Sothis festival

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Sothis festival in hieroglyphics
Old empire
W3 O1 D21
D54 M44 X1

Ḥb-prt-Spdt Festival of the coming
of the Sothis

The ancient Egyptian festival of Sothis is documented as the New Year festival for the first time in the Old Kingdom and was the most important celebration in the Egyptian calendar .


The goddess Sothis (Sopdet)

The ritual Sothis festival began in the Sothis calendar ideally always immediately after the twelfth hour of the night on the fifth day of Heriu-renpet . The preparations for the Sothis festival began a little earlier with the evening before the heliacal rise of the star Sirius , which the goddess Sothis embodied as the "twelfth hour of the night". After the heliacal rising, the party was continued in a lively atmosphere, drunk. The scheduling in the Sothis calendar coupled with the heliacal Sirius rise caused the festivities in the Egyptian administrative calendar to be postponed approximately every three to four years, which is why the Sothis festival wandered through the " Egyptian year ".

The Sothis festival and the New Year celebrations in the Egyptian administrative calendar fell on the same day only about every 1,452 years for three consecutive years in the course of the Sothis cycle . In this ideal case, the first hour of the first day of the new year followed directly with the 1st Achet I , the beginning of which was marked by the sunrise . Due to the temporal definition of the ancient Egyptian day , the heliacal Sothis rise and the immediately following Sothis festival took place on two different days of the Egyptian calendar. In contrast, in the Gregorian and Julian calendars , both events occurred on the same day.

Old empire

In the Old Kingdom, Sothis was one of the manifestations of the goddess Isis in the Pyramid Texts (PT) or as Ba , which follows the constellation Sah . In PT 883 the deceased and rejuvenated king of Osiris and Sothis is crowned in their role as the "year". The splendor of the Sothis should show whether a good or bad year will follow.

The Heriu-renpet holidays , which followed the calendar year, were still part of the area in the Old Kingdom that lay “between the old and the new year”. The first five birthdays of the gods coincided with the “time between the years”, which ushered in the Achet season and the month Wepet-renpet . The heliacal rise of Sirius associated with the “birth of Sothis” fell on the last day of Heriu-renpet, while the sixth birthday of the gods, “the birth of Re”, began together with the “birth of Sothis”, but not until the first day of new year was completed. The Sothis festival and the Re-Harachte birthday party coincided with the " flood season  ".

Middle to New Kingdom

The earlier coupling of the Nile flood to the heliacal Sothis rise and the Sothis festival was actually in direct relation to the first month of Achet of the Sothi calendar in the old and beginning of the Middle Kingdom . On the diagonal star clocks of the Middle Kingdom, the “birth of Sothis” with its heliacal Sirius rise as the twelfth hour of the night was still assigned to the day before the New Year. In the New Kingdom, however, has long lacked the astronomical binding to the Nile flood, renpet Heriu-the new ones in the early empire already with the beginning of the holidays, and later in the fourth month of the season Schemu began the Sothiskalenders before Sothisaufgang.

The calendar was changed in the New Kingdom at the latest. The Heriu-renpet holiday was now placed on the fourth Schemu month and declared the "closing days of the year". The fifth day of Heriu-renpet carried the title “Closer of the Year”, which meant that the “Birth of Sothis” with its heliacal rise of Sirius also meant to the old year, while the Sothis festival began in the new year. In addition, the “birth of Re” was postponed from the month of Wepet-renpet to the twelfth month of Mesori . Moving the “birthday of Re” before the other five days of the gods also meant a theological rebalancing, since the birth of Amun-Re as “king of the gods” now also took place before those divine five birthdays, which in the Old Kingdom was before the “birthday des Re-Harachte ”.

Fixed course

The course of the Sothis festival cannot be reconstructed due to the almost complete lack of direct evidence. Only three entries from the Middle and New Kingdom have survived in the fixed lists. Since the Middle Kingdom, at least since the Middle Kingdom, the festive character has been similar to that of a necropolis , as visitors to graves were asked for an offering during the festivities . From the fragment of a manuscript it can be seen that in the seventh year of Sesostris III's reign . the Sothis festival was celebrated on the 17th of Peret IV . The delivery of "200 different breads and 60 mugs of beer" is noted for fixed needs.

In the New Kingdom, under Amenophis I, in his ninth year of reign (1517/1516 BC), the Sothis festival began on the 10th of Schemu III . A finding similar to that of Sesostris III. appears in two other festive lists of the New Kingdom. Under Thutmose III. (1479 to 30. Peret III 1425 BC) the Sothis festival was celebrated on the 28th Schemu III in a temple of Elephantine : “That which on this day for the life, happiness and health of Thutmose III. what was sacrificed was ... a bull, poultry, bread and ten bowls of incense ”. The indication of the corresponding year of reign of Thutmose III. has not been preserved. The time difference compared to the Sothis festival of Amenhotep I is 18 days and corresponds to a period of around 68 to 75 years (1449/1448 to 1442/1441 BC). The difference of 101 days compared to the Sesostris date only allows a maximum distance of 403 to 410 years if the reference point of the Sothis rises has not been shifted in the meantime . In retrospect, Sesostris III. the Sothis festival under these conditions at the earliest in 1852 BC. Have celebrated.

From the festival calendar of Ramses III. There is also an entry for the Sothis festival: “First month of flooding (Achet I), what is offered to Amun on this festival ... grain for bread and beer, an ox, poultry, wine, incense, herbs and bouquets of flowers when Sothis is on her day rises ”. The second hard beginning in the same month I followed the 17 Akhet as the eve of the celebrated on 18 Akhet I Wagfest . Ramses III. had taken over almost the entire festival calendar from Ramses II without adjusting the calendar dates. In Egyptology it is considered certain that this entry of the Sothis festival still refers to the reign of Ramses II, since between the date of Thutmose III. and the last possible date of the 16th Achet I are a maximum of 51 days. This means that the greatest difference to be assumed is 210 years, which is why the Sothis festival mentioned is only due to a calendar reform that has taken place with regard to the specified dates of Ramses III. in whose reign the celebration may have taken place on the date noted.


  • Rolf Krauss : Sothis and moon dates. Studies on the astronomical and technical chronology of ancient Egypt (= Hildesheimer Egyptological contributions. (HÄB). Volume 20). Gerstenberg, Hildesheim 1985, ISBN 3-8067-8086-X .
  • Siegfried Schott : Altägyptische Festdaten (= Academy of Sciences and Literature. Treatises of the Humanities and Social Sciences Class. (AM-GS). 1950, Volume 10, ISSN  0002-2977 ). Publishing house of the Academy of Sciences and Literature and others, Mainz and others 1950.

Individual evidence

  1. Document IV 827