Senwosret I smites his foreign enemies - ROM2018_16243_5


Senwosret I smites his foreign enemies

Geography: Excavated from the funerary complex of Senwosret I at Lisht, Egypt
Date: c. 1956-1911 BC
Period: Reign of Senwosret I, 12th Dynasty, Middle Kingdom
85 x 125 cm
Object number: 958.49.6.A
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This fragment is from a 'smiting scene' in which a king, in this case Senwosret I, grasps his enemy or enemies by the hair with his left hand, while raising his right hand above his head, mace or sword in hand, ready to dispatch the evil ones.  In most cases, the king is not shown actually smiting the enemy; hence the image is one of power and control, but not of bloodshed. Locks of hair from five enemies can be seen above and to the left of the king's hand, while a similar number would have been seen to the right.  Below the king's hand we can see the hair on the heads of the helpless enemy. The king also bears a single arrow in his left hand.

Part of an inscription survives at the upper left.  The three signs were probably to be read from the right, "beloved (of a particular god), given life . . . ." 

While such scenes might commemorate a particular battle or victory, their real intent was to show that the king was always in control of the forces of evil and chaos, exemplified by the enemies whose hair he holds.  When carved on the outer walls of temples, ‘smiting scenes’ were usually apotropaic rather than historic.

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