Illustration from








There were two gods who bore the name Horus: the first was a solar deity and brother of Set, the second the child of Osiris and Isis. However in later times the Egyptians appear to have been either unable or unwilling to distinguish between the two, and the offspring of Osiris and Isis was also considered to be a sun god, thus the two gods became one.

The name Horus is a Latinized form of the Greek 'Hores', which in turn is derived from the Egyptian 'Hor'. The origin of this name may come from the same root as the Egyptian word for high or 'far away'. Horus was represented either as a falcon or a falcon-headed man. His two eyes symbolized the two heavenly bodies, the sun and the moon, with the right eye being the sun and the left the moon. However the phrase 'the eye of Horus' usually refers to the moon. It was this eye that was lost to Set and later, after being recovered, presented to Osiris to aid him in his resurrection.

The four sons of Horus, Imset, Qebehsenuf, Duamuttef and Hapi, acted as guides to the dead. They represented the cardinal points and were found either pictorially or by name on each of the four sides of the coffin. They protected the body from hunger and thirst and also watched over the internal organs of the deceased, which were removed from the body during mummification and held in canopic jars, each of which bore a moulded head of one of the sons.

The falcon was sacred to Horus from the earliest times and the image of a falcon on its perch became the hieroglyphic symbol representing the word 'god'. Many sanctuaries were dedicated to him, and in each one his priests appear to have developed their own collection of myths associated with the god. So varied did these become that at first glance it would appear that we have over a dozen gods bearing the name Horus, some of which are provided below.


Worshipped at Letopolis and at Pharbocthos, Haroeris's name in Egyptian is Har-Wer, Horus 'the great' or 'elder'. To the priest of Letopolis he was also known as Horkenti Irti,'Horus who rules the two eyes', whilst at Pharbocthos, he was Hor-Marti, 'Horus of the two eyes'. His birth was celebrated when the sun and moon were in conjunction.

In the pyramid texts, illustrations show Ra the great sun god with his sons, Horus and Set, either side of him, Horus representing light and Set darkness. In the eternal battle between the two gods, Set rips out his brother's eye and is in return castrated by Horus. In later texts the battle is between Set and his nephew, Horus the son of Osiris and not Horus the Elder.


Harakhte meant the god on the horizon: Horus was the first state god of Egypt, but in early times he appears to have become so confused with Ra that the two gods exchanged places, with Ra eventually becoming known as Ra-Harakhte.

Behdety or Bedhey

Behdety or Bedhey was worshipped at Behdety in Edfu. The myth linking Horus and Edfu tells of an occasion when Ra-Harakhte, who was with his army in Nubia, heard of a plot against him led by Set. Ra-Harakhte sailed down the Nile from Nubia to Edfu, where Set had assembled his demonic army, and commanded his son Horus to fight on his behalf against his enemy. This Horus did, rising up into the sky in the form of a fiery disc and flying over the land, slaying the demonic followers of Set wherever he found them. To commemorate his valuable service his father gave him the title Horus Behdety, Horus of Edfu.

Behdety was usually represented in the form of a winged sun disc and may be seen carved above temple gates and other places. He is also present in battle scenes where he flies protectively above the pharaoh in the form of a great falcon holding the ring of eternity.


This is the Greek form of Hormakhet, 'Horus of the horizon'. Horus was the personification of the rising sun and thus also a symbol of resurrection. Harmakhis is the true name of the Sphinx, although it is carved in the image of King Kephren. The Sphinx faces directly to that point on the eastern horizon where the sun is first seen at the equinox and also acts as a guardian of the pyramid of the king.


Harsiesis is the Greek form of Horsaiset, 'Horus the son of Isis'. He is the posthumous son of Osiris born to Isis on the floating island of Chemmis, situated in the marshes of the Delta near Buto. In his early youth he was known as Harpakhrad, the 'infant Horus' and was later known as Horus the Younger. In sculpture the young Harsiesis is shown dressed as a typical Egyptian child wearing no clothing but quantities of jewelry and baring the side lock of youth.

Originally a minor god from Buto, as he became more popular Harsiesis gathered to himself all the attributes of the other forms of Horus. In the pyramid texts it is Harsiesis who performs the essential 'opening of the mouth' ceremony, a magical act which had the effect of restoring the dead king for his existence in the afterlife.

Later in his campaigns against Set, his father's murderer, he was known as Hartomes,'Horus the Lancer', and by this time he had almost completely assumed the identity of 'Horus the Elder'.