Sobek was the ancient god of fertility and military prowess in ancient Egyptian mythology, but this power is not the reason for his fame. He was a half-human, half-animal god. He had the body of a normal man but the head of a fearsome crocodile.
In this article, we bring you a complete analysis of this Egyptian crocodile god and his adventures.
Who is Sobek in Egyptian Mythology?
Sobek is an ancient crocodile god with many versatile powers and quarrels in Egyptian mythology. Egyptian mythology is filled with various gods, goddesses, demi-gods, animal gods, demons and monsters, and Sobek is one of the most fascinating ones ever recorded. To understand the life of Sobek, let us start from the very beginning.
The world is filled with mythologies of different nature and characters. Among these mythologies, Egyptian mythology is by far the most famous and widely known mythology.
The reason for this is that Egyptian mythology is the oldest one of its kind in the world as Egyptians are the oldest people to become civilized. Everything we know about the oldest civilization of the world and its religion is through the texts and scriptures found buried at various sites throughout present-day Egypt.
Egyptian mythology is a very vast subject. Historians have not yet enumerated the total number of gods, goddesses and demons of this great mythology. In this mythology, the things and relations that are not legal in the world today were accepted in this ancient religion, civilization and time, such as cannibalism and sibling marriages. The reason that these things were acceptable in the ancient world was that there were no restrictions or laws.
Characteristics of the Gods
Nevertheless, Egyptian mythology is quite versatile in their storylines, characters and plots. One could find almost every type of event in this mythology. The ancient Egyptian people were very big on documenting their religious lifestyles, and this is the reason that we know so much about their religion and deities. The deities were half-human, which brought the people of the religion closer to the deities because they saw them from between themselves.
Egyptian mythology contains all sorts of gods and goddesses that deal with the power of various elements and things in the Cosmos and the Earth. People wholeheartedly believed in the powers of the gods and worshipped them as a part of their daily lives.
The Egyptians were considered as one of the most religious people of all time. Among many of their interesting deities is Sobek, who was the ancient crocodile god of the Egyptians and also had many characteristics of the crocodile itself.
Sobek is the name of the ancient Egyptian deity that has the head of a crocodile. Sobek Egyptian god enjoyed much love and fame from the Old Kingdom until the Roman period as narrated by the texts found.
There is not much information on the birth of this unusual deity, but he is most famously known to serve Ra, Osiris and sometimes Horus. Sobek and Horus are described as friends and also enemies at various places.
There are texts that mention that Set and Neith are the parents of Sobek.
However, Osiris raised Sobek himself. In addition to the above-mentioned gods, Sobek was also associated with Anubis, the god of the dead. Anubis and Sobek were half brothers and Isis was Sobek’s foster mother by choice.
Sobek: Name and Symbolism
Sobek is also written as Sebek in various texts, so these two names go interchangeably but both names mean “to impregnate.” He is associated with the Egyptian crocodile, which is his symbolism.
Crocodiles are known to be fierce animals that work in stealth mode. As such, Sobek was a solar deity with immense power and passion for his masters and also the people of Egypt.
Sobek was the god of pharaonic power, fertility and military prowess. He was the deity fighting against all the dangers of the river Nile and was basically the god that was standing between calamities and the people. In the texts, Sobek is associated with many different powers and abilities. He has been verified as being the god who loves robbery, he who eats while he also mates, and has pointed teeth.
Sobek was depicted as a man with light-green skin and the head of a crocodile. He is known to have long, black hair done in braids and a head with bull horns. He carries a flagpole-sized staff in his right hand and wears green armor. His eyes are covered in a film of green mucus, and Sobek sweats buckets of water from which the rivers of the world were created.
Sobek had all the abilities of a common Egyptian god, but he is most highly associated with water and its tricks.
Among many other things, the following are some of his abilities:
- Hydrokinesis: Sobek had absolute control and divine authority over water.
- Animal Charming: Sobek could command many giant crocodiles to help him in anything.
- Fighting Skills: Sobek was an exceptional fighter and warrior
- Combat Magic: Sobek had the head of a crocodile and could transform into a full crocodile when in combat. This startled his enemies and gave Sobek the element of surprise.
Sobek and Osiris
Osiris was the god of mankind, and both he and Isis took care of the people of the Earth. Many texts narrate that Osiris appointed Sobek to help him take better care of his people against the calamities of the Earth.
