The ancient Egyptian god Montu was the chief god of Waset, called Thebes by the Greeks (modern Luxor); he appeared as early as the Middle Kingdom (11th dynasty). The most significant literary evidence referring to Montu was “the story of Sinuhe,” when he was praised by the tale's hero after he defeated “the strong man.” His name was associated with the name of the founder of this dynasty, Mentuhotep II, whose name means “god Montu is in peace.”
King Mentuhotep II, who was from Waset, succeeded in unifying both Upper and Lower Egypt after a period of chaos known as the First Intermediate period. Upon ascending the throne, he moved the capital from Middle Egypt to Waset, and he chose the local god of the area by that time, Montu, as the chief god. The position of the god Montu as a supreme god did not last for a long period because the god Amen, who originated as well in Upper Egypt, started to gain more power in the 12th dynasty, a process that would culminate with Amen being known later on as “the king of all gods.”
Nevertheless, Montu had temples in four different places in the Theban area: Armant (southwest of modern Luxor on the western bank of the Nile), Medamud (northeast of modern Luxor), Tod (southwest of modern Luxor, on the eastern bank of the Nile), and Karnak (northeast of modern luxor, adjacent to the northern side of the great temple of Amun Amen).
Montu was the god of war, and his traditional form was the human body with the head of a falcon surmounted by the solar disc and two plumes holding a curved sword or spear. In later periods, he was associated with the bull at Armant. This explains the reason behind some representations of this god with the head of a bull, especially in areas such as Armnat and Medamud, where the cult of the bull was the most dominant. Some of the important pharaohs liked to compare themselves to the “eager bull” in the battlefields.
During the New Kingdom, the role of Montu in war is clearly mentioned on some of the archaeological documents such as the Stela of Thothmose III, discovered at Gebel Berkel, which describes the king as “a valiant Montu on the battlefield.” From the 4th century BC, black and white bull statues were kept in the Montu temple at Armant. These “Buchis Bulls” symbolized the twin souls of Re and Osiris. Besides his main role as the god of war, Montu was also known for being a protector of the happy home.
Like many other gods, he was identified with the sun god Re in the form of Montu Re, while also being identified with Atum in his solar guise. His cult survived for a long period of time, and, as was the case with many other Egyptian gods and goddesses, he was identified with the Greek god Aries, god of war. Montu has been depicted in the company of three consorts: Tjenet, lunyt, and Rettawy. He was also mentioned in some texts with “Seth,” perhaps as a contrast between controlled and uncontrolled power or to keep the balance between the power of good and the power of evil.
- Bedford, D. (2002). The Ancient Gods Speak: A Guide to the Egyptian Religion. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Bierbrier, M. (1999). Historical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.
- Pinch, G. (2002). Handbook of Egyptian Mythology. Washington, DC: Library of Congress.