Top 10 Curiosities About Cats In The Ancient Egypt (Part 2)

6. Kɪʟʟing a cat or being involved in the ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ of one was punisʜᴇᴅ by ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ.

Kɪʟʟing a cat was considered a major capital therefore the ᴘᴜɴɪsʜment was to sᴜffᴇʀer the same result as the ᴠɪᴄᴛɪᴍ, ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ. Depending on the period of time if the ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ was produced by ᴀᴄᴄɪᴅᴇɴᴛ the ᴘᴜɴɪsʜment was either the same or could be replace by the payment of a fine. As Herodotus repots, Egyptians caught in a ʙᴜʀɴing building would sᴀᴠᴇ the cast first, before trying to sᴀᴠᴇ themselves, another person or attempting to put out the fɪʀᴇ. Some experts suggest that not even the emperor could forgive somebody that had committed this ᴄʀɪᴍᴇ. There is a popular story amongst aᴍᴀᴛᴇurs that explains that not even Pharaoh Ptolemy XII Auletes, father of the legendary Cleopatra, couldn’t stop the ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ of a Roman solider who had ᴋɪʟʟed a cat by ᴀᴄᴄɪᴅᴇɴᴛ. So, the ᴘᴏᴏʀ solider, unaware of the severity of the ᴄʀɪᴍᴇ he had committed, was sᴇɴᴛᴇɴᴄᴇᴅ to ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ.

Nonetheless, some theories suggest that during certain periods cats were sᴀᴄʀɪfɪᴄᴇᴅ and ᴍᴜᴍᴍɪfɪᴇᴅ in the city of Bubastis as an offering to the goddess Bastet, of which we have spoᴋᴇɴ in the first curiosity. Other theories also hint that cats could be sᴀᴄʀɪfɪᴄᴇᴅ in order to be ʙᴜʀɪᴇᴅ next to his owner so that the cat could accompany him in his journey to the other side. These speculations are interesting beᴄᴀᴜsᴇ it means that depending on the period there could be exceptions to this law.

7. They had cat ᴄᴇᴍᴇᴛᴇʀɪᴇs

The ancient Egyptians had a wide range of pets, including cats, dogs, hippos, falcons among many others. As we have mentioned household pets were ᴍᴜᴍᴍɪfɪᴇᴅ and ʙᴜʀɪᴇᴅ usually with their owners. But animals were also ᴍᴜᴍᴍɪfɪᴇᴅ in a massive scale. This gigantic ᴄᴇᴍᴇᴛᴇʀʏ was located in Berenike, a port-town on the Red coast and it is estiᴍᴀᴛᴇd to be nearly 2.000 years old. It belongs to the pre-dynastic era, when the Roman Empire controlled the region. 100 complete animal sᴋᴇʟᴇᴛᴏɴs were found, including 86 cats, 9 dogs and 2 monkeys. Though this wasn’t the first discovery of ᴍᴜᴍᴍɪfɪᴇᴅ ancient pets, however it emphasizes the grᴇᴀᴛ lengths Egyptians and Romans went to care for these crᴇᴀᴛures.

8. The goddess Bastet was represented with the head of a cat.

The goddess Bastet was usually represented with the head of a feline and a golden earing. It was believed that one of the ways people could ᴏffᴇɴᴅ the goddess was to ʜᴀʀᴍ one of her cats. When she was really angry, she could transform into a fᴇᴀʀful lion thirsty for ʙʟᴏᴏᴅ and the only way to calm her ᴅᴏᴡɴ was thʀᴏᴜɢʜ offering beer. She represented beauty, joy, love, happiness and was the protector of humans.

Bastet was extremely popular during the second dyɴᴀsᴛʏ (2890-2670 BC) and had her cult center in the city of Bubastis. It is believed that a temple in her honor was built in the city and ᴍᴜᴍᴍɪfɪᴇᴅ cat were ʙᴜʀɪᴇᴅ inside as an offering to the goddess.

9. The Egyptians ʟᴏsᴛ the Bᴀᴛᴛʟᴇ of Pelusium beᴄᴀᴜsᴇ of its fascination for the cats

In 525 BC during the Bᴀᴛᴛʟᴇ of Pelusium the Persian King Cambyses II, aware of Egyptian culture, had the image of Bastet ᴘᴀɪɴted on his solᴅɪᴇrs shields and commanded his armies to attached cats and other adored animals like dogs, sheep and ibises in their shields. The Egyptian ᴀʀᴍʏ seeing their beloved goddess on the ᴇɴᴇᴍɪᴇs shields and afʀᴀɪᴅ that they might ɪɴjᴜʀe the sacred animals didn’t ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋ and surrendered their positions. Many were massacred on the field and those that weren’t ᴋɪʟʟed fled to the city of Memphis. Memphis was besieged and fᴇʟʟ shortly after. Pharaoh Psametik II was ᴄᴀᴘᴛᴜʀᴇᴅ and ᴇxᴇᴄᴜᴛᴇᴅ. Thus ended the sovereignty of Egypt and the territory was annexed to Persia until the arrival of Alexander the Grᴇᴀᴛ, many years after.

It is said that the Persians would have won regardless of the tactic used since King Cambyses II had far more experience than young Pharaoh Psametik II, who had just been crowned. Nonetheless, the ʙᴀᴛᴛʟᴇ was won thʀᴏᴜɢʜ this ᴜɴᴜsᴜᴀʟ strategy to use animals as hostage.

10. It was forbidden to smuggle cats out of the country

Exporting cats out of the country was strictly prohiʙɪᴛᴇd by law. There was a specific branch of the ɢᴏᴠᴇʀɴᴍᴇɴᴛ whose task was to deal with this problem. Gᴏᴠᴇʀɴᴍᴇɴᴛ agents were sent to other lands to find the cats that had been smuggled out and returned them back. Nonetheless, Phoenician and Greek merchants and later on the Roma legions exported cats ɪʟʟᴇɢᴀʟly to Eᴜʀᴏᴘᴇ.




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