Montu (Mentu, Monthu, Mentju, Montju, Menthu, Ment, Month, Mont, Minuthi) was a solar hawk god and a god of war. His name is thought to derive from the term for a nomad. He was primarily worshipped in the Theban nome in Armant (Hermonthis), Madu, Tod (Tuphium), and Karnak.

Montu, Ptolemaic Period (copyright Janmad)

It seems that Montu was originally a local form of the sun god worshipped in Hermonthis, the capital of the Theban nome. He was said to be the destructive power of the sun. His worship was established in Thebes during the Eleventh Dynasty and he was given the epithet “Lord of Thebes”. Thebes was the location of the royal court at that time and so Montu became a powerful state god associated with the pharaoh. Three kings took the throne name “Montuhotep” (“Montu is satisfied”), but the most notable was Montuhotep I who reunited Upper and Lower Egypt after the turmoil of the First Intermediate Period. However, during the Twelfth Dynasty his position as state god was taken by Amun, and Montu came to be seen more as a war god than an aspect of the sun.

Montu, Third Intermediate Period (copyright Rama)

This theological shift was recorded in “the Story of Sinuhe”, in which the hero praises Montu after a successful battle but also calls him the “Lord of Thebes”. The martial pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty favoured Montu. Tuthmosis III (“the Napoleon of Egypt”) is described as “a valiant Montu on the battlefield” on the Gebel Barkal Stele and Ramesses II was so fond of the god that worship of a cult statue bearing the king’s throne name (“Usermaatre Setepenre” – “strong is the justice of Ra, Chosen by Ra”) and the epithet, “Montu in the Two Lands” was established during his lifetime. These kings were often described as “strong bulls” in reference to Montu as the god was associated with the Buchis bull cult. He was also associated with an obscure bull cult in Medamud.

Montu was also thought to act as a guardian of happy family life. He is referred to in marriage documents to ensure that each party lived up to their commitment. Infidelity is described as “the abomination of Montu” and was definitely frowned upon. He was one of the deities who protected Ra on his nightly journey through the underworld and battled the serpent of chaos (Apep).

Montu was often depicted as a man with the head of a falcon wearing a headdress of two long plumes, a solar disk and the double uraeus (like that of Amun). He is generally armed, but uses a variety of weapons. Because of his links to the bull cults he was also depicted with the head of a bull (wearing the same headdress).

Montu was closely associated with Ra as a solar god and often appears as Montu-Ra. He was also merged with Atum and even associated with Set (possibly because of his martial aspect or because he could counteract the negative side of Set). The Greeks considered Montu to be a form of Ares, the god of war.

Monut was supposed to be married to Tjenenet, Iunyt, and Rettawy. It was sometimes suggested that the child of Montu and Rettawy (who like Iunyt was a female aspect of Ra) was Horus the child, linking Montu with Horus and therefore the pharaoh. When Amun became the national god, he and his wife Mut were sometimes described as the (adoptive) parents of Montu.

  • The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (2003) Richard H. Wilkinson
  • Temple of the World: Sanctuaries, Cults, and Mysteries of Ancient Egypt (2010) Miroslav Verner
  • Egyptian Mythology (1997) Simon Goodenough
  • Gods of Ancient Egypt (1996) Barbara Watterson

Copyright J Hill 2015