjt jʒw n X in Y, “giving praise to X by Y,” where X and Y are the names of the sun god and the worshiper, respectively. The body of the hymn, addressed to the god, is often introduced by the words. nḏ ḥr.k “hail to you.” In most cases the hymn itself contains no mention of the worshiper; a third section is sometimes added for this purpose, usually with a prayer for assistance.

Solar hymns typically are associated with a particular part of the sun's daily cycle, specified in the hymn's title with a phrase such as m wbn.f “in his rising” or m ḥtp.f “in his setting” added after the god's name. The hymn itself, however, often makes reference to the three parts of the solar day: sunrise, daytime, and sunset. Each phase, in turn, is associated with the process of life itself: the sunrise with creation and birth; daytime with triumph over the forces inimical to life; and sunset with death and the promise of new life. The most important of these is sunrise, the beginning of the Egyptian day. The use of solar hymns in that setting is reflected in the lexical root shared by the verb dwʒ “worship” and the noun dwʒw “morning,” and in the posture of Egyptian worship—hands raised with the palms facing outward—which may derive from the gesture, often depicted in Egyptian art, of baboons facing the rising sun.

Solar hymns employ the metric structure typical of Egyptian verse, with lines of two to four feet (units of stress, in Egyptian) arranged into couplets or triplets expounding a central theme. Their language makes extensive use of clauses and sentences with verbal predicates, which describe the evolution and motion of the sun god, as in the following from the Book of Going Forth by Day (Book of the Dead):

"Hail to you, Re in your rising,"

Atum in your ultimate setting!You rise and shine on the back of your mother [Nut],having appeared as the king of the gods. (BD 15 Ani)

Such predicates are found less often in other kinds of Egyptian hymns, which typically employ more static epithets of the god, as in the following from the Berlin Papyrus:

"Hail to you, Ptah, father of the gods,"

Tatenen, eldest of the original gods,holy god, elevated of form,great of terror, who is on the great throne. (Berl. 3048)

The distinctive language of the solar hymns reflects the nature of the sun god himself. Unlike the other Egyptian gods, who embody the unchanging forces and elements of nature, the sun god was viewed as a divine force continually in process, evolving each day from birth to death and each night from death to rebirth. The function of the solar hymns was not only to celebrate this daily cycle but also to participate in it, thereby helping to ensure its continuation. In this respect, too, hymns to the solar deity differ from those addressed to other gods, whose more stable nature was worthy of celebration but did not need the constant reaffirmation demanded by the more transitory character of the sun god. Hymns directed to the sun god as Amun-Re often combine the two kinds of language, with epithets reflecting the god's unchanging nature as eternal creator (Amun) and verbal predicates emphasizing the continual evolution of his manifestation as the sun (Re).

Solar hymns are first attested in their typical form in the New Kingdom, but the genre is prefigured by a short “morning litany” that appears in the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom:

"You awake in peace, Purified One, in peace."

You awake in peace, Horus of the East, in peace.You awake in peace, Eastern Ba, in peace.You awake in peace, Harakhty, in peace.Though you go to rest in the night barkyou awake in the day bark,for you are the one who looks down on the gods:there is no god who looks down on you. (Pyr. 1478–79b)

The earliest attested solar hymns belong to a cycle intended for recitation at each hour of the day. This hourly ritual first appears in the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri, although its language is suggestive of a Middle Kingdom original.

During the course of the New Kingdom the genre developed in two different thematic directions. The traditional, and oldest, type of solar hymn is liturgical in character, based on the hourly ritual that helped to ensure the continuation of the solar cycle. Texts of this kind typically describe the daily evolution of the god in cosmic terms, as the triumph of light over darkness, motion over inertia, life over death, and order over chaos. They remained in use into the Ptolemaic period, but became progressively associated with the kind of “restricted” knowledge embodied in the netherworld texts of royal tombs. Solar hymns of a more personal kind developed alongside the traditional texts in the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties. These relate the solar cycle directly to the sphere of human activity and experience, concentrating on the themes of light and motion as the source of human life and development. As such, they are less liturgical than celebratory in nature, recognizing the relationship between a beneficent god and his creation as worthy of worship and praise.

In keeping with its cosmic focus, the traditional solar hymn describes the sun god in relation to the forces of nature, themselves divine, and is therefore inherently polytheistic in character. The more personal hymns celebrate the relationship between the solar deity as creator and the world as his creation, and thus tend toward a monotheistic view of divinity. This trend is visible, outside the genre, as early as the poem in praise of the beneficent (and unnamed) creator at the end of the Instructions for Merikare, perhaps of late Middle Kingdom composition; it culminates in the monotheistic “Hymn to the Aten” of the Amarna period, which is also the ultimate expression of the personal type of solar hymn. This theme disappears from solar hymns after the nineteenth dynasty.

Solar hymns are the best-represented of all Egyptian hymns. They appear on the walls of temples (Deir el-Bahri, Edfu), on stelae and stelophorous statues, in liturgical papyri and those of literary character such as the Cairo “Hymn to Amun-Re,” and on ostraca. Solar hymns are also frequent in funerary contexts—on pyramidia from private tombs, in the doorways of tombs (for example, the Hymn to the Aten), among netherworld texts such as the Book of Day and Night, and in the Book of Going Forth by Day (Spell 15)—where they allow the deceased to participate in the daily solar cycle.

Most Egyptian religious texts, particularly those of the funerary genre, were normally reproduced without much change once they had been created. In contrast, each solar hymn is a unique, individual creation rather than a canonical composition. This is true even for Spell 15 of the Book of Going Forth by Day, unlike the other spells in that funerary corpus. Despite their individuality, however, solar hymns, both liturgical and personal, are often built around a standard core of themes and phrases.



  • Assmann, Jan. Liturgische Lieder an den Sonnengott. Münchner Ägyptologische Studien, 19. Munich and Berlin, 1969. Study and translation of liturgical solar hymns.
  • Assmann, Jan. Ägyptische Hymnen und Gebete. Zurich and Munich, 1975. Translations of more than 100 ancient Egyptian solar hymns, with an extensive introduction.
  • Assmann, Jan. Sonnenhymnen in thebanischen Gräbern. Theben, 1. Mainz am Rhein, 1983. Study and translation of solar hymns found in tombs.
  • Scharff, A. Ägyptische Sonnenlieder. Berlin, 1922. An early study of solar hymns.
  • Stewart, H. M. “Traditional Egyptian Sun Hymns of the New Kingdom.” Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology, University of London 6 (1967), 29–74. Study of the core themes and phrases common to many solar hymns.
  • Zandee, J. “Prayers to the Sun-God from Theban Tombs.” Jaarbericht van het Vooraziatisch-Egyptische Genootschap “Ex Oriente Lux” 16 (1959–1962), 48–71. Study and translation of solar hymns in the doorways of several major tombs.
  • Zandee, J. “Hymnical Sayings Addressed to the Sun-God by the High-Priest Nebwenenef, from his Tomb in Thebes.” Jaarbericht van het Vooraziatisch-Egyptische Genootschap “Ex Oriente Lux” 18 (1964), 253–265. Translation of an important solar hymn, with commentary.

James P. Allen