Egyptian God Anubis: History, Facts & Roles Video

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  • 0:03 Anubis
  • 1:14 History of Anubis
  • 2:30 Epithets & Roles
  • 4:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Anubis, the god of the afterlife and judge of the dead, is one of the most recognizable Egyptian deities. In this lesson, we'll explore his history, myths, and roles in ancient Egyptian society.


In modern Western societies, there is a tendency to associate gods of death with evil. This largely comes from Christian associations of Hell and Satan being compared with the underworld and the guardians of the underworld. While this has inspired numerous entertaining and terrifying villains in Hollywood portrayals of Greek and Egyptian mythology, it is not how ancient populations understood these deities.

In few cases is this more evident that with the ancient Egyptian god of Anubis. Anubis, easily recognizable as an anthropomorphized jackal or dog, was the Egyptian god of the afterlife and mummification. He helped judge souls after their death and guided lost souls into the afterlife. So, was he evil? No, and in fact just the opposite. In ancient Egyptian mythology the ultimate evil was chaos. Nearly all of Egyptian mythology was focused around maintaining the cycles of cosmic order that kept chaos at bay. Few things were as significant in this goal as the rituals maintaining the cycle of life, death, and afterlife. Therefore, Anubis was not evil but rather one of the most important gods who kept evil out of Egypt.

History of Anubis

With such an important role, it's not surprising that Anubis is one of the oldest gods in all of ancient Egyptian mythology. He was said to have invented the process of mummification and taught it to the Egyptian people. Anubis was first thought to be conceived sometime in the Predynastic period, when Egyptian civilization was first developing.

Many archeologists believe that the god Anubis was inspired by actual jackals, who dug up bodies that had not been buried deep enough. The theory is that a canine god was evoked in order to exercise some cosmic control over these canine scavengers. What we know for sure is that images of Anubis were already popular by Egypt's First Dynasty, when he appeared on royal tombs.

Anubis remained one of Egypt's most popular and powerful deities for centuries, even as other religious cults rose and fell. This required some reworking of his myths and origins over time. Originally, Anubis was said to be the son of Ra and Hesat. However, in the Middle Kingdom a new god of the dead became incredibly popular, named Osiris. In this time, Anubis was re-envisioned as the son of Osiris. This change allowed Anubis to remain extremely popular and placed him directly at the right hand of one of Egypt's most powerful deities.

Epithets & Roles

So, what exactly did Anubis do in Egyptian mythology? Anubis actually shows up in very few myths. However, we get more of an idea about him in several of his epithets.

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