Next Monday, Portland will host a respected voice in the field of ancient Egyptian study: Dr. Eugene Cruz-Uribe, professor of global history and world civilizations at California State University, Monterey Bay, will come to campus to deliver his lecture, āSeth: Ancient Egyptās Evil God of Power andĀ Might.ā
Cruz-Uribe hopes to spark a discussion about a god who is mainly known forĀ chaos.
āI will also be revisiting several old ideas about the role of Seth as represented in the titulary of the kings of ancient Egypt,ā Cruz-Uribe said, noting that many scholars donāt believe the god is represented in this manner.
Itās just one of the things that sets Cruz-Uribeās thinking apart from the rest of the scholarship onĀ Seth.
Do a bit of research and youāll find that Seth has a nasty reputationānamely for killing his brother, the king Osiris, by tricking him into getting into a wooden chest and then sending it down theĀ Nile.
Seth ended up fighting his nephew Horus for the throne, placing Seth next to Hamletās Claudius and The Lion Kingās Scar in terms of hate-ability, so itās difficult to argue with those who label him an evilĀ god.
But Cruz-Uribe takes another approach to theĀ tale.
āIn some ways I am hoping to show that he is not to be see as an āevilā deity, but one who has many aspects,ā Cruz-Uribe said. āSome think [the fact] that he killed his brother Osiris is a bad [or] evil thing, but if one takes it in the context of power struggles within the Egyptian court, it is a phenomenon that has occurred repeatedly throughout history.ā
While Sethās actions are extreme, they are really more of a jumping-off point for exploring the question of leadership and who will gain that control.
Rather than a dutiful vengeance, Cruz-Uribe argues that āthe conflict of Horus and Seth is really to be seen as internal struggle for control of kingship and the right toĀ rule.ā
It seems to be a case of our own perceptions getting in the way of seeing things from another point of view. Seth has been vilified to the point that the taleās message took a backseat to a mistaken character interpretation.
āWhat is important to note but is not always commented on is that Horus and Seth are reconciled,ā Cruz-Uribe said. āThus, while Horus is given the throne by the rest of the gods, Seth is retained as a vital member of the ācourtā [read: pantheon of deities] and is not sentĀ away.ā
Cruz-Uribeās lecture is being presented by the American Research Center in Egypt and PSUās own Middle East Studies Center. Professor James Grehan, the director of the center, is confident that the event will draw a substantial crowd based on past lecture attendance and a growing interest in the regionās history.
āI think thereās a lot of interest in the ancient Mediterranean and the ancient Middle East, and so these are opportunities to learn about the societies of the ancient world, and thereās a lot of fascinating work being done,ā Grehan said. āSo we get these people as they come through. Itās another resource, both for Portland State students and people in the Portland community.ā
Thereās also an element of timeliness: While all parts of the worldās history should be studied, recent events in Egypt make the country particularly interesting.
Seth: Ancient Egyptās Evil God of
Power and Might
A lecture by Dr. Eugene Cruz-Uribe
Monday, May 13, 7:30 p.m.
Smith Memorial Student Union, room 238
Free and open to the public
ā[MESC is] looking at a part of the world [that] is constantly in the headlines and gets a lot of attention,ā Grehan said.
Looking at the regionās past may reveal answers for the future.
āItās a really different side of the Middle East that people tend to forget about or donāt really associate with the Middle East, but this ancient history of Egypt still really informs Egyptian identity today,ā said Elisheva Cohen, the outreach coordinator for the center.
One thing thatās very clear is the level of pride MESC has for their program and their ability to get professionals in the field to lecture for students.
āThis has been a historic strength at PSU, to have a vibrant Middle East studies program,ā Grehan said.