sun worship. Deification and adoration of the sun occurred primarily in agrarian societies. When man became a farmer, and thus dependent upon daily and seasonal changes of weather, he often turned to worship the great force that regulated these changes—the light and heat of the sun. The worship of the sun, although not peculiar to any one time or place, received its greatest prominence in ancient Egypt. There, the daily birth, journey, and death of the sun was the dominating feature of life. One of the most important gods of Egyptian religion was Ra, the sun-god, who was considered the first king of Egypt. The pharaoh, said to be the son of Ra, was the sun-god's representative on earth. In later Egyptian religion, under the rule of Ikhnaton, the sun-god Aton gained complete supremacy in what was Egypt's only monotheistic period. In Mesopotamia, where sun worship was also very important, the sun-god Shamash was a major deity and was equated with justice. In Greece there were two sun deities, Apollo and Helios, although there was no institutionalized form of sun worship. The influence of the sun in religious belief also appears in Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, Roman religion, Hinduism, Buddhism, and among the Druids of England, the Aztecs of Mexico, the Incas of Peru, and many Native Americans.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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