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Why were Seth and Horus at war?

The powerful and popular gods of ancient Egypt, Horus and Seth, are known for their fierce rivalry. They have waged a long and bitter battle over the throne of Egypt. We explore the myths and motives behind their conflict in this blog.

Who were Seth and Horus?

In ancient Egypt, Seth was regarded as the god of storms, chaos, and foreigners. He was often depicted as a man with a long snout and a forked tail, which is sometimes referred to as the Seth animal. The colour Red symbolised Seth and was associated with desert, fire, and blood, and he was the brother of multiple powerful deities, such as Isis, Nephthys, Osiris, and Horus the Elder. Seth was also the uncle of one of his rivals, Horus the Younger.

In ancient Egypt, the god of protection, sky, sun, and kingship was known as Horus. He was often depicted as a man with a falcon’s head and a crown. He was the child of Isis and Osiris, and he was the successor to the throne of Egypt after the death of Osiris. He had many forms and aspects, such as Horus the Elder, Horus the Child, Horus of Behdet, Horus of Edfu, and Horus of Two Eyes.

How did their war start?

Seth killed Osiris, which caused the war between the two deities to start. According to a popular myth, Osiris was a wise and good king who spread his civilization around the world. He also taught his people religion, law, and agriculture. Unfortunately, his brother, Seth, was envious of him and wanted to kill him.

The sequence of events that led to the begining of the war has been detailed in our earlier blog about how Osiris became the god of the underworld.

How did their war end?

Seth and Horus’ war lasted for over 80 years, and it featured multiple skirmishes on land and in the water. They also competed in various contests to prove their strength, skill, wisdom, or legitimacy. For example, they raced on boats made of stone or wood; they transformed into hippopotamuses or other animals; they tried to impregnate each other with their semen; they argued before various tribunals of gods; they weighed their hearts on scales; they measured their shadows; they played board games; they exchanged riddles; they fought with harpoons or knives; they tore out each other’s eyes or testicles; and they appealed to the sun god Ra for his judgment.

Although Horus won most of the battles, Seth would not acknowledge or try to cheat. The other gods’ opinions were mixed, with some of them supporting Horus and others backing Seth. Ra was the most influential god, as he was Seth’s ally against a serpent called Apophis. Ra also believed that Horus was too young to rule Egypt.

After suffering many hardships, Horus was finally able to earn the approval of the other gods and Ra. He also performed a healing procedure on his father, Osiris, and got his eye back. He then turned him into the god of the underworld.

When it came to rewarding his son, Osiris rewarded him with a crown that symbolized his power over Egypt. Upon assuming the throne, Horus established a new order of harmony and justice. He also reconciled with his brother, Seth.

What was the significance of their war?

The war between Seth and Horus was not only a mythological story but also a symbolic representation of various aspects of ancient Egyptian culture and religion. It explained the origin of kingship, succession, mummification, resurrection, and the afterlife. It also illustrated the conflict between order and chaos, good and evil, life and death, fertility and barrenness, civilization and wilderness, Upper and Lower Egypt, and native and foreign. It also expressed the hope for eternal life, renewal, and balance in the cosmos.

Seth and Horus were not only enemies but also complementary forces that maintained the equilibrium of the world. They represented the dual nature of reality and the need for harmony between opposites. They also showed that even the most bitter rivals can eventually overcome their differences and work together for the common good. They were both essential parts of the divine plan that ensured the prosperity and stability of Egypt.

Published Date

4 June, 2023


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