Ancient Egyptian god of the dead, represented as a jackal or as a man with the head of a jackal. In the Early Dynastic period and the Old Kingdom he was preeminent as lord of the dead, but he was later overshadowed by Osiris. Anubis was associated with the care of the dead and was credited with the invention of embalming, an art he first practiced on the corpse of Osiris. Later assigned the role of conducting souls into the underworld, he was sometimes identified in the Greco-Roman world with Hermes.
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Anubis is the Greek name for a jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife in Egyptian mythology. In the ancient Egyptian language, Anubis is known as Inpu, (variously spelled Anupu, Ienpw etc.). The oldest known mention of Anubis is in the Old Kingdom pyramid texts, where he is associated with the burial of the king. At this time, Anubis was the most important god of the Dead but he was replaced during the Middle Kingdom by Osiris.
Anubis takes various titles in connection with his funerary role, such as He who is upon his mountain, which underscores his importance as a protector of the deceased and their tombs, and the title He who is in the place of embalming, associating him with the process of mummification. Like many ancient Egyptian deities, Anubis assumes different roles in various contexts, and no public procession in Egypt would be conducted without an Anubis to march at the head.
Anubis is depicted in funerary contexts where he is shown attending to the mummies of the deceased or sitting atop a tomb protecting it. In fact, during embalming, the "head embalmer" wore an Anubis costume. The critical weighing of the heart scene in Book of the Dead also show Anubis performing the measurement that determined the worthiness of the deceased to enter the realm of the dead (the underworld). New Kingdom tomb-seals also depict Anubis atop nine bows that symbolize his domination over the foes of Egypt.
Following the merging of the Ennead and Ogdoad belief systems, as a result of the identification of Atum with Ra, and their compatibility, Anubis became a lesser god in the underworld, giving way to the more popular Osiris during the Middle Kingdom. However, "Anubis was given a place in the family of gods as the...son of Osiris and Nephthys, and in this role he helped Isis mummify his dead father. . Indeed, when the Legend of Osiris and Isis emerged, it was said that when Osiris had died, Osiris' organs were given to Anubis as a gift. With this connection, Anubis became the patron god of embalmers: during the funerary rites of mummification, illustrations from the Book of the Dead often show a priest wearing the jackal mask supporting the upright mummy.
However, as lesser of the two gods of the underworld, he gradually became considered the son of Osiris, but Osiris' wife, Isis, was not considered his mother, since she too inappropriately was associated with life. Instead, his mother became considered to be Nephthys, who had become strongly associated with funerary practice, indeed had in some ways become the personification of mourning, and was said to supply bandages to the deceased. Subsequently, this apparent infidelity of Osiris was explained in myth, in which it was said that a sexually frustrated Nephthys had disguised herself as Isis in order to appeal to her husband, Set, but he did not notice her as he was infertile. However, Isis' husband Osiris mistook Nephthys for his wife, which resulted in Anubis' birth. Other versions of the myth depict Set as the father, and it remains unclear as to whether Set was truly infertile or not.
In later times, during the Ptolemaic period, as their functions were similar, Anubis came to be identified as the Greek god Hermes, becoming Hermanubis. The centre of this cult was in uten-ha/Sa-ka/ Cynopolis, a place whose Greek name simply means "city of dogs". In Book XI of "The Golden Ass" by Apuleius, we find evidence that the worship of this god was maintained in Rome at least up to the 2nd century. Indeed, Hermanubis also appears in the alchemical and hermetical literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Although the Greeks and Romans typically scorned Egypt's animal-headed gods as bizarre and primitive (they mockingly called Anubis the "Barker"), Anubis was sometimes associated with Sirius in heaven, and Cerberus in hell.