Whatever the reason, Osiris brought Sobek up like his own son. Sobek was very close to both Osiris and Isis, so when Set dismembered Osiris’ body and threw it in the river, Sobek went deep into the river to look for it.
The texts also narrate a very unusual encounter between Osiris and Sobek. Sobek was a crocodile so he was a carnivore, and he was rumored to have killed Osiris in the myth stating that Sobek eats Osiris.
This can not be possible because of two facts. Firstly, Osiris was murdered by Set so Sobek could have possibly killed him. Secondly, Osiris brought Sobek up like his own son, so it doesn’t make sense for Sobek to go against Osiris and Isis when he could eat anything else in the world.
Sobek and Anubis
Anubis, Inpu or Anpu in Ancient Egyptian mythology, is the god of death, mummification, afterlife, cemeteries, embalming, tombs and the Underworld. The female counterpart of Anubis is Anput. Anubis was the illegitimate son of Osiris and Nephthys. He came after the Osiris myth in which Nephthys seduced Osiris and led him to his murder by Set.
At that time, Nephthys did not know that she had been impregnated by Osiris. When she finally discovered it, she hid Anubis from Set because Set would have murdered Anubis too. So Nephthys secretly brought up Anubis, who was also loved by Isis.
Even though Isis was betrayed by Nephthys in the first place, she still loved Anubis because he was from Osiris.
Anubis was brought up by Isis, and so was Sobek. With this, Sobek and Anubis became half brothers. Not much is known about this duo, but they were said to be very close in relation and always helped each other.
Worship and Temples
Sobek was widely worshipped in the ancient Egyptian civilization. Egyptians had created numerous temples and shrines in Sobek’s name. The most famous among these temples was Per-Sobek, meaning the house of Sobek, in Shedet. It was like a cult center, which was probably the first-ever cult to be formed in Egypt and was widely popular until much later in the civilization.
Sobek and Ra
After the downfall of the Old Kingdom, Sobek was largely seen in coherence with the sun god Ra. Sobek-Ra was the famous association seen in many texts. Historians are still skeptical as to what really caused the unusual association of the sun god with the god with a crocodile head, but as far as the texts narrate, Sobek-Ra was the new avatar.
The cult of Sobek now became obsessed with Sobek-Ra. Many texts and scriptures found inside Egyptian tombs and pyramids show that the entity Sobek-Ra was a big part of pharaohs’ funerary rituals and festivities. Many statues have also been found that show Sobek and Ra as one great deity. This was surely the biggest association in the history of Egyptian mythology.
Around the world in various museums, statues of Sobek are present. Surprisingly, all of these statues were not excavated from Egypt. This means that the cult that worshipped Sobek found its way out of Egypt and into different countries, so the cult following of Sobek can be treated as a worldwide phenomenon.
Some of the Sobek statue and their location are as follows:
- Sobek is found in his crocodile form; 1991-1802 BCE; displayed at the Staatliche Sammlung für Ägyptische Kunst (Munich, Germany).
- In honor of Sobek, mummified crocodiles of various ages are kept at the Crocodile Museum (Aswan, Egypt).
- A fragment of a relief of Sobek dating back from 400-30 BCE can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Sobek in Popular Culture
Sobek has been greatly used as a character in modern media. He has been acknowledged in movies, tv-series, books and many video games. Most famously, he was used in the world-renowned videogame “Assassin’s Creed.”
He was also seen in the famous DreamWorks animation movie “Kung fu Panda.”
Sobek rose to glory throughout the ancient periods. From a common crocodile god to being the ward of Osiris and later being one with the sun god himself, there is no doubt that Sobek is an important deity in ancient Egyptian mythology.
- Set and Neith might have been the parents of Sobek, but Osiris raised Sobek himself.
- Sobek was the half-brother of Anubis.
- Sobek is also written as Sebek in various texts.
- He was the god of pharaonic power, fertility and military prowess.
- Sobek was depicted as a man with light-green skin, the head of a crocodile, has long, black hair done in braids and a head with bull horns.
- He was also widely known to be in service of the sun god Ra and also Horus.
His cult has proven just how dear Sobek was to them. Because of this, the legacy and the powers of this great Egyptian god continue to live on.