Khonsu and the Princess of Hatti

Khonsu and the Princess of Hatti

In the late second millennium BC, Egypt was engaged in a long war with the Hittite empire. The conflict was ended finally in 1256BC by the marriage of Ramses II to the daughter of the Hittite ruler, the King of Hatti.

Ramses was captivated by the beauty of his new bride and bestowed upon her the Egyptian name of Nefrure and the title "Great Royal Wife." Shortly after her arrival, however, Ramses was celebrating a festival at Thebes in honour of the god Amun when a messenger arrived from the King of Hatti. He brought bad news. Nefrure's younger sister, Bentresh was seriously ill and the Hittites were unable to cure her. The pharoah summoned his top physicians and magicians to ask them their opinion on what this disease might be.

When they were unable to reach a diagnosis, he dispatched the royal doctor himself to attend upon the princess. Three years later this doctor returned home. The princess, he announced, was possessed by evil spirits and only the intercession of a god could cure her. Ramses consulted the priests at the shrine of Konsu in Thebes, and asked them for their help. The priests in turn put the question to Konsu, whose statue nodded its head as a sign that he agreed to be taken to cure the princess.

However, there was one theological problem. In his role as protector of Thebes, the moon god Konsu had to stay in his city. The priests therefore sought help from the other form of the god, "Khonsu-the-Expeller-of-Demons." Protected by magical amulets donated by his more senior alter ego, Khonsu-the-Expeller-of-Demons set out with his entourage to the Hittite capital. Seventeen months later the statue reached its destination and cured Bentresh on the spot.

Bentresh's father, however, was so impressed by the statue's power to heal that he refused to let it go and made a shrine for it in his own kingdom where he intended to keep it. For three years and nine months the statue stayed where it was until the Prince of Hatti was visited by a prophetic dream. In it the statue of Khonsu rose from its shrine in the form of a golden falcon and swooped down at the prince before rising into the sky and heading for Egypt. The prince realized that he must return the statue, and so he sent it back to Thebes accompanied by a huge tribute. On its return to the city, the statue presented the senior Khonsu with the entire Hittite booty-without having even removed any items of treasure, as recompense for the priests of its own shrine in Hatti.

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