Bes is a minor god of ancient Egypt, represented as a dwarf with a large head, goggle eyes, protruding tongue, bowlegs, bushy tail, and usually a crown of feathers. This ancient Egyptian god may have been a Middle Kingdom import from Nubia or Somalia, and his cult did not become widespread until the New Kingdom. Bes ( also spelt as Bisu), together with his feminine counterpart Beset, is an ancient Egyptian deity who is y worshipped as a protector of households, mothers, children, and childbirth. God Bes later came to be regarded as the defender of everything good and the enemy of bad. Bes is now used to designate a group of deities of similar appearance with a wide variety of ancient names.
Worship of Bes spread as far north as the area of Syria and as far west as the Balearic Islands (Ibiza) in Spain and later into the Roman and Achaemenid Empires.
Depiction of God Bes
The god’s figure was that of a grotesque mountebank and was intended to inspire joy or drive away pain and sorrow, his hideousness being perhaps supposed to scare away evil spirits. He was portrayed on mirrors, on ointment vases, and other personal articles. He was associated with music and childbirth and was represented in the “birth houses” devoted to the cult of the child god. Contrary to the usual rule of representation, Bes was commonly shown full-faced rather than in profile. The explanation is that full-faced figures were marginal to the day, ordered world.
Worship of Bes
Bes was a household protector, becoming responsible – throughout ancient Egyptian history – for such varied tasks as killing snakes, fighting off evil spirits, and watching after children. He also aided women in labour by fighting off evil spirits and thus presented with Taweret at births.
Egyptian God Bes Appearance
Images of the deity, quite different from those of the other gods, were kept in homes. Usually, Egyptian gods were shown in profile. However, Bes appeared in full-face portrait, ithyphallic, and sometimes in a soldier’s tunic to appear ready to launch an attack on any approaching evil. He scared demons from houses, so ancient Egyptians used his statute as a protector. Since he drove off evil, Bes also symbolised the good things in life – music, dance, and sexual pleasure. In the New Kingdom, archaeologists noticed that tattoos of Bes were embodied on the thighs of dancers, musicians and servant girls. Many instances of Bes masks and costumes from the New Kingdom later have been uncovered. These wear considerable wear, thought to be too great for occasional use at festivals, and are therefore considered to have been used by professional performers or paid for rent.
Later, in the Ptolemaic period of Egyptian history, the ancients constructed chambers painted with images of Bes and his wife Beset to cure fertility problems or general healing rituals.
Bes Worship outside Egypt
Like many Egyptian gods, the worship of Bes or Beset fanned overseas. While the female variant had been more popular in Minoan Crete, the male version would prove popular with the Phoenicians and the ancient Cypriots. The Balearic island of Ibiza derives its name from the god’s name, brought along with the first Phoenician settlers in 654 BC. These settlers, amazed at the lack of any sort of vicious creatures on the island, thought it to be the island of Bes (<איבשם> ʔybšm, *ʔibošim, yibbōšīm “dedicated to Bes”). Later the Roman name Ebusus was derived from this designation.
At the end of the 6th century BC, images of Bes began to spread across the Achaemenid Empire, which Egypt belonged to at the time. Images of Bes have been found in the Persian capital of Susa and as far away as central Asia. Over time, the picture of Bes became more Persian in style, as they depicted him wearing Persian clothes and headdresses.
In its earliest inception, modern scholars such as James Romano claim that Bes represented a lion rearing up on its hind legs. After the Third Intermediate Period, Bes is often seen as just the head or the face, often worn as amulets